Community Voices

Friends and Neighbors: Communities in Schools site coordinator honored by Diplomas Now

Jhon Barrera graduated with honors from Homestead Senior High School in June and is now a freshman at Florida International University. Mariafe Arteaga Rivera has helped him for three years through Communities in Schools of Miami.
Jhon Barrera graduated with honors from Homestead Senior High School in June and is now a freshman at Florida International University. Mariafe Arteaga Rivera has helped him for three years through Communities in Schools of Miami.

Mariafe Arteaga Rivera builds bridges. Not the metal and concrete ones. Hers are much stronger and can last forever.

Arteaga Rivera inspires at-risk students to stay in high school and graduate. She is the Communities in Schools of Miami site coordinator at Homestead Senior High School and for her efforts Diplomas Now recently named her Coordinator of the Year.

“It is truly an honor to receive this amazing validation for the work that I do for my students and CIS organization,” Arteaga Rivera said in a release.

One of her students is Jhon Barrera, who she has known for three years through the CIS of Miami program. He graduated in June with honors from Homestead High and is now a freshman at Florida International University.

Diplomas Now was launched when Communities in Schools united with two experienced nonprofit organizations — Talent Development and City Year. The “school turnaround model” targets the most challenged middle and high schools in the U.S. and uses an “early-warning system to identify potential dropouts.”

The support available can make all the difference in the world.

Through the program, students are connected with community resources for counseling, health care, housing, food and clothing.

Diplomas Now started in 2008 as a pilot program with one 700-student middle school in Philadelphia. Today, it helps about 26,000 students in 13 cities.

The goal is “to provide students at risk of dropping out with the right support at the right time.”

CIS of Miami also received three additional awards from Diplomas Now, including Team of the Year for Homestead High, School of the Year for Booker T. Washington Senior High School, and Facilitator of the Year for Derrick Moore from Talent Development at Booker T. Washington.

Arteaga Rivera, who has worked at CIS of Miami for three years, provides her expertise in implanting support programs, grant management, site coordination, mentoring, academic coaching, and partnership development.

Her strengths in building student relations, community involvement, supervising tutors and interns, and leadership and team building skills also have earned her recognition by NBC News Latino. She was recently showcased as one of three Latina site coordinators in the nation who are making an impact on students’ lives by keeping them on track for graduation.

To read the success stories, go to and to learn how you can make a difference as a volunteer or through a donation, visit

South Florida Writers

Congratulations to Connie Goodman-Milone, who was recently elected president of the South Florida Writers Association. She is a long-standing member of the group and has served in several board positions. She is a writer and a poet with a passion for Haiku.

Lawyer Rex Russo was guest speaker at the recent installation of the group’s new officers. Russo, who has more than 30 years of legal experience in the Miami area, shared a story about his volunteer work with a group of autistic children and how a child he was assigned to work with had “positively and profoundly impacted his life.”

The additional newly elected officers are: Vice President/President Elect Margarita Muina; Immediate Past President Estefania Uribe; Treasurer Evelyn Benson; Secretary Ulrich Merten; Director – Membership Brenda Roman; Director – Programs Jonathan Rose; Director – Community Relations Sherna Spencer; Director – Publications/Author’s Voice Editor Teresa Bendaña; Director – Website Daniela Ortiz; Director – Contests Phyllis Teitelbaum; Director – Communications Norma Chew; Director – Conference Ricki Dorn; Director at Large Steve Liebowitz; and Director at Large Mort Laitner.

The South Florida Writers Association has a mission to “maintain a forum for fellowship, education and information among writers; assist in establishing and supporting high literary standards; and encourage and promote interest in literary achievements in the community.”

To help with members’ writing aspirations, the group provides guest speakers, annual conferences, literary contests, critique groups and a booth for selling published books at the Miami Book Fair International.

All writers are welcome. Genres include: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, self-publishing, play writing, romance, mystery, humor, historical, inspirational, children’s literature, young adult, song lyrics, self-help, science fiction, business and marketing.

Meetings are held 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m on the first Saturday of the month at Pinecrest Library, 5835 SW 111th St. For more visit

Bird photo contests

Here’s a call for photos of our wonderful feathered friends. Amateur photographers of all ages are invited to enter the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden Birds of South Florida photo contests.

Photos can be of any bird species but submitted entries must have been taken in South Florida. The deadline is Sept. 18.

Entering is free, and new this year is the bird photo contest for kids. The competitions are part of the Bird Festival presented by Fairchild and the Tropical Audubon Society.

Participants in the kids’ photography contest must be younger than 13 years old. The registration form with a parent or guardian’s signature may be sent to Send all other entries with a registration form to

Judges will review all submissions and select the top 20 photos. The panel will then choose the first-, second-, and third-place winners, who will be announced before the keynote lecture by lifelong birder Kenn Kaufman at the Bird Festival on Oct. 3.

The top three winners will receive a special prize. The top 20 photos will be displayed digitally throughout the Garden Oct. 3 and 4 and on Fairchild’s Facebook page during the bird festival.

The 6th annual bird festival will be Oct. 1 through 4 starting with two days of off-site birding tours followed by on-site activities at Fairchild another two days. The 77th annual Members’ Day Plant Sale will be held in the Garden along with the festival. Admission to Fairchild and the festival is free for members and $25 for nonmembers.

You can find more photo submission info, register for the tours, and learn about all Bird Festival activities at Fairchild is located at 10901 Old Cutler Rd. in Coral Gables. Call 305-667-1651.

Rotary program changes

Dr. Ted Lampidis, a leading researcher in the battle to find a cure for cancer, will speak at the next breakfast meeting of the Rotary Club of Miami Dadeland-Pinecrest. The event is 7:30-8:30 a.m. Aug. 11 at the Dadeland Marriott Hotel, 9090 S. Dadeland Blvd. Lampidis is a member of the medical staff of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center of the University of Miami Health System.

On Aug. 25, the club will feature the South Florida Rotary District Gov. Larry Herman who began his term on July 1. For more, contact Howard Horowitz at 786-346-6661 or, or Ron Lieberman at 305-613-6744 or

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