Miami-Dade County

Locker cleanout at Miami Country Day benefits Overtown students

Blaise Pronesti, who organized the volunteer effort at Miami Country Day School, sorts through school supplies.
Blaise Pronesti, who organized the volunteer effort at Miami Country Day School, sorts through school supplies.

It’s the end of the school year and that means lots of school supplies, books and backpacks have to find a home.

Thanks to an entrepreneurial Miami Country Day student, these items and more will be collected, refurbished and donated to students at the Overtown Youth Center.

Last week, Blaise Pronesti, 15, a rising junior at County Day, organized a school-wide locker cleanout on behalf of Bind Us Together, a nonprofit founded last year by his parents to facilitate their son’s efforts.

When the cleanout was finished, more than 20 bins were filled and loaded into a U-Haul truck.

“It’s a long process, but it is all worth it in the end,” Blaise said. “It’s really good to give back to the community.”

Blaise learned about the Youth Center in eighth grade, after completing community service there with his school. That’s when he found out that someone had been shot a week earlier, just one block from the center.

Blaise reached out to Miami Country Day Upper School Dean José Oronoz to see if they could collect discarded items from the upcoming locker clean-out. Oronoz agreed. That was last year, which was done at the last moment.

“We collected and donated about 1,200 items,’’ Blaise said.

This year, the initiative was more organized. The school made an announcement three days before the massive clean-out. Also, three schools were added to the initiative, including RASG Hebrew Academy, Miami Beach High School and Nautilus Middle School.

At 8:45 a.m. June 2, volunteers came dressed in white shirts, with the organization’s name and logo written on the front, to wrap up the process. The bins were marked for the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students.

“We decided to set up the bins to make it easier for middle school students to place their items in,” said Danny Cross, 16, a volunteer and friend of Blaise. “This initiative is really important, it’s so important to help others and give back to the community.”

Now that the items are collected, the next step is to refurbish and donate them to the center. There, Executive Director Tina Brown and Development Director Yance Torres oversee the distribution process.

“To ensure that the process goes smoothly, we pre-package the items into backpacks for students,” Torres said. “Students are then called based on grade level to pick up their backpack.

“No one wants to start the first day of school with a broken backpack,” she said. “How a child feels and performs in school is directly connected to their success.”

Meanwhile, Blaise is already thinking about next year, adding more schools and volunteers.

“This was a lot of fun, working with friends makes it that much more meaningful,” said Brandon Arriaga, 15, a volunteer. “We’re bonding while doing something for our community.”

For more information

For information or to join Bind Us Together, email Blaise at