Phyllis W. Simpkins, who serves as a firefighter with the Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue Department, wanted to do something special that would give back to the community and serve area youth after the passing of her husband, William D. Simpkins.
To fulfill that dream, her Majestic Youth and Arts Academy Intervention Prevention program was begun in May 2006, designed to provide services such as dance, drama, theatrical performances, mentoring, life skills and more as an option to keep youth out of the criminal justice system.
“The program offers a safe, engaging and constructive environment for youth to cultivate and express their artistic talents, promote cultural awareness, social skills and enhance youth and their families’ awareness to the arts,” Simpkins said.
Simpkins entered into a contract with Miami-Dade County Parks on July 16, 2012 to use the facility at Goulds Park, located at 11350 SW 216 St. Simpkins had no funding to hire additional assistance, but she was able to recruit four volunteers from the community.
“These volunteers had to be God-sent,” Simpkins said. “Because of their willingness, dedication, and participation and overall goodwill, a difference was made within the program.”
Although the program began with only three participants that first year at the park, Simpkins stayed determined and the program has grown, having served more than 75 youths on a rotating cycle in the community. Besides the professional training, mentoring and life skills, the youngsters have received uniform shirts, sneakers, and more, paid for either by Simpkins or through sponsorships and donations. She and her sponsors also have covered the costs of fieldtrips, van rentals, group dinners and other public outings.
Simpkins commutes from Miami Gardens and her job three to five days each week to Goulds Park to provide dance classes to the youth participants and their families. The program has established partnerships with various churches and organizations, including the Miami-Dade Police Department.
“This is what I do when I’m away from my 8-to-4 job,” Simpkins said. “Working with kids always keeps you balanced. I think it’s an important thing to do for the kids because there’s a lot of gang activity going on throughout South Florida, and really throughout the country. I believe that if our youth has something else — an option — where they can get involved, it’s going to bring back a positive attitude and way of doing things. It’s a win-win for the community and for that child, having a better future.”
Simpkins said that the activities get the youngsters involved and give them a sense of accomplishment. They have done parades, events and other functions, and had their first annual dance recital at the Joseph Caleb Auditorium on Sept.14. There are more events in the works.
“I’ve been talking to the Salvation Army and they want the kids to come and give performances at events they’re having in October,” Simpkins said. “We take the kids out of their normal environment and expose them to other environments they might not see. Majestic’s Youth and Arts Academy has made a difference in Goulds community.”
For information contact Phyllis W. Simpkins, program deirector, at 786-443-3277.
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