United Black Students hosts a day of service and fun

University of Miami students celebrated a fun day with grade-schoolers with Streamline Miami, working on  projects and other activities.
By Ashley A. Williams

University of Miami students celebrated a fun day with grade-schoolers with Streamline Miami, working on  projects and other activities.

United Black Students hosts a day of service and fun

By Ashley A. Williams
The University of Miami student group partnered with two local, nonprofit organizations to beautify a playground and connect with 20 elementary schoolchildren.

To honor Black Awareness Month (BAM), also known as Black History Month, dozens of University of Miami students, mostly members of United Black Students, spent Saturday, Feb. 22, volunteering on and off the Coral Gables campus to help two local nonprofit organizations. From hands-on indoor and outdoor activities to beautifying a local elementary school, the BAM Service Day provided myriad opportunities for learning and fun.  

Miami native Cachay Byrd, a senior majoring in health science, was the organizer of this year’s day of service. She said her dedication to leadership, service, instituting change, and shaking a few tables with a focus on inclusivity along with diversity for black students steered her to taking on the role.

“I've lived by the philosophy that in order to continue propelling black excellence forward, those of whom have achieved have the responsibility to share the knowledge and create opportunities for others. So that, they too, may find their place in the sun,” Byrd said.

At the Coral Gables campus, about 30 students hosted Streamline Miami, an organization dedicated to placing underserved elementary school-aged children on the path to success by delivering resources needed for quality education. Early on Saturday, the volunteers met with 20 grade-schoolers at the Lakeside Patio and spent three hours engaged in various projects, including building towers made out of dry spaghetti and marshmallows, playing board games, drawing their occupational aspirations, and playing kickball on the Foote University Green.  

“The biggest takeaway was the smiling faces of the kindergarten and first-graders, as they marveled in amazement when we shared our passions, goals, and journeys with them,” Byrd said. “As we colored pictures depicting what we wanted to be when we grew up, one student looked up at me with the most innocent eyes and asked, ‘Can I really be whatever I want to be, no matter what?’ My heart swelled,’’ she admitted. ‘‘I felt as though I was looking into the eyes of my younger self, and all I could do was hug her tight and reassure her that ‘Yes, you can do anything you put your mind to. No one, and I mean no one, can stop you from achieving your dreams.’ ” 

Not only did the day of service enhance preexisting relationships between the nonprofit organization and the University, it also marked an opportunity for potential future ’Canes to experience campus life.

Ana Rubio, executive director of Streamline Miami and physical education teacher at Earlington Heights Elementary, said the purpose of the partnership was to expose and engage the younger students to higher education as early and as much as possible.

“Many of the students enrolled in the program tell me often how they don’t really get out of their neighborhood,” she said. “Last weekend I really wanted to celebrate and honor this momentous month with UM students because we want them to see students who look like them and know that they can [succeed] despite their environment.”  

While Byrd and others enjoyed spending quality time with the youngsters, some members of United Black Students were off campus with Branches of North Miami, a group dedicated to helping working families and their children break the cycle of generational poverty. University students worked alongside Branches volunteers to paint walls, organize donated items, and restore a playground.

“It was a humbling experience to see that the kids are still kids,” said Shamir Cetoute, a volunteer and senior majoring in computer science. “It was nice to spend time with them and not worry about the stressors of school. It allowed me to tap into my inner child.”