Monday, July 26, 2021
Tom Tracy - Florida Catholic
MIAMI | Returning to the community where he once served as a parish priest, Archbishop Thomas Wenski recently blessed a new community computer lab and technology program at Notre Dame d’Haiti Mission.
Adult and youth computer literacy training will join language literacy programming at the church at a time when developers are hoping to create their so-called Magic City Innovation District in Little Haiti, a future office facility and residential space to support technology and investment jobs moving into the region.
The new computer lab at Notre Dame d’Haiti and its associated Pierre Toussaint Leadership and Learning Center has been named after Carlos Manrique, director of school operations at the Division of Adult & Workforce Education for Miami Dade County Public Schools.
The public school district provided office furniture and the computer hardware for the project while the church provided the classroom space along with new internet and other infrastructure.
“We don’t want a community in which our young people have a broom in their hands all the time: We can be managers, we can be tech guys,” said Father Reginald Jean-Mary, administrator of Notre Dame d’Haiti Mission, who spoke at the July 21 blessing and ribbon-cutting events.
“We are witnessing something that we have been dreaming about for a long time that we thought was impossible, but as we always know nothing is impossible when we are serving God. It has always been a dream of Notre Dame d’Haiti and of Archbishop Wenski that this church will not just be a spiritual community but it can be a lifeline and community center for the people,” Father Jean-Mary said.
“Because there is no way we can build a community without the young people. The essence of this building is not just the facade but what we put in the minds of the people,” the priest added.
On hand for the ribbon cutting was Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, a former Democratic member of the Florida House of Representatives and a District 2 Board Member of Miami Dade County Public Schools.
“Words cannot express what this will provide. We are the keepers of all the people and my Haitian brothers and sisters are hungry for education and this will point them in the right direction,” she said. “It is so needed — everything is done through technology and we are getting ahead of the game for all of the people who may not have had the opportunity to be involved in technology.”
Although most youngsters are acquainted with smartphones and other mobile devices, good jobs often require knowledge of computer-based business applications and computer programming, according Carlena Mitchell, staff specialist with the division of adult and workforce education at Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
“Students need as well computer skills, such as Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel — these are the types of things beyond technology we do with the phone that they might not be knowledgeable about, that you can take out in the workforce and which are required by employers,” Mitchell said.
“If you ever come here on a Monday through Friday these classrooms are absolutely full with students,” she added.
Nyce Daniel, newly appointed principal of Holy Family School in North Miami and also principal of the Miami-based Lindsay Hopkins Technical College, said a partnership with the church to offer adult literacy services at the Pierre Toussaint Leadership and Learning Center goes back a decade.
“For the past nine years we have offered literacy services and social services for adults who never attended school in their country, or who want to learn English to advance. Now we have seen the need in the community for a computer center because they are computer illiterate and very challenged by technology, so adults, young adults and students can come and pay their bills, apply for employment,” Daniel said.
Wallace Aristide, a graduate of local Catholic schools and principal of Miami Northwestern Senior High School, praised Carlos Manrique for his role in making the computer lab a reality.
“His commitment and care for this community is being demonstrated tonight and the work that he has put in to help families and children here in Miami-Dade County is amazing. I think the lab is phenomenal and one of the best-looking labs I have seen and is well deserved at Notre Dame d’Haiti — which is a mecca in this community,” Aristide said.
The occasion also drew a special guest: Bishop Pierre-Andre Dumas of the Diocese of Anse-à-Veau et Miragoane, in Haiti, accompanied Archbishop Wenski to the blessing and dedication.
A recent National Catholic Reporter feature on the Little Haiti area noted that in 2019 developers earned approval from City of Miami commissioners for their $1 billion proposed Magic City Innovation District, a development that could transform Little Haiti, but also speed up gentrification trends there.