Gang Alternative, Inc. held a graduation ceremony for our eighth graders and graduating seniors of the Building Leaders of Character (BLOC) program. BLOC falls under GA’s Positive Youth Development Pillar of Service. BLOC is a free after-school program that targets at-risk youth living in low-income communities in Miami-Dade County, who are exposed to violence, substance abuse, tobacco use, and the opioid epidemic. The graduation ceremony was organized to commemorate all the work our GA youth have accomplished throughout the school year.
Miami Heat’s Marketing Manager, Ms. Clara Stroude-Vasquez, served as the keynote speaker for the graduation ceremony. Ms. Clara congratulated the students on their academic accomplishments and thanked the parents for supporting their children on their academic journey.
Ms. Clara asserted that: “Even though you do not know what the road ahead of you will look like or what the next step is, God is making plans and making sure things work for your good.” She explained that everyone has failures, but that it is important to acknowledge them and use it as an opportunity to grow. Ms. Clara emphasized that learning never stops: “School will never be over. You will constantly be learning, whether it’s book-learning or learning about yourself, or learning about the world around you… you will constantly be learning.”
Ms. Clara addressed the middle schoolers by letting them know about the hardships of being in high school. She urged them to go into high school with the mindset that they want to succeed, no matter what happens. Ms. Clara described how success is different for everyone and advised the middle schoolers not to measure their success by someone else’s. She urged the students to take joy in their work and to work for their success. The guest speaker ended her speech by sharing how important it is for them to find people who will have your back. She advised them to always foster their dreams.
Following the guest speaker’s presentation, awards and metals were presented to the graduating seniors and the 8th graders who were going to transition to high school. During the award presentation, GA also recognized and awarded leadership awards to Nathalie Apollon and Ashley Vassor. Nathalie and Ashley have played a huge role within Gang Alternative, Inc. over the years through their overwhelming dedication to the organization. They have been a part of multiple GA programs and initiatives BLOC, The Urban Partnership Drug-Free Community Coalition, and Youth Splash/Kids Splash. BLOC Program Manager, Alexis Farllond concluded the award presentation by expressing her pride in the accomplishments of each student and shared that she views each of them as her own children.
Program Manager, David Spivey made the closing remarks for the ceremony. Mr. Spivey stated, “It is important to know the challenges that life will bring but to also acknowledge that the only thing greater than those challenges is the spirit of triumph and victory” and “When you sow seeds, whatever you sow comes out of the ground and it flourishes and becomes something even greater.” He closed the ceremony by reminding the students to not only give back to their communities but to always remember to give back to God.