Overtown Youth Center (FL)
Dating back to 1896, Overtown was established by laborers hired to build the East Coast railroad and Miami’s hotels and tourist spots. Miami’s oldest Black community, Overtown became a thriving, culturally rich neighborhood until the so-called urban “renewal” programs of the mid-20th century marked the start of declining opportunities and rising poverty for its residents. But today, the pride of Overtown has returned to an area once dubbed the Harlem of the South.
Tina Brown grew up in Overtown, and now serves as chief executive officer of Overtown Youth Center (OYC). Founded in 2003 by NBA Hall-of-Famer Alonzo Mourning and real estate developer Martin Z. Margulies, OYC provides comprehensive services to help at-risk youth become healthy lifelong learners, and position them for success. “While fate landed me in position within the community I grew up in,” she says, “it is my lived experienced that drives my urgent desire to ensure that every kid that is touched by our program has the resources, confidence and support to reach their full potential.”
OYC’s services range from in-school, after-school and summer programs to college prep and career training, and from health, wellness and resiliency programs to tracks in financial literacy, culinary arts and environmental awareness. For example, through its Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics (STEM/STEAM) classes, OYC students gain confidence in life skills such as problem-solving, creativity and collaboration by exploring topics such as Earth Science, Virtual Reality and Architectural Design.
Since its inception, OYC has graduated 100% of its high-school seniors, and most have gone on to pursue college degrees. Best of all, OYC can offer all of its programming free of charge to participants and their families, thanks to support from federal, state and local grants, individual and corporate donations, and philanthropy from foundations. “OYC stands firm in our commitment to strengthening communities, one child and family at a time, by dismantling systemic barriers that plague our communities,” says Brown. “We affirm that Black and Brown youth and families deserve a home that is beyond the basics for survival.”