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  • Writer's pictureHFM Stories

Where are they now: Mayra Sanabria

1. You were involved with Hope for Miami from its earliest days. When was that and what did you do as part of the team?

I started with HFM as a summer camp Site Supervisor at Buen Pastor in Hialeah in 2004. Later I was the Reading Coach at several sites, training staff and directly working with students to improve their reading skills. Because I am fluent in American Sign Language, our very first summer camp was able to enroll seven students who were Deaf or hard-of-hearing. I also planned reading activities and integrated them into social skills.

Then I became a Site Supervisor for the first program for multiple disabilities that HFM opened at North Hialeah Baptist. The program was named Success Club and it was, indeed, a success. When HFM expanded to open several sites for students with disabilities I became the Disability Manager and worked with multiple sites expanding the programs and assisting staff in setting procedures and best practices for students with disabilities.

2. What was that experience like for you? Tell us about the kids you served and any impact you saw.

When I came to HFM, I already was a seasoned teacher and a specialist in Deaf Education. HFM was not a job, it became my calling to serve. It helped me polish my abilities to work with multiple disabilities, I was able to use my expertise with Deaf students and became a disability expert and an advocate.

I served in many capacities and I am a faithful believer that afterschool programs are pivotal to student academic achievement. The biggest impact I saw was with the students in Success Club: The percentage of Deaf students graduating with a regular high school diploma is 83%, a 6% gap, from students without disabilities. Most of our Success Club participants have graduated from high school, or are in mainstreamed classes working towards graduation.

As I continue in contact with them, there are students attending college and working full time. The academic assistance and the social skills provided in the afterschool program are the main cause of their present success. Allow me to name three of the students impacted by our disability programs:

Rocio Ramirez came as a high school student, graduated and became a tutor with HFM. Rocio then graduated from Miami-Dade College and today is a teacher assistant at Palm Springs Middle School.

Jeff Aristide came to us in Elementary School, reading three grades below his grade level and is now attending Broward Community College.

Luis Cureza came to us in Elementary School as a shy student who did not speak English. He’s now a star football player and in regular classes in Barbara Goleman High School.

I’m so very proud of them!

3. Share with us about where you are now with your career or accomplishments.

Today, because of my time in HFM and the inspiration it became to me, I was able to open my own non-profit to help adults with disabilities. It’s called “Success at Work," a continuation of the Success Club after school program. It’s a training center for individuals with disabilities who are not are able to attend college or work and it provides daily, meaningful, valued routines in the community including work ­like settings and supported employment.

I am who I am today because of my participation in HFM and the mentoring of the founders, Yvonne and Rick Sawyer. I was very blessed to meet and work with them from the beginning and extremely happy about HFM's development and success.

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