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Sheyes Liberty City center faces trying times

Owner Juanita Walker refuses to let robberies stop their mission

Ashley Montgomery | 9/26/2013, 9 a.m.
Every child is unique in their own right and Juanita Walker, owner/CEO of Sheyes of Miami Learning Centers, say she ...
Juanita Walker with staff and students at Sheyes Miami Learning Center

Every child is unique in their own right and Juanita Walker, owner/CEO of Sheyes of Miami Learning Centers, say she is determined to improve every child’s self-esteem and confidence through positive feedback and rewards. Unfortunately, it is becoming more and more challenging to keep her doors open — because of

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Owner and CEO Juanita Walker pictured with graduating preschooler of Sheyes Miami Learning Center

culprits in her own community.

For the third time in the last eight months, Walker’s Liberty City center [she owns four throughout South Florida] has been burglarized. When she arrived at work last Monday, she was shocked to discover her two air conditioning units were gone.

“It’s hard when we’re trying to stay above water and someone in the community just keeps setting us back,” she said. “One day out of business puts us under really bad.”

According to Walker, it took several days after the recent theft, before she was able to reopen the school and “put our babies and workers back together, but it took some good Samaritans from the community.”

“Two local companies donated air conditioning units to so we could things back up and running,” she said. “There are a lot of good people still out there in this world and I want to continue being a part of giving back to others because when you do that, blessings come from everywhere.”

A 25-year commitment to youth A retired police officer from the City of Miami Police Department, Walker pinpointed a need for not only the community but her own mother that led to her starting the business 25 years ago. She purchased it from Alonzo Gilbert — a retired educator to whom she refers as her mentor.

“He showed me how to get started and he gave me opportunities that others might not have offered,” she said. “As a young business woman, he instilled a lot in me.”

She says she also realized that she would be able to provide jobs to those in need from the community. One of those individuals looking for employment was her own mother — a woman who had minimal education. Since then her mom, Lola Roberts, had returned to school and earned certification as a dietician.

Walker wants to continue to provide the community with the highest forms of education possible. She says that she has been blessed by continuing grants provided by Miami-Dade County. All of her centers are APPLE [accredited professional preschool learning environment] accredited.

As for the people who have broken into her centers, and who still remain at-large, Walker says she can only hope that someone will turn their names into the police.

“Unfortunately, the theft of AC units from businesses and churches has become rampant in our community and I am distraught to learn that Sheyes Miami Learning Center has fallen victim again to this type of crime,” said Miami-Dade County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson. “I know that the City of Miami Police, under Commander Carr, are working diligently with the owners of Sheyes to catch those responsible.”

“I don’t have time to dwell too much on the the negative — I prefer to remain positive and make sure I am focusing on the future of my ‘babies,’” Walker said.