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School’s Students Hear Stories of Crisis and Hope as Alumnus Returns to Inspire them to Embrace Community Service

April 19, 2011
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“In my life, I’ve been shot, stabbed, run over, raped, robbed, and through it all I’m still standing.  In the midst of all this, I also was homeless.”

Those were the words from Anita Hill, who visited the School of Business in April to speak with students as part of a program to inspire them to embrace community service. She is a graduate of Project Vacant Streets, founded by Frank Kelly (MBA ’03) and designed to move the homeless off the streets and into the workforce.

“The main person [who] gave me a lot of hope was Mr. Frank Kelly,” said Hill. “I didn’t have any money, and the only reason I was going [to Project Vacant Streets] was for gift cards.  My intentions were not to listen and just get what I wanted and leave, but as this gentleman started talking he taught me how to have confidence in myself.  He taught me how to be a go getter and how to leave lasting impressions.”

According to Kelly, 80 percent of the homeless population in the United States falls under the category of “crisis homeless,” meaning they are capable, talented individuals who are homeless due to difficult circumstances such as financial, personal, or emotional crises.  Kelly engineered Project Vacant streets because he realized the potential of many of the people he interacted with during volunteer work at the Community Partnership for Homeless. 

“The goals were twofold,” said Kelly. “One: help these individuals and give them some support and align them with employers in Miami and two: create national awareness about homelessness and the project,” added Kelly, whose presentation to students was organized by the Ziff Graduate Career Services Center.

Every two months, Kelly and other volunteers host the School of Hope at Miami-Dade’s Community Partnership for Homeless, which operates two Homeless Assistance Centers.   At the first meeting, Kelly uses promotions such as free food and gift cards to attract attendance, and follows the first meeting with five other classes held every other week.  The goal of the event is to teach attendees how to make a lasting impression, how to interview with employers, and to increase their overall employability.

The classes are supplemented with “Job Treks,” where human resource volunteers bring participants to their respective companies and help educate them on the importance of attitude, communication skills, and their external images.  From this process, human resource representatives also have the opportunity to identify potential employees.  The final part of Project Vacant Streets is the final exam, which is a five to ten minute speech given by participants on their progress and the significance of the program for them.The goal of the speech is to allow participants to successfully utilize the skills they acquired in the program in a real world setting.

Today, Anita Hill is working on obtaining her GED and was voted “Rookie of the Year” at the American Airlines Arena, where she currently works full-time.

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