Community Voices

Friends and Neighbors: Booker T. Washington students get hands-on training in money management

Booker T. Washington High School students learned about real-life money management through Mad City Money. These teens work at the student-run branch of Dade County Federal Credit Union at the high school.
Booker T. Washington High School students learned about real-life money management through Mad City Money. These teens work at the student-run branch of Dade County Federal Credit Union at the high school.

The students at Booker T. Washington High School gained some valuable lessons in money management skills and real-life finances through a recent hands-on simulation program called Mad City Money.

To get started, each teen was given a packet that showed “their future.” Each found out if they “worked” as a veterinary assistant, social worker, lawyer, librarian, police officer, paralegal, security guard, pilot, pharmacist, real estate agent, or a forest ranger.

“They were assigned an occupation, a salary and their life situation,” said Paola Chigne, director of marketing and youth development at Dade County Federal Credit Union, which hosted the event. “They are put into an adult situation with a salary, a spouse, children and perhaps student loan payments and credit card debt.”

Students visited all of the Mad City Money merchants, played by tellers from the student-run credit union branch, to make purchases. They had to secure housing, transportation, furnishings and much more.

“The job of the merchants was to try to convince students to spend more money than they had,” Chigne said in a release. “In a way, it’s like real life. Salespeople are always trying to up-sell customers, and it’s up to you to make the right decision when you can’t afford it.”

The credit union employees also handed out both good and bad “surprise” situations, like car trouble when they had to deduct money from their budget, or winning a contest when they were given a check.

Since the event at Booker T. Washington, Dade County Federal also has conducted the program at iTech at Thomas A. Edison Educational Center, a Miami-Dade County magnet school. Plans are in the works to run the program with a new group at Booker T. in April. Organizers are looking for even more schools where they can bring Mad City Money.

“This simulation is so important for high school students,” Chigne said. “Mad City Money teaches them the value of a dollar. The biggest reaction we got was that it was fun, and they enjoyed it, but they didn’t have any idea how much things actually cost. They learn that sometimes you can’t afford that nice car or the fancy clothes, and that’s part of the lesson.”

Community music program

Dr. Phillip and Patricia Frost have donated $1 million to support and rename the Frost MusicReach community music program in honor of University of Miami President Donna E. Shalala, who will step down at the end of the 2015 academic year.

The program, now in its seventh year, will be known as the Donna E. Shalala MusicReach Program at the Phillip and Patricia Frost School of Music. It provides free weekly music instruction to more than 450 elementary, middle and high school students in our community. Sessions are taught by UM Frost School of Music students. The new gift will help the program connect with more than 1,500 youth each year.

“I can’t think of a better way to honor President Shalala and her legacy than to have one of the crown jewel programs of the Frost School of Music to be named in her honor,” said Phillip Frost in a release. “The Donna E. Shalala MusicReach Program at the Frost School of Music exemplifies excellence and meaningful community engagement, and those are both legacies of her 14 years leading UM.”

Good deeds

Bilzin Sumberg attorneys and staff, and their family members, gathered at the Little Haiti Optimist Club for the firm’s eighth annual Bilzin Sumberg Cares Project Day.

Volunteers spent the day painting murals, re-painting the lunchroom, and planting a community garden for the club’s after-school activities.

Also in attendance was Miami-Dade County Commission Chairman Jean Monestime, who saluted the volunteers’ efforts to give back to our community.

The Little Haiti Optimist Club was founded in 2010 and provides education, mentorship, athletics, arts and cultural programming for youth in Little Haiti. The after-school program includes soccer, tutoring, computer skills, and cultural field trips. The summer camp has focused on teaching film production basics and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) classes.

“We had over 100 volunteers turn-out on a Saturday morning which is a tremendous testimony to the culture of our law firm,” said Marshall R. Pasternack, chairman of the Bilzin Sumberg Cares community initiative in a release. “What we do is work at Bilzin Sumberg. Who we are is reflected by Bilzin Sumberg Cares, our community volunteer initiative which seeks to makes a difference in the lives of others.”

Fashion for justice

The fashion world joined forces with the legal community recently at Fashion Night on Brickell, all in the name of justice for all. Proceeds benefit Dade Legal Aid, a nonprofit organization that provides free legal assistance to children, individuals, groups, and start-ups that cannot afford an attorney.

The event drew members of the legal community, politicians, philanthropists, foreign consulates, Miami socialites, fashionistas, Miss Universe delegates, and well-known TV personalities.

Emcees for the evening were Steven Befera of Cole Scott & Kissane; and Gianina Acevedo, Miss South Florida USA 2013. Fashion Night on Brickell was produced by Mayra Joli Immigration Attorney and coordinated by the team of Oscar Romero of Oscar International Miami and Marianela Joli.

The show was held at the Espirito Santo Plaza in Brickell. For pictures and more, visit and the Fashion Night on Brickell on Facebook.

New neighbors

The recently elected executive board members of the New Neighbors Club of South Dade will be installed at the next luncheon starting at 11 a.m. April 8 at the Killian Palms Country Club, 9950 SW 104 St.

The gathering will also pay tribute to volunteers who generously give to the group that helps create a friendly support system for persons new to the community and those in transition.

The new board members are: President, Sharalynn Torres; 1st Vice President Programs, Thelma Tucker; 2nd Vice President Membership, Christine Wagner; Corresponding Secretary, Debi McCarthy; Recording Secretary, Margie Askins; Treasurer, Barbara Hertz; Historian, Elaine DeLeonardis; and Parliamentarian, Nancy Blount, according to a release.

After lunch, the men and women of The WOW Center Miami will perform. The WOW Center offers guidance to adults with developmental disabilities to help them become more independent. New Neighbors Club has provided monetary support to the group for many years. Learn more at

Reservations are required. Write to email or call 305-595-0213. The deadline is noon, April 3. Cost is $26. More is at

Change of date

Due to a scheduling conflict, the debut screening of Portraits of Inspiration – The Power Nun, about Sister Jeanne O’Laughlin, has been moved to 7 p.m., May 19 at the Miracle Theatre, 280 Miracle Mile. The event had been scheduled for March 31. To learn more, visit or call 305-661-6605.

If you have news for this column, please send it to Christina Mayo at