Overtown youth get a surprise from Senator

caines | 9/9/2012, 5:30 a.m.

Overtown youth got a surprise visit of historic proportion when the first U.S. senator for Florida toured the Overtown community. Senator Bill Nelsons first stop was the new Center for Empowerment and Education run by URGENT, Inc. a community-based non-profit organization based in Overtown. The tour, made possible by School Board Member Dr. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, was organized to showcase examples of how investments in young people and physical structures are both needed. This message was conveyed directly to Nelson by Bendross-Mindingall and teen leaders Magalie Gabriel, Tanisha Fleming and Kimberly Larosiliere, members of URGENT Inc.s Rites of Passage Youth Empowerment Academy. They wanted to make sure the Senator understood that programs like URGENTs Rites of Passage Program are a necessary investment. They also educated the Senator about their policy change work to help Miami-Dade County Public Schools develop policies that prevent teen dating violence and abuse. Bendross-Mindingall vowed to support the girls in their efforts. Magalie Gabriel, 18, said, It was an amazing opportunity to speak with the first U.S. senator to visit Overtown. This event was a once in a lifetime moment and I cannot wait to follow-up with these individuals dedicated to supporting positive change for youth in our communities. The tour continued to the historic Ward Rooming House, Theodore Gibson Park and Douglass Elementary. In attendance were community leaders, elected officials and other Overtown stakeholders. Bendross-Mindingall spoke about the need for investing in education in front of 60-year-old Frederick Douglass Elementary which stands in stark contrasts to the recently rebuilt Theodore Gibson Park which is located next to the school. Douglass Elementary has been neglected over the years but now stands as a candidate to receive funds for a new building if voters approve a 1.2 billion dollar General Obligation Bond Issue.