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When David Riera, success coach for FIU’s Global Civic Engagement (GCE) Mini Grants, read the application from Alecia Rodriguez to fund Sadie’s Kids’ beautification project with the Miami Bridge Homestead campus, he knew he could help. Riera’s background in environmental projects and his passion for community service drove him to advocate for and later become a mentor for the project.

Miami Bridge provides a temporary safe haven for youth ages 10-17 until they can find a permanent home. After graduating last semester with a bachelor’s in psychology, Rodriguez returned to the shelter where she was once housed to beautify the grounds.

With Riera’s help, they gathered volunteers from local South Florida organizations to plant trees, clear debris and fix the outdoor area of the youth shelter. Riera also installed pollinator habitats and three islands of tropical fruit trees, including guava, bananas, papayas and mangos.

This project allows the young residents to play an active role in revamping the space they live in while learning about the importance of plants and sustainability. A Ph.D. student in Education in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus in STEM Education, Riera encourages students at FIU and beyond to be engaged in their community and empowers them to develop projects that address social issues like these.

“Education should be placed in the hands of everybody. There shouldn’t be a gate that holds anyone back from education.”

David Riera

This project was funded by FIU’s GCE Mini Grant in partnership with Sadie’s Kids, Minorities in Agricultural Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS), Mission Continues and the South Florida Beekeeping Association.