Miami AmeriCorps Alums Shape Change in Community
Today’s post comes from the Miami Chapter of AmeriCorps Alums. Recently the Miami Foundation announced winners of the Public Space Challenge contest, and AmeriCorps alumni figured prominently as contest winners.
On Wednesday, October 16, 2013, the Miami Foundation announced the 14 winners of the Public Space Challenge contest. The contest, which aimed to discover the best ideas for improving, creating, and activating local public spaces, received over 250 applications from around Miami-Dade County. Community experts and professional placemakers selected the best ideas and the foundation will invest $100,000 to make them a reality. The Health Foundation of South Florida is partnering to invest an additional $20,000 for projects that promote healthy, physical exercise activities. Of the 14 winners, 5 were AmeriCorps Alums! Below are 4 of their stories:
Eric Katz: Citizen Action AmeriCorps ’08, ’09
Eric holds a Masters in Urban and Regional Planning from Florida Atlantic University and a BA in Anthropology/Sociology and History from Florida International University. His professional background began in 2008 where he served as an AmeriCorps member dedicating a Year of Service to local Miami non-profits and government agencies. Since then, Eric has worked as a program manager, development officer and grant writer for various non-profits and entrepreneurs focusing on social and environmental initiatives.
Eric’s M-Path Park Project is a grassroots initiative aimed to bring a multi-modal park to the Downtown Dadeland community. The core elements of this project involve community organizing, community planning and a pop-up park event all culminating to an eventual self-sustaining M-Path Park.
In order to reach the ultimate vision of M-Path Park becoming a self-sustaining multi-modal park that serves thousands of visitors, it will first journey through a process of community organizing, project planning, fundraising, programming and ultimately, community buy-in and municipal support in order to sustain the park.
Downtown Dadeland is understood as one of Greater Miami’s best examples of a thriving, self-sustaining urban core. The only critical element missing from this burgeoning economic and cultural node is an open green space. The effort to reduce the ill effects of suburban sprawl serves as the challenge that awaits the next generation of Greater Miami’s residents. Transit Oriented Design is understood to have certain core principles that include wide sidewalks, increased density, increased building heights, mixed use zoning, nearby recreation and most importantly, accommodating and efficient transit infrastructure. The M-Path Project is essentially an experiment in transit oriented development for Greater Miami.
Ingrid M. González: NY Corps Year: ’12, ’13
Ingrid was raised on Long Island, studied Human Development at Cornell University and is currently serving as Communications/Community Outreach Coordinator for Miami-Dade County Commissioner Juan C. Zapata.
I got connected to Representative Jose Felix Diaz who was kind enough to hire me for a spell, and he was excited to have our office participate in the Public Space Challenge. Because of a Young Heroes Saturday that we had at the Community Habilitation Center of Kendall (CHC), I knew that I wanted to do something at the park right across the center. My idea is a fitness park that when used generates music. It incorporates fitness, energy initiatives and inclusivity of differently-baked adults. My oldest brother is an industrial designer so we looked into the mechanism for achieving this and I believe it’s definitely doable. We have had A LOT of positive feedback for the project. I submitted the project and left the Rep’s office a short time later, but the Rep is great and I’ve agreed to continue working on this to see it to fruition. It’s pretty awesome to think I designed a park that is going to be built. I’m leaving an actual legacy in Miami!
Victoria Fear: AmeriCorps NCCC ’11, VISTA ’09, ’13
Victoria is a 3-time AmeriCorps Alum. She is proud to have served in AmeriCorps NCCC (Pacific Region Class XVII) and AmeriCorps VISTA (Corridor Flood Recovery Summer Associate 2009 & Neighborhood Housing Services of South Florida 2012-2013). She graduated magna cum laude from Montclair State University and will soon complete her M.S.Ed in Community and Social Change from the University of Miami. Victoria is passionate about active citizenship, social justice, public art, and ice cream.
Victoria is working with community partners Health in the Hood and Neighborhood Housing Services of South Florida on her winning proposal. Her Public Space Challenge proposal plans to install a pop-up neighborhood gathering place featuring large-scale mural, community garden, and market in a large vacant commercial lot.
Located in Brownsville, an unincorporated area of Miami-Dade County, this lot is an eyesore to residents, as well as a breeding ground for illegal activity, namely profuse littering and an unsanctioned Saturday flea market. With support and input from local residents, we believe that this pop-up exhibit will inspire change and provide the opportunity for residents to voice their opinions and visions for the future. By playing a role in the creation of catalytic positive change, children and families build a connection to their neighbors and neighborhood. Our vision is for improved wellness in Brownsville, with residents actively participating in their own community’s journey.
Aileen Alon: City Year, Public Allies
Aileen is the Arts and Cultural Initiatives Coordinator for the Opa-locka Community Development Corporation (OLCDC). Aileen graduated from Winthrop University’s Honors Program with a B.A. in Art History and minors in Art and Social Sciences. She completed two terms of AmeriCorps national service with City Year Miami and Public Allies Miami. She also serves on the City Year Miami Alumni Board, is a mentor for current Public Allies in Miami, and volunteers for the international non-profit TECHO. She enjoys traveling, ethnic foods, and the outdoors.
Aileen’s project is to provide visually-stimulating and functional shade, seating, lighting, and landscaping at the Opa-locka Tri-Rail Station as it expands to accommodate the growing number of mass transit users in South Florida. Opa-locka has begun to embark on an ambitious revitalization strategy that centers the downtown area around the city’s unique collection of Moorish Revival architecture, community-inspired arts and cultural activities, economic development, and accessibility via mass-transit, car, or plane. The Opa-locka Community Development Corporation (OLCDC) is working together with the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA), City of Opa-locka, Florida Department of Transportation, and artists to ensure that the expanded Tri-Rail station reflects this strategy. The SFRTA plans to create five new bus bays, solar powered canopies, and charging stations in the new Opa-locka station lot. Artists, the community, and project team will collaborate on these improvements to create a unique space at the station that celebrates Opa-locka and welcomes visitors to the area.
Foremost, the new space will allow mass transit users to wait safely from the elements as waiting periods can be over an hour during off-peak times (evenings, weekends, holidays) and up to forty minutes on weekdays. The Opa-locka Tri-Rail Station serves approximately 50 trains per weekday and 40 trains per weekend day. It also services connections to Miami-Dade Transit buses, Tri-Rail Shuttle links, and the free Opa-locka city shuttle. Artist- and community-designed continuous bus canopies, seating, and other elements to enhance the station will allow commuters to learn about the community’s identity as the space will reflect the collaborative effort. It also allows the community to develop a sense of pride and take ownership of one of their public amenities by involving them in the creative process.