Community Voices

Friends and Neighbors: Deadline Oct. 30 to apply for 2016 Disney Dreamers Academy

Dr. Miriam Klein Kassenoff, director of Holocaust studies at University of Miami
Dr. Miriam Klein Kassenoff, director of Holocaust studies at University of Miami

Earlier this year, I attended the Disney Dreamers Academy. It was an eye-opening event. The people at Walt Disney World Resort hosted 100 teens and their parents and/or guardians for a four-day, out-of-the-classroom, educational mentoring program with Steve Harvey and ESSENCE Magazine, and a host of other noted speakers, including Bishop T.D. Jakes, who served as mentors to the teens.

When I got back, I wrote about the program and urged teens from the 9th through 12th grades to apply. It’s not hard to do. But now the time is running out and if you want to have one of the greatest experiences of your young life, you must apply by Oct. 30, at

The Disney Dreamers Academy seeks to inspire and fuel the dreams of teens by helping them discover a world of possibilities and prepare for the future. The students who are accepted in the program will participate in workshops related to a variety of career paths, ranging from animation to zoology. They will also learn important skills such as communication techniques, leadership values and networking strategies.

The fast-paced academy features motivational speakers, celebrities, world renowned entrepreneurs and executives who will share their stories and provide insight on how to achieve success and dream big. Dreamers will also have the opportunity to cultivate relationships with other students from across the country.

This is a worthwhile event and it only takes a little time to fill out the application and write a short autobiography of yourself. More than 800 students have gone through the program. Some students from our community could be among the next 100 selected to participate. The 2015 Disney Dreamers included three students from our South Florida area; two of them were from Miami-Dade County.


A warm “welcome home” to Tarell Alvin McCraney, an award-winning playwright who grew up in Liberty City and who has been hired by the Theatre Arts Department of the University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences. According to a news release from the university, his duties will be to teach, inspire and connect with the local community through civic engagement programs.

McCraney graduated from the New World School of the Arts High School and the Theatre School at DePaul University in Chicago, as well as the Yale School of Drama.

His career has taken him from New York to London and other parts of the world. For two years — from 2009 to 2011— McCraney was International Writer in Residence for the Royal Shakespeare Company, where he remains as an associate artist, and he has been named a Hodder Fellow at the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University. He also is an ensemble member of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago and a founding member of Teo Castellanos D-Projects in Miami. Among his long list of impressive awards and achievements is the MacArthur Genius Grant, which helped catapult him to international recognition.

In his new position, McCraney will teach students the art of acting and drama in the fall semester’s Introduction to Acting class. He has a passion for community service and said he will spend time connecting the community — preferably children and young adults — with his world of theater arts.

“Now he wants to give back to the community that gave to him,” said Stephen Di Benedetto, chairman and associate professor of theater history and theory at UM. “He has an opportunity now to create a program that will build upon the resources of the local community and enrich the lives of the students who participate in this leadership training to have a lasting effect on generations to come.”

McCraney has created a three-year program that partners with the University of Miami, Miami-Dade County and the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center. The program starts in the summer of the participating students’ sophomore year and ends in their senior year. The students will perform a Greek play in the first year; write a play in the second year, and perform a play in the third year. The students in the program will also be paired with undergrads at the university who will serve as mentors during the program.

“The hope and aim, with the help of partners in the community and the backing of our great university, is to engage, stimulate and nurture artists right here — both on and off the campus,” McCraney said.

His plays include the acclaimed trilogy, The Brother/Sister Plays, Head of the Passes, Choir Boy, and Wig Out!


Miami Women Who Rock invites the community to the Fifty Shades of Pink awards luncheon, to be held at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 21, at the Coral Gables Country Club, 997 N. Greenway Dr., where Alina Hudak, deputy mayor for Miami-Dade County, will serve as Rock Ambassador.

During the event, the 2015 award recipients will be presented. They are: Gloria Babier, Linda Burrows, C. L. Conroy, Maria Freed, Elena Linores, Pilar Montes, Detra Snow-Wilder and Norma Trabanco.

The Lifetime Achievement will be presented to Cuban songwriter and Grammy-winner Concha Valdes Miranda.

For tickets and information go to: www.Miami WomenWho A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Women’s Breast and Heart Health Initiative.


The Holocaust Institute Program, which is open to teachers and the general public, will be from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Oct. 30 at the Dave and Mary Alper Jewish Community Center, 11155 SW 112th Ave.

The program will feature author Kristin Hannah as the keynote speaker. Workshop presenters will be:

▪ Hilary Stipelman, director of Outreach and Exhibitions, Anne Frank Center USA. Workshop topics: “The Short Life of Anne Frank and Her Impact on Humanity” and “Teaching the Diary in the Classroom Today”.

▪ Sharon Horowitz, executive director of the Holocaust Memorial. Workshop topics: “Teaching the Holocaust Through the Lens of The Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach.”

▪ Dr. Miriam Klein Kassenoff, director, Holocaust Studies, Teachers Institute, University of Miami/Miami, District Education Specialist/Holocaust Education, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Department of Social Sciences. Her topic: “Women in the Holocaust — Rescue and Resistance.”

Hannah, the keynote speaker, is the bestselling author of The Nightingale. Her presentation will be from 1:15 to 2:15 p.m. in the main auditorium at the Jewish center.

For more information, call Kassenoff at 305-868-5127 or 305-995-1201.


Miami City Ballet will open its 30th anniversary season with a red-carpet celebration at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 23 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.

An open-air reception on the Arsht Center’s Thompson Plaza for the Arts will be held 90 minutes prior to curtain. At the reception, the ballet company will mingle with ticketholders. Specialty cocktails will be served and there will be a live DJ, photo ops and a toast to 30 years of ballet.

The opening night performance will start at 8 p.m. in the center’s Ziff Ballet Opera House with Swan Lake, Viscera and Fancy Free.

Performances of Program One will continue on the evening of Oct. 24 and on the afternoon of Oct. 25. Tickets start at $20 each and are on sale now. To purchase tickets or for more information, visit or call the company’s box office at 305-929-7010 or toll free at 877-929-7010.

The MBC’s 30th Anniversary Season is presented in memory of R. Kirk Landon, a philanthropist, leader and friend of Miami City Ballet. The Arsht Center is at 1300 Biscayne Blvd.


Asma T. Uddin, who serves as legal counsel for the Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty in Washington, will present a lecture called “Religious Freedom 2015: Promises and Perils, Local and Global” at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 21, at the CAS Gallery, 1210 Stanford Dr. at the University of Miami in Coral Gables.

Tickets are free for students, staff and the community. Parking is available at Pavia Parking Garage, 5615 Pavia St.

To RSVP, contact Sara Cass at 305-284-5531.


The Alhambra Orchestra and the Greater Miami Youth Symphony will present “A Spooky Symphony” at 4 p.m. Oct. 25 in the Adrienne Arsht Center Knight Concert Hall, 1300 Biscayne Blvd..

The free Halloween family concert will include excerpts from Jurassic Park, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Batman The Dark Knight and Wicked, as well as a variety of classical selections.

In addition, there will be a multimedia presentation. Children are encouraged to dress in their best Halloween costumes.

Although the concert is free and seating is open, tickets are required and may be ordered through the box office in person, online at or by calling 305-949-6722. Parking is free in Lot C at 1201-1215 NE Second Ave. with a parking voucher. Call 305-667-4069 or visit for more information.

Send all items at least two weeks in advance to Friends and Neighbors, c/o Neighbors, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172 or email Pictures are accepted but cannot be returned.