Spotlight

Miami-Dade Fathers Making A Difference

Published Tuesday, June 06, 2017

While it's often said that Mother's Day is every day, Father's Day doesn't get quite the same recognition. But thanks to the Fatherhood Task Force of South Florida, a new tradition might just be changing that.

Starting late last year, the organization began presenting a Most Valuable Father Award to a father or male role model who is actively involved in children's lives; supports and nurtures their education and activities; and serves as a role model for positive values by guiding and supporting them physically, socially and emotionally.

Brian PersonBrian Person, April's recipient, excels in meeting the criteria. A Big Brother for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami for 20 years, he is also a parent of two sons, ages 34 and 20.

"While raising my children, I was conscious that nothing boosted their self-confidence and self-esteem like unexpected praise, whether it was a card of encouragement placed on their pillow or a pat on the back. But I believe the most effective way to raise self-esteem, especially in boys, is for them to hear you speak highly of them to other people."

Being involved as a mentor gives Person the opportunity to interact with a variety of children, and has allowed him to participate in the development of their unique personal qualities.

"I love being in the presence of young children and adolescents – it's an experience that never gets old," he says. "I cannot describe the feeling of joy I get when I receive calls from young adults that I've worked with in the past who are now in college or working in their chosen profession."

Gregory WilliamsGregory Williams, February-March's award winner, is equally deserving of the honor. A U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Retired, he is now a police officer with the Miami-Dade County Schools Police Department, presently assigned at North Miami Senior High as the school's resource officer, and has based his entire career on service.

"I've always felt my responsibilities as a father and role model shouldn't be confined to my private household. I see the school and community as part of my greater 'household,'" Williams explains.

A father of a blended family himself, with two adult sons and daughters, Williams has made a steadfast commitment to positively impact their lives. He believes imparting the values of hard work and the knowledge that nothing in life worth having comes easy helped shaped their success.

"As I've learned after being away from my children, the key is for fathers to not allow distance to weaken their relationships, and to set standards for engagement and live up to them instead. One of the greatest lessons a child should learn at an early age is, 'I'm important and valued'," he asserts.

Emmanuel PhilogeneEmmanuel Philogene, a filmmaker who was January's award recipient, is a single father raising a son. Coming from a very close family himself, with parents who emigrated from Haiti and settled in Miami, Philogene says, "It is a privilege to be a father."

The early years of his son's life were instrumental to their father-son relationship, he says, and "we now have a bond that cannot be easily broken. The most important value to me in raising my son is respect. As a father, I choose to be supportive, encouraging and involved in all aspects of his life. I feel it pushes both him and me.

"In my community," Philogene continues, "many fathers are not present in their children's daily lives, so I make myself available to them and try to encourage other dads to step up to the plate to stay involved in their child's life. I have motivated fathers to go back and rekindle their relationship with their kids. I mentor young people and have spoken to students at a local high school about what it means to be a father. And I have empowered other fathers to get involved with their families and the community by telling them my story as a single dad."

Emmanuel PhilogeneHenri François, the recipient of the Task Force's inaugural Most Valuable Father Award, emigrated from Haiti to the United States in 2003. Now living in Opa-Locka with his family, this devoted father of two daughters says, "My children are a priority for me. What's most important to me in raising them are respect, honesty, loyalty, caring, and love."

A sales associate for Home Depot in North Miami Beach, François is also attending Miami Dade College with a goal of earning a master's degree in human rights law. Adding to that busy schedule is his involvement as a member of the Fatherhood Reading Squad, a program developed by the Fatherhood Task Force that encourages fathers and male role models to read and talk to students, from pre-K to grade 12, in schools.

"Reading to students is an opportunity for me to touch other children's lives," says François. "The appreciation and emotional response I get back makes me feel happy and encourages me to keep on doing it."

How You Can Be A Hero

According to experts, the consistent presence of a positive male role model or mentor can have a tremendously beneficial impact on a child's development and self-worth. The following organizations could help you become that pivotal person in a child's life:

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami According to the agency's site, there are1,000 children from the county's neediest neighborhoods on its waiting list. www.bbbsmiami.org; 305.644.0066

Fatherhood Reading Squad www.ftfsf.org/site/ourcauses/fatherhood-reading-squad; 305.812.4000

Florida Guardian Ad Litem Program Guardian ad litems are court-appointed volunteers who protect the rights and advocate for the best interests of children in court proceedings, who are there primarily as a result of alleged abuse and/or neglect. www.guardianadlitem.org; 305.324.5678

 Photos courtesy Fatherhood Task Force of South Florida.