United Way demonstration school helps dad celebrate best Father’s Day ever
In celebration of Father’s Day, we are honoring one of our own, Juan Muhamad. Over the past eight years, Juan has immersed himself into our United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education – as a proud parent, tireless volunteer and dedicated committee member.
Juan’s journey to the Center began with its own set of unique challenges and frustrations. In 2008, Juan and his wife Jessica gave birth to their son, Sebastian, who was born premature. Facing numerous medical issues, the child was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder shortly after his second birthday and later developed difficulties walking.
The couple knew Sebastian couldn’t be placed in just any school. That’s when a friend told Jessica about the Center. After a preliminary meeting, Juan and Jessica were asked the one question they feared – can Sebastian walk? Hesitatingly, they stood the small child up by a table and Sebastian lost his balance and tumbled over.
Undeterred, the Center’s staff didn’t turn Sebastian away. Instead, Sebastian was welcomed into our School, one of the country’s most innovative early learning institutions. A plan was created with developmental milestones. And everyone quickly went to work.
Goals were set and a schedule was carefully crafted for Sebastian to receive three types of therapies. Staff and teachers coordinated a support system for both the child and his parents. It wasn’t long before Sebastian successfully integrated with his peers in the classroom.
Today, Sebastian is a straight A student in a third-grade gifted program. At our Center’s 10-year anniversary celebration, Juan shared his story of perseverance. “It definitely took a lot of work, commitment and will. And this was all possible because we were given the opportunity.”
During this journey, Juan never gave up on improving life for himself and his family. He completed numerous degrees, including an associate’s degree in music education and a master’s in mental health counseling and music therapy. One of his first jobs? Sharing his knowledge of music therapy with the children at the Center. Last year, Jessica completed her doctoral degree in communication studies and is currently a professor of prevention sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
Looking back, Juan recalls all of the obstacles he’s had to face with deep appreciation. “The Center has been our family and support system. We didn’t have family here in Miami,” he said. “We were able to do what we did all because of United Way’s support.” This fall, Juan will begin his doctoral studies in communication science and disorders at Florida State University.