For students who have been falling behind or labeled as "off track", a slow learner or learning disabled with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). We:
- Cancel their labels
HELP Miami does not endorse the current trend of labeling and medicating children for academic difficulties.
- Encourage them to study things they are interested in.
- Clear up their prior confusions and handle missed basics.
- Bring them up to their grade level and beyond.
- Our normal results might be considered miraculous by some. (See testimony from parents below.)
Hours available: Monday through Fridays 9am to 1:30pm.
Regular School prices is $7,200 per year including materials, and testing. Tuition is $630 per month. McKay scholarships may cover all or part of these fees. Prices are subject to change.
Call Barbie for details at (305) 752-4003.
After school tutoring is available for $40 per month during the school year.
Notes from parents:
One-on-one tutoring is $25 per hour, sold in blocks of 10 hours. I have a boy who went from an "F" to a "C" in science in under 10 hours. We are hoping to bring this grade up even higher. We have about 8 kids that get one-on-one tutoring and it is an excellent way to address a troubled area for students that are not enrolled in this school.This can be delivered any day except Friday and Sunday. Schedules are arranged when the student enrolls. Call for Barbie for details at (305) 752-4003
Lindsey (center) with her study buddies.
My daughter, Lindsey, has always struggled with learning. She has to work very hard to understand what comes easily for most children. At age three, she was in a special program to work on her "motor skills and speech". She barely passed kindergarten. By first grade she was convinced she was a failure and was becoming more resistive to school. Her teacher knew she needed more attention but could not help her as there were 20 more kids in her class. The professionals told me that my daughter was in fact "learning disabled" and needed medication.
Well THAT didn't work! My daughter absolutely hated taking pills. They ended up making her vomit and put her in what I call a "zombie-like state." Despite the special classes and medication, her grades did not improve at all! My daughter ended up repeating 3rd grade and any confidence she had was shot.
I began searching for yet another school that would better suit Lindsey and I found H.E.L.P. Miami. My daughter LOVES this school! She is getting the attention she needs and the encouragement she deserves. Lindsey learns math using money and enjoys reading aloud to her study partners.
Not once has anyone at H.E.L.P. Miami said my daughter couldn't learn or needed medication. In fact the plan is to catch her up to grade level! This school knows that all children are not the same. They encourage academic strengths and address the weaknesses without crushing the student. I am glad I have found this program.
For the first time in her life, my daughter's future looks bright!
We are very grateful and happy with H.E.L.P. Miami. The professionalism and dedication of the teachers throughout the year made my children become better individuals. Artur needs a small classroom so he can concentrate. He also needs a friendly environment, as he lacks social skills and friends. Now he feels safe, has friends, is socially confident and he feels like his school is his home. He says he will grow up to be an excellent scientist.
Yolanda, as you know, could not read and was not doing well in math. When she started at your school she was years behind in grade level. Now she is reading! She is so happy with the school that on weekends or breaks she asks, "How many days until I go back to school?" She LOVES school, LOVES her new friends and is very motivated.
We as parents see how different our children are since starting your program. We do not have the words to thank you enough for all of your help, love and dedication to the children in need. I recommend this school to parents with similar situations to my own, as I feel with love, patience and persistence ANYTHING can be fixed. My children are "fixed" and that is why we are re-enrolling them for the 2008-2009 school year!
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
ML & AR"
"Dear Ms. Rivera,
At this present time I would like to take the opportunity to thank
you for changing my child's life. My son George has improved so much
his grades in school thanks to your program. This was a child who
was totally stressed out emotionally for loosing his father at the
age of 11 and failing all classes being labeled as a Learning
Disability student. I am so grateful making a huge impact on his
learning abilities this is a child who has mastered the technique of
having knowledge of how to actually learn the data. He can actually
function independently on work assignments.
My child had never had A's, B's, or C's on his past report cards,
all were D's and F's. I have enclosed a copy of his report card for
you to review and keep for your records. And as a parent would like
to thank you for the help you are giving my child.
Sincerely, I.C. (The report card shows 1 A, 2 B's and 3 C's with 6
A's in conduct!)"
MY NEW SOPHIA
"I have a six-year old daughter who has been labeled speech delayed since she was four years old. Every year I dreaded the beginning of school because my daughter would cry day after day when I would leave her at school. She continued her crying spells month after month. I was so desperate that I ended changing my daughter to a small school, hoping she would feel more comfortable. She started first grade, however her crying continued. After two weeks she began begging me to be put in an easier class. I knew I had to do something to help my child. I figured maybe it would better to move her back to a Kindergarten class but this was not allowed. The school wanted my daughter to read, yet she did not have a grasp on basic sounds and letters. To me, this is like forcing a baby to walk without knowing how to crawl.
After numerous meetings with her teachers, counselor and vice-principal, I
still did not see any improvement. Her crying was out of desperation and
frustration. She was crying out for help. It was then that I decided to
contact H.E.L.P. Miami about their private school program. On Monday,
September 8, 2003, I gave H.E.L.P. Miami a shy, insecure and unhappy child.
Just days later they gave me a child who was happy, outgoing and eager to
learn. Now my daughter wakes up happy to go to school. She even wants to get
there early! I cannot express to you how thankful I am for what they have
done. H.E.L.P. Miami gave my daughter her self-confidence back and to me,
that is priceless!"
My wonderful Child.
Mom what's wrong with me he asked, eyes filled with confusion and fear. "Will I have to take those pills?" "I don't know Fabian, I really don't know" as I held his hands in mine grasping for my child as if I was loosing him. My wonderful, creative, intelligent child.
Fabian was overwhelmed in school and disliked going, but tried hard to do his best, his best was not good enough though, they called him a "wandering child" always day dreaming. He may suffer from some sort of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), the teachers suggested. If you look up the word disorder it means a disruption; a breach of public peace; a riot; a disregard of system; a disease; ill; deranged. My beautiful child "deranged?" I tried to do my best, as a single mother with little time to devote to the overload of homework they gave him and after school PTA meetings. I also felt like a failure. I researched night after night in the Internet trying to find answers. Soon Fabian was given evaluations in schools, as he spent hours answering the Social Worker's 70 and 80 question forms about his growing up. The teachers' felt he may fail again, he was
showing no improvement in the first 6 months of school. I felt I had no way out, and agreed to have him be part of a research study for ADD medication. "I'm going to have to take drugs?" he asked me, I thought you told me never to do drugs!" Boy what a slap
on the face that was. But I explained that some children need this extra help. Not really believing in what I was saying. It's not really drugs, it's medication. Then I made his appointment for a Friday. Still trying to find answers I sat in front of my computer on
Tuesday night. I recall sitting looking at the browser and my hands on the keyboard. What is it I'm looking for? What does Fabian need? Well I could only come up with one answer; I began to type the word HELP. Suddenly to my surprise something came up, I saw the initials H.E.L.P. What in the world is this? "Hollywood Education and Literacy
Project" I began to read and a crack on my closed doors began to appear. I e-mailed, Charles Thomas who called me the following day and connected me with Barbie Rivera in Miami; I left her a message and got an immediate callback. I made an appointment with her on Wednesday evening, and took Fabian with me. I recall sitting in her class filled with books, her desk with kid's files and success stories, and a huge smile on her face. We sat and she looked at my son and said, "So Fabian, they tell me you failed sixth grade? "Yeah" he answered, with his chin down. "Well... I don't think you failed, I think THEY failed." Fabian's face began to lift as he looked at Barbie with a face of astonishment and hope. I tried to hold my tears as I witnessed my son learn the biggest lesson of his life. "I'm not a failure" receiving his test results after three months and going from a 2.9 to a 9.8 proved it. I've never seen him happier. By the way... we never made it to the Doctor's appointment, I think they're still waiting for us.
As you know Christian started 7th grade this year at Miami Springs Middle School. At first I was very hesitant as to our decision of letting him go back to public school. Having had bad experience with private and public schools we felt uneasy with possible outcomes. When we told Christian of our decision, he was not too happy with the idea. He was worried about this new challenge and how well he would do. He kept on telling us that during the past two years he was home schooled and was not being challenged. He was not sure if he had learned enough and that the new workload might be a bit overwhelming.
In short I'm happy to report Christian is doing excellent in school. His progress report came in and his grades are A's and B' s, and a C- in math. His behavior is above average and his study habits and skills are excellent. His writing and grammar skills are amazing and the foundation you built with him have helped him in all his subjects.
I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your commitment to Christian and for your teaching methods. You have done a wonderful job! Your leadership in HELP Miami's program have taught Christian how to learn and made it easy for him to do so. What I find most interesting is that Christian didn't even realize how much he had learned. Just as you always said, if you keep on reinforcing the basics of math, grammar and reading, everything else will be easy to learn. You are right!
Thank you once again for all your HELP, we are sure that other children are receiving the same or greater results. Although I find many of his new teachers committed to Christian's education I believe they are missing those vital skills and teaching methods you employ. If the public school system would utilize L. Ron Hubbard's techniques I truly believe we would have better outcomes from our schools.
Adolfo & Mercy Valero
"My name is Ally. I am the mother of 3 boys, all diagnosed with learning disorders. My oldest son is a "slow learner," my middle child is ADHD and my youngest is brilliant but considered "hyper-active." I have tried to work with my boys and often did their homework for them. I have tried the medication to no result. I was frustrated and they were frustrated and to make matters worse, my middle son was being bullied. I started looking for other options for my kids and came across H.E.L.P. Miami. I visited the school and had an interview with Barbie. My life has changed ever since! This school is awesome. The staff is incredible. I enrolled my boys in March of this year and they are so happy! My children are given more attention in things they have difficulty with, they love their teachers and THEY DO THEIR HOMEWORK ON THEIR OWN! None of the boys are on medication anymore and they feel like they are learning. I cannot thank H.E.L.P. Miami enough. This transformation has been amazing." AP
To add to Ally's story, her oldest son is pretty quiet. I think mainly because he is so new BUT last week he totally surprised the drama class and won "Top Male Actor" with his 2-minute skit about coffee. After his performance the kids were literally "fighting" over who would work with him in this week's assignment, considering the winners of this week are getting ice cream sundaes. (I mean seriously. Shouldn't school be about learning AND be fun?) Someone really missed the point when these three boys were labeled. Barbie
"Since I was a little girl I was told that I had learning disabilities and suffered from depression. I was told that I would never be able to make it in school as my test scores were crashed. I was put on medication, which stripped the lining of my stomach and made me throw up. I was put on different medication, but even that made me sick and even worse, I became violent. My mom found out about H.E.L.P. Miami and put me here about a year ago. I can honestly say that this school saved my life. I am no longer taking medication. I have friends and people actually pay attention to me. (Barbie is super cool too!) And for the first time in my life I am doing well in school. My test scores are no longer crashed and my last report card was all "A's" and "B's" which made my mom flip out. I am no longer just thinking about myself but I am into helping others...I think I could dedicate myself to helping others and may even open up a H.E.L.P. of my own some day." -K, age 17
"This school has helped me a lot. I am almost a whole new person...and I mean completely new. In my earlier school I was in a ton of trouble (like "Most Wanted" -type trouble). I was constantly in detention and was way behind in all of my subjects. I was put on medication but that made me life-less (I actually stopped playing outdoors) AND it made my ribs hurt. My mom put me at H.E.L.P. Miami three about years ago. I am no longer on medication and my grades have improved a bit. I cannot remember the last time I was in BIG trouble as it has been so long. I actually like school, which is something I would NEVER have said before. I feel like I matter and I know that I am wanted." -A, age 16
From a tutor and student at HELP Miami:
I am 18 years old and from Panama. When I finished high school, I
moved from my country and lived in Boston for six months. My goal
was to go to college. However, I ran into many problems. I was not
learning English so could not attend school. Finally, I moved to
Miami to live with my father, as I was not making it in Boston on my
My father owns a gym and works around the clock so I stayed with
him at his job. I was so sad and angry (very depressed), as my
goals were not being worked on. I wanted to learn English but did
not find the right program and the days kept slipping away.
Then one day, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet that blonde, beautiful, wonderful Barbie and her blonde, beautiful, wonderful daughter, Morgan. They would come to my father's gym on Saturdays and complain about how hard they had to work. One day Barbie noticed that I was kind of sad and she asked me, "What are you doing?" I told her,
"Nothing." And she said, "I can help you with that." We started to
talk and she found out that my education was stopped due to my lack
of English. Barbie told me that she understood my English but it
could use some work, then she told me about the Hollywood Education
& Literacy Project and said the best way to learn proper English is
to tutor it, so I started. After one week on the tutor training my
father signed me up for the HELP Home Ed Program where I took
classes half of the day and tutored 8-year-olds the other part of
the day. I have been going to HELP for 5 months.
Since going to HELP Miami, my life changed a lot! Now I feel that
I am doing something for me. I feel useful and happy. I have made
friends (my father calls Morgan my sister) and I am helping children learn. I used to feel angry all the time and I used to be in a bad mood. But now, when I go home, I am excited to see how the next day at HELP will go! I also just finished the How to Use a Dictionary Course and that helped my English so much. In fact, my friends from Boston visited last week and were so impressed to hear how well I speak English. I am working on the Learning How to Learn now and use what I am learning everyday.
I am really happy to know Barbie and Morgan. They are two of the
best things that could happen to my life. I am really glad to come
to this school and be apart of what they started. Barbie and Morgan
are awesome and I am grateful knowing both of them. I call them My
Notes from Barbie Rivera
23 November 2010
Lots going on at school. Let's begin this update with a few acknowledgments!!
Thank you to Akbar for your donation to help us relocate the school!
And a very big thank you to Renaissance Charter School in Doral for giving us white boards, text books, workbooks, charts and two shopping carts full of math and science supplies. Our teachers love ALL of it! Renaissance Charter recently acquired a new location and is giving us classroom items that have been replaced.
Now for a true story:
Last year, a girl enrolled in 9th grade at our school. She was basically doing what her mom told her to do and most probably thought this school was lame, as it is so small. This girl admitted that she was way behind. Test scores confirmed she was three years below grade level. School and behavior had always been an issue and at the age of 9 this girl was labeled and taking three different psychotropic medications...it started with ADHD meds, but had to take something else to counter-act the side effects and then anti-depressants were introduced because she was "depressed." The mom eventually took her off the medication after she became violent.
I spoke with this girl's mother today and the mother cannot believe the change her daughter has made since enrolling at H.E.L.P. She has a different daughter...and yes she does have a different daughter, the girl is no longer on drugs!
Personally, I have not seen a "behavior issue" ...she is a teenager with a lot to say and, thankfully, we are a school that has people who listen. As far as her academics go, she is on board with catching up so we cannot ask for more than that. She even tutors after school! Her October report card shows that she is at grade level with the exception of math but even that score is not crashed anymore... in other words, there is hope! And she knows it!
Hats off to our high school teacher, Nancy, who arranged one-on-one tutor sessions for this girl delivered by Damon. Damon is Nancy's assistant and is trained in a specific study method by Mr. L. Ron Hubbard where the student reads aloud and every word stumble or hesitation is handled by looking up the definition in a dictionary, using it in sentences or giving examples until the student has a grasp of the meaning of the word. Damon and this student have thoroughly attacked the subject of Algebra starting with lesson one of the text. And WOW! This girl is understanding math for the first time in her life! She not only knows what the word "Algebra" means but she now knows how to use it. She is also learning the symbols that go with math and is totally shocked that no one ever went over their meanings before. She was recently asked this question, "What would you say to the person that said you had a learning disorder?" Her salty word-for-word response cannot be printed here but it did communicate! So does her beautiful report card! Anyway, the girl still has an attitude (which I LOVE) and she wants to put it to use to help get other teenagers off meds and into using dictionaries! LOVE her!
I really like having a team that effectively educates kids. Our latest report card cycle saw a rise in test scores for many of our students. Prior to this school some of these kids were told that they could not be taught or could not learn...a horrible thing to say to anyone, much less a child. While we do get great results, we need to reach more kids. The plans for our new location are going to the city and the construction bids are rolling in. I need to raise $100,000 to put our new location together. A bigger location will allow us to take on more kids and expand our program even more. All donations are tax-deductible.
Call us at 305-752-4003 or mail a check to H.E.L.P.
Thank you, Barbie
22 October 2010
This update starts with wins on reading from two different 7-year-old students, a boy and a girl.
The boy goes to another school and comes to HELP for tutoring twice a week. Can I say I really like this little guy. He is funny, confident, smart and loves to negotiate awards for various things we do during his tutoring sessions. Though only 7, he has been diagnosed dyslexic for swapping words, adding words and skipping words when he reads. He barely passed first grade. After 20 hours of tutoring, his teacher has noticed an incredible change in his reading skills. Yesterday he read 45 pages to me, perfectly! No mistakes! No additional words! No alterations! (Earned him 4 prizes!) His mother sees the change and signed him up for more tutoring, and wants to keep him on my schedule for the entire school year. Hopefully we can get the label over-turned because, in my opinion, this boy has a brilliant mind.
Next student is a 7-year-old girl enrolled in our school. She failed 2nd grade and had been labeled "disabled" because her reading was such a disaster. This is her first year at HELP and this little girl LOVES our school. Loves her class! Loves her teacher! And loves her new friends! She does her work, participates in class and even took another student under her wing. Her mom cannot get over the change in her daughter's reading. The girl read a whole "Hannah Montana" chapter book, out-loud and needed no help from her mom. This is basically a miracle for this family. Another note: This family lives an hour away and have made a major sacrifice to get this girl the help that she needs. I am very glad they are making the daily commute. The girl is smart and deserves to be educated!
July 22, 2010
I just had a visit from 2 school psychologists.
One man said that he just had to come shake my hand as he ran into the mother of a boy he used to counsel.
The boy had been arrested and expelled from school when he was 11 years old. The man lost touch with this family two years ago. Yesterday, by chance he ran into the boy's mother. The woman told him "my son is doing much better as we found a miracle." She went on about how H.E.L.P. Miami worked with her son and even asked her to see a medical doctor to get him off the cocktail of meds he was on. The woman said that her son has been at H.E.L.P. for nearly two years and is FINALLY making progress.
The psychologist came in to see me and told another psych to drop in. So here I am in my office and get these gentlemen to agree that medications are NOT the answer and that kids are being grossly mis-handled and mis-labeled for ADHD. After a brief discussion about the school and how I got started, one of the men asked for a job....(not really hiring psychs at this time but...).
Anyway, the counselors want to send me more kids and have an appointment for me tomorrow with a boy having a hard time in 10th grade. I gave both men copies of "Marketing the Madness" and they said that they may come back for more DVDs.
AND they are going to invite all the school counselors/psychologists of the local public schools to my next school fund-raiser.
I say BRING IT!
I will start this email out by saying I really need to expand HELP Miami so we can take on more kids. In the past week, I have personally interviewed a dozen or so parents and students who have been prescribed medications due to poor grades in school. One teenage boy was so drugged that he could hardly speak. Another child was taken off the meds by his parents after he started picking at his skin and removed all of his eye lashes...the doctor told the mother that this was a common side effect to the popular ADHD medication. Another girl was put on bi-polar medication at the age of 5 because she was "difficult in school." Her parents took her off the medication years later as the medication made her "zombie-like." These families were all normal, everyday families with regular kids. I even had a public school teacher come to me frustrated with the system. In her opinion, actual teaching has taken a backseat to labeling, as per her, teachers are required to fill out weekly or bi-weekly evaluations on their students. Also consider that a local therapist sends me teenagers often because she does not want her clients on medication and knows that our school is the only school that will support her on this.
When did teaching A-B-Cs become so complicated? Who came up with the "brilliant" plan to label children for academic issues? I just did some extensive research on ADHD and found that there is not a single valid test available for ADHD or any other number of supposed "disorders" in children. I can say from personal experience that I handled my son's academic problems. It took me two years to get him on track but I did it. Another one of my sons became very rude when he was about four years old. Again, I took care of that issue myself without resorting to meds. I had to actually parent him and love him enough to tell him "No" when necessary and then closely supervise him to keep him in line. It took me a year but he did get through it and he grew up fine.
HELP Miami currently has space for 60 kids. While it is awesome that we service this many kids it is simply not enough. 60 kids is really just two public school classrooms. We need more space! The kids in our community need us to get more space.
And with that written statement my phone just rang and the mall we are leasing from wants to show me a empty space that is twice the size of what we currently have! I think I could take on 40 more kids and still keep the program personal.
And now for a nice win: I had a high school boy come sit in my office and tell me that HELP Miami is by far the best school he has ever attended. This boy comes from a wealthy family that can easily afford Miami's best private schools and private tutors. This kid attended these high profile schools, which ended up labeling him "learning disabled." After a few years on ADHD medication, which did not work, the family hired private tutors to get him through middle school. He enrolled at HELP Miami three years ago and will graduate soon. Per the parents, this boy totally changed with our program. His academics were handled due to the insistence and care of his high school teacher, Nancy, and he participated in our Improv Comedy Group, as well as formed our first ever rock band. The boy thanked me for creating this school and even went so far to acknowledge my parenting skills after he became best buds with my teenage boys. He says that we should not change a thing about the school because it is awesome the way it is.
Thank for reading the data and rant. :)
April 9, 2010
High school reports cards were just issued and this was very good news to a certain 9th grader. August 2009 Academic tests had confirmed what the student already told us at the beginning of the year, she was WAY behind. At 15 years old, she tested out to be only in the 6th grade. Of course she had been labeled in grade school, and as with most labels, she was on 3 different types of medication at the same time! (Who would give a 9-year-old an anti-depressant and two drugs for ADHD?) A-N-Y-W-A-Y... her family got her off the meds and last summer they found H.E.L.P. Miami. Can I just say that this girl is doing so much better. She looks brighter, has friends, does her work and on this last report card got all "A's" and "B's" in academics and conduct. Per her most recent standardized test, she is now at a 9th grade level!!!!! Which means in just 7 months we have caught her up to grade level. In all fairness, we are not out of the dark yet, as we do need to get her up to and through Algebra, BUT we are heading in the right direction and frankly we probably saved this young girl's life.
Another high school boy finally got a report card win-he has gone up 4 grade levels this year! This boy has been with us for three years and it has been a bit rocky. He too had been labeled, medicated and "convinced" he could only do so much. His test scores were a roller-coaster ride of highs and lows for 2 years... BUT this year he "CLICKED" and it shows in his work. He is not an "A and B" student but he is no longer a "D and F" student either. His test scores are no longer "roller-coastering" but are steadily improving. He started the year testing at a 6th grade level and is now at a 10th grade level after all subjects are averaged. Again, there is still a lot to be done in terms of fulfilling graduation requirements but he is making improvements and now actually LIKES school.
February 2, 2010
This week's win is about 7-year-old Rafael. Rafael has been in our school for about two years. Prior to coming to HELP Miami, Rafael had been labeled with "speech delay" at age 4, and despite having a personal speech pathologist, Rafael made little headway. Per his father, Rafael only mumbled and was impossible to understand. Needless to say his schoolwork suffered. The only "solution" offered for this boy was labeling and medication, which in my opinion is no solution at all, as it does not SOLVE anything.
Rafael enrolled at our school and was put on the entry level of the Applied Scholastics™ Reading Program. (My teachers LOVE this program and SWEAR by the results.) Rafael started with letter sounds and simple assignments. He made much progress his first year BUT his teacher (the wonderful Wanda) thought that Rafael should repeat the same program just to re-enforce his gains. That was last year. This year Rafael is doing incredible! He no longer mumbles and in fact is very articulate. His reading is catching up and his math scores are right on task. He has become a model student within his group and his teacher loves to brag about him.
His dad was thrilled after a recent family gathering and wrote us about it:
"Since attending H.E.L.P. Miami, my son Rafael has made great progress in many areas. Not only did my wife and I notice his improvements but many friends and family noticed too. In fact, after a weekend gathering they ALL wanted to know, "What happened with Rafael?" My son was talking up a storm, shaking hands and had eye contact with who he was talking too. He was so confident! In public school he made little gains, even with a program designed especially for him with a speech pathologist. Now, in less that half the time at H.E.L.P. Miami, he has made monumental gains and is able to express himself incredibly! His math skills are outstanding for his age. Rafael is very motivated with school, as he considers it "fun" opposed to "work." I fully appreciate this program, not only as a parent but I am a former police officer, so see the impact and value of this program has had on my child. I find the staff to be passionate in what they do and I am very glad they are here for my son. Thank you." R.R.
Well done to Rafael's teachers Sonia (this year) and Wanda (last year)!
And now for a big school-wide acknowledgment! The students of H.E.L.P. Miami held a week of bake sales at the mall where our school is located and raised $443.83 for the Red Cross. The mall manager happened to stop by when the kids were making posters and she requested that we pass out fliers to all the mall stores as well as the people visiting the mall. (What can I say...she LOVES us!) The public and vendors were more than happy to buy treats from our kids and many people donated a few dollars just because it was the right thing to do. Friday was especially fun with outdoor live music and juggling!
And finally, if I had a Bravest-of-Brave Award, it would go to high school students Alejandro and Eric for facing a rather large needle and donating blood for the victims of Haiti. Out of five kids qualified to donate, these boys were the only ones brave enough to do so. Awesome example boys! I hope other teenagers are inspired to do the same.
December 8, 2009
This is a story that starts bad, gets worse then turns out really well! I will call her Alicia but that is not her real name. Alicia came to us a few years ago an utter academic ruin. Labeled, medicated and not doing well. She was in the 8th grade, yet tested about 4th grade level. Her parents knew their daughter was in trouble but Alicia did not see it so bad..."who really cares, it is only school."
Alicia enrolled It was a bit of a rough year (understatement of the century) but she did get almost to grade level. Her parents were very excited at her progress but the teenage girl still saw "no point" and just wanted to go to a regular public school to be with her friends. So reluctantly, the parents took her out.
The first month of public school and the girl ended up in the emergency room with several other girls, as one of their "friends" spiked a soda with some drug. Thankfully all ended up fine. In December the girl stopped by and said hello...this time she hugged her teachers and me and there seemed to be something the girl wasn't saying but she insisted she was doing "okay." Then her dad came in for a chat. His daughter was failing every class in school and no one would help her. The public school principal even suggested that the girl should just drop out, as there was nothing she could learn. I told the dad that if she wanted to re-enroll that we'd take her BUT she would have to REALLY want it. Long story short...Alicia is back! I have never seen her so motivated! "Barbie...can you believe that when I told one of my teachers that I did not understand a word she said "too bad! And the principal told me not to come back!"
Since returning to us Alicia has gone up one full grade level in the first quarter of school but knows that she is far from "out of the woods." The really cool thing is that not only is she taking some responsibility for her education but we discovered a hidden talent that even she did not know that she had!!! She is an amazing artist! She painted a jewelry box for her mother which she could have sold, it was THAT good. Her diagram of a mummy's tomb was awesome and the box she turned into the Titanic won 1st place in the Titanic project at school. (And big secret....I picked her name in our gift exchange and am giving her a tool box full of paint, brushes, fun stickers and other art supplies with a note tucked into one of the little compartments saying how proud I am of her.) By the way, her parents are thrilled!
Well done to Nancy and Adam for helping her out.
Thanks for reading!
October 26, 2009
I cannot believe that the first quarter of school is already over AND that Christmas is just a few weeks away!!! Today I wanted to go over three different successes, as they show three different aspects of the H.E.L.P. Miami program.
First story: A 10-year-old boy came to us last year with a mother desperate for help. The boy had been labeled "learning disabled" because he could not read. Thanks to his teacher, Luisa, and the Applied Scholastics™ Reading Program, he not only learned to read BUT he ended up above grade level! Luisa LOVED this boy and I am sure she would have taken him home! Unfortunately, the family situation changed and the mom had to enroll her son back into public school. The GOOD News is that the mom told me that her son is doing AWESOME in school and got all "A's" and "B's" on his report card.
The next story is from a boy who I tutor on weekends:
Again, mother calls me desperate because her 5th grade son is failing math. The only time I can get with the boy is for a couple of hours on Saturday. I look over his work and once again am reminded of why I do what I do...his lessons do not define terms or give examples that have anything to do with real life. PLUS, the lessons go from simple addition to fractions, mixed with a bit of algebra and geometry, with no sense to the fact that the student has to master one skill before going on to something else. (Quite pointless if you ask me!) Despite all that, in just six hours of tutoring (using a good math dictionary and playing a few games) the boy went from a "D" to a "C" and even got a 100% on a math quiz. The mom is super happy and the boy is now very willing to give up his Saturday morning to get tutored because he considers it FUN!
In my last story I will actually name the student because his mom reads all my emails: Christopher! He is a 13-year-old boy who simply struggles with every aspect of school. We put him through our lowest level reading and math program for two years in a row, with not much academic improvement other than "he now was willing to go to school." This is his third year with us and-OH MY DOG-the boy is ALIVE! He does his work, his homework and helps other students with their work. He reads, writes and does his assignments on time and does them well! He has earned the right to wear the "Star Student" sticker practically everyday, as he has become such a good example to others. His teacher is H.E.L.P. Miami graduate, Nicole, who is doing an awesome job with her kids. We are not out of the woods yet, as he is still behind, but what a change. Well done to Christopher for not giving up!
And now for two commercials! Okay...three commercials!
#1 Buy raffle tickets from me. I am on Adelita's fund-raising team and we want to squash Nancy's team. Tickets are only $1. The prizes are $500, $250, and $100.
#2 We have space in middle school and high school. If you know of a teenager who would benefit from this program, send them our way.
#3 I need a school building donated, renovated, that can hold 250 kids COMFORTABLY, with parking, library, playground, art room, science lab and separate classrooms for each grade level AND I want it in the 33175 zip code.
Thanks for reading,
September, 15 2009
Even though we are only in our third week of school, we have already produced a few miracles. One 14 year old student came to us basically hating the world and everyone in it...especially me. The boy would not even acknowledge my existence or even answer any of my questions. Usually I do not accept this type of student but his parents literally begged for me to take him on. (Plus I found out that his high school boasts to be one of "best" in the area as they have four in-house psychiartrists on campus and adminster only the best medication.) No wonder he "hates the world".
The boy took the entrance exam and completely bombed as he did not care enough to even try. Thankfully, his teacher Adelita, has a gift of handling even the toughest kid. Adelita could calm down Godzilla that is how good she is. Anyway, the boy decided to re-test and it turns out that he actually is pretty smart. I gave him an option...he knocks off "not being responsive and hating the world", you know, GROW UP and if he did that, I'd put him in our high school program. If he could handle the work load, he may even be able to graduate early. He made the right choice and has been in high school for three weeks, has done ALL assignments and is beginning to participate. I am personally tutoring him on a weak area in math and we have somewhat bonded...he even asked me for more of one type of math problem to ensure that he really had it. His dad came in to see me and says that they have a completely new child. His son is EAGER to get to school and actually said that I have helped him in math. Per the dad, the boy even dropped hanging out with a "known trouble maker". The parents just cannot get over the change and I am glad it is working out. I like this boy.
22 June 2009
It is not everyday a psychiatrist calls to thank me for helping his 12-year-old child have the best school year of his young life...but it happened. The boy came to us in the fall of last year, very shy, unfocused and certain he was "disabled" for life and unable to learn much. As a matter of fact, the boy actually IS disabled, but I took him on, as he seemed willing to at least try and really did not like his current school.
I was told by the child's mother that he did not like to write and often wanted to "lay down" in class, which is really not an option as we are after all a school and students must sit up in class as well as exhibit good handwriting skills. Period. And with firm but gentle daily reminders, the boy started writing clearly and sitting properly. I even hired a college student part time just to sit with this child to keep him on task. (The girl was so effective that she changed her college major to specialize in Special Education...Well Done Amanda!)
Just seven months later the boy has improved so much! He no longer needs a "private tutor" to help him with school work, his handwriting is neater and easy to read, he beat the other kids in middle school in a 50 states and capitols quiz AND he even put on a magic show in front of the other students of the school. At one point one of his magic tricks went REALLY wrong so he smiled and calmly asked everyone to close their eyes!....How BRILLIANT is that! (So much for shyness!)
The really awesome thing is that the boy now has a group and knows he is a vital part of this group. Though he is still behind academically he did advance three grade levels, which is a whole other "unexpected outcome." His father called me saying that his son's report card "made his day!" The man asked me what I did, which mainly was not treating the boy like he was handicapped! In his previous school it was "understood" he had horrible handwriting and it was "known" that he could not sit in a chair...ALL baloney if you ask me! I mean if Helen Keller can learn to read and write... Anyway, I am glad this family got a win. They deserve it.
H.E.L.P. Miami is fast becoming the SOLUTION for several children in our area. I am tutoring a boy who was referred by family court, I have students sent from therapists when families refuse medication, and just now a woman called because a local psychologist recommended our program for her two children. H.E.L.P. Miami is staffed with teachers and tutors who have the "I will teach you to read come hell or high water" attitude. We are successful because we are trained by Applied Scholastics™.
March, 13, 2009
I got into education because my oldest son was going to be labeled, which I refused to have happen. (If you knew my son you'd be shocked, as Damon was smart, focused, well mannered and just cute beyond words....he still is all of those things.) If Damon was being targeted, then I knew other kids like him...NORMAL kids were being targeted too.
Anyway, years ago I took on a TV reporter's nephew. He comes from a financially secure family (father is a doctor) and had attended only the best private schools in the area. Unfortunately his academics were not improving and his behavior began to be an issue. Parents enrolled him at H.E.L.P. Miami for the 6th grade, which he completed to a good result. However, the REAL improvement did not hit until the 7th grade where he ended up testing above grade level, doing so well that we put him in with our high school group. He still has a few rough edges and he does not use his dictionary nearly enough BUT he has continued to improve. He was just accepted into a private high school and will be on their baseball team. He is super happy. His family is VERY appreciative as we "canceled" his "learning disabilities" and handled the kid. Without us he never would have made it into this new school.
Another child, just enrolled two months ago was told that because she had brain surgery as a toddler, she could not learn. The girl is nine and struggled in school. We put her on a program that she could DO and could WIN at. Yes, it is below level BUT guess what...her mother says that she has learned so much in the last 8 weeks and is SOOOOO happy that she is finally getting it! I would take 100 of these kids! She is sweet, respectful, fun and likes to learn. Another "learning disabled" boy we took on this year has his dad "complaining" that the boy USED to be introverted and quiet but since starting at H.E.L.P. has come out of his shell, talks about the school, talks about his work, shows off his rising test scores and is up an hour early every morning to make sure he does not arrive late. The dad jokes that he wants his quiet life back.
Please keep these stories in mind when you get to the end of this email, where I ask for donations!!!!
And now onto Opera and Rock-N-Roll! Carlos is another boy that the public school did not correctly service. He was labeled and medicated, which stopped when he started at H.E.L.P. Now in High School Carlos stands 6 foot 5 inches and is nearly that wide. He is a BIG boy. He let it slip that he sings opera at home and oh my DOG...we were all over it! Carlos lost his dad to an illness a while back and his mom is the only supporter of him and his equally large twin brother. I knew the mom probably could not afford to finance singing lessons or opera tickets. Sooooo I sent out a few emails AND those emails were forwarded AND not only is Carlos going to his first opera next week BUT he has a "new grandmother" in Peggy, a woman from Miami that has season tickets and will take Carlos to an opera in May. Carlos is SOOOOOOOOO excited! I am too...he deserves this!
And onto Rock-N-Roll. Last school year guitarist, Leo Quintero, gave private lessons to a handful of students at H.E.L.P. Leo is familiar with the study methods of L. Ron Hubbard so made sure the students knew musical terms AND can use the data. The kids then started teaching other kids how to read music and play guitar. This activity has led to a rock band! Every Friday band members bring in their drums, amps, keyboards and so on to jam out for the weekend. This is perfect as the school is empty plus the large windows allow mall public to see the kids performing. I LOVE having the school being utilized like this! (Maybe I can find a few vampires that want to teach phonics all night!)
And now it is your turn. We need to expand as I am really limited on space. Your money helps us get furniture, train staff, buy supplies and so on. If you like what we do, send us some m-o-n-e-y!
Thanks for reading!
February 3, 2009
Much to write about! Our high school kids took their third round of academic tests this year and the results are stunning! We have a handful of juniors and seniors testing at a college level. The kids were super excited. They should be...they have been working hard.
One mom made it a point to come see me after getting her teenager's report card. Her daughter has a very rough academic history. She was also acting up at home and both parents were a bit desperate.. The girl started at H.E.L.P. Miami this year in the 11th grade and the parents noticed a change right away...."My daughter actually talks to us! She goes on and on about what she did in school and I do not have to wake her up in the morning as she is ready to go." The mom was absolutely glowing; she looked so good that I commented on it. Her response, "I know! My friends and family say that I look younger too! I think I've lost a few wrinkles, as my life is so much better! I really cannot believe the change in my kid!"
And may I say that I would take 100 of these girls! She is cute, funny, creative, bossy and has a new hair color every other month...what is not to love! Plus she absorbs data and puts it to use! Both of her science projects received 1st Place in our science fair. Whoever said that this girl was a "problem" should be taken for a long walk, and kept away from kids because clearly they do not know how lucky they were to have her in their class! Oh well...their loss is my gain! I LOVE this girl.
At H.E.L.P. we really take into consideration the individual interests of each of our students. What do they want to do to earn money? Where do they see themselves in 10 years? Yolanda is 11 years old and a fashion diva. She has outfits in every color of the rainbow and many are covered with glitter. She is fully accessorized with beads, bracelets and scarves too. It is no wonder that she is pursuing a future in the field of beauty. Her mom gets an A+++ for supporting this endeavor by doing something most mothers would never do!!! She let Yolanda give her a haircut! Oh my DOG! And it came out great! Now THAT is love...I would NEVER let any of my kids near me with a pair of scissors...but good for her!
Quick shout out to Fran Morrison for sending us another box of books from California! The kids really like them!
Thank you to everyone who donated to H.E.L.P. Miami in 2008! Your support in terms of books, DVDs, plane tickets and cash has helped us have our best delivery year to date. I really appreciate it! One my donors called me with a great idea of getting people to make monthly pledges to H.E.L.P. Miami. So I put together a fun game in a martial arts theme as I feel like a "fighter" every time I come across some kid failing in life due to an unworkable education system. You can join the fight by pledging a monthly donation (charged to your credit card the 5th of every month). Details are as follows:
Be Part of the H.E.L.P. Miami NINJA SQUAD
$10 per month ($120 per year) H.E.L.P. Miami Kick Boxer
$25 per month ($300 per year) H.E.L.P. Miami Black Belt
$50 per month ($600 per year) H.E.L.P. Miami Kung Fu Master
$100 per month ($1200 per year) H.E.L.P. Miami Ninja Warrior
$200 per month ($2400 per year) H.E.L.P. Miami H.E.L.P. Miami Samurai
$300 per month ($3600 per year) H.E.L.P. Miami Wizard of Justice, Courage, Endurance and Strength
Feel like being a BLACK BELT? It will cost you just $25 a month. Want to be a WIZARD of JUSTICE...now that will cost you a bit more, but totally worth it. I will come up with some super-cool certificate to acknowledge your participation. All donations are tax deductible and you can do whatever is easiest for you. At the end of 2009, I will check to see if you are in for 2010 and if anytime along the way, you have to drop out of the Ninja Squad, I will totally understand and your credit card will no longer be charged.
Thanks for reading.
Thank you to Fran Morrison for another box of books from California! The kids love them! Thank you to Sandy Cruz getting her coworkers to help provide gifts for a little girl's birthday! She was so happy and her mom was thrilled that she was able to host a party for her daughter. (Just wait until this family sees what we pulled together for Christmas! They will flip!)
And finally.... H.E.L..P. Miami is a non-profit organization. Your end of the year donations are a welcome gift that allows us to do more for the children in our community. Thank you!
Student that "cannot learn" wins at HELP Miami! 9 July 2008
Summer school has been in session for just four weeks and in that time H.E.L.P. Miami has done what 10 years of schooling could not for one of our students... we got a him to learn. (And oh my DOG...it was sooo simple!) I met this 10th-grader in June. He had failed the grade, which was just another loss in a chain of educational upsets. When he was younger, he was labeled and medicated against his will and his academics and attitude got worse. So here is this hopeless teenager in my office being "ordered" to summer school and not very happy about his situation. When I asked him and his mother why he was put on medication their answer was that he was "bored in school." (Can you imagine...a 10-year-old boy...bored...in school...being the basis of a "mental disorder"?) Anyway, the boy has struggled and struggled and now is being held back because he failed a class. He tested out around 5th grade in most of his subjects and was put on a study program addressing grammar and English (the class he failed). The end of his first week in summer school, he came into my office and said that he FINALLY understood Shakespeare! The second week he cleared up misunderstandings in grammar and handled a few things in math as well. This week he retested and has gone up three full grade levels in reading and language arts! He says he is learning...ACTUALLY learning! And get this...he is having fun! OH MY DOG! A STUDENT LEARNING SOMETHING AT SCHOOL...THAT'S CRAZY!!! Anyway, he is happy and so is his mother!
A note from Barbie Rivera 13 May 2008
Just two weeks ago a family came to see me with their teenage daughter. The girl is a real cutie-pie but very frustrated over her academic difficulties. The parents had tried everything and every school. At one point, the girl had been on a high dose of Ritilan but it caused heart problems so her mother took her off. Anyway, I sit with the girl and her parents and find out that the kid really did want to learn but really did not have any clue on HOW to do this. The girl wants to become a fire fighter yet told me that she really does not like to "do any work." In fact, her previous schools all complained that the kid just did not do school work. I kindly pointed out that her career choice was not for the meek and lazy AND that should my kitty ever get stuck in a burning building, I may need CPR if she was the one who was in-charge of the rescue! The girl ended up enrolling in the school even though there are only a few weeks left to the year. In just a week and a half the girl has become part of weekly debates, has joined our acting group and has taken on the role of a lawyer in a mock trial to be held this Friday. Her test scores were low, which is no surprise but she is responding super well to the attention she is getting. Her mother spoke to me yesterday and said, "I have a completely different child! She is so talkative and happy! She talks about the school all day and says that she wants to get her scores up and thinks that she actually CAN do this! I wish I would have found you when she was five years old!"
And another story that shows how much we care about our students. Adelita, the lead middle school teacher, noticed that one of her teenage students was really down. Adelita asked the student, Carlos, what was going on and the boy said that it had been exactly one year since his father passed away and he was sad but decided that going to school would be better than staying at home. Adelita got with Luisa (another teacher) and came up with a plan. Luisa came to Adelita's class and in front of everyone said that she needed help with her kids. Adelita chose Carlos be Luisa's "assistant for the day". Carlos did phonics flash cards, played games, helped with math and even did an art project. He was very willing to help and the younger students liked having him as a guest tutor. At the end of the day Carlos realized that Adelita made him an assistant to try to cheer him up and gave her a huge hug! (And I do mean HUGE; the boy is about 6 feet 4 inches tall!)
Thanks for reading!
Barbie Brown Rivera
A note from Barbie Rivera 7 April 2008
Subject: H.E.L.P. Miami & Visit from Psychologist
Okay, by now anyone who reads my updates should know very well that I have an "attitude problem." I never consider myself to be "nice," as I prefer to be effective, and the two concepts do not always mix. So here I am tutoring a kid in my office when into HELP walks a woman with her four teenagers. She had read about our program on www.elearnaid.com (an online dictionary store that has a page about H.E.L.P. Miami on it) and wanted to enroll one daughter in our program. I can hear the woman outside my office telling Tamara her story. Turns out that the woman is a psychologist and had adopted several children, who she promptly had labeled and put on meds. She was talking about these kids as if they weren't there...except they WERE there and could hear everything she was saying. "This one is horrible in math so she is on (name of medication)", "This one struggles in reading so is on (name of medication)", "This one just doesn't listen..." and on it went. The lady was fully aware of the side effects of the meds and said that the kids did not like the pills because they made them sick. Plus all the kids are doing horrible in school and none of them looked too happy to have their "difficulties" spoken of in front of strangers.
Clearly this woman was in need of a "reality adjustment" so I gladly gave her one. I started in by pointing out that her kids were RIGHT HERE and that I considered it not very professional for a trained psychologist to talk about her children like this. If as a professional you respect the privacy of your patients you should then extend the same courtesy to your own children...HELLO!
Next came her theory that all of the children were "learning disabled" and had various "attention disorders". In my opinion, if a child is TRULY learning disabled they could not learn and could not retain information. If these kids did fall into that category, they would not know how to dress themselves, use a cell phone or be able to send text messages. If the child can focus six hours playing a video game without interruption, there is nothing wrong with his attention. And to the best of my knowledge, there is no pill that guarantees a person will learn math, reading or any other subject. If the medication "was a real solution," her kids should not feel sick and should not be doing poorly in school.... HELLO AGAIN!! Does it not occur to someone that the difficulty in understanding math lies in knowing the meaning of the terms used in math? Or the child who struggles in reading may have not had a strong phonics foundation? I told the woman and the kids that unless they can properly define terms they will fall short on fully grasping the subject. I told the woman that I would not embarrass her by demanding that she give me dictionary definitions of words like, "fractions, decimal, comma, etc." but that when I tutor someone that is the approach that is taken. I let the lady know that problems with study are handled with dictionaries and practice (NOT medication) and that there are no harmful side effects to using a dictionary! HEL-LO said at the top of my lungs, with my hands on my hips while rolling my eyes!
Finally, I addressed the "poor behavior" she mentioned by saying that behavior is and always will be a true reflection of the way the child is being raised. Unfortunately, there is no short cut to good parenting and it is definitely not a spectator sport. (After spending just five minutes with the lady, I was feeling a bit "disordered"...her poor kids have to put up with her long-winded evaluations and excuses all day!)
By the time I finished the woman was a bit squirmy in her seat but the kids were all sitting at attention and had smiles on their faces. Honestly, I thought I'd never see this lady again as her hair was standing on end. Guess what? A few days later she came back and has since enrolled two of her girls in our summer program! Now hopefully the mother is seeing a qualified pediatrician about the medication issue, as it needs to looked into, especially if the kids feel sick. At any rate, the girls are super excited about starting and from my brief meeting with them I think they are going to do really well. I may even make an ally of the mom and we can help more kids like hers.
Thanks for reading!
4 April 2009
H.E.L.P. Miami just passed the million-dollar mark in state funds received to help students that were labeled/medicated due to poor performance in public school!! We have helped literally hundreds of kids in our school or tutoring programs overcome their academic difficulties and become successful students.
Well done to the team: Tamara, Nancy, Adam, Carolina, Nicole, Luisa, Wanda, Adelita, Jason and Marcus!! You guys ROCK!
A note from Barbie Rivera 5 March 2008
There is so much going on at H.E.L.P. Miami and it will be impossible to relay it all. But here is some good news:
Photography has been added to our curriculum! Once a week, a professional photographer, Fransico Gonzalez, comes in with equipment and holds a class for our future photographers. The students LOVE this class because it a complete hands-on activity. Francisco gives a lesson on one aspect of photography and the kids then get to work on that aspect. Thanks to modern technology, their pictures can be viewed instantly on Francisco's laptop and their work critiqued. This week Francisco's class is taking school pictures and all of our students and staff are getting professional portraits taken. Thanks to the mall management (who LOVE H.E.L.P. Miami) we were given an empty mall space to use at no cost for this week's pictures!
Speaking of the management at Miller Square Shopping Center where H.E.L.P. Miami is located, we are well liked and admired. In fact the mall does not want to lose us, as per the manager, "Barbie, everything about your school has been a plus! We see that you are totally full and we are looking at how we can accommodate your needs, PLEASE do not move yet!" H.EL.P. Miami brings over 100 people to the mall weekly, which benefits our fellow mall tenants.
The general look of our place is that of interested kids in a very busy atmosphere and this catches attention of people walking by. In fact a gentleman from NBC television, who happened to be at a lunch meeting in the mall, came by a few days ago. He wanted info about what we are doing and our program; he got his info and was impressed. The same day a gentleman from an African-American non-profit stopped by because he wants to put a literacy program (like ours) into churches across South Florida.
And as a result of a very thorough public relations campaign at the mall, H.E.L.P. Miami has received over $20,000 from Publix, WalMart and Target! The little bags of chocolates or home-baked blueberry pies that I pass out go a long way in making firm relations!
Here is one story that started off rough and is turning into a win: A few months ago a woman enrolled her children at H.E.L.P. Miami, as they were doing horrible in school and horrible at home. Poor grades and daily fights were the usual and the mom was at her wits end. Both kids had been on various medications for years but their behavior did not change. During a rather heated discussion on the subject of using drugs to modify behavior, the woman literally screamed at me, "The doctor's are right! The kids need medication to learn and to behave!" I pointed out that if that were true, that her children should be A+ students and be best of friends since they had been on medication for years! After that exchange I honestly did not think the family would put the kids in the school. But as it turned out, the pediatrician and the parents came up with a plan and the kids were taken off the medication. Three months later the younger child made the H.E.L.P. Miami Honor Roll with all "A's" and "B's." Both children are doing well in their academics and the mother says that home life is so much better. I have had a few family meetings with the kids and the mom to help with mild issues to a good result. The mom is now becoming outspoken and is taking action against the prior school for insisting on meds in the first place. The mother had me do a study skills lecture to her private tutor so that the tutor would use the same techniques from home. The tutor notices a HUGE change as well and says that there are no more panic attacks when something comes up that is not immediately understood.
So, well done to Nancy and Luisa too, as they have the children of the woman in their class. The kids LOVE their teachers.
Last minute win...this past January the high school students performed their first ever Improv Show. The kids were awesome and totally entertained the audience. One girl in particular stood out with her fast talking, hilarious body language and over the top energy. Her parents were literally floored with how well their daughter performed and how funny she was. That night the father approached me and said he was going to look into acting for his daughter AND to make a long story short...Shirin is now up for a part in a Disney sitcom! Fingers crossed that this goes right for her!
And finally, to all of the staff of H.E.L.P. Miami (Tamara, Adelita, Wanda, Jason, Carolina, Danny, Jenny, Luisa and Nancy)...not a week goes by without some student drama and you all handle it well. The miracles that you produce and the lives that you save everyday make this group a thrill to be part of! As our theme song goes..."We Are Fam-I-Ly"...thank you so much for doing what you do.
A note from Barbie Rivera 29 Jan 2008
High school students had the shock of their lives when they discovered that, as part of an
economics lesson, they actually had to put the data to use and 'think' with financial
planning. High school teacher, Nancy, and her sidekick Danny (assistant tutor) came up
with an awesome assignment where the high school students will have pretend jobs,
spouses, kids, pets, the works. Nancy and Danny held a series of games/raffles to
determine salaries, careers and husbands and wives! The kids groaned but were laughing,
especially when they discovered that they had five kids to feed. Nancy handed out the
project guidelines and my son Michael (now a single parent of four) said out loud, 'I am
a single parent! Why should I have to do all this stuff?' This is really hilarious as I AM a
single parent and have four kids so I called out from my office and offered the students
skateboards, guitars and tickets to see Iron Maiden in concert...actual items that I recently
bought for Michael. He seemed to get the point. My other son Adam is suddenly married
with five kids but as he is a millionaire rock star, he is not worried about finances; he is
just complaining about his wife...he is married to Shirin!! Anyway, the kids broke up into
their 'families' and using real estate magazines discovered how much housing costs.
They go on line to price insurance and cars and other items. The kids were a riot. In one
example, when my 16-year old son Michael returned to my office to find out how much
groceries for four children cost his eyes nearly popped out of his head. I explained that
not only do I feed my own kids but I feed the pets AND the weekend kids that spend the
night too PLUS the cost of pizza delivery, etc...At this point Michael decided that his kids
were not allowed to have pets or friends and no one will eat pizza AND his kids will not
want to see Iron Maiden in concert, as by the time the kids are old enough the members
of Iron Maiden will most likely be dead. The project is on a time line and will take the
kids to end of the school year...just wait till the Nancy-induced hurricane hits or a mother
in law has to move in due to an illness!!! I will keep you posted on the results!
A note from Barbie Rivera 28 Nov 2007
This week we wrapped up our first quarter tests with many good results.
HUGE win for a little guy that has been with us for 3 years. This kid was told that he could not learn and was impossible to manage. Medication was prescribed to address his situation but the meds offered no change. When he arrived at HELP Miami he had already decided that school and people were not for him. This boy could not read, write or do much math and he struggled with academics. He was only in the second grade and was "done with life!" He got off to a rough start at HELP, as he would become easily frustrated with simple tasks, and more than once his mom had to come pick him up due to anger issues. Rather than give up, we persisted and he slowly began to calm down, but he still took a loss whenever he was tested because he never scored higher than a Kindergartner. This school year this "tough boy" has become one of my morning assistants and helps turn on lights, take out trash and so on. He loves to attend morning meetings and offers advice for running the school (like doing away with all forms of testing.) I pay him weekly with cool stickers or a hip pencil. His tutor, Luisa, has him on our new Applied Scholastics™ Reading Program and he is doing well. Today I called him into my office to tell him he has done the impossible...every subject that he was tested on went up! He actually did not believe me so I showed him that he had finally tested higher than a Kindergartner and has a second-grade academic level, with third-grade marks in reading and math. This is a major, MAJOR win for this boy and his family! Now he has hope of catching up! Well done to him and well done to Luisa for hanging in there...I think you saved this boy's life!
A note from Barbie River 18 Oct 2007
This week's story is about one of my most favorite people on the planet...a student named Jose! Jose is a complete success story. He was an orphaned child with many physical issues. When he was a baby, Jose pulled in an awesome foster mother who ended up adopting him. We met Jose when he was 12 and unable to read. The experts told his mother that Jose would never be able to function above a kindergarten level but the mother refused to believe it. Long story short, Jose has been at HELP Miami for almost four years and can now read, write, do math, write book reports and is one of my hardest working kids in high school. Well last week Jose turned 16. He made it clear that he did not want to come to school on his birthday (as if it should be declared a national holiday) AND he most definitely did not want his teacher and I to DO anything. Well asking Nancy and I NOT to do something is an invitation to TOTALLY do otherwise. And we DID otherwise!
Jose came into school and found that we crammed his study area with blowers, horns, silly string, streamers and bubbles. We bought Jose a very cheesy "Birthday Crown" and told him that he be sent to the office if he took it off...hee-hee. I got all the high school students paper Spiderman masks, which turned out to be quite the hit and many wore their masks the whole day. Before morning classes began, the staff would break out singing "Happy Birthday to Jose" every time a student entered the school...it was kind of like an annoying doorbell. Right after roll call we had a special "High School Story Time!!!" Nancy read a really bad rhyming poem she wrote for Jose, "Hey, hey Jose! It is your birth-day! Elephants are gray! Hey, hey..."
and I read a book that I wrote about how Jose LOVES math, drives a super cool sports car and brings treats to school for all the staff. Tamara bought a phonics book and changed the words to make Jose the main character. Jose kept his head covered during most of this but was laughing! We noted that he did not take down one single decoration during the day, and per his mother, he couldn't wait to show off his books and poem to his family and friends after school.
And since I am talking about Jose, I want to throw in a very warm acknowledgment to his mother Luisa, who started working at HELP Miami a couple of years ago and who is an awesome teacher. She goes the extra mile with the kids and really makes school fun. Luisa trained up on our new Applied Scholastics™ Reading Program and the kids just LOVE it! Thank you Luisa for bringing us Jose and for doing an incredible job as a mother and as a teacher everyday.
A note from Barbie Rivera 3 Oct 2007
This week we had an unexpected visit from a social worker concerning one of our students that is in foster care. Medication is pretty much mandatory for children in the foster care program but the foster parents in this case refuse to medicate, which is causing many waves within the system. Anyway, a social worker comes by to check us out and see how her assigned foster child is performing. This woman saw the child working and laughing in her group.
When the girl saw the social worker, she jumped up and brought over a few workbooks to show off. The woman commented on all the happy faces and stickers which made the child just beam! The woman was VERY impressed so began asking me questions about the HELP program. She told me that HELP Miami is only organization that she knows of that promotes a drug-free education. (Like seriously...we are the ONLY school in South Florida that does not label and medicate kids.) She further commented that the way we talk to kids is very positive too. (Meaning we treat children with respect and think that they matter.) Then under her breath, she says that she really does not believe in medicating kids but does not know what else to do. So I gave her a heart-to-heart talk on how we as adults must take action. I gave her some information and a DVD to watch for homework. She is recommending other clients to me and I may take on tutoring her child too as the kid is having trouble learning to read.
A note from Barbie Rivera Sept 2007
This week we enrolled a young girl who is in the Miami-Dade foster program. Her parents have been absent since she was 4 years old. Unfortunately, most foster children are put on mandatory medication and this girl was no exception. Lucky for her she has foster parents that are alert and aware enough to research medication. The medication that this girl was prescribed was for seizures, something that the girl did not suffer from. The foster parents insisted that she be taken off the medication and they succeeded.
However, the pressure from the "powers at be" to medicate was still very strong and there was at least one teacher that refused to teach the child if she was not medicated first. The parents were told, "Why do you care so much? She is just a foster child." All that is going on is that the girl cannot read and prints some letters/numbers backwards. The foster parents held their ground and refused medication. The girl was then transferred to a "behavior class" full of children with severe emotional problems. The girl did not react very well to the change, and because the parents still refused to medicate, this 8-year-old girl was Baker Acted1 (which means she was taken by force to a local psych ward.) Can you imagine?...I mean this girl maybe weighs 60 pounds and is taken by force!? Per the foster mother, the hospital offered to keep the child until she was 18! The foster parents got her out of the psych ward and took her out of the "behavior school." As the child receives state funding for her education, the mom began searching for private schools that were against labeling and drugging children and she found H.E.L.P. Miami. The girl has been here for almost a week now. There have been no "episodes," no "drama" and no "upsets." She has made a few friends and loves her teacher (who herself adopted a boy via a foster
program.) The girl's handwriting has straightened out and her letters and numbers are neat and printed correctly. The girl is very happy, as is the mother, who is working out enrolling her other children at H.E.L.P. Miami too.
Next was a visit from a licensed psychotherapist. This man is both a teacher and a therapist who has had it with the drugging of children. He quit working for a psychiatrist, as medication was the only "solution" offered to the youth that were being serviced. The man thinks that labeling and drugs are a moneymaking industry that is destroying our future. Why is he so outraged? His own son has been labeled. I met this kid and he is sharp...probably sharper than many adults and asks awesome questions. He wants to know EVERYTHING and WHY and HOW but he is 8 years old and cannot read. Per the father, the teacher cannot handle the boy's questions. (I find it refreshing, as he is not a child who could be easily manipulated.) This kid starts tutoring tomorrow and begins full time school next month.
So WOW! It is always interesting to me to put faces with statistics. I hear that children get Baker Acted1 and now I met one. And let me say this, if I put this girl in a room of 10 kids, you would NOT be able to pick her out.
She is actually very pleasant...and she is just 8! Which means that almost anyone could be Baker Acted1. And the little boy that has been labeled is kind of intense but HE is super fast and his communication is VERY smart.
Once he gets a grip of reading and has a few wins with it, I am certain he'll do fine in school.
So this is the part where I ask for money! We are actually almost solvent as an organization. However, our overhead is higher than most schools as we have a low student to teacher ratio PLUS we really go out of our way to service the needs of our students. Right now we need everything from art supplies to Uno card games. Your donations totally help us out. And as it is Halloween, send us $50 and I will send you a handmade ghost for your desk!
Trust me...it is a really cool ghost!
1 The Baker Act is a Florida law which allows a circuit judge, a physician, a clinical psychologist, a psychiatric nurse, a clinical social worker or a law enforcement officer to decide a person should be taken into custody and held for up to 72 hours for a psychiatric examination.
A note from Barbie Rivera August 2007
HELP Miami started the 2007-2008 school year with a BOOM! And even though we have just barely finished beginning of the school year testing, we are getting some really cool wins: I have a teenage girl that started at the end of last year. She should be in high school but only tested out around 5th Grade. She knew she was behind but still responded to help with a major attitude. With persistence and many words defined later, the girl starts the year.... still with the same everybody-stop-bothering-me attitude. As it turns out, this girl tested out really well...not ready for med school, but a huge improvement. So I sit her down and gave her a "What the heck?" talk.
She comes across as a gang member that could care less yet she IS so smart after all! I told her that she tested out very well and that she really could do something with her education. Her face lit completely up and she started to cry. "For real?," she asked. I confirmed my statement and showed her the test results. I did add that the "ghetto look" was not doing her any favors and that she owed herself more than that. That conversation was two days ago. Now this girl looks completely different; she actually smiles. She has some pride and hope and it totally shows.
In keeping with HELP's policy of providing our students with what they need and want, we are adding extra classes! Fridays from 3:15 to 4:30 is Drama/Improv Class. There is no charge for HELP Miami students. This class is for high school kids and is open for a fee to students not enrolled in our program.
Guitar Lessons will begin Thursday from 3:00 to 5:00! Leo Quintero will deliver classes to groups of five kids. As the Thursday class is almost filled, Leo will offer classes other days too as needed. Leo gave a short concert yesterday and the students were impressed. Leo's classes are not free but are open to students not enrolled at HELP. Kids need to be here and have an electric guitar with a few other odds and ends. Call me if you want to participate.
A note from Barbie Rivera Nov 2006
Our students are bright and interested in their academics...realize that 50% of the student body were previously labeled with learning disabilities (learning disorders) in prior schools any many kids were prescribed medication. To see these kids, who were told by "the experts"
that they could not learn actually participating in their education and having wins, is incredible.
Well done to the staff for their dedication to these kids!
I gave a parenting seminar. Before I even started the parenting seminar a man and his wife stood up and told their story..."Our daughter was born 4 months premature and is nearly deaf. School has been a nightmare for her since she was five years old. She started at HELP 2 years ago and I must tell you, we were nervous as the teachers were not certified, the students are put in charge of their education and Barbie does not give homework. This is totally against everything we thought a school should be. But Barbie pointed out that a change was needed and the "certified experts" were not getting a product. Plus, if the school did not work out, we could always take our daughter out. My daughter has been coming to HELP for almost two years and is a completely different human being...I mean totally and completely different! She is so relaxed and happy. She never liked books and now we go to the bookstore weekly to get her books as she reads so much. Just last week, on her own decision, she started to write her first novel. The words that she used to express herself give me chills." (At this point the man started to get watery eyes.)
He went on to tell the parents, "I do not know how this L.Ron Hubbard study philosophy works or why it works, but I can tell you that is does work and is the key to our children's future." Just so you know, this man's daughter had been labeled and told she would be "slow" for the rest of her life. This man's speech then started a chain reaction, with other parents giving their stories as well.
To get in contact with Barbie Rivera, please send us an email and we'll forward it to her.
Pictured above are the HELP Miami tutors, who have been awarded The President's Service Award. The woman in the center with the big smile received a Life Time Award for volunteering over 4000 hours. Well done and thanks! All received certificates, a letter from the President and a pin!