Miami Dade College Offers Charters a Chance to Connect and Collaborate

When Miami Dade College North Campus President Fermin Vazquez thinks about how his school can best follow its mission, he sees the need to speed up.

That translates to an ever-moving process of finding uber-smart, digitally savvy middle schoolers, enrolling them at one of two Miami Dade College-affiliated charter schools, and putting them on a path to receiving their associates degree the same day they pick up their high school diploma.

Miami is increasingly becoming a major tech city, and the businesses that drive the future of digital technology and artificial intelligence well beyond South Florida, need passionate, skilled and work-ready talent.

Vazquez wants to provide it in multitudes.

“Our contribution to our community is how we engage our community,” Vazquez said. “Although we don’t have the word ‘community’ in our title anymore, we’re still a community college. Finding where you are as a student and bringing you into a long-term program, that’s a focus.”

Supporting great K-12 education is a focus, too. Miami Dade College will host the 2nd Annual Building Hope IMPACT Awards at its West Campus. This is an opportunity for charter leaders from across the country to connect, collaborate, and level-up on May 3-4. It culminates with an awards gala to honor public charter schools who are “best-in-class.”

There will be $160,000 in grants awarded in four categories: Community Engagement, Student Empowerment, Educational Innovation and Model Charter. There also are three $5,000 Shellie-Ann Braswell Shine Brighter Awards being presented to charter school volunteer leaders.

Miami Dade College is increasingly becoming involved in the charter school world. As the home of the Florida Charter Institute, a new data-driven resource for educational excellence, it will be part of an initiative to teach future leaders how to gain a charter for a new school.

In addition to having two charter schools located on the North campus (KIPP Royalty Academy and KIPP Courage Academy), the college will unveil a new technology high school at its downtown campus. Tech-centric students in the ninth and 10th grades will christen the new school in the fall with a variety of learning paths.

Once their senior year is completed, students will have a two-year college degree and a choice: pursue a four-year degree or hop into the tech world as prepared graduates. Not surprisingly, the desire for smart students has college recruiters scouring middle schools for students who want to be pioneers. Almost every open event that could bring a young mind to campus is an opportunity to sell the technology programs the college offers.

“These are workforce-driven programs,” Vazquez said. “We need these young professionals to come out earlier and with more knowledge, more training, because the work for them is there.”

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William Fay

Bill Fay is a freelance writer supplying content for the communication outlets Building Hope uses to promote and expand charter school programs in the U.S. Bill started his career as a sports writer for the Tampa Tribune and Associated Press. He has written about Super Bowls, NBA Finals and college football, basketball and baseball championships. He has turned his attention to more serious subjects like public transportation, personal finance and now, education. He welcomes opportunities to learn more from the charter school audience and become a voice for their community.