Community Voices

Artist, young professionals paint mural at Ponce De Leon Middle School

Volunteers with the Ponce Society of Young Professionals join artist Michael Halley to create this mural at Ponce De Leon Middle School.
Volunteers with the Ponce Society of Young Professionals join artist Michael Halley to create this mural at Ponce De Leon Middle School. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

Ponce De Leon Middle School students will have beautiful new art to look at when they return from summer break thanks to members of the Ponce Society of Young Professionals and local artist Michael Halley.

In early summer, the volunteers combined efforts to paint a large mural that can be enjoyed by the school community and visitors.

The art beautification project also served as motivation to get other young professionals involved in the community. The Ponce Society of Young Professionals creates its own projects and social events to give back to the community. It is all about making change for good.

“I like my art to make a difference,” said Halley in a release. He donated his time and talent to the project. “If I can brighten someone’s mood, encourage creativity and feelings of pride and hope for a better future, especially within our children, a little bit of paint on the wall can make all the difference in the world,” he said.

The project also included raising $700 to buy 80 paintbrushes, paint and other supplies for the Ponce De Leon Middle School Art Department. The young professionals successfully raised the money at a happy hour fundraising event at Tarpon Bend Raw Bar & Grill.

“I believe it is very important for our generation to volunteer their time and give back to the community,” said Brian Quintana in a release. He is chair of the group and a tax senior at Hancock Askew & Co.

“The generations before us have done a great job giving back to South Florida and Coral Gables and making our city one of the best cities in the country. It is our turn, as young professionals in this community, to get involved and continue what they have been doing for years,” he said.

The Ponce Society of Young Professionals was founded in October 2011 as the young professionals outreach of the Coral Gables Community Foundation. The group supports the mission of the Foundation and encourages new membership.

To learn more, visit the Coral Gables Community Foundation at, and to stay up to date on the latest young professional events, check out the group on Facebook at


Amigos For Kids congratulates all the winners in its Blue Ribbon Poster Contest to spread awareness about preventing child abuse and neglect.

The group started the annual competition in 2009 and it continues to recognize the imaginative art and essays by students in Miami-Dade County Public Schools. The contest was sponsored by Voya and was hosted during the 2016 Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month of April.

The 2016 “There’s NO Excuse for Child Abuse!” Poster Contest Award winners include:

▪ First place winners: Valeria Maldonado, Ruben Dario Middle School; Stephanie Vasquez, Hialeah Senior High School; and Isabella Virrisimo, Oliver Hoover Elementary School.

▪  Second place winners: Sarah Cohen, Eugenia B. Thomas K-8 Center; Samantha Deibelbis, Eugenia B. Thomas K-8 Center; Mia Moreno, Oliver Hoover Elementary School; and Leslie Perez, Homestead Senior High School.

▪ Third place winners: Sophia Arencibia, Rockway Elementary School; Yennifer Castillo, Miami Norland Senior High; and Gretsy Moreno, Ruben Dario Middle School.

▪ Honorable mentions: Stephanie Lopez, Rockway Elementary School; and Gabriela Marcano, Ruben Dario Middle School.

“We congratulate the winners of the 2016 ‘There’s NO Excuse for Child Abuse!’ Blue Ribbon Poster Contest Award,” said Amigos For Kids President and CEO Rosa Maria Plasencia in a release.

“The level of talent this year was exceptional! Our goal with this project is to educate students and raise their awareness on issues of child abuse prevention. We are pleased to see the positive dialogue forming as a result of this contest, and are grateful to the Miami-Dade County Public School system for the decade long collaboration and partnership to promote this important message of well-being and safety within our families and communities. We are grateful for Voya’s continued support of our mission of child abuse prevention, and thank them for sponsoring this year’s poster contest,” Plasencia said.

Voya has supported the mission of Amigos For Kids since 2005.


The Marlins Foundation, via the Miami Foundation, recently provided a $500 donation to Rotary International District 6990 as part of the group’s commitment to the efforts of local Rotary Clubs and their participation in the Rotary Marlins Game 2016 held in May.

The funds will be utilized to continue the Rotary Polio Plus Campaign to eliminate polio from the world. The dedicated effort aimed at global eradication of the debilitating disease has remained a constant mission of Rotary International and its Rotary Clubs.

The massive humanitarian campaign began more than 30 years ago in February 1985. And according to, “99 percent of the world’s population lives in regions certified polio-free, [and] the goal of eradication is closer than ever.”

“We are very appreciative of the Miami Marlins and the Marlin Foundation for their support again of our efforts to create awareness and provide a donation of our efforts to eradicate polio from the world,” said Michael Kesti, chairman of Rotary Marlins Night, in a release. “The Marlins are always willing to assist us year after year and we also have a great time at a game at Marlins Park.”

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