Black Awareness Month’s annual Day of Service volunteers mentor youth at Overtown Youth Center

During Saturday's Black Awareness Month Day of Service, freshman Kyra Freeman works with students at the Overtown Youth Center. Amanda Herrera // Contributing Photographer
During Saturday’s Black Awareness Month Day of Service, freshman Kyra Freeman works with students at the Overtown Youth Center. Amanda Herrera // Contributing Photographer

Students headed to the Overtown Youth Center Saturday morning for a day full of education, service and fun as a part of Black Awareness Month (BAM)’s annual Day of Service.

Last year, children were brought on to UM’s Coral Gables campus. This year, UM students traveled to another environment – an element that sophomore and Recording Secretary for BAM Day of Service Christa Anderson said would “make a difference in the child’s experience.”

“We wanted to make sure that this year we were the ones reaching out to them,” Anderson said. “It’s important for the kids to be in their own environment. It makes it more intimate.”

Organized by United Black Students, the service day included a smaller number of UM participants this year compared to the last, with just more than 75 student volunteers and 110 children from local community centers. The children were paired with student mentors for the day. Together, they took part in different activities, including math, English and nutrition lessons. The day was also spent playing a game of freeze dance, playing basketball and jumping in a bounce house.

Throughout the day, mentors and children moved from room to room in the center. Each different station provided them with tools to equip them for the future. In one room, kids were encouraged to act out what they wanted to be when they grew up. Some discussed their future aspirations to become doctors, newscasters and marine biologists.

This particular activity emphasized one of the main goals of this year’s day of service – to “empower the youth” and show them that college is a possibility, according to BAM Day of Service Chair Keion Farmer.

“We want them to know that we come from probably very similar circumstances and we still made it to the University of Miami,” Farmer said. “They can do the same.”

Other student organizations also participated in the service day. UM’s Multicultural Nursing Student Association held an activity room centered on the impact of proper nutrition. Through dancing and coloring, undergraduate nursing students helped the children to understand the importance of exercise and a balanced diet.

Nursing student and senior Geydis Pupo said that the importance of the day for her was to become a more “well-informed, well-rounded cultural nurse” and to use her future profession to give back to the community.

Throughout the day, students and their partners danced, sang and played their way through activities with smiles on their faces. Anderson said this was the whole purpose of the day – for students to remember that they were once that age, to help to give back and empower children.

“Once in our lives, we were all around this age. It’s important for us to go back into that mindset and help bring up the leaders for tomorrow,” she said.