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Undergraduates Tackle Homelessness in South Florida

May 26, 2010
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StandUp for KidsThirty-six students in the School's Advanced Organizational Behavior course spent the spring semester creating a blueprint to prevent homelessness in South Florida. The students joined forces with Stand Up For Kids, an entirely volunteer driven non-profit organization dedicated to supporting at-risk, homeless and street kids, to execute a real-world project.

After a successful experience with business students in the School's FIRST Step program, Stand Up For Kids Miami, asked students to develop a plan to establish a transitional home for young adults who "age out" of the foster care system. Those in foster care must leave the system once they reach the age of 18 and often find themselves with no place to live.

The student project, titled Home for Good, included 10 different components which students selected to match their interests.  Groups were created to focus on each aspect of the project including project management, accounting, real estate, legal issues, program development, and human resource management.   The goal of the course, taught by Sheryl Alonso, was to  engage students in a project for a real organization using skills they will actually use in the workplace and to provide a planning guide for Stand Up For Kids.

As part of the project, students visited other similar housing programs and conducted case studies and focus groups, which impacted students like Taryn Fessler.

"It's eye-opening to realize the lives of homeless children. After we gathered all the information, we walked away from the experience not only realizing that these teens need a place to live, but also programs and rules that will help them grow into self-sufficient individuals," said Fessler.

Students presented their findings in a presentation at the close of the semester to representatives from Stand Up for Kids including Eddie Ameen, the group's executive director. Ameen says he was pleased with the project's results and welcomed students to continue their participation as volunteer consultants.

"I think the UM students in this class did a remarkable job," said Ameen. "I think it was clearly a project of significance to them. They synthesized the information extremely well and were very professional."


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