Miami, FL – A judge who has spent her career looking after the wellbeing of children, a music mentor who used her struggles to inspire kids going through similar hard times and three programs that provide life-changing support to our youth throughout the county made up the list of honorees at 14th Annual Champions for Children Awards Ceremony on Thursday, June 13, 2019, at Jungle Island’s Bloom Ballroom. The event mixed equal parts inspiration and awe, as a who’s who of child advocates heard and witnessed performances by talented children and adolescents, as well as emotional speeches from the honorees.
Miami-Dade County Dependency and Criminal Court Divisions Circuit Judge Jeri Beth Cohen took home the signature David Lawrence Jr. Champion for Children Award for Lifetime Achievement and Dedication to Children. “There are so many child advocates in this room, it’s like a family. To be recognized publicly in front of that family and to get the feedback from them and their appreciation, it’s such a humbling and overwhelming experience. It really means the world to me,” said Cohen after the ceremony.
Michelle Forman, a singer/mentor at Guitars Over Guns, accepted the Direct Service to Children and Families Award and retold her emotional story of personal struggle and growth and how she used that experience to help children focus their efforts on music as a way to avoid negative paths in their own lives. Centro Mater After-School Program, Easter Seals Culinary Arts Program and Nicklaus Children’s Hospital School Health Services also took home Program of the Year awards in the annual event hosted by The Children’s Trust.
Champions for Children is a signature event amongst Miami-Dade’s robust network of child and family advocates and inspires others to follow in the footsteps of these local leaders who have distinguished themselves by their exceptional service to the community. While the honorees inspired the audience through their stories of perseverance and service, it was the performances of several children who have benefited from The Children’s Trust programs that left many speechless.
“At the 14th Anniversary of our annual Champions for Children event, it is beyond inspirational to see that there are such deserving honorees who have given so much of their lives and achieved greatness in their service to children and families in our community” said James R. Haj, president and CEO of The Children’s Trust. “It is our honor to recognize those efforts that continue to serve as a model for the rest of us.”
The event was made possible thanks to the support of Platinum Sponsor TD Bank and Gold Sponsors City National Bank, Florida International University’s Center for Children and Families, and the University of Miami. Silver Sponsors included Florida Blue, Greenberg Traurig, Jesse Trice Community Health System, Key Biscayne Community Foundation, Jewish Community Services of South Florida, United Way of Miami-Dade, Miami Herald and WOW Marketing, while Bronze Sponsors included Community Health of South Florida, The de Moya Foundation, the M Network, Webauthor and WELS Systems Foundation. Additional partner sponsors included e AlphaStaff, AXA Advisors, Hyatt Regency Miami and Univision 23.
- Miami-Dade County Dependency and Criminal Court Divisions Circuit Judge Jeri Beth Cohen, David Lawrence Jr. Champion for Children Award: Judge Cohen has used her experience in the areas of substance abuse, mental health, early childhood development and trauma to create an innovative approach to the treatment of addiction in both criminal and dependency drug courts. In 1999, Judge Cohen established the inaugural Dependency Drug Court in Miami, one of the first in the nation. She also chairs the Supreme Court of Florida subcommittee charged with drafting Dependency Drug Court Standards for the state. On a national level, Judge Cohen works with the Department of Justice, Children and Family Futures, and the National Drug Court Institute to develop curricula and train drug courts across the country.
- Michelle Forman, Mentor and A Cappella Group Leader at Guitars Over Guns, Excellence in Direct Service to Children and Families Award: Forman is responsible for making an exceptionally positive impact on Miami-Dade’s underprivileged, at-risk youth. A dedicated a cappella group leader and always accessible mentor, Forman’s ability to empathize and intuitively connect with others is her greatest attribute. A self-taught singer/songwriter/instrumentalist who has recorded, toured and/or collaborated with a wide variety of talented musicians, Forman freely shares with students the invaluable social skills, knowledge and experiences she has amassed over her lifetime.
- Centro Mater – After-School Program, Program of the Year: Centro Mater is a 51-year-old nonprofit organization that helps disadvantaged families by providing child care, educational and social services. With five accredited centers in Miami-Dade County, Centro Mater caters to children 6 weeks to 12 years of age to help youth prosper and to support their parents and/or guardians in becoming financially independent.
- Easter Seals – Culinary Arts Program, Program of the Year: The Easter Seals Youth Development Culinary Arts after-school program and summer camp serves students ages 14 to 22 years with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities, providing families a unique and essential skill-building program at no cost to them. The program offers a safe, healthy and enriching environment, combining life skills, academic supports, job training and real-world culinary arts experiences.
- Nicklaus Children’s Hospital – School Health Services, Program of the Year: The program provides comprehensive, coordinated on-site health services to children in 12 Title 1 Miami-Dade County public schools. Staffed by nurses, social workers and mental health professionals, School Health Services offers mandated screenings, management of health conditions, health promotion, mental health assessments and treatment, and referrals to community resources.
To learn more about The Children's Trust, visit www.TheChildrensTrust.org.
Caption for Photo:
Champions for Children Awards Ceremony Honorees: From left to right: Nicklaus Children’s Hospital School Health Program, Program Coordinator Cleo Chumiso and Program Director Cindy Harrah, ARPN for Program of the Year; Easter Seals Education Services Director Camila Rocha and CEO Loreen Chant for Program of the Year; David Lawrence Jr. Champion for Children Award recipient Judge Jeri Beth Cohen; Michelle Forman of Guitars Over Guns for Excellence in Direct Service to Children and Families; and Centro Mater Executive Director J. Abilio Rodriguez for Program of the Year.
The Children’s Trust is a dedicated source of revenue established by voter referendum to improve the lives of children and families in Miami-Dade County by making strategic investments in their future.
Chief Public Policy & Community Engagement Officer, The Children’s Trust