Living in Miami
A major coastal city, Miami is situated along the picturesque Atlantic Ocean and is home to a subtropical climate. As a world leader in finance, commerce, media, entertainment, trade, and the arts, Miami attracts people from all over the world and is the largest US city where the majority of residents are foreign-born. The 8th most populous city in the US, Miami is highly diverse with deep roots in Latin American culture. Spoken by 60% of residents, Spanish is the dominant language. Miami is also the only city that borders two national parks, so there are plenty of opportunities to get out and explore nature and take advantage of the warm climate. As a newer city with still exploding growth, Miami’s unique culture is embedded in its welcoming and energetic atmosphere, and many newcomers to the city welcome the opportunity to shape it into a model for the future of America.
Miami is a vibrant and prospering city, but it is not without its challenges, especially for some of its students. Alberto Carvalho, the superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS) and a City Year champion, likes to remind people that many of Miami’s students have never been to the beach or swum in the ocean. He relies on this dichotomy between students’ lived reality and the picture of Miami most people have in their minds to deliver a message about the challenges students face
Why We Need You
Miami-Dade-County Public Schools (MDCPS) is the 4th largest school district in the US and serves over 345,000 students. 74% of students across the district are growing up in low-income households, and as a result qualify for Free or Reduced Priced Lunch. The district has 392 schools and spans a large geographic area across 2,000 square miles – from the agricultural fields of Homestead to the skyscrapers in downtown up north to the schools right next to the stadium where the Miami Dolphins play football. MDCPS is the second-largest minority-majority public school district in the country with students that identify as 70% Hispanic, 21% Black or African-American, 7% non-Hispanic white students, and 1.2% Other.2 Additionally, about 58% of students speak a primary language other than English, with Spanish, Haitian Creole, and Portuguese among the top 3. MDCPS is one of the few public school districts in the US that is capitalizing on the student diversity by offering bi-lingual education programs. Nearly 66% of students are enrolled in bi-lingual programs in Spanish, French, German, Italian, Chinese, and Portuguese.2 However, with a stark contrast in income levels across the county, poverty, language challenges and access to technology are common factors that make educational achievement even more difficult for many MDCPS students.
How You Can Make a Difference
City Year Miami currently serves in 10 high schools and 7 middle schools where these challenges are highly concentrated. Our schools have 6,500 students who are off track and at risk of not graduating on time. 100% of the schools City Year serves in are Title 1 funding recipients with high percentages of students from low-income households. Our schools have a significant amount of ELL students, but the district is equipped with limited resources to support them, intensifying our students’ needs.
One example of how City Year works in Miami schools to address these needs is that of our AmeriCorps member Maria Farias. She draws on her own experience as a student in Miami to connect with students who are struggling to learn English. Moving to Miami from Peru at age 10, Maria struggled to learn English herself. Serving in Miami has allowed Maria the opportunity to be there for students who are enduring the same challenges she did as a student. One student Maria works closely with just moved to Miami from Honduras and, not accustomed to long class periods, was having a difficult time focusing and was not comfortable speaking due to his limited English. Recently, this student stood up in class to address Maria and said “Thanks to you, I can speak in front of a whole class in English.”
Given the challenges facing students and the community, City Year plays a crucial role in helping all students realize their full potential by filling the gaps between what the students need and what the schools are designed and resourced to provide. In addition to tutoring and mentoring Miami students, AmeriCorps members lead after school programs and clubs, which, otherwise, would cease to exist - including social justice, LGBTQ, and college prep clubs.
By choosing to serve in Miami, you are committing to be the driving force of change in a diverse and vibrant community, and helping to improve a student’s life by showing them their true potential. Our students need a lot of academic support, but, just as importantly, they need someone to believe in them and recognize their own greatness.