Helping People

Carnival mentors help students cruise into a brighter future

MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Once a month, Samuel Dervil gets picked up from Miami Northwestern Senior High School to go to Carnival Cruise Lines’ headquarters in Doral.

Dervil, along with 96 other Miami-Dade County students, spends four hours every month being mentored by a Carnival employee.

The Carnival Foundation, the charitable branch of Carnival Corp., started a scholarship and mentoring program in 2007 to help students graduate from high school and finance their college educations. Another foundation, the Stamps Family Charitable Foundation, gives full merit scholarships to more than 500 students nationwide, including some who attend the University of Miami.

The Carnival Foundation recruits students who attend the HEAT Academy, an after-school program for kids at Paul Laurence Dunbar K-8 Center in Overtown, Jesse J. McCrary Jr. Elementary School in Little Haiti and Riverside Elementary School in Little Havana.

Carnival, a partner and sponsor of the HEAT Academy, keeps track of the students as they move into middle school. Those who maintain a 2.5 grade-point average and good attendance are invited to join the high school mentoring program, in which students are paired with a Carnival mentor with the help of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Miami.

Students get to take an excused monthly field trip to spend time with their mentors at their office and listen to guest speakers, like Miami Heat players, corporate leaders and other well-known figures.

When Dervil, 18, joined the program four years ago, he was matched with Vladimir Lindor, a family-support specialist for Carnival who is in charge of providing logistical and emotional support in case of an illness or tragedy during a cruise.

“When we first met, we bonded immediately,” Lindor said. “We are both from a Haitian background; we come from large families.”

Three years later, Dervil and Lindor joke with each other, practice their Creole and work on college and scholarship applications. His top choices for a university education include Boston, Stanford , Oregon and Florida State.

“My world would be a whole lot different if I hadn’t met [Lindor],” Dervil said.

During their senior year, students can apply for a Carnival Scholarship. Carnival purchased 180 college scholarships through the Florida Prepaid College Foundation, valued at more than $2 million.

“They all want to go to college but can’t afford it,” said Linda Coll, director of the Carnival Foundation. “We show them that there are ways to do it.”

Karen Ortega, a senior at Miami Coral Park Senior High School, is filling out her scholarship application with the help of her mentor, Caroline Lombardi, who is responsible for youth programs aboard Carnival’s ships.

Ortega credits much of her success in high school to her mentor, especially for teaching her about style and and public speaking.

“I did not know how to dress when I was a freshman,” said Ortega, who now wears business-casual attire for her monthly visits to Carnival.

Lombardi takes pride in helping Ortega understand what options she has for school, and pushing her to figure out where she sees herself living and studying in the future.

“Kids automatically think they have to go to school right by home,” she said. “She’s full of hope. She gives me energy.”

Since the program started, the foundation has given 75 scholarships to graduating seniors. The first group of students to go through the entire program graduated in the class of 2014.

Daniela Barboza, a recent graduate from St. Thomas University, attended the HEAT Academy while at Riverside Elementary. She participated in the mentoring program at Carnival until she graduated from Miami Senior High School in 2010.

“My mentor didn’t treat me like a little kid. It’s a respect thing,” said Barboza, 22, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in sports administration. “It makes you realize people really care about you.”

While the Carnival Foundation invests in local high school students, the Stamps Family Charitable Foundation takes a more-national view.

Founded by E. Roe Stamps IV, a partner in the private equity firm Summit Partners, with his wife Penny Stamps, the foundation began in 2006 to provide scholarships to students attending their alma maters: Georgia Tech and the University of Michigan. The foundation now partners with 40 universities and supports 576 students across the nation.

E. Roe Stamps, a member of the University of Miami board of trustees, started offering scholarships at UM in two areas — leadership and music.

“It’s been fun for us. We get to know these students and watch them grow,” he said. “I want to see the world through their eyes.”

The scholarship covers all expenses for four years of undergraduate education: tuition, books, room and board, an allowance to buy a computer, cost of attending the biannual Stamps Scholars National Convention and a $12,000 enrichment fund to help fund programs like study abroad, research, unpaid internships and conferences.

“Some of these kids want to do some big stuff,” Stamps said. “We give financial support to help them achieve their goals. I don’t know anybody who had goals like that when I was 17.”

Students who are nominated to be Stamps Leadership Scholars can be from any major, but the Stamps Music Scholars are handpicked music majors who are selected by the instrument they play.

The music school recruits five students to one type of ensemble each year: jazz, string, brass and woodwinds, said UM Provost Thomas J. Leblanc. The students play together as a quintet during their college careers.

The university nominates students during the admissions process. Those who pass an in-person interview get to meet Stamps himself, via Skype.

Joshua Myers, a sophomore psychology and philosophy double major, recalls waiting as the Skype window popped up on his computer screen.

The interview with Stamps became more of a chat that ended up with Myers jamming on his guitar.

“He’s a jazz pianist, so we ended up talking about music,” Myers said. “It was a laid-back interview.”

While many of the students come from out of the state, UM also looks at local students.

Earl Generato, from Pembroke Pines, said he never planned to go to a private school because of the tuition bill.

“My sister is going to college soon, too, and my parents wouldn’t be able to pay for both our college tuitions,” he said. “I didn’t want to overburden them.”

He just started his first year as a UM Stamps Leadership Scholar, majoring in English and biomedical engineering.

“It really feels wonderful to be able to study at my potential,” he said.

For more information

Carnival Foundation

305-406-5025; lcoll@carnival.com

Stamps Family Charitable Foundation

info@stampsfoundation.org

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