It started out as Project Bridge to help students with disabilities through age 22 in Miami-Dade Public Schools. But after those students “age out” — about 3,000 graduate with special diplomas every year — where do they go?
Gregory W. Bush, a University of Miami professor and community activist, found a gem of a solution by creating Nature Links for Lifelong Learning (naturelinks.net).
It has partnered with federal and state agencies and Miami Dade College’s Miami Culinary Institute for a job training program that meshes the culinary arts with organic gardening, native habitat restoration and other continuing education for young adults who otherwise would be leading a life of isolation. As it is, the state has a 10-year waiting list to provide services for adults with disabilities.
On Thursday, the Miami City Commission should give the nod to this modest program that has huge potential.
Helped by private donations and partnering with the state’s vocational rehabilitation agency, the new culinary arts program will cost the city one part-time assistant at Lummus Park for 25 hours a week and just $7,500 annually to cover insurance costs.
Already, Nature Links has been holding Saturdays by the Bay at Virginia Key Park — the next program starts Aug. 3 and offers these young adults experiences in marine studies, cooking, gardening and island ecology.
Nature Links is the type of private-public partnership that helps those most in need gain experience to live independently and become active participants in our community. We all benefit.