Daniel Perez: Miami Service Project 2020

By: Daniel Perez

Miami Service Project: Deering Seafood Festival

For our service project this semester I chose to help with this year’s Deering Seafood Festival. The main idea was to create a presentation for our group of FIU students to inform the public of the pollution that washes up in the area, especially around the chicken key area. I myself participated in a total of 3 cleanups and had the honor of guiding the group during one of the cleanups, as well as aided in the development of both the presentation to be given at the festival and the creation of the sculpture piece. A large reason for my dedication to this project is due to my great respect for the outdoors and nature itself and I have my ideals in the preservation of that nature that I love and respect so dearly.

It was thanks to Nicole Patrick, a fellow FIU student and Miami in Miami classmate, that put together the logistics and grouped us all together towards the cleanups and set up of the Deering Seafood Festival.

The plan was to get together on most weekend mornings at the Deering Estate, where we were allowed to rent out the canoes on site and paddle together towards the island about a mile away. Nicole had usually organized us into four groups each assigned to a specific section of the key. This would allow the teams to more efficiently clean up the island.

The amount of trash during the first few visits was impressive and the items one would find tended to be stranger than usual. Off the top of my head I can say we found a small airplane, large pieces of bamboo, and even a ritualistic doll.

At the end of each cleanup day, the trash was packed up into those yellow sandbags as seen above. The general garbage was disposed of at the estate, while anything that was considered to be usable for our presentation at the Seafood Festival was kept to be put together in a sculpture to help inform and bring awareness to guests at the festival.

As the date of the Deering Seafood Festival loomed, a group of us decided to get together at the university and try to brainstorm what the general build of the sculpture would look like based on what we had brought in.

After some observation at our trash inventory we agreed to build a model turtle based on the garbage collected over our visits to the estate. We used a carboard cut out as the base and layed out the trash to fill in the space. Then we stuffed the turtle with crushed water bottles to give it a more life like appearance.

Surprisingly enough we were able to finish it within our first meeting and planned to further develop a backdrop and presentation to go along for us to share with guests at the Festival. Sadly, as a result of the COVID-19 epidemic the Deering Seafood Festival was postponed and then later on canceled. Regardless of the suspension of the event, I hope the ideals invested into this group remain strong and are shared with others so that importance of preserving nature are held to a high regard amongst the general public.

Javi Fernandez: Art Service Project 2020

Student Bio

Javi Fernandez is a sophomore at Florida International University pursuing a B.A. in Mathematics. He hopes to lead a fulfilling life surrounded by loved ones and an ability to engage in creative projects regardless of career path.

Service Summary

photo by the Smithsonian Museum

I participated in the Smithsonian Transcription Service, as I thought the concept of helping out with old documents in this way was fascinating. I found out about this service through an article listing 25 ways to volunteer from home. Beginning early Saturday morning, I spent about one hour transcribing just two pages of field notes dating back to 1908! Written by Vernon Orlando Bailey, the first page I transcribed related to various bird and plant species in New Mexico and Arizona. I submitted my contribution for review at 2:45am on Saturday morning. The challenge in this transcription was a combination of messy handwriting and my lack of knowledge on fauna genera and species. If I had a hint for what some initial letters were, I would Google them until I found a genus that matched up with what I could make out from the notebook, and do the same for the following species. This was even more difficult considering the number of spelling errors, which both slowed my searching process but also added an extra layer of carefulness, as I had to transcribe every word as it was on the notebook, including any errors.

By the time I woke up, the page had been peer reviewed and any mistakes I made or words I could not transcribe had been corrected. At 5pm on Saturday I got to work again on four pages from Bailey’s next notebook also dating back to 1908. I looked over a partially completed pair of pages for a bit with some nearly indecipherable handwriting, then began to work on another set of 2. This time, the page had been mostly transcribed though it was full of errors, and I again had to look up nearly everything on the page to find a genus that checked out. By this point, I had already begun to get familiar with his handwriting and note-taking; he’d list quantities of species by abbreviations such as “abu.” for abundant and “com.” for common, or “a few.” I had also noticed many transcribers would misread a cursive c for an e, which became the most important factor in speeding up the process. Even various plant genera became more recognizable to me without even having to look them up, such as Baccharis or Koeberlinia. Sunday morning I worked again for an hour and a half on a set of pages, and although I made significant progress, I did not feel comfortable submitting it for review as there were several things I could not transcribe properly.

I believe this experience was very educational, and I look forward to participating more in the near future. I was able to learn about a particular field that I would have never come into contact with otherwise, all while making a difference to an important organization.

Victoria Carlucci: Doral 2020


(CC by 4. 0) Photo by Maria Pettus

Victoria Carlucci is a junior at the Honors College at Florida International University majoring in International Business and Management. Expecting to graduate in Spring 2021, she plans to continue her education by pursuing a Master’s Degree in Business Administration.

She was born and raised in Venezuela and moved to Miami in 2017 to attend college. Since little, she has been passionate about traveling, coming from an Italian-Venezuelan family and raised with traditions from both nationalities, exploring new cultures and experience the diversity that the world has to offer has been her favorite plan.


Map retrieved from Google Maps

The City of Doral is located in the north-central area of Miami-Dade County, Florida, United States. Doral is neighbored on the west by the Ronald Reagan Turnpike, on the north by Medley, on the east by the Palmetto Expressway and the south by Sweetwater. This city is one mile away from the Miami International Airport and twelve miles from Downtown Miami. Doral, likewise, is close to areas such as Hialeah, Fontainebleau, Tamiami and Miami Springs.

Nowadays, this neighborhood contains numerous shops, well-known businesses, important corporations, headquarters, financial institutions, colleges and universities, and various public, charter and private schools awarded with the grade “A” status. All of these facts previously mentioned make the City of Doral appealing for investors, families, students, and employees. Doral is characterized by being host to more or less 150,000 people that work in this city. This city is in constant development, even though it’s relatively new compared to other neighborhoods, Doral is a fast-growing city.


Alfred Kaskel. Photo by Anonxyz123 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48315195

 In the late 1950s, Alfred Kaskel and his wife Doris, who were pioneers in the real estate field at the time, decided to buy 2400 acres of swampland, which was part of the Florida Everglades, with the purpose of building a golf course hotel in that piece of land. 

The name for the golf course hotel was made by combining both of their names, having, as a result, Doral as the name of this area. In 1962, the Kaskel couple opened the hotel, naming it “Doral Beach Hotel”. This hotel and country club was remarkable for its facilities, it included three golf courses and since the Kaskel couple also owned a hotel in Miami Beach, they offered transportation from the beach to the country club for its guests. This hotel and country club was the first structure built in the area of Doral and it soon became a popular hot spot for visitors.

In 1968, Alfred Kaskel passed away but his grandson, Bill Kaskel, continued his legacy and continue developing this city. In the 1980s, Bill established Doral Estates and a joint venture to build Doral Park. Even though this area started to have residents, Doral lacked facilities such as stores, schools and, parks. Many people started frequenting the area, but it was somehow inconvenient, amenities were something that the city of Doral had to work on at that time. In contrast, Doral had farms with cows, horses and chickens and traffic was nonexistent.

In the next years, from 1983 until 1985, Miami-Dade County imposed a building moratorium for the area which forbidden the construction of buildings in order to protect the fields. After the ban was lifted, the city continued growing and constructing more buildings, new roads, and landscaping the area.

The city of Doral was incorporated in January 2003, after 7 years of this effort, one of the main reasons was because residents of Doral were paying high prices for services received and the community wanted more services but at a fair price.

As the years went by, Doral kept on developing and growing, in 2012, Donald Trump bought the Doral hotel and country club for $150 million and changed its name to “Trump National Doral Golf Cub”. Doral is still growing at a rapid pace, transforming this area into more residences, businesses, buildings, schools, and universities.


According to the United States Census Bureau, as of July 1st, 2018: there are 61,824 residents in the City of Doral. The ethnic composition of Doral’s population is composed of 84.2% Latino or Hispanic, 10.6% White, 2.2% African American, and 3.3% Asian. As for gender, 52.4% of the population is female and 47.6% of the population is male (“United States Census Bureau; City of Doral, Florida”).

The median age in Doral is 35 years, 34 years for males and 36 years for females. The median household income is S77,418 and the annual per capita income is $29,276. Doral has a huge percentage of residents from Latin America, from countries such as Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Dominican Republic, Brazil, Nicaragua, and Ecuador Therefore, 92% of the households with persons 5+ years old in Doral speak another language other than English at home (“U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: City of Doral, Florida”).

Biography of Fernando (a Doral resident)

Fernando Gonzalez was born on May 16th, 1990, in Venezuela. He moved to the United States in September 2013 to pursue a master’s degree in Business Administration at Millennia Atlantic University. Since then he has been living and working in the city of Doral. Currently, Fernando works at Tracfone Wireless Inc, part of America Movil AMOV (NYSE), as an accounting analyst.

Fernando’s thoughts on Doral:

Victoria: What is your favorite aspect of the city?

Fernando: My favorite aspect about the city of Doral is that here, we have what I would call “the best of both worlds”, we are a small community or small city with more or less 50000 people without any crowded places or big density of population In the same place but at the same time we have the fun aspects that big cities have like places to go shopping, eateries, and recreation places that make this small city unique.

Victoria: What is your least favorite aspect of the city?

Fernando: If I have to mention my least favorite aspect of the city of Doral that would be the cost of living. Because of the demand, everything turns expensive, like housing prices, shopping, taxes. But I understand that in some cases it is because of the infrastructure and other factors like school ratings, that makes Doral be one of the most expensive cities in Florida.

Victoria: Do you enjoy living in Doral?

Fernando: Absolutely. I enjoy living in the city of Doral, as I previously mentioned, “we have the best of both worlds”. Even in the cultural aspect with the Latin influence in the cultural activities and how the society goes in the city, mixing that with the American culture making sure that everything works properly and following the rules.

Victoria: If you could change anything about Doral, what would it be?

Fernando: In my opinion, I would change or improve firstly, the Waste Management Center located in Medley, which is next to the city of Doral because it sometimes disturbs the community of Doral. Secondly, I would improve transportation, traffic congestion in this city is a problem and it could be solved by building more highways of implementing more public transportation.

-All in all, Fernando appreciates living in the city of Doral, he’s proud of the community and the beneficial aspect it has that that most of the people can live and work in the same city, but some consequences can come along with that in the long run as more traffic congestion, higher costs of living. For that reason, he considers that the city of Doral has to address all of their efforts to those aspects that can be threatening for this city. –


Doral Contemporary Art Museum

5775 NW 84th

This museum was built in 2016 by a group of “collectors, museologists, community leaders, entrepreneurs, artist, scholars and architects” (DORCAM). Its mission is to offer a vision that connects artists and audiences through the presentation of contemporary art, moreover, emphasizing on what it means to be a citizen of Doral and the world. This museum provides space for debate, critical thinking, dialogue and programs for all ages. Doral Contemporary Art Museum is a very unique place in the City of Doral that shows a good approach to art, architecture, visionary design, and technology innovation.

Miami-Dade Public Library SystemDoral Branch

8551 NW 53rd St a107

Opened on September 28th, 2000 with the purpose of providing the community of Doral a space for engagement and exchange of ideas, promoting literacy and learning, personal growth and countless opportunities. This library brings new technologies to the neighborhood and facilitates the access to information for Doral residents.


According to Data USA, as of 2017, 80.5% of the population drive alone, 9.51% carpool, and 4.51% make use of public transit. The average commute time is 25.4 minutes and the average car ownership is 2 cars per household (“Doral, FL”).

The majority of the residents of Doral drive alone, but there are also many cars circulating in the city due to the people that commute every day to Doral either to work, study or any other reason.  

Doral offers public transportation for free with their Trolley System. Launched in February 2008, the Doral Transit System is a program that provides an intra-city circulator named the Doral Trolley. The purpose of this transit system is to relieve traffic congestion by reducing the people that make use of cars, increase transit ridership and balance parking shortages in the city.

Additionally, this service has some advantageous features, it’s free, provides residents transportation to different locations, and it is interconnected with other trolley and existing transit system such as the Metrorail.

Currently, the city operates four routes. Route 1 is called Cross-Town Connector or the Blue Route, Route 2 named Commercial/Metrorail or Yellow Route, Route 3 named Residential/Metrorail Connector or Green Route and Route 4 named FIU Connector or Purple Route. Those routes can take people to many destinations as Midtown Doral, Palmetto Metrorail Station, Doral Government Center, Downtown Doral, Miami Dade College West Campus, City Place Doral, Dolphin Mall, Miami International Mall, FIU – Engineering Campus and FIU – Modesto A. Maidique Campus.


The City of Doral contains many parks where people can recreate themselves and do activities such as grills, picnics, exercise, fishing kayaking, play in different sports courts, kids can enjoy of the playgrounds and have a great time. Overall, there are several green places where residents can gather together and enjoy outdoor areas this city has to offer.

Downtown Doral Park

8395 NW 53rd St

Downtown Doral Park. (CC by 4.0) Photo by Victoria Carlucci

This green area is next to the City of Doral Government Center it was completed in 2012, is 3 acres and its located in the Downtown Doral Area. It’s an ideal place for family picnics or walkways, it includes children’s playground, picnic tables, walking/jogging path, and a large open lawn. This park is open from Monday through Sunday from 7:00 AM until sunset.

Doral Central Park

3000 NW 87th Ave

Doral Central Park. Photo by Tamanoeconomico – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Doral Central Park is the largest park in the city and hosts major events such as the Independence Day celebration. This park is 82 acres and located in the commercial area of Doral, bordered by the headquarters of Carnival Cruise Lines and the United States Southern Command. It counts with amenities like a 9- mile walking/jogging trail, exercise station, grills and picnic benches for rental. Doral Central Park opens Monday through Friday from 6:30 am to 8 pm and from Saturday through Sunday from 7 am until sunset.

Doral Glades Park

7600 NW 98th Pl

Doral Glades Park it’s known for its Natural Preserve and the amenities it offers. This park is 25 acres and it counts with a 12 acres lake with Natural Preserve, a lighted Boardwalk and Nature trail around the lake, a viewing pier, fishing and kayaking activities, a themed playground, an open lawn, two tennis courts, a sand volleyball court, a basketball court, a nature center with interactive nature exhibits, an e-library free to the community, indoor multipurpose rooms and an outdoor pavilion for rental. This park is opened from Monday through Friday from 7 am to 9 pm and weekends from 8 am until sunset. The kayaking and fishing hours are from Monday through Sunday from park opening until Sunset

Doral Meadow Park

11555 NW 58th St

This park was built in 2006, is 14 acres and its amenities are ideal for sports fans. Doral Meadow Park offers a children playground, two soccer/football fields, two baseball fields, batting cages, bikeway access to trails and tails park and an exercise path. Its hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 7:00 am to 9:30 pm and on weekends from 8 am until sunset.


Chabad Jewish Center of Doral 

10181 NW 58th St #16

Chabad Jewish Center of Doral was established in 2006 by Rabbi Avrohom Brashevitzky, with the purpose of providing services for the community of this area. It is a convenient location for Jewish people residents of this area since before this center was created the closest possibility that they had to practice their religion was to commute to Miami Beach, Aventura or Kendall in order to attend services. There are Shabbos Services offered every Saturday morning and they celebrate Shabbat on Friday nights with the Rabbi.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church

11691 NW 25th St

Our Lady Of Guadalupe Doral. (CC by 4.0) Photo by Victoria Carlucci

This church was built in this area with the purpose of embracing the huge Catholic presence in Doral. Most of Doral’s residents come from Hispanic countries and most of them practice the Catholic religion in their own neighborhood. It was named after the Virgin of Guadalupe on September 1st, 2001. This church has more than 700 families registered, and it’s well known because it offers masses in different languages like English, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian.

Metro Life Church 

10045 NW 19th St

Metro Life Church Doral. (CC by 4.0) Photo by Victoria Carlucci

Founded in 1997, Metro Life Church was initiated by a Miami native, Steve Alessi and his wife Mary. This is a Christian ministry in the City of Doral where people can praise, and worship and experience services given by Pastors with relevant messages for their life.


Since the City of Doral has many influences from different countries, in my opinion, these are my top three restaurants recommendations you have to go to.

Sabor Venezolano

10722 NW 74th St

Sabor Venezolano Doral. (CC by 4.0) Photo by Victoria Carlucci

Most of Venezuelans in Miami live in Doral, if you want to try authentic Venezuelan food this is the place you must go. This restaurant is a small family business where you can enjoy Venezuelan cuisine. They are popular for their Arepas which are cornmeal flatbreads that can be stuffed with fillings like cheese, chicken, pulled meat, beans, plantains, eggs and can be either grilled, baked or fried. They have many more Venezuelan dishes like Empanadas, Tequeños and Cachapas but Arepas it’s their signature meal. You can also buy Venezuelan desserts like Quesillo (Flan), Spanish Swiss Roll and Arroz con Leche (rice pudding flavored with cinnamon and vanilla). As well, you can buy Venezuelan goodies like chocolates, candies, and snacks.

Trattoria Di Più

2475 NW 95th Ave #9

Trattoria Di Più Doral. (CC by 4.0) Photo by Victoria Carlucci

This is a family business owned by an Italian-Venezuelan family recreating the typical Italian-style eating establishment. Their recipes have been passed down from generation to generation. They prepare authentic Italian cuisine and also sell Spaghetti, Ravioli and Pasta sauces from scratch and homemade. You can also build your own dish, deciding your spaghetti type, sauces and toppings. Their price range fluctuates between $7 and $15. Additionally, this restaurant has a beautiful lake view and environment that will make you feel in an authentic “Trattoria” in Italy. Whenever my family and I want to eat something similar to Nonna’s food this is our go to restaurant.


9545 NW 41st St

Monserrate Doral. (CC by 4.0) Photo by Victoria Carlucci

Monserrate is a Colombian restaurant that is the closest to authentic Colombian food you can find in Doral. Their Meat Empanadas, Barbecues, Bandeja Paisa which is an authentic dish from Medellin and fresh juices are delightful. Their service is super quick, the waiters are really kind and the environment will make you feel at Colombia. Their price range varies from $6 and $14. 


City Place Doral

8300 NW 36th St

City Place Doral. (CC by 4.0) Photo by Victoria Carlucci

The City Place is an incredible place where people can do many activities such as shopping, dining, play bowling, go to the movie theater and experience events. It’s the perfect location to hang out with friends and family. It offers different kinds of restaurants like Mexican, Peruvian, Argentinian, American, and Cuban. In addition, it has bakeries, coffee shops, and bars. City Place Doral also entertains with the bowling place, a hookah bar, a movie theater, a comedy club, and two art galleries.

Downtown Doral 

8300 NW 53rd St

Downtown Doral. (CC by 4.0) Photo by Victoria Carlucci

Downtown Doral is a community that features stores, boutiques, convenience stores, and eateries. It’s adjacent to the Downtown Doral Park, so people can enjoy both when visiting. It has coffee shops and bars and offers a variety of gastronomic experiences like Cuban, American, Peruvian and Japanese food. Additionally, the Miami-Dade Public Library is located in Downtown Doral.


Doral is the perfect definition of a multi-cultural city, people from many places choose this city not only because of its benefits but because it will make easier their transition to a new country since they can find some things about their country of origin in this city. Furthermore, there are not xenophobe acts towards the different cultures that wish to live in this city, Doral is described as a welcoming community for foreign people.

This relatively new city has a convenient location because it is located near the Miami International Airport and close to the Ronald Reagan Turnpike and Palmetto Expressway that can take you pretty much anywhere from Miami. Furthermore, this city has good statistics, such as that it was placed at #22 in Money Magazine’s list of top 50 cities to live in, it was named the fastest-growing city in Florida and 11th in the country by the Florida International University’s Metropolitan Center, it was recognized as the Best City in Florida for Business Start-ups by BusinessWeek and #2 of America’s Top 25 towns to live well for its cultural amenities, pro-business environments, and highly educated workforce by Forbes.com (City of Doral). To sum up, many factors make Doral so appealing not only to investors but to families as the ideal place to live.

The City of Doral is growing up fast and some aspects can be improved in order to keep on being a great community and city to live in. For instance, there should be more public transportation and more routes created. Currently, we can see many buildings and housing in construction which is advantageous but that can be a threat if that causes more traffic congestion, therefore expanding highways and roads could be beneficial in the long term.

I live in Doral since 2018 and I enjoy living here because this place has made my transition to a new country smoother because if I ever get to miss things about my home country, Venezuela, I can find most of them here. The location is pretty convenient, I can go to Miami Beach in less than 30 minutes or visit my family in Pembroke Pines or enjoy the Downtown Miami without suffering from the struggles that crowded cities like Brickell face. Also, Doral is really close to the Miami International Airport which is beneficial for me when I have to pick up family and friends or when I go to Venezuela.  


Daniel Perez: Kendale Lakes 2020

By: Daniel Perez

About me:

Hello, my name is Daniel Perez. I am currently studying as a mechanical engineering major at FIU. I was born and raised in the city of Miami, as the first generation born in the United States from a Cuban background. I was brought up in the land of sexy people, summer fun year-round, and everyone owning a Ferrari or something like that. So of course, I wanted to see even more of my home. This semester I decided to take part in the Miami in Miami class, a leadership class designed to act as a study abroad without being abroad. It focuses on the smaller and more intricate details of Miami. As a class, we each decided to investigate one neighborhood within the city of Miami. I chose to attempt to describe the incredibleness of one of my city’s neighborhoods; Kendale Lakes. I grew up spending a lot of my childhood in this neighborhood, either spending my time at the super popular Tropical Park, or at my grandparent’s house within the area. I even went to one of the elementary schools in the neighborhood.


Kendale Lakes used to be home to a large Miami Jewish population, where many prominent attorneys lived there during the mid to late 70s and was considered a bedroom community until the mid to late 80s. The portion of the neighborhood east of 142nd Avenue and between both Sunset Drive and North Kendall Drive was built by Janis Homes in 1970. While the portion of the neighborhood west of 142nd Avenue was built by the Caravel Homes company around the year 1973.

There is a plaza located at 14097 Southwest 88th Street, Miami, FL 33186. Here lies a walk-through outdoor mall with many mom and pop stores called the Kendale Lakes Mall. It was a destination for locals and had many specialty shops like Second Skin, Smatt Bootery, Sentry Drugs, Mightiest Mortals and restaurants like Fiesta Tacos, The Carvery, Cozzoli’s Pizza, Tiger Tea House, and Burns Bakery as well as a Roller-Skating Ring. Now the mall has more modern selections such as Marshalls, K-mart, El Dorado, and Hobby Lobby to name a few.

During the 1970’s at the southeast corner of 137th Avenue opened a bowling alley known as Don Carter’s Kendall Lanes, it closed in 2006. During its 30-year operation time the bowling place was infamous for keeping its “authentic” look. The bowling alley featured 72 lanes which were split into two sections of 35, as well as a bar for patrons, an arcade, and billiard tables. Though its patrons were loyal to the establishment, it faced fierce competition for the near standing Bird Bowl lanes. After its closing in 2006 the shopping center kept the name Carter Plaza but is now home to a Staples, Chipotle, Panera Bakery, and a Pei Wei.

The Kendale Lakes Country Club was bought by the Miccosukee tribe. It was originally an amenity offered to local homeowners but is now open completely to the public for membership and visits. It is still surrounded by tree lined streets with a canopy of trees and lush green lawns. Coral rocks trace the entirety of its circumference and the golf course is dotted within with small lakes. At one time there was a small sandy beach and picnic area and pier, which has been removed. There are still remnants of the old pier. There were two pools at the country club, one designated for adults and the other assigned for family enjoyment. One of these pools has now been converted into a volleyball court, while the other remained as an Olympic-sized pool where the country club holds swimming lessons during the summer and spring months.


Kendale Lakes is bounded 88th street to the South, Bird Road to the North, 147th Avenue to the West, 117th Avenue to the East. The neighborhood is located at 25°42′30″N 80°24′42″W (25.708464, -80.411610) to be precise. According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 8.6 square miles, of which, 8.2 square miles is land and 0.4 square miles of it is water.

Points of interest:

Gold Coast Railroad Museum

The Gold Coast Railroad Museum was founded in 1957 and officialized in 1984 as one of the three official Florida State Railroad Museums. The museum is dedicated to the preservation, exhibition, and operation of historic equipment. It holds over 40 rail cars and features the Presidential Rail Car named the Ferdinand Magellan. The area in which the museum is now located was once the Naval Air Station Richmond, which was the second largest airship base in the United States during World War 2. The area was most likely chosen as a result of the 2 miles of track that were once a part of the air base, making it the perfect place to put up a railroad museum. Along with its trains the museum also includes an exhibit based on the Naval Air Station Richmond, displays of rail equipment, Thomas the Tank Engine play tables, and a model train railroad room.

Zoo Miami

Zoo Miami stands as the oldest and largest zoo in the state of Florida and is ranked fifth largest within the United States. It is the only subtropical zoo in the country and as a result of Miami’s unique climate the institution can house and care for animals from Africa, Asia, Australia, North America, and South America. Allowing a huge variety of species, the likes of which cannot be found at any other zoo in the country. It is constantly being renovated and now features a new dinosaur exhibit allowing for patrons to not only learn about the animals of the present but also those of the distant past.

Green spaces

There are four major parks and fields within Kendale Lakes area.

Kendall Indian Hammocks Park

First off, we have Kendall Indian Hammocks Park located at 11395 SW 79 Street, Miami, FL. This park is a big hit for anyone that enjoys skate boarding, inline skating, and BMX thanks to the featured 14,000 square foot outdoor concrete plaza.

Kendale Lakes Park

This park is located on 7850 SW 142 Avenue, Miami, FL. It features lush green fields, various playgrounds for children to play with their parents or on their own, tennis and basketball courts, a recreational center, as well as offering visitors to rent out park shelters to host their own events.

Westwind Lakes Park

Finally, we have Westwind Lakes Park located at 6805 SW 152 Avenue, Miami, FL  It is mostly popular amongst families with small children as the park features a water pad allowing for children and parents to have a fun day splashing around during the summer season. It also has a skate park which has two six foot quarter pipes, rails, launch and bank ramps, a wall ride, stairs and different sized hubbas(a ledge that angles down a set of stairs). This skate park was also the first stop of Tony Hawks 2011 tour. So, whether you are a skateboarding enthusiast or are looking for an interactive family day, you should visit Westwind Lakes Park.


Mr. and Mrs. Bun

A Peruvian deli and dessert shop. The locale is small but super personal and allows its patrons the time to sit down and enjoy their meals. Highly recommended are their sandwiches and honestly anything as all their food is made from scratch and positively delicious.

FINKA Table and Tap & Amelia’s 1931

Attached Video is a link to a short video depicting the creation story and explanation of what both FINKA Table and Tap and Amelia’s 1931 are and represent.

Neighborhood Interviews:

Jose Adrian Barboza:

Background: an immigrant from the country of Costa Rica, he has lived in the area for most of his adolescence and young adulthood. He has experienced both his high school and college years in this neighborhood and is currently enrolled in the Miami Dade Honors College.

Melissa Rodriguez:

Background: A mother of two girls and wife to Carlos Rodriguez, she grew up in the neighborhood and moved away during her early career and adulthood. Decided to come back to the area to start a family, has been living inside the neighborhood since the birth of her first daughter 3 years ago. 

  1. What is your favorite aspect about the city? The safety and proximity to essential stores.
  • What is your least favorite aspect about the city? How far west the neighborhood is from major locations and workplace in coral gables area.
  • Do you enjoy living here? Yes
  • If you could change anything about Kendale Lakes, what would it be? The traffic during rush hour, definitely to reduce that.
  • Has the area benefitted you in any way since you started your family? Well my home is conveniently close to drug stores for last minute, middle of the night necessities. Plus having top rated public schools nearby.
  • Oh, alright anything else? I know there are a few go to parks and even though we cannot really go out do you tend to make use of them. Yes! We take the girls to the park a lot and having two within walking distance is really great.

Overall, Kendale Lakes residence safe in this area and as a result feel more inclined to participate in outdoor activities. The neighborhood then can be described as a safe place for the family environment as a result of the top-class schools and parks as well as its accessibility to critical services. It has one minor flaw however, as a result of it being located so far west commuters that work in the metropolitan area have a negative experience due to the long traffic that prevents them from getting home in a timely manner.


As of the 2010 Census there were a total of 56,148 residences within the Kendale Lakes area along with 19,185 households, with 4.7% being vacant. There is a household average of 3.14 people and a family household average of 3.4. The 2019 estimates have a 4.6% in children under 5 years, an 18.1% in persons under 18 years, a 16.8% in persons 65 years and over, and a 52.7% in female persons. These percentages are based on the total population estimate. They also have an average household income of $56,017 in 2018 dollars, with 63.6% of residents working in the civilian labor force.

Works Cited:

  1. “HOME About Us.” (n.d.). Retrieved April 19, 2020, from


  • “About Us. (n.d.).” Retrieved April 19, 2020, from


Jessica Horsham: Miami Service Project 2020

Photo by Blanca Alcaraz, CC by 4.0


Jessica Ann Horsham is a currently studying international relations at Florida International University, and is in her senior year as an FIU Honors student. She is heavily interested in pursuing a career in law, with current aims to focus on human rights and injustices within the justice system, she has recently been accepted into law school and will begin in the Fall of 2020. Though her career will eventually divulge her in tons of paperwork, Jessica loves to explore the outdoors, exercise, and be near the beach; traveling is one of her favorite things to do as she loves to emerge herself in different cultures and truly learn about what makes each place special. Her current endeavor, the Miami in Miami class taught by John W. Bailly, will take her on this journey of emerging her in her very hometown to discover all of its unknown and secret places. 


The Lotus House is an extremely unique women’s homelessness shelter in an area of Miami that suffers from extreme poverty, Overtown. Lotus House not only aims to serve women but also serves as a sanctuary for many women with children; they serve families of all shapes, sizes, and with a variety of different needs. Since expanding to the Lotus Village, they have increased the number of rooms available— a much-needed increase as most of these rooms are always being occupied, according to Ms. Kathy Roth, the daily Operations Director—and have also increased their services for the women and children. They provide clothing, education, assistance with benefits among a multitude of things; another unique fact about the Village is that they do not have a time limit for those staying in their care, they are allowed to stay for as long as they need. The Village includes a health clinic, a day care, and wellness center, and provides therapy, food and dining services, and job training to those staying in its care and those in the community. While the House and its boarding services are facilitated with the county, many of its other facilities, such as the dining services, remains free or low cost and open to all those in the community as well. The Lotus Village goes beyond just its residents to truly have an impactful presence in a community that needs it the most.


While I had not been able to previously volunteer individually, my professor, John Bailly, decided to dedicate one of our class sessions to meeting and working at the Lotus House. Our class highlights the history of Miami thoroughly, from its injustices, prejudices, and developmental issues, in addition to its culture and art, and what better way to give back to a piece of our community that volunteer at an organization that is at its core. Florida is ranked number 3 in the entire nation for having a large homelessness population—this is a massive issue that occurs right in our backyards and is something we can all contribute to tackling. Of all of our class meetings, this experience may have been my favorite. While my family life has not always been perfect, I have been blessed to always have a roof over my head and food to eat, this is a privilege that many are not afforded. The Lotus House affords these privileges and much more to people who have not had access or support in these areas, the doors to the Village opens to much more than just a place to sleep.


This amazing opportunity came from my professor, John Bailly. His heart and dedication to service and help in Miami is heavily engrained into each of his classes and without his help, we would not have been able to tackle such huge tasks. I have always had a passion for helping people, it is one of the reasons why I have chosen to become a lawyer, and I am no stranger to completing hard or dirty tasks. A lot of the work we completed were tasks that required lots of cleaning to not only benefit the physical health of its workers or inhabitants but also to simply make the Village feel like home to the people in its care. As we were working, there were many children around and it felt good to know that their areas to relax after a long day at school were thoroughly cleaned and comfortable for them to focus. Seeing the smiles on the women’s faces or hearing their praises of thanks as we left gave me a sense of gratitude for the blessings that I have and knowing that our work made a difference in someone’s day.


Cleaning the loading dock lockers. Picture by Jessica Horsham CC by 4.0

On March 11th, 2020 at 10 AM, our group arrived, and we split into two groups. My group began clearing out the docking area of the Lotus House, by dumping broken or unusable items and loading them into the truck or separating and organizing what was going to be kept. Our goal was to completely empty the area so that they would be able to store all of the new supplies coming in to help protect residents from COVID-19. From this area, we began to splinter off, and I was whisked away to help sort through expired drugstore products, a sort of CVS or Walgreens located on one of the housing floors. We learned that one each floor, there is a member of the Lotus House in charge and in their office, they have basic supplies, bandages, hand sanitizer, ibuprofen, sanitizing wipes, amongst a bunch of other materials where the residents can use and borrow at any time. After this, we delivered several new mattresses to a few rooms and were able to look inside the spaces. Each room had its own bathroom, an area for groceries or storage, and several beds, we were informed that the rooms we were looking at were the family rooms and each individual had their own bed; these rooms were not the largest but definitely spacious and very clean. We then rejoined the group at the loading dock and began to sanitize, bleach, and soap up the floors, cabinets, windows, and just about everything in that area. After this we sat for lunch and had one of the staff, a former FIU student, discuss her job on the outreach team. She talked to us about advocating for the house to local government and about some of the Village’s rules, such as curfews and that all women must be free of any drugs or alcohol. It was interesting to hear her perspective of working here and how different it was from her previous jobs. Once we finished, it was back to work. Our group took on the task of sanitizing all of the furniture and recreational and playrooms on the 2nd-5th residential floors. This meant that every chair, table, couch, computer, door, and even bookcase was going to be sanitized and wiped clean on every floor.


What worked the best this day was our teamwork and dedication. We were there for over 5 hours and did not waste a minute. Despite being separated from one another, every single one of us knew that the work we were doing was beyond us, it was not for us but for other people, the residents; I believe that this ultimate understanding helped us all complete our tasks to the best of our abilities. Knowing that our work were things that needed to be done to benefit the women and children living here who are fighting for a better life day in and day out truly motivated our entire class to give it our all and really work every minute of our day. Splitting up into smaller groups to tackles the various tasks helped to ensure that we were maximizing the amount of work to be completed and to really do it thoroughly. All in all, we all knew that we were there to help the fighters continue. Each individual in the Village is there fighting for a better chance at the life that they were handed. They are actively making the choices necessary to become better individuals and to get back on their feet and truly become independent. Despite all that they may have experienced, despite whatever led them to seek sanctuary at the Lotus Village, these women are still standing and fighting each day. Its commendable that they are still standing today and that may have not happened with the Lotus House. The Lotus House is not just a homeless shelter, it is engrained in the community and serves as a beacon of hope where it is needed

Marissa Rodriguez: Palmetto Bay 2020

photo by Mahanoor Abbas/CC by 4.0


My name is Marissa Rodriguez, and I am currently a junior at Florida International University pursuing a degree in psychology, with a minor in business. I am a photographer, and my goal is to one day be able to pursue photography full-time and inspire people with my work. I was born and raised in Miami, I am a world traveler at heart and love learning about all types of different cultures.


map of Palmetto Bay by U.S. Census Bureau (CC by 1.0)

Palmetto Bay is situated between Biscayne Bay and US1, and with the many marinas and boat ramps available, it is a perfect place for fisherman and boaters to launch their boats and go out to sea.

According to the City of Palmetto Bay, Palmetto Bay became its own incorporated village in 2002. It is currently home to 24,000 residents and is governed by a five-member Village council and operated by council-manager government. The public schools in Palmetto Bay are some of the highest ranked schools in the county, and they include Howard Drive, Coral Reef & Perrine Elementary, Southwood Middle and Palmetto Senior High.


Palmetto Bay is a suburban incorporated village in Miami-Dade County, Florida, West of Biscayne Bay. Cultures that have lived here include the Tequesta, Seminoles, Paleo-Indians, Anglo-Americans and Afro-Bahamians. The evidence left behind by these cultures recounts the human housing evolution along the Miami Rock Ridge, which went from stone house dwellings in the beginning to later mansions in the Mediterranean-Revival style. At the Old Cutler Fossil site in 1985, archaeologists found human skeletal charred animal remains. Out of all the current archaeological excavations in the Eastern United States, this one is considered one of the most important.

The Tequesta roamed the area around 4,000 years ago, hunting and fishing. Since they had no immunity to the diseases that Ponce de Leon and the Europeans introduced when they arrived, they were completely gone by the end of the 1700s, due to disease.

In 1838, during the second Seminole war, Dr. Henry Perrine was awarded a large parcel of land from the government. This land spanned 36 acres and today, encompasses the areas of Pinecrest, Palmetto Bay, and The Falls. Visits to Cuba and Mexico inspired Dr. Perrine’s plans to establish an agricultural colony with those same plants he saw while travelling.

It was while serving as a U.S. Consul in Yucatan, Mexico, where he studied the tropical plants that he wanted to incorporate. Dr. Perrine did not live to see these plans unfold, because in 1840, he was killed in an Indian attack while staying on Indian Key, but his wife and kids managed to escape. It wasn’t until 35 years later in 1875, where his son Henry Perrine Jr. came to reclaim the family land and draw settlers to establish farming. The settlers that came following Dr. Perrine’s death had no interest in continuing his vision of plant introduction, so they went on their way, building farming enterprises, ignoring Henry and his siblings’ claim to the land. In 1897, this dispute was resolved, and the valuable farmland could be settled and sold.

Free twenty-acre tracts were offered to those who could build a home, clear one acre, and grow one tropical crop. In 1876, Henry Perrine Jr. moved onto the property with his two children, Carleton and Harry.

Dr. William Cutler arrived in 1883 and acquired 600 acres. Located at the intersection of SW 168 Street and Old Cutler Road, the town of Cutler grew quickly. Fruit groves and vegetable farms arose when drainage canals were created which assured the cultivation of crops. With plans to extend it through South Dade to Key West, Henry Flagler brought his railroad to Miami. The Town of Cutler was bypassed several miles to the west by the railroad route chosen by Flagler, and this dealt a mortal blow to the development.

Ten years later, much of the land in dormant Cutler was bought by Charles Deering to build his estate. He was the chairman of the International Harvester Company, and they revolutionized methods of harvesting grain. Charles and his half-brother James Deering, who later built Vizcaya, were spending winters in Miami. Just like earlier settlers had been attracted to the ridge of Biscayne Bay for its natural beauty, Charles chose to assemble 360 acres on which he built his Moorish style mansion on the ridge overlooking the bay. Near the water, he planted rows of Royal Palms while retaining the lush, subtropical hammock, formerly the Indian Hunting Grounds. Until his death in 1927, Charles Deering lived amongst his great art collection and beautiful natural surroundings. It was then when the Deering family met the Connetts, who later designed and built Thalatta Estate. It is known today that the families were friends, and back before there was no C-100 canal dissecting the two properties, the families visited each other often. Until the house and its gardens was purchased by Florida and Miami-Dade County in 1985 for $24 million, the family continued to spend winters at the estate. Today, as the last surviving structure of the historic town of Cutler, the Richmond Inn at the Estate remains one of the best examples in Miami of early Florida frame-vernacular architecture and the National Register of Historic Places has it listed. Deering Estate’s grounds are environmentally protected lands and a historical preserve.

Stereograph of the view of Deering Estate from the Bay, taken May 27th, 1926/ Obtained via Library of Congress CCo by 1.0.

In August of 1992, Hurricane Andrew severely damaged Palmetto Bay and surrounding areas of South Miami-Dade. In Palmetto Bay, many homes and businesses were destroyed. People were left without water or power for days. This was when people decided they wanted full control of their public services.

In November 1995, Miami-Dade County was petitioned by the Alliance of Palmetto South Homeowners to incorporate Palmetto Bay. Years later, after being denied and deferred, they finally allowed citizens that would live within the boundaries of the municipality to vote on whether they want it incorporated. The Village was incorporated in September 2002 and became the 33rd municipality of Miami-Dade County (City of Palmetto Bay).


According to the United States Census Bureau, the population of Palmetto Bay is twenty four thousand five hundred eighty nine (24,589) people. This population is comprised of 52% females and 48% males, and is ethnically is composed of 45% Hispanic and Latino, 42% White, 5% Asian, 5% African American, 2.7% of two or more races, and .2% Hawaiian and Pacific Islander people. According to Data USA, the median household income is $107,612 and the median age is 40.8.

The Palmetto Bay resident I chose to interview is Melissa Rodriguez, my aunt, who works at Baptist Hospital.

Marissa: I know you have two young daughters, what do you like most about Palmetto Bay?

Melissa: I like that Palmetto Bay is family oriented and there’s a lot of parks.

Marissa: Is there anything you would change?

Melissa: I wouldn’t change anything because we are happy here, no complaints.

Marissa: What are some things you and your family like to do in the area?

Melissa: We like to go to the park, ride bike, or go for a golf cart ride.


The Gold Coast Railroad Museum

With trains and railroads being such a big part of the history of Miami, it is no surprise that there is a railroad museum dedicated to reflecting that part of history which was so important. The Gold Coast Railroad Museum houses over 40 historic railway cars and is dedicated to preserving, exhibiting and operating historic equipment. It was founded in 1957 and was built on the former Naval Air Station Richmond, which was the second largest World War II airship base in the United States. The NASR was an ideal place to build a railroad museum due to its three miles of tracks (Gold Coast Railroad Museum).

Photo by Bailly media (CC by 4.0)

According to the Gold Coast Railroad Museum, The GCRM became one of the three official Florida State Railroad Museums in 1984. It operates as a non-profit and is devoted to instilling the rich history of trains and the railroad industry in each of their guests.

At the museum, there are a lot of things for visitors to enjoy, like twelve rail cars that can be viewed from the exterior, and ten (10) of them are open for the public to go inside them. Accompanying this is many pieces of railroad equipment and historical artifacts for people to see. In one room towards the back, they have a model display room and it includes Thomas play tables for little kids to go play in. In the plaza, they have picnic tables where people can go and eat their lunch, in addition to a sandbox for kids (Gold Coast Railroad Museum).

On the weekends, they offer train rides and on the first Saturday of the month, they offer free admission as well. The museum is located just adjacent to Zoo Miami, and they offer a discount towards admission for zoo members with proof of membership. They also can host private events (like weddings).

Deering Estate

Partial view of the Boat Basin at Deering Estate. / Photo by Marissa Rodriguez (Cc by 4.0)

Deering Estate is a 1920’s era estate which belonged to Charles Deering, an environmentalist, philanthropist, Chicago Industrialist, art collector, early preservationist, and first Chairman of the International Harvester Company. The estate’s boat basin overlooks Biscayne Bay and is lined with rows of palm trees. At the basin, manatees and other marine life can be seen. The estate also houses an extensive wine cellar, where Charles kept his elaborate wine collection. In addition to the Main House, The property has The Richmond Cottage, which used to be an inn in its early days.

In addition to the Estate, the property features an extensive nature path where Tequesta tribe shell tools could be found, which can give visitors a small glimpse into what life was like all those years ago. On the property is a large tree that serves as a Tequesta burial mound, where buried tribe members still remain.

Thalatta Estate

Photo by Thalatta Estate (CC by 1.0)

Thalatta Estate is a historic gem that preserves the glamour and sophistication of the aristocracy of South Florida two centuries ago. Today, the grounds serve as a venue for outdoor weddings, as well as a location for other events and programs. When guests arrive to the stunning two-story Mediterranean style estate, they are greeted by a coral walled entrance in addition to a beautiful Banyan tree and a quaint Carriage House. The main house is built in the style of the 1920’s, has original Cuban tile floors, a fireplace and upstairs lounging quarters has to the east, a view of Key Biscayne and the expansive estate grounds. Touches that add to the magic and beauty of this venue for weddings is a covered terrace, grand staircase to the second floor of the Main House, reflection pool, an outdoor dining terrace, waterside promenade, lush tropical landscaping, and the wedding ceremony site (Thalatta Estate).

The vintage residence was designed and built by the Connett family and encompasses more than four acres of unobstructed water views of Biscayne National Park, where you can find herons, marine iguanas, pelicans, and other plants and wildlife common to south Miami-Dade that call the mangroves home.

Green Spaces

Palmetto Bay is known as the “Village of Parks”, and it is clear to see why. The Village has many parks all featuring open spaces to play sports, walk, run, exercise and explore. The Village features many green spaces, in addition to canals and Biscayne Bay.

Palmetto Bay Park

Photo by City of Palmetto Bay (CC by 1.0)

This park is a 25-acre facility and is right off US1 and includes many amenities, such as expansive greenspace, basketball courts, a six-field state-of-the-art softball complex and the largest boundless playgrounds in South Florida (a fully accessible playground for both younger and older kids). A two-story concession building with an observation deck is the focal point of the park. An air-conditioned recreation room can host indoor activities. Surrounding the property is a pathway with lots of trees, perfect for walking, jogging, and riding bicycle. This park also has two covered pavilions for gatherings and parties.

Coral Reef Park

Coral Reef Park - Bridge Over Water
Photo by City of Palmetto Bay (CC by 1.0)

This park spans more than 50 acres and includes the peaceful canal and green spaces. Here, you can play, walk, read, and have a picnic. People gather here for beach volleyball, an exercise trail, baseball (in one of their three fields), tennis lessons from professionals at the Coral Reef Park Tennis Center, and the indigenous wildlife that come to the area. The park has indoor exercise lessons, a gazebo that can be rented, and free movie nights.

Ludovici Park

Ludovici Park Aerial
Photo by City of Palmetto Bay (CC by 1.0)

Ludovici Park is a perfect venue for music and reading a library book because of its charm and the proximity of both of these locations. This park features a shaded gazebo, meandering walkways, and perfectly manicured gardens. The main feature of this park is the library, and it has an outdoor area for children’s activities, lectures, and workshops, in addition to concerts at the amphitheater.


According to Data USA, the most common way people get around in Palmetto Bay is driving alone, with 76.4% of people doing it. The next most common way is carpooling, which 14% of the population does. The least common way is working at home, which 5.29% of the population does. Other less common modes of transit are walking, riding bicycle or motorcycle, and using public transit. The average number of cars per household is two, followed by three.


The name is a nod to the Ibis, a native bird to the South Florida area that can be seen in the Village parks and neighborhoods. According to the City of Palmetto Bay’s website, it is a shuttle service that was designed to increase the destinations that people can go within the village, and connects with Miami-Dade county bus routes. The buses are quipped with bike racks, wheelchair accessible, air-conditioned and free of charge. I-Bus is eco-friendly and links riders to the bus routes and MetroRail service.

FreeBee On-Demand Service

The FreeBee On-Demand Service is a vehicle system that takes people anywhere around the Village, free of cost. The service can be accessed by the “Ride Freebee” app on a smartphone, or there is a number to call as well. They have two vehicles and take people from Palmetto Bay Park to the Dadeland South Metro-rail station, mornings and evenings Monday through Friday (City of Palmetto Bay).


Caffe Portofino

This restaurant is unique because of its unique blend of Italian and Caribbean cuisine, with some International flavors as well. This unique type of cuisine is reflective of the South Florida diversity, and has something for everyone that reflects the blend of cultures that is our city. They take reservations and have very positive reviews from frequent customers, who say they love the specials, and how the presentation and flavors are “always phenomenal”. They are only open for dinner, closing as late as eleven o’clock. They offer private parties and bimonthly special dinners, and they have a special menu for Miami Spice every year. Their Miami Spice menu is a good opportunity for people who have never gone to this restaurant to go and have some delicious food at the special prices during the Miami Spice time frame.

Alaine’s Osteria

Photo courtesy of Alaine’s Osteria

In Italian, osteria means tavern, and in Italy, it is a common thing to name restaurants in that format. This restaurant’s menu has a lot of items, all with authentic Italian sounding names, like “Insalata ai frutti di mare” (which translates to a seafood salad) and “Scaloppine di vitello piccata”. I love Italian food and know a thing or two about the cuisine and names of dishes, so even if I have never been here, I would believe this place to be authentic, purely based off the name of the restaurant and the menu. They have a wide variety of entrees, from chicken to salmon, lobster, and steak. There is an entire section of the menu dedicated to pasta, and the same applies there: you have something to please everyone on the menu.


Palmetto Bay is a beautiful city with friendly people and there is never a bad view due to the proximity of Biscayne Bay. All of the places that have water views or access highlight it in natural ways that present the water as a main feature. Palmetto Bay seems like the perfect place to live and is very kid-friendly since it has a lot of wonderful activities the whole family can do together. There are many ways to get around, and many things to do for people of all ages. The restaurants here have food from all different cultures here, like Mexican, Italian, Mediterranean, and more.

Works Cited

 Alaine’s Osteria, http://www.alainesosteria.com/.

“History of Palmetto Bay: Palmetto Bay, FL.” Village of Palmetto Bay Florida, www.palmettobay-fl.gov/681/History-of-Palmetto-Bay.

“HOME.” Gold Coast Railroad Museum, http://www.goldcoastrailroadmuseum.org/.

“How We Became a Village: Palmetto Bay, FL.” Village of Palmetto Bay Florida, https://www.palmettobay-fl.gov/862/How-We-Became-a-Village

“Information.” Homes of Desire, homesofdesire.com/palmetto-bay/

“Local Bus Service & On-Demand Ride Share: Palmetto Bay, FL.” Village of Palmetto Bay Florida, https://www.palmettobay-fl.gov/326/Local-Bus-Service-On-Demand-Ride-Share

“Miami Museums: Miami Historic Landmarks: The Deering Estate.” Deering Estate, 16 Apr. 2020, deeringestate.org/.

“Palmetto Bay Park: Palmetto Bay, FL.” Village of Palmetto Bay Florida, http://www.palmettobay-fl.gov/230/Palmetto-Bay-Park.

“Palmetto Bay, FL.” Data USA, datausa.io/profile/geo/palmetto-bay-fl/#demographics.

“U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Palmetto Bay Village, Florida.” Census Bureau QuickFacts, www.census.gov/quickfacts/palmettobayvillageflorida.

“Welcome to Thalatta Estate.” Welcome to Thalatta Estate | Thalatta Estate, http://www.thalattaestate.com/welcome-thalatta-estate

Maria Cruz: Miami Service Project 2020

This post is dedicated to Maria Cruz’s Service Project she had to complete for her Honors course in the Spring of 2020. For her project, she spent a day volunteering at the Lotus House Women’s Shelter with her class.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is IMG_3745.jpg
Photo by Katy Roth, edit by Maria Cruz (CC by 4.0)

Who & How

Quite frankly, the day my classmates and I spent volunteering at the Lotus House was one of my favorite offsite excursions. In recent years, most of the volunteering work I had completed was organizing events or activities of that manner for organizations, which was rewarding at the time because it allowed me to raise further awareness for their work and the impacts of supporting their efforts. However, because of the indirect nature of my positions, it has been a while since I contributed my personal time and efforts to face these issues head-on. This is why I was so interested in volunteering at the Lotus House since I first heard of the opportunity, and despite just how unprepared I initially felt when we showed up for our shifts I now feel more motivated than ever to help those whose struggles are being widely ignored in our community.

Where & Why

Despite the list of chores we had to complete and various hours of work, throughout our day at the Lotus House my classmates and I came to know many of its workers, the story of the women and children that seek their help, and the sanctuary’s mission. At the start of our volunteer shift, I was completely unaware of what the expectations set for us will be and how our involvement could benefit the center’s residents; however, our guides fro the day were very welcoming and forthcoming with information. They started off by telling us the Lotus House’s mission, how the facility recruits its workers to ensure the maintenance of operations, and just how grateful they, as a non-profit, are grateful for contributions of any kind. Immediately afterward, we began our work for the day. As the complex is large and is constantly offering services to its residents and outside members of the community, we were all split up into different groups and sent to complete separate tasks. There were those who went to sanitize, help out in the kitchens, and finally, the last group was asked to clear out the docking bay and help clean up for the arrival of new shipments. The final group of us were tasked with seemingly the most daunting responsibility — can you guess which one I was assigned to? Nonetheless, we started working immediately.

As we were clearing out the warehouse and separated the items into two separate categories for the items that were being donated and those that were being thrown out we learned more about the inner operations of Lotus House. First, the items that were being donated were actually being sent to their own thrift chic boutique whose proceedings go back to the center. Also, this shop runs one of its empowerment programs whose retail job training opportunities “assist[s] women, youth, and children experiencing homelessness improve the quality of their lives on every level and achieve greater self-sufficiency.” Once all the items were loaded into the truck and it was good to go we began a deep clean of the warehouse itself. While I was asked to help organize their “goodies” closet in the midst of this, I eventually rejoined my classmates and professors in this great task. Eventually, everything was squeaky clean and my group and I grabbed lunch with the classmates we were separated from. Wr ended the day by cleaning the communal areas on the floors of the apartment complex, with a new appreciation for the shelter and all the work it does for our community.


While this was a completely new experience for me, it is an opportunity I am truly grateful for having. Looking back on our time here, despite my own economic troubles and personal issues my time in this quarantine world has helped me realize that I am still a position of privilege. Our work at the Lotus House gave me a new perspective on what I, and our community, can do to support one another because no matter how small of a contribution you make, it can result in a grand difference in somebody else’s life. From clearing out the warehouse to sanitizing the common areas, we put maximum efforts in making sure everything was left squeaky clean. The shelter’s workers profusely thanked us for assisting them, expressing to us how despite their best efforts, the “village” (the rebranded name for this shelter) has become so large and there are so many daily operations they have to look over that sometimes menial tasks like these get pushed back.

We may have only spent half a day here, but I was really looking forward to going back and completing the remaining of my volunteer hours at the Lotus House — a sentiment I know I share with some of my classmates. After personally witnessing how they are making their mission a reality and the change this organization is making in Miami, I feel more empowered than ever to help combat the issues of homelessness and socioeconomic disparity in Miami. 

Yahnell Judah and Marie-France Desir: Perspective 2020

Yahnell Judah and Marie-France Desir are alumni of the FIU Honors College. They both travelled to France in 2019 as part of the course “Art, War, & Human Rights.”

These are their voices.

It’s a tragedy that some people are privileged enough to view the current events as an isolated outburst instead of a reaction to years of fearing if next time someone calls the police on my father for walking in the park, he won’t come home. If you are tired of the riots and media coverage over the past week, imagine how tiring it is to live in fear of the ones who promised “to protect and to serve,” every single day of your life. It is exhausting. It is exhausting to know that a black man can be killed over a twenty dollar bill and the leaders of this nation would rather watch the people mourn and the country burn before simply arresting four of their own. 

We and millions of others in our community cry at the death of our brothers and sisters, murdered by police officers at rates 2.5 times that of their white counterparts and never given justice. We understand you might want to use “love and words” as forms of protest but black people have tried that for hundreds of years and no one has listened, if anything they lose their job for it (Kapernick), die behind it (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and many more) or die for doing absolutely nothing (George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Sean Reed and hundreds more). An un-oppressed population cannot tell an oppressed population how to react to oppression so please, if you consider yourself an ally to the cause, do not suggest peaceful protests as a new idea; it ignores the fact that the voices of the black community often fall on deaf ears. 

“A riot is the language of the unheard.” – MLK, Jr. Riots and looting will always be effective forms of protest against a society that values material things over human lives. Any history book can confirm this. Broken windows can be repaired and merchandise can be replaced, human lives on the other hand, cannot. Looting property is not nearly as violent an act as holding your knee on someone’s neck for several minutes while they cry to the heavens for their life. If the protests are the only thing you’re complaining about, please question your morals and consider the fact that Chauvin the Murderer was not even arrested until a viral and explicit video was released, social media outrage occurred and protests started hurting a few pockets. A lot of these major companies exploit minority communities anyway by paying slave wages, profiting off of black culture and corporate crime (including minimum wage violations, rest break violations and overtime violations) that has always outweighed petty theft/vandalism by an extraordinary amount. If a few trashed stores are what it takes for change to happen; so that we can walk down the street freely and have value given to our lives and experiences, then so be it.

We truly believe that allies, instead of judging the protestors or comparing their own states of oppression, should peacefully protest if that’s what you believe in, share awareness, donate to bail protestors or raise money for vandalized small businesses, speak out on your racist friends or family members, and recognize your own racist mentalities. Stop trying to demonize protestors because you don’t understand their pain and LISTEN to their stories to educate yourself on this SERIOUS issue. 

Black Lives Matter 

Marie-France Desir is pursuing a bachelor’s double major in Marketing and Media/Communication Studies at FSU. Marie-France transferred to FSU from FIU, where she was a member of the Honors College.

Yahnell Judah is a PhD student at the UM Miller Programs In Biomedical Sciences. She earned her bachelor’s in Biology and Natural & Applied Sciences, with minors in Psychology and Chemistry at FIU, where she was a member of the Honors College..

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Marie-France & Yahnell in France in 2019. (Photo by JW Bailly CC BY 4.0)

Marie-France Desir & Yahnell Judah 02 June 2020

Juliana Pereira: Miami Service Project 2020

Lotus House

On Wednesday, March 11th the Miami in Miami class volunteered at The Lotus House. The Lotus House is a nonprofit women’s and children’s homeless shelter located in Overtown, Miami. They provide free housing, meals, health care, several kinds of counseling, education for kids and adults, training, amenities, clothing, and so much more in support to women and their children. The Lotus family provides support for these families to heal and grow, so that they may get back on their feet and rebuild their lives and regain independence.

On our day of service, we helped “behind the scenes” in the kitchen prepping meals, on the loading dock cleaning and organizing, in the donation closet inventorying, and in the common area sanitizing. While these tasks don’t help a tenant directly, it facilitates daily operation of the shelter. Which in turn allows the shelter staff to work more efficiently and effectively.

My team and I were first stationed at the loading dock. We sorted through former tenants’ belongings that were left behind. A couple items were able to be reused, but most of the items were to be discarded. Once the truck was fully loaded, we scrubbed the floors and wiped the shelves. A delivery of emergency COVID-19 supplies arrived. We organized those supplies on the shelves. The loading dock was squeaky clean and ready for use.

I was then tasked with sorting and organizing a couple boxes of donations in the gift closet. The staff explained that gifts aren’t only for Christmas. They use this present stock year-round on birthdays, milestones, graduation, holidays, raffles, etc. It’s important that the tenants, especially the children, feel happy and loved at the shelter. Many of the mothers are not able to afford a birthday gift for their child, so the shelter is ready to put a smile their face.

We were invited to eat lunch at the shelter’s cafeteria. It was such a pleasure to meet more of the shelter’s staff members. We were also thanked by many tenants for being there and for our hard work.

On our last task, we were able to get a bigger glimpse of the shelter. We went floor by floor sanitizing the tables, chairs, and sofas in the common areas and family rooms. We could tell the messier floors were the children’s floors. We met one boy who was looking for help on his math homework, but unfortunately, we had to go.

It was a great experience at the Lotus House. The atmosphere was light and lively despite all the sad stories that lead each person there. The shelter is definitely a place I will be volunteering at again.

Chicken Key Turtle Sculpture

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Seafood Festival at the Deering Estate was canceled. Nevertheless, we were still able to construct our project! Our team wanted to piece together trash collected from Chicken Key into a turtle sculpture. The project would reflect on all the liter in our ocean, and how it is affecting our marine life. We wanted to raise awareness on the issue of pollution. Nicole Patrick partnered with The Deering Estate to organize and host frequent clean ups of the key right off the estate. This one little island was being cleaned almost every weekend, and still there is so much trash that incessantly washes up there. That is one island, imagine everywhere else.

Sana Arif: Miami as Vlogs 2021

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Photo by Aliza Ghaffar (CC by 4.0)

Sana Arif is a sophomore at the Honors College at Florida International University pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences degree with a minor in International Relations. Sana is slowly developing her interest about the world and the many cultures, religions, and deep history within it. In her free time, she likes to watch documentaries to learn about events such as various genocides and the effect of war and poverty on different groups of people. In addition to learning, she has an arsenal of adorable photos of her Green Cheek conure named Zuko, and would love to show anybody who asks (Warning: it might take a couple of hours before she lets you go). She hopes to learn more about Miami by engaging in this course, and is excited to document her explorations through her own unique perspective.


January 29th, 2021

discover the immense history and culture woven throughout the streets of Downtown Miami

Video by Sana Arif (CC by 4.0)


February 12th, 2021

slough slog through the Everglades with Ranger Dylann Turffs to explore the waters of the cypress dome and the beautiful River of Grass

Video by Sana Arif (CC by 4.0)


February 26th, 2021

explore South Beach’s story with its Art Deco architecture and history around just about every corner

Video by Sana Arif (CC by 4.0)


March 12th, 2021

follow the class through the six various ecosystems located on the Deering Estate grounds

Video by Sana Arif (CC by 4.0)


March 26th, 2021

follow the class through James Deering‘s villa and gardens

Video by Sana Arif (CC by 4.0)


Jena Nassar, 21 February 2021

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