Scholars Inspiring Change – Social Justice Initiatives

Ariana Olivero Rodriguez, Breakthrough Miami Intern – Summer 2019

Social Justice is the fair distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society. The topics chosen do not yet have a fair and equal distribution of these resources and reuire the community to step up and demand change.

The purpose of this project is to remind our scholars that it is not too early for them to begin making change. Through this process, we show them ways in which they can begin by helping them find tangible ways to bring awareness to, and begin to seekk change for, the topic they are most interested in. Becuase everyone has different interests and talents,, these projects are completed individually.

This social justice initiative is divided into 4 parts, and completed within a four year time frame. The awareness letters you will read are onl a quarter of the work that our scholars are doing to change the world.

Here’s how it works:

  • 5th grade scholars will watch a film viewing and complete reflection activities to discover the impact of social justice.
  • 6th grade scholars will dive into how they want to change the world they live in by setting peronal and community goals and writing an awareness letter.
  • 7th grade scholars will use visual platforms to spread the word about their topic of interest.
  • 8th grade scholars will create a service or product to address the social justice issue they want to impact.

Letters from a Scholar

Animal Services

To Whom It May Concern,

My name is Isaiah and I am in seventh grade. I live in Overtown, and there are multiple animals living in the streets of my community that are scared, dangerous or sick. Most of these animals have no shelter or food and roam the streets hungry and afraid. While the sick animals should be kept under control in order to prevent humans from getting diseases, I‘d like to propose that they be sent to labs, zoos, vets or animal shelters so that their wellbeing can be taken care of. I would also like to see more awareness of this issue so that the animals that are scared and dangerous can go through a program that will allow them to be trained, domesticated and rehabilitated so that they can become adoptable.

Sincerely,

Isaiah Williams, Grade 8

Breakthrough Miami Scholar, Young Men’s Preparatory Academy

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To Whom It May Concern,

I am contacting you to make you aware of the huge amount of roadkill and speeding issues in my community. My name is Bryanna Mondestin, and I am in the seventh grade. A lot of the streets in my neighborhood lack stop signs and because of this people speed often. Many of our neighbors also have pets but don’t have gates so their pets run to the middle of the streets and get hit by cars due to people speeding. When this happens, drivers continue driving and don’t stop to say anything. This leaves the little kids sad because their cat or dog was killed. I would like you to help by adding more stop signs, lowering the speed limits and probably add for families who have animals so that their pets don’t escape. I would appreciate it if you can help me fix these problems in my community and take these issues as seriously as I do to make our community better. Thank you for the time you spent reading my letter. I hope for the best and I know that with your help we can see some positive changes in the community.

Sincerely,

Bryanna Mondestin, Grade 8

Breakthrough Miami Scholar, North Dade Middle School

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Climate Change

To Whom It May Concern,

I am an 11 year old in the 6th grade. I was born in New York, but grew up in Miami. In school we are learning about climate change and how it is a big problem because natural gases, coal burning, and gasoline all result in greenhouse gases eating away at the ozone layer (the layer that protects us from harmful sun rays). This means that Miami and other parts of the U.S.A. will be under water someday because of the amount of pollution and greenhouse gases that are trapped in the ozone layer causing excess precipitation. I think that we should have yearly car inspections to make sure that cars are not causing extra pollution. I also think that we should add air filters on top of skyscrapers to work as large engines sucking up pollution and passing it through filters to clean the air. It is so important to keep our air clean because it is what we breathe. So without a solution to greenhouse gases, there might not be any life left on Earth! So please keep climate change in mind because one little match can make a large flame.

Sincerely,

Jaral Arroyo-Jefferson, Grade 7

Breakthrough Miami Scholar, George W. Carver Middle School

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Infrastructure

To Whom It May Concern,

My name is Aniyah Upshaw, and I am currently thirteen years old and in eighth grade. I live in between Coconut Grove and Biscayne Blvd, and attend Young Women’s Preparatory Academy. There is a serious issue happening within these two areas: people are being hit, and even run over, by cars. Car accidents tend to occur more often during the night than during the daytime, most likely because people cannot see clearly due to lack of enough adequate street lighting.

Through improved lighting, drivers could be more cautious towards pedestrians and animals crossing the road once they can clearly see the road and street signs. When the lighting is very poor, it is very easy for people to be uncertain of where they are and what street they must turn on. For example, while driving to somewhere she had never been before, my grandmother almost ran over a pedestrian because she could barely see the road ahead of her. Thankfully, my sister told her to stop the car and the pedestrian was not harmed. That is sadly not the case for many other people who cross the road.

A solution to this street lighting problem could be to have construction workers put new and improved street lights throughout the roads and highways near Coconut Grove and Biscayne Boulevard. By placing new street lights in these neighborhoods, it prevents the tragic loss of life that results from car accidents by helping people see the roads and street signs clearly. Thank you for taking the time to read my letter.

Sincerely,

Aniyah Upshaw, Grade 8

Breakthrough Miami Scholar, Young Women’s Preparatory Academy

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To Whom It May Concern,

My name is Tyira Jackson. I live in a minority neighborhood, and I am reaching out to you because I’d like to address the poor infrastructure in my community. Many people don’t realize the injustices that are occurring in neighborhoods right next to each other. There are undeniable differences between the infrastructure of Coconut Grove (a predominantly Caucasian neighborhood) and my home in Liberty City (a predominantly African-American neighborhood). If a road needs to be fixed in Coconut grove, it can take up to six weeks, but if a road needs to be fixed in Liberty City it’s been shown to take up to six years. One of the roads in my neighborhood, which serves as a main route for many people in my community to get to work, took six years to finish and ultimately did not meet the quality of the road we previously relied on.

In an attempt to find a solution, I suggest the government make sure that they have all the materials and workers necessary before starting the job. I ask that you note the condition of a street or public facility before beginning reconstruction and completely dismantling it, in hopes that its replacement exceeds the quality of its previous state. Thank you for listening to my concerns.

Sincerely,

Tyira Jackson, Grade 8

Breakthrough Miami Scholar, Ransom Everglades Middle School

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Littering

To Whom It May Concern,

My name is David Membreno. I am writing this letter to address a large problem that is currently happening in my school—littering. As you may know, littering is defined as the act of leaving and throwing garbage in a place which it doesn’t belong. Not only is this an issue in my school, but also in my community especially since there are many people who litter carelessly. Littering affects my community and the millions of individuals who want to appreciate their environment but cannot. Ultimately, certain rules need to be implemented to bring an end to this epidemic. In the end, we owe it to those who are affected by this issue, us. If no action is done, then we will have to face the dangers of public sanitation, incremental spread of diseases, and even global outrage.

Sincerely,

David Membreno, Grade 6

Breakthrough Miami Scholar, Shenandoah Middle School

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To Whom It May Concern,

My name is Indira Schargel, and I am in seventh grade. Around the world, there are so many beautiful, clean places that are well taken care of and then there’s places like Miami where all people see is an ugly, unkempt city full of disgusting garbage. This needs to change because litter doesn’t just appear. It is the effect of people who don’t care about the consequences of their trash. Littering harms wildlife, attracts vermin, and costs us money and it’s our responsibility to make sure we don’t litter.

Plastic bags can harm both animals and humans if not properly disposed off. Plastic bags tossed in the ocean are often mistaken by sea turtles to be jelly fish. Due to this, many sea turtles are eating them thinking that the plastic bags are food and dying. Plastic bags are also harmful to birds because they can very easily get tangled in them. Not only is littering a danger to our wildlife, but it attracts vermin. A lot of vermin can decrease property value, is a pain to take care of and scares people away. No one will want to buy things from a place infested with rats.

In my opinion, littering and the laws against it are not enforced enough. Fines should be enforced more so selfish people can stop littering. When my family and I made signs to stop people from littering in our neighborhood the city took them down because they were not “pretty”. Well, littering is not pretty either. There should be more signs and more trash cans so people are not compelled to litter and they can take care of our city and our world. Thank you for reading my letter and I hope we can work together to solve this issue.

Sincerely,

Indira Schargel, Grade 7

Breakthrough Miami Scholar, Miami Country Day School

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To Whom It May Concern,

My name is Kemauria, and I want to talk to you about littering. Our environment is suffering because many people are littering in our community and the animals that depend on us to keep it clean are getting sick and dying because of the amount of pollution. I would like to help keep our environment clean and would love for you to help me organize a community cleanup so that more people can become aware of this issue. I hope to hear from you because this is an important issue that needs attention. 

Sincerely,

Kemauria Gary, Grade 7

Breakthrough Miami Scholar, Miami Springs Middle School

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Pollution

To Whom It May Concern,

My name is Zen James. I live in District 5 and I would like to bring something to your attention that’s been bothering me for quite some time. There are people in my neighborhood who keep burning their trash across the street from our schools and homes and no one is doing anything to stop them. Breathing in the toxins in the air from the smoke is dangerous for developing kid’s lungs. There is also a lot of trash on the streets all around the community which is not only bad for the environment but the animals that live nearby as well. I hope we can coordinate a community cleanup because our Earth is decaying and it is our responsibility to save it. Thank you for taking the time to read my letter and helping to make our community better.

Sincerely,

Zen James, Grade 7

Breakthrough Miami Scholar, Miami Arts Charter School

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Gun Violence

To Whom It May Concern,

My name is Kory Dicks, and I am in 5th grade. Innocent people are dying every day because of gun violence. By limiting the use of guns or creating stricter gun control laws we can stop gun-related deaths from happening every day. If we do everything we can to prevent the deaths of innocent people, the world will be a safer place for all. I would like to see programs put in place to teach cops the correct way to identify a threat so that they can stop killing innocent people.

Sincerely,

Kory Dicks, Grade 6

Breakthrough Miami Scholar, Comstock Elementary School

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To Whom It May Concern,

My name is Lena Ross, and I am in 5th grade. The use of guns continues to contribute to the murders of innocent Black individuals every day. In the movie, “The Hate You Give”, which is based on a true story, an African-American teenage boy named Khalil was unarmed and got shot because police officers mistook his hairbrush for a gun when they could have just as easily told him to “drop the gun”, saving an innocent life. This movie sheds light on an issue that is happening every day. More and more police officers are using guns and killing unarmed suspects without second thoughts. Then we learned later that they did nothing to anger them and were actually innocent. Guns have also made their way into my life because someone came into my mom’s hair salon and killed her old hairstylist in 2015 for no reason. I think it’s important that we have better gun control laws in Florida, and hope you can help with this issue so innocent people don’t continue to die.

Sincerely,

Lena Ross, Grade 6

Breakthrough Miami Scholar, George W. Carver Middle School

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To Whom It May Concern,

My name is William Roundtree and I am 10 years old. Recently, I lost someone close to me and my brothers. He was an innocent kid and amazing friend that didn’t deserve to die, but he did because of gun violence. Too many kids around the world and in my community are getting killed everyday due to this issue. Parents, family members and friends are crying every day because of all of the people closest to them who are dying for no reason. To stop this, I would like you to help me by creating stricter gun laws and making guns hard to get. I hope that you will support me and can make this change happen.

Sincerely,

William Roundtree, Grade 6

Breakthrough Miami Scholar, Henry West Laboratory School

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To Whom It May Concern,

My name is Damar Williams. I am a 6th grade student who lives in Overtown Miami, Florida. I feel really sad and terrible for parents who have lost their children due to gun violence. Can we do something to stop this terrible problem?

After watching the news all day on Thursday, I saw a report about a guy involved in a park shooting where he walked away from the scene like nothing happened. What you may not know is that this man came into and was walking through my neighborhood a couple of minutes after the report of the park shooting that day. A few days after, I walked outside and saw two S.W.A.T. team trucks, three ambulances and ten police cars in my neighborhood. Later that day, I found out through a news report that that incident involved a group of drug dealers in my neighborhood. After all of this, I thought to myself, if there were no guns on the streets then no one would get hurt because bullets don’t have eyes and they can’t hurt anyone by themselves.

I really love my country and I want everyone to be happy and feel safe. However, I am terrified of guns and I don’t even feel safe playing outside with my siblings anymore. So please, help me make a change in my community by creating stricter gun control laws.

Sincerely,

Damar Williams, Grade 7

Breakthrough Miami Scholar, Young Men’s Preparatory Academy

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