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On Saturday February 4, 2012 Nature Links for Life Long Learning held a workshop in the offices of The Historic Virginia Key Beach Trust. It was an exciting event at which attendees saw the new facilities to be used by our forthcoming programs, including the food concession building (to also be a classroom) as well as places for habitat restoration and organic gardens.
Gregory Bush, Executive Director gave a power point presentation describing the growing partnerships involved, as well as the cultural relevance and overall value for young adults with disabilities of an organization such as Nature Links that will operate within the Miami area. Next, Gary Milano of D.E.R.M gave a brief overview of Virginia Key, the island where Nature Links will begin it’s programming. Gary will include Nature Links participants in his future plans to restore the native habitat on the island.
Following this we heard from the attendee’s of the workshop which, in part, included: Sarah Cole from HistoryMiami, Gisel Prado of Miami Dade Parks and Recreation Disability Services, Karlissa Callwood from the Miami Science Museum, Denise Prehay, Wanda Castro-Jackson from ArtsAbilities and the UM Mailman Center, Laura Calzolari of UM, Michael Cardello of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, Guy Forchion, Executive Director of the Virginia Key Park Trust, Jenna Balfe, Assistant Director for Nature Links for Life Long Learning, Ken Marquard of Miami Dade College’s MEED program, Michael Powe of the UM Office of Civic and Community Engagement, Carlos Viera of MDCPS, Lixon Nelson a Nature Links board member and CEO of IMUNEEK, Diane Adreon of the UM CARD Center, Mari Chael a Nature Links board member and architect, and Elaine Turner a parent.
The group expressed not only enthusiasm, but offered their expertise to help get Nature Links running within the next several months. At present we anticipate having (1) weekday programs (2) Saturday sessions and (3) monthly community dinners. Following the morning session and lunch (which included a train ride around the property and a quick look at the working Carousel), Carlos Viera from MDCPS ran an interactive presentation inviting the input of all to create a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats). Participants stressed the importance of forming alliances with organizations and companies within the community who will hire our participants upon completion of the program, offered suggestions regarding protocols for teachers, students and participants, and discussed the economic sustainability of Nature Links beyond reliance on grants and government funding.
Since our general visioning meeting on September 20th, we have made great progress, and expanded our Board of Directors to include Jill Brookner of the MDCPS and Lixon Nelson of IMUNEEK. We are also building our advisory board, which will include a wide variety of representatives. We have begun grant application processes and are well under way in developing both Culinary as well as Parks and Recreation Vocational tracks as well as a more broadly conceived continuing educational program (including elements focusing on weather and sealife, animals, culture and geography, life and employment skills.)
Nature Links intends to initiate programs by March. We have been heartened by the positive response from city officials, from non-profit partners, professionals in the field and parents and potential participants. The excitement about what we are up to is clear to those who hear about our vision and programs to come.
We thank all our supporters for your continued range of ideas and overall encouragement. We will be serving the community of persons with disabilities by filling the gap in services between adolescence and adulthood with imaginative and fulfilling programs aimed at employment and fostering richer social lives.
Our website now has a button for those who want to join our membership. Please feel free to contribute what you can to our operation and tell others about what we are up to.
We are moving in on January 14, 2012 to Virginia Key Beach, where we will be running our Nature Links programming. This first day is a clean up day, and we would love to have some community help and input. If you are interested please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Below are some photos we took during our last visit.
This is the inside of the concession stand where we will host our healthy eating classes and other classes.
We also are beginning to map out the various sites where we will have our garden beds.
There are two potential sites in this photo. With the help of local gardener Annik Sternberg we will begin the design and implementation of our first raised garden
beds this month!
These are the offices out of which we will be operating.
Here is an example of one of the many natural area's that Nature Links will use in our outdoor classroom series.
A view of the ocean from just outside the concession stand…
Nature Links for Life long Learning announces an exciting new partnership with the Historic Virginia Key Beach Park Trust. Beginning with introductory sessions to begin by early November, NL seeks to address the needs of young adults over 22 years old with disabilities by providing unique opportunities for regular programming focused on continuing education, health and exercise, job training and social activities for a population so often overlooked in South Florida.
Behind these tree's is the land where our garden's will grow! Guy Forchon, executive director of the Historic Virgina Key Beach shows us the electricity available.
Another view of the garden site.
The Pavillions toward the back are site's where we can hold classes outdoors and be shaded from the sun.
This is the Historic concession stand where we will be having our healthy eating class.
The view to the beach from the concession stand when it is opened up. What a great place to cook and eat healthy food !
Reconnecting young people with natural world in ways that combine fun and fellowship with learning and the potential for productive careers is the central goal. “The facilities at Virginia Key Trust are ideal for this program. We believe there can be great synergy in all of this,” said Gene Tinnie of HVKBT. Program elements includes organic gardening, habitat restoration, animal rescue, learning about weather, sea life, healthy bodies, and using the existing concession stand to learn cooking and marketing of produce. Community Dinners will be held on site in the future.
We had a great turn out at Executive Directors Greg Bush's house. It was an evening filled with idea's, concerns and community connections.
David Lawrence ( Child Readiness) speaks to the crowd about perseverance for programming such as Nature Links for Life Long Learning during these tough financial times. Harry Horgan of Shake-A-Leg Miami, Lily De Moya of Parent to Parent Miami, Anick Sternberg, Jill Brookner of Miami Dade Public School System, Lixon Nelson of Imuneek, Mari Chael and Victoria Zamorano all listen.
In this photo; Paula Bush smiles for the camera, next to her sits Mari Chael, Vice President for Nature Links for Life Long Learning, Lucy Binhack of Miami Dade County Parks and Recreation, Jim Bigham- producer of the film “For Once in My Life” and Diane Adreon, Director for Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at U.M.
Adam Gersten a local lawyer helps Greg with the power point.
Greg Bush as he presents his power point, next to him John De Leon( lawyer and president for local A.C.L.U)- Secratary Nature Links for Life Long Learning look on.
Gene Tinnie of the Historic Virgina Key Beach Trust announces their decision to allow Nature Links for Life Long Learning to use their facilities and site for our programming ! Great News !
Cynthia Gay of Best Buddies is interested in the discussion. Other atendees not included in the pictures were: Brian Arwari of U.M, Dept. of Kinesiology, Liz Malman, Nick Zamorano a Nature Links Project Bridge grad and Lucner Nelson a job coach.
Barring a hurricane or some other major calamity, our Dinner Visioning Session for Nature Links scheduled for September 20, 2011. We expect at least 20 or more people from a number of organizations (Including Lucy Binhack head of Disability Services with MDC Parks) Jill Brookner from MDCPS, David Lawrence from the Children's Movement/Trust, Diane Adreon from UMs Card Center, Lily Demoya from Parent to Parent, Mari Chael, an architect, and others with different perspectives about helping us to focus on creating the best program for continuing education for young adults with disabilities using the natural world. We are excited to share our progress within the community of educators and and others involved in helping persons with developmental delays. We will be taking questions and comments into great consideration during this event. At Nature Links for Life Long Learning we are extremely focused on linking with our community resources to improve our overall community. Check back to see the outcome !
Column by: Rich Abdill in Miami New Times August 4-10, 2001
Finding a job nowadays isn't easy. But it's doubly hard if you have a mental disability, especially if you can't read or write and have no resumé or job experience. Read More …
Building upon the extraordinary success of the Nature Links high school project named Project Bridge, this new extension project –called Nature Links for Life Long Learning – will initially focus on young adults from 22 to 30 years of age. It will assist in continuing to develop their social lives, work, residential opportunities for independent living, and life skills – specifically as they relate to the natural world. This model project – in coordination with the work of Parent to Parent and other local and statewide organizations – will help build a sustainable community addressing all segments of our population. More to come !
In the proposed Miami Dade County budget for 2009-2010, Leisure Access Services, the section of the Miami Dade County Park Department that serves persons with disabilities, stands to lose six full time positions and cut one position to part time. Programs most adversely affected will be sports programs, called Paralympic Programs,
for children and adults with physical disabilities and the Zot Art Project, which promotes adapted and inclusive art events. Over half of the full time staff running these programs will be eliminated in the proposed budget. Paralympic programs include wheelchair golf programs at Country Club of Miami and Palmetto Golf Courses, the wheelchair basketball team, the wheelchair tennis program, the vision impaired goalball program, the new vision impaired judo program, and swim lessons and water exercise for persons with disabilities in north Dade.
Leisure Access Services staff intend to fight for the programs and the persons they have advocated for and have implemented a plan that includes: educating and organizing the community to reduce cuts to this department; increased fundraising through the Leisure Access Foundation and grants, increased quality and quantity of volunteers and greater staff workload.
HOW CAN YOU HELP? Commissioners do have some flexibility in making their final decision on September 17, 2009. Two additional public hearings are scheduled for Sept. 3, and Sept. 17, before the budget is finalized. Meetings will be held at the Stephen P. Clark Center at 111 NW 1st Street beginning at 5:01 pm in Commission Chambers. Contact your County Commissioner and/or attend a hearing and urge the commission to preserve Park sports and recreation programs for persons with disabilities. www.miamidade.gov/commiss/