MIAMI – When Cassandra Joseph and Ricardo Castañeda decided to participate in Leadership Miami 2017-2018, the two Miami Jewish Health employees didn’t realize they might be changing lives.
But the projects they worked on for eight months will do exactly that for years to come.
Joseph, the director of human resources at Miami Jewish Health, was part of a team that constructed a sensory room at Miami International Airport to soothe the nerves of young autistic travelers. Castañeda’s group of Miami leaders interacted with middle and high schoolers to create a podcast curriculum where kids got to talk about topics ranging from school violence to “growing up in the 305.” Castañeda is Miami Jewish Health’s director of clinical research and business development.
Sensory Room, Podcast Curriculum Inspired by Teamwork
The initiatives involved teamwork, creativity, innovation, problem-solving and fundraising.
“It throws you into the thick of being a leader,” Joseph explained. “It reinforced for me that a true leader realizes they need others, and that we cannot do anything ourselves. Everybody had to do their own piece.”
For eight months, the different teams met with their members to discuss, create, outline and implement service projects to benefit the community. They also had to come up with ways to finance the projects by planning local fundraisers and soliciting in-kind donations.
Castañeda’s group had a connection to the Miami Heat’s Deejay Irie, and began working with the Irie Foundation to move their podcast project forward. The mission of the Irie Foundation is to empower at-risk youth through cultural experiences, education initiatives, mentoring and scholarship opportunities.
“What better way to plug ourselves in and have an impact on kids who are the future of our community?” Castañeda said. “The Irie Foundation is a really cool organization and they are definitely making a positive impact on the kids that they work with.”
His team worked with students to produce five different podcasts which could be reproduced year after year by new kids who participate in the program, he said.
“We created a page-by-page curriculum on how to run a podcast course. Hopefully it is something that will live on well after we completed our Leadership Miami course,” he noted.
Employees Make a Difference Through Programming, Participation
Castañeda’s team, called “Miami Rise,” let students brainstorm their own ideas while providing mentoring and guidance throughout the process. The focus of one podcast was “Preparing for College.”
“It’s something kids want to know about. We didn’t want it to come from an adult. So we had kids record their conversations of why they wanted to go to college and what they wanted to do,” Castañeda said. “We then edited the audio and put it into a podcast form.”
Learning about the program’s positive affect on the kids by getting their feedback made the program even more gratifying, he said.
Joseph, who served as secretary of team “Miami Beat,” said she learned that it’s OK to step back and not always be the team leader, but rather an active participant.
Joseph’s team ultimately raised about $15,000 for their project, much of it in-kind donations from the airport, she noted.
The project involved creating a logo and coming up with shirts to help market their ideas, she said.
Castañeda said his team raised about $9,000 for their cause, an effort that he contributed to by organizing a fundraiser at a gym with spinning cycles. The money they raised helped purchase equipment for a recording studio at the Irie Foundation, where the podcasts will be created. The podcasts will ultimately be housed on a landing page on the Irie Foundation website, where students and their friends can listen to them.
“It was a wonderful experience,”Castañeda said.