BUZZ FROM THE SWAMP
A program in the Everglades is designed to provide kids an opportunity to transform them into responsible young adults, helping them develop confidence and competency in vital life skills, leading them to acceptance of personal responsibility, and assisting them in making better choices.
Based in Tampa, AMI Kids started in 1969 when Ft. Lauderdale Juvenile Court Judge Frank Orlando was frustrated with seeing the same kids come before his court time after time. The only option for them was “reform” school, but they would soon be back out on the streets again. Judge Orlando wrote an article in the Miami Herald, expressing his frustration. An old friend of his, Bob Rosof, who was conducting research with the Marine Science Department at Florida Atlantic University, read the article. Bob and Judge Orlando saw the opportunity for the troubled boys to work with him and his staff and act as role models, building a relationship in the hopes that the boys would envision a different future for themselves.
The AMI Kids program (www.amikids.org) was then organized at the Florida Ocean Science Institute in Boca Raton after receiving support from Senator Louis de la Parte and Ollie Keller. The focus was “changing the lives of kids.” Today over 105,000 youth have entered the program. AMI Kids operates 24 residential programs, 23 day treatment programs, six Infinity Schools and three WINGS programs throughout eight states.
The Big Cypress Wilderness Institute, located on Turner River Road in Big Cypress National Preserve, is part of this AMI Kids program. It is also a Collier County District Alternative School and operates as a non-profit charitable organization.
Executive Director, Ron Boyce, arrived in July and organized the program to concentrate on three local projects: Bikes for Tykes, Bentley Village Senior Center, and the Garden for Hope and Healing at North Naples Hospital. Up to 36 students are enrolled at one time, attending daily classes. They come from all over South Florida and range in ages from 14 to 18 years, residing at the Institute for a minimum of six months.
Graduation is held the second and last Thursday of each month and the next one is scheduled for September 27 at the Institute, 25959 Turner River Road, off of US41 in Ochopee.
In addition to celebrating the graduation of the youth who have successfully completed the program, staff will provide facility tours and showcase all of the services offered to the youth. Lunch will be provided to all who attend. If interested, the festivities kick off at 10 A.M. but all are asked to arrive no later than 10:30 A.M. Please RSVP to Mr. Ron ([email protected]) or Mr. Robbi ([email protected]) by close of business the day before you plan to attend. This will ensure enough food for all in attendance. For more information, call Ron Boyce at 239-695-1001.
Patricia Huff has lived in Everglades City for the past 18 years and is the Publisher of the local newspaper The Mullet Rapper. To learn more about events and activities in the Everglades City area, visit website www.evergladesmulletrapper.com.