AMIkids has been an impact partner of United Way for close to 30 years, dating back to when they were formerly the Dade Marine Institute. It all started with a dedicated judge, Frank Orlando, who gathered a group of kids that were constantly getting into trouble. He paired them with a friend that worked at a marina, assigning the kids to work there. After observing them, he realized the correlation between marine activity and reducing recidivism rates for juveniles – and AMIkids was born.
AMIkids’ Path to Success program is a performance-based program that combines behavior modification, education and treatment to provide students (age range: 13 to 18 years) referred through the Department of Juvenile Justice with experimental education opportunities.
United Way of Miami-Dade invests both money as well as coordinates volunteer efforts for the organization. One of our giving communities, LINC (Lead. Impact. Network. Change.), recently volunteered to build a volleyball court for the organization.
“It is important for organizations like United Way to help support AMIkids, because it helps bridge the gap between necessary resources and the needs of at-risk youth in our communities,” said Enrique Garcia, MSW executive director at AMIkids. “The contribution of our community partners are a direct reflection of the success and non-recidivism of our kids.”
Through its Path to Success program, AMIkids provides structured programming and resources for at-risk youth in grades 7-12 with juvenile crime issues. The program utilizes a restorative justice approach in rehabilitating the kids who attend programming. They are held accountable for their actions, helping them develop confidence and competency in vital life skills and educational areas. Because of this, they learn to accept personal responsibility.
Using a structured environment built around the components of a point card system, rank level system and token economy (which provide positive incentives for youth who are meeting and going above expectations), the Path to Success program also aids youth in hands-on learning, including basic water safety, SCUBA, boat maintenance and repair, power boat handling and basic sail operations, and construction.
At AMIkids, at-risk youth not only have an opportunity to receive certifications, but are also placed on the path to get jobs once they complete the program. This “one-stop shop” serves approximately 120 kids at any given time (300 per year), and the program takes six months to complete. Youth then get transitioned back to regular schools, GED placement or on a vocational track. They stay away from distractions, which keeps them focused and employed. Tracked through the Institute for Juvenile Research for up to a year after finishing the program, there is a 78% non-recidivism rate amongst youth that complete the program.
“The success of our kids is a cumulative effort and contribution from our team members, community partners, dedicated staff and our volunteer board of directors,” said Garcia. “One doesn’t work without the other. That’s what’s supported our program and our kids at being successful throughout the years.”