This Christmas, there are people who have been gifting us with their talent, passion and commitment to helping others in this community throughout the year. And, therefore, working on behalf of all of us. Here are just a few who have made an impression on the Editorial Board in 2016:
Brando and DeNiro had legendary acting teacher Stella Adler. Paul Newman, James Dean and Marilyn Monroe had icon Lee Strasberg. And several aspiring young actors and actresses in Miami have Tanisha Cidel. In fact, some of her students have already made it to the silver screen — and the red carpet.
Ms. Cidel teaches drama at Norland Middle School. What her students learn from her, however, goes far beyond the art and craft of performance, all the way to an enhanced vocabulary and heightened self-esteem. History lessons are incorporated into drama lessons, and there are life lessons, as well.
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Two of her students, Alex R. Hibbert and Jaden Piner, take center stage — brilliantly — in the acclaimed this year’s film “Moonlight,” which already has gotten film industry awards and Oscar buzz.
Ms. Cidel says that she has earned her own reward already: “I absolutely love what I do,” she told WLRN reporter Nadege Green recently. “It’s a blessing to me to see them get it and to see them grow.”
Mark Rosenberg, president of Florida International University, was thrilled to announce that Saif Ishoof was coming aboard in May, saying FIU’s new vice president of engagement had shown a stellar “commitment to developing young people, as well as building civic institutions, international dialogue, and entrepreneurship.”
Mr. Ishoof, indeed, is a leader, having been executive director of the Miami operations of City Year.
And the success of the students touched by the national program, which works to combat the academic challenges of students who live in high poverty, leaves little doubt that Mr. Ishoof will continue to nurture this community’s well-being by nurturing young leaders who will follow in his footsteps.
Nyah. It means “purpose” in Swahili, and Leigh-Ann Buchanan certainly had one: to give students “transformative experiences abroad.” Ms. Buchanan, an attorney, is the founder of an innovative program that develops youth leaders by taking them out of the familiar and immersing them in everyday life in other countries. There, they end up finding themselves and, ironically, the familiar. After all, people’s needs and desires don’t really differ all that much, no matter where they live.
Each year a diverse and talented group of teenagers from underserved communities is selected as Nyah Project Fellows. They meet prominent civic and business leaders locally and abroad. The destinations are amazing: Ghana, Costa Rica, South Africa, and Namibia.
And because of the intensive training in human-factor leadership, social entrepreneurship and experiential learning Nyah provides, 100 percent of its fellows are accepted into college. Clearly, Ms. Buchanan’s sense of purpose is contagious.