Hope For Miami Blog

Penny Guides Kids with Compass

Charles Sawyer - Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Day in the Life: There was the time when Penny Peña’s work found her in a room with school administrators, six students and each of their mothers, discussing a violent ongoing feud between the kids, complete with a fist fight recorded for posterity. Or, there’s the time it turned out one of their student’s acting up was due to his father’s recent passing.

This job isn’t easy.

Compass’ Calling: Penny is Program Coordinator/Lead Educator for Compass, a substance abuse prevention program for youth sponsored by Hope for Miami.  She and her Compass team members witness on a daily basis that students’ lives are often in turmoil and that schools are usually functioning at beyond capacity on many levels. It’s Compass’  desire to come alongside the schools’ administration and staff where they serve to help educate middle schoolers on the very real consequences of indulging in drugs and alcohol at a young age.  And as you may suspect, Team Compass is no stranger to stressful situations. They’ve learned to take the punches in stride.

What Matters Most: Penny will tell you she wishes the team could do more, reach more kids, talk to more parents and disseminate more information about the dangers of drugs. But for her, the only thing that really matters is having a positive impact on an individual.

She recalls one such success story, that of a boy who was falling in with the “wrong” crowd, but who clearly had desires to be a leader and not a follower. For three years, the Compass team was able to help shape this young person’s life. A now, in high school, he’s excelling and has even joined the school’s football team.

Keeping Focus: For Penny, the key to success is understanding that the kids will challenge authority, but they will also flourish if someone is there to listen and give them a voice. Compass empowers the youth they reach by teaching leadership qualities through their Youth Leadership Council. In fact, the same boy who had lost his father, was able to channel his energy to better himself through this Council.

Penny is a true leader, bringing skills, wisdom and compassion to her vocation, as well as challenging her team to do the same.

Written by Ana D McQuattie


H4M Employee of the Month Stephanie Mc Neil

Charles Sawyer - Thursday, July 02, 2015

It gives us great pleasure to announce that Stephanie McNeil of Hope for Miami’s Pathways program is our Employee of the Month for June 2015!

Current Tasks: Through her role as Community Projects Coordinator for Pathways (youth development), Stephanie reaches teens in grades 6-9 through a curriculum that focuses on nurturing skills required to succeed in the transition from childhood to adulthood, including managing money, choosing a career and how to create a positive future.

Background and Joining Hope for Miami: Stephanie has been involved with Hope for Miami indirectly for over 10 years, working closely with Rick and Yvonne Sawyer to make an after school and summer camp program available to the youth in her church. After many years of work that wasn’t fulfilling, she took a “leap of faith” and joined Hope for Miami. In becoming part of the team, Stephanie said, “It was like a homecoming for me to be able to come back to work alongside the Sawyers”. According to her supervisor, Lulie Negreira, Stephanie’s contributions are noticed by the community “Stephanie has received high accolades for her parent workshops and has been invited on numerous occasions by several organizations to present her workshops on important topics such as bullying to parents and the community”.

Serving Kids Not Always Easy: Though the job is not without its challenges, Stephanie focuses on the positive impact she has through Pathways, “it saddens me when family issues, poverty, etc… have tainted the mentality of the upcoming generations so much that kids and youth don't even care to hear that all hope is not lost. The most rewarding aspect is looking into a teen's eyes who believe and trust you and make choices to better their lives. Once a teenager trusts you and accepted your validation, then they begin to see themselves how you perceive them and they want to strive for more!”

Goals and Dreams: While not at work, ministry work frames Stephanie’s day to day life and, in the future, she hopes to pursue a doctoral degree in Public Health. “I also LOVE traveling. It would be awesome at some point in my life to spend the bulk of my time traveling and spreading the love of Christ!”

Thank you for your hard work Stephanie! The employee of the month nomination was humbling to Stephanie and at the same time, made her feel loved. “The best part of working with HFM is working with people who share the same heart as me. We all desire to see kids/youth/families make great choices and positively contribute to their society”.

Written by Ana D McQuattie