43 at-risk youths graduate from innovative Liberty City after-school program
Miami, FL July 15, 1999 A new program that offers young people
vocational training and educational opportunities as an alternative to
incarceration has graduated its first class of 43 students.
At a recent ceremony, Miami-Dade Public Defender Bennett H. Brummer told
graduates of the Youth Leadership Academy that they can make a difference for
themselves and for their community.
"You are not just doing this for you, but for all the people around
you," Mr. Brummer said. "You are successful for your friends, families
and the little ones who will follow your example. Education is a lifelong
process. This graduation is a foundation for you to build on."
Mr. Brummer, the keynote speaker for the ceremony at the Zeta Community
Center in Liberty City, told the graduates that the academy began with a vision:
Lets give our youth a challenge, keep them away from trouble, and then the
Public Defenders Office wont have to represent them in juvenile court.
Fifteen-year-old Nathaniel McQueen has made a real turnaround in the program.
"It kept me out of a whole lot of trouble," he said. "I used to
do a lot of devious things. The program kept me occupied and away from crime. I
have adapted to a whole different society -- non-violent and drug-free."
The youth is so keen on the program that he is returning as a volunteer
teaching word processing to new students two days a week.
A smiling Jarius Lacey, 14, could not wait to present his graduation
certificate to his mother, who was very pleased with her sons progress.
"When Jarius started, his behavior was rocky," Ann Lacey recalled.
"But the school was really good. When there was a problem, they would call.
And they even called just to see how things are going. Its a good program. Hes
a little more responsible now and a whole lot more mature."
The Youth Leadership Academy is a joint venture by the Miami-Dade Public
Defenders office and the local Weed & Seed program. Through the
partnership, delinquent youth receive vocational training and educational
opportunities. The program is part of the Public Defenders Anti-Violence
Initiative, which Mr. Brummer has created to help clients lead law-abiding
In the academy, at-risk youth participate in a comprehensive program that
integrates life skills with workplace simulations and computer technology. The
academy curriculum, designed by the National Urban Technology Center, guides
students through web-page design and publishing, management of a simulated hotel
and various computer programs. The student interns then design the agencys
web site and assist in linking it to Weed & Seeds electronic community on
The U.S. Attorneys Office donated 200 computers to the academy so students
could learn how to install hard drives. The graduates will be awarded their
Grants from the Florida Legislature and Weed & Seed program are financing