Thursday, April 26, 2012

Trayvon Martin: Perspective

Contributed by Ernie Quincosa

My work has put me in touch with a hundred kids like Trayvon Martin. Many of the FAFSA nights I’ve put together have been in Miami’s less well-off neighborhoods. Most of the students that come out are struggling to get an education, have friends, and stay out of trouble, and I have seldom heard any of them complain about their circumstances. It is unfortunate that the students trying hardest to distance themselves from the negative stereotypes about people of color can end up misunderstood, and how that misunderstanding can result in the loss of a life.
Had Trayvon been a high school senior, he might have come in to one of the events at the high school in his community and I would have helped him do his financial aid paperwork for college. The reality of the situation is that this ordeal could have happened to many of the students I helped. I would hate to think that any of the parents who have come into Catalyst Miami to have their taxes prepared by me would ever have to deal with their children being targeted based on assumptions about their character.

Catalyst Service Abroad: The Babies of Casa Jackson

Contributed by Luke Soto

 I went to Antigua Guatemala for Easter weekend and I ended up visiting the place where one of my friends works called Casa Jackson, a clinic for malnourished babies (and sometimes older children depending on the case). My day started with an hour orientation given by a long term volunteer who then showed me the proper way to feed, burp and change a baby. So here am I, Luke Soto, a man who can hardly remember the last time he held a baby, let alone feed one, and suddenly I am surrounded by kids, one sitting up in my lap, another one drinking her bottle in my arms and another (who can walk and talk) giving me a toy to play with. I found feeding the baby to be pleasantly easy and calming as all I really had to do was wait for her to decide that she wanted to eat. My nerves were starting to calm down when I noticed that her bottle was empty. I knew what this meant and didn’t want to admit it as I had found feeding her to be unexpectedly calming and was nervous for the next baby waiting to be fed. But before I knew it, I had to put the baby back in her crib and I had a new toddler (older than the last) being handed to me with a smile on her face and her bottle.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Catalyst Miami Hosts AmeriCorps Works: Save Service Strategy Session

Contributed by Jaime Botero

        Wednesday March 14th, Catalyst Miami hosted AmeriCorps Works: Save Service Strategy Session. The program was an evening discussion of current AmeriCorps legislation and advocacy strategies to save national service. AmeriCorps is part of the Corporation for National and Community Service and serves an important role as the Federal sponsored civilian service institution.
Catalyst Miami hosts several AmeriCorps programs employing VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), sponsoring Public Allies and ReServe. Daniella Levine is a firm believer in the power of AmeriCorps and community volunteers in reaching solutions to social ills.
The event was a first of it’s kind meeting to engage various stakeholders including community members, and participants of VISTA, Teach for America, City Year, and Public Allies. Attendants included a team of AmeriCorps NCCC volunteers that managed to secure permission to attend the advocacy event.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Prosperity Turned Upside Down in House Budget Proposals

By Catalyst Miami President/CEO Daniella Levine

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a budget proposal at the end of March, ironically titled "The Path to Prosperity." Chairman Ryan from Wisconsin, the architect of this wrongheaded proposal, recently spoke of trying to help those living in poverty with this budget. Unfortunately, the budget proposal does the complete opposite. It slashes education, training, nutrition and health care, weakening both protections for people in need and the help that can lead to employment and a more secure future.
Although the economy is starting to recover, people in Florida are still struggling. Unemployment here peaked at 11.4 percent in January 2010 and still remains unacceptably high at 9.6 percent today. If you count the number of people who have given up looking for work or can’t get as many hours as they want, the rate rises to 18.2%. Almost 1 in 7 Florida residents and almost 1 in 5 children are living in poverty.  We need to see budget solutions that respond to our needs. We need to invest in jobs for unemployed workers, protect low-income people in our communities, and raise fair revenues instead of balancing the budget on the backs of our most vulnerable. Our recent report published with the Coalition on Human Needs outlines some of the choices our Members of Congress are facing in Washington.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Catalyst Contributors: Ernie Quincosa

               Hi everyone, I’m Ernie Quincosa. This year, I will be working for the Prosperity Campaign at Catalyst Miami, through the Public Allies program. I was connected to PA through a friend who was an ally last year. I’m pretty glad the application process is done and that I am finally in my placement.

 I am a Miami native. Both of my parents were immigrants (my mother from Honduras and my father from Cuba.) I grew up in the Shenandoah neighborhood just east of Brickell. My motivation for caring about social issues was my childhood. During the 80’s and 90’s, Miami was a much more divided town. Miami has always been a poor city with a large gap in income inequality.  While racism in the city has never been as tangible as it has elsewhere, there is definitely institutional inequality and misrepresentation of people of color, immigrants, and the poor. I became involved with social justice issues as a high school student, much the result of the environment I was in as well as reading lofty political writers and social theorists. I am glad to do work in whatever capacity to help those who are underserved. I hope working for Catalyst Miami helps me figure out where I fit in.

More recently, I am a graduate of the University of Florida. While in school, I studied History and Latin American Studies. I am a big fan of cooking, music, association football, anthropology, and modern literature. I am excited to be documenting my experience through this blog, and hope to learn a lot here!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Join us at Philanthrofest!!!

Catalyst Contributors: Jessica Burden

 My name is Jessica Burden and I am from Sunny Southern California (the best state in the country, of course)!  I graduated from the University of Nevada Las Vegas in 2010 with a BS in Kinesiological Sciences and a minor in African American Studies.  I joined AmeriCorps as a VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America) to continue the legacy of service within my family and community.  The idea I’m most passionate about is being a teacher.  I have a strong desire to develop independent, critical thinkers that aren’t afraid to cut against the grain; those who will be our future leaders.  As Community Learning Coordinator at Catalyst, my role involves working to deepen educational relationships between students, community members, local organizations, and educational institutions with a focus on increasing opportunity and decreasing poverty.   I also recruit and retain volunteers, service -learners and interns for Catalyst and our partnering community nonprofits.  After my term of service with Catalyst, I am considering graduate school and Teach for America.

ReServe in Action: 7 Months in!!

Contributed by Luke Soto

             I recently had the pleasure of visiting one of our partner sites, the Alliance for Aging, out in Doral to speak with Islara Souto and their newly hired ReServist, Woodie Pagan.  You wouldn’t be able to meet anybody as kind and sweet as these two people, yet they have two of the most opposite personalities that you could imagine having together in a room. I hadn’t seen Woodie for at least 4 months, however when I walked into the office, the retired Puerto Rican Judge greeted me with a big hug and a jovial “How are you?” which immediately made me feel as though I had been there last week. Islara followed suit more quietly and proceeded to ask me about my day and how my time as a Public Ally has been. While her words were quiet, her presence demanded just as much attention as Woodie’s, as she carefully chose each word she said to make sure she communicated her thought effectively. Already upon entering the office, the synergy between them was palpable. So when it got to the part where I asked them the questions to find out how their experience with ReServe had been so far, I could have sworn I saw fireworks in their eyes. The two of them began chattering enthusiastically about the projects they each were working on and the workshops and trainings they had coordinated all throughout the community, each one praising the other for the successes they were able to achieve in the few months that Woodie had been there.