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At UM, Breakthrough Miami Primes Teens for High School Success

Julissa Tello, left, and Wedley Valenbraum learn about anatomy by building skeletons form marshmallows and spaghetti.

Julissa Tello, left, and Wedley Valenbraum learn about anatomy by building skeletons from marshmallows and spaghetti.

By Robin Shear
UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (July 30, 2015) —“I want to see big. I want to see three dimensions. Make it spacious.” Those were the instructions College Bound teaching fellow Robert Harriss gave students in his vertebrate anatomy class as he handed out boxes of raw spaghetti and bags of marshmallows. The youngsters paired up and then dug into the materials, creating everything from human skeletons to fish skeletons.

In its second year at the School of Education and Human Development, the Breakthrough Miami College Bound summer institute brought more than 100 high-achieving students from schools throughout Miami-Dade County to the Coral Gables campus for six weeks of academic enrichment. With participants heading into ninth grade in the fall, College Bound is intended to keep their minds actively engaged and primed for high school success during the break with daily core classes in literature, history, and math, along with electives selected from the majors of their teaching fellow instructors. The teaching fellows are college students from around the nation, and this summer the electives they taught ranged from psychology and anatomy to broadcast journalism.

“It’s a privilege to attend,” said Cameryn Johnson, 16, a former College Bound participant who served as a volunteer for teaching fellow Jessica Ramos this summer. A University of Illinois student, Ramos taught literature and broadcast journalism. Students in her journalism elective had the chance to create a movie trailer, from conception to acting to editing, for a drama about “a nerd and a bully” who ultimately work through their differences and become friends.

The College Bound experience likely had as great an impact on Ramos as it did on her students, several of whom wrote  her letters of appreciation that brought tears to her eyes. “I’m meant to be here,” she said.

The College Bound summer institute is part of Breakthrough Miami’s tuition-free academic program that starts with 5th grade and continues through high school graduation. During the school year, Breakthrough Miami serves over 1,000 highly motivated students from under-resourced communities all over Miami-Dade County at five sites, including the University of Miami.

 

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New Media Workshop Attracts—and Nurtures—New Talent

UM News

Camille Von Simson, rising senior at LaSalle High School in Coconut Grove, focuses on the Everglades for the climate change project.

Camille Von Simson, rising senior at LaSalle High School in Coconut Grove, focuses on the Everglades for the climate change project.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (July 17, 2015)—Within an hour of arriving on campus July 5, the students in this year’s Peace Sullivan/James Ansin High School Journalism and New Media Workshop settled on the issue that would consume them for the next three weeks: how climate change will affect South Florida.

Now more than half way through the residential summer program, many of the students are as passionate about educating their peers about the threat rising seas pose to their futures as they are about pursuing careers in journalism.

“Our research showed that by 2060 sea levels in South Florida could rise 3 to 6 feet, which will affect all of us profoundly,” said Dayany Sotolongo, an incoming senior at SLAM!, the Sports Leadership & Management Charter Middle/High School near Marlins Park in Miami. “I’ve learned more about climate change and the conservation efforts we can take part in to reverse it in these few days than I ever learned in school, and I’m really proud of that.”

Media.Workshop3

Tsitsi Wakhisi, associate professor of professional practice, reviews the photos high school students Alissandra Enriquez and Daniel Saiz took during a photojournalism bootcamp.

Sotolongo is among the 20 students from Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties selected for this year’s highly competitive workshop, which enables students with a strong interest in journalism to live on campus and work with faculty and staff to produce a printed newspaper, Miami Montage, a website, and videos dedicated to a topic of interest to South Florida youth.

In past years, students have explored issues related to homeless and undocumented youth, but this year there was almost immediate consensus about the issue that could have the greatest impact on their futures.

“They were brainstorming about different topics that are relevant to youth in Florida, and climate change quickly emerged as the most relevant,’’ said workshop administrator Steve Pierre, who credits his own workshop experience seven years ago for fueling his passion for journalism and for his current job as a communications specialist in UM’s Department of Human Resources.

“I would not be where I am today without everything I learned during those three weeks,” Pierre said. “Thinking back on it now, I was shy. I had never conducted an interview. I was a decent writer, but I didn’t have much experience or practical skills. I had never even seen some of the equipment we used. I did more in those three weeks than I had done in my entire life.”

Media.Workshop5

Students Phillip Bootsma and Ciro Salcedo, on a simulated photo assignment, collect information about their subject, Mariah Schuemann, Intensive English Program professor.

Now in its 32nd year, the workshop, which is sponsored in part by the James Ansin and the Ansin Family Foundation, WSVN-Channel 7, Peace Sullivan, the Dow Jones News Fund, the Miami New Times, the John T. Bills Scholarship in Journalism Fund at The Miami Foundation, and the Jeanne Bellamy Scholarship in Print Journalism Fund at the Miami Foundation, concludes Saturday with a celebratory luncheon where the students will share their work with their families.

But their opportunities are just beginning. In addition to gaining valuable skills, workshop participants also compete for internships at local newspapers, a $1,000 Dow Jones scholarship, and, through special funding from the Ansin Family Foundation, a four-year scholarship to the University of Miami.

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Global Service

Text by Robin Shear
Photos by Byron Maldonado

Ten University of Miami students spent part of their summer vacation, from June 23 to July 1, helping advance construction of a sturdy house for a woman and her eight children in the village of San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala. To get to the remote site, the students crossed a narrow footbridge suspended about three stories above a river. Their daily physical labor included laying floors and building rebar towers for scaffolding.

“The house was about a third of the way finished when we left,” said Sophia Raia, chair of the UM student group Miami International Outreach, which organized the trip with the aid of faculty advisors and UM’s William R. Butler Center for Volunteer Service and Leadership Development.

The group’s community partner in Guatemala, Friends of San Lucas, supplied the building materials and supports the San Lucas Mission’s many other efforts related to housing, health care, nutrition, education, and reforestation.

It was Raia’s third summer doing outreach in San Lucas Toliman. “By this year, I had learned to speak Spanish proficiently enough that I could have real conversations with the men and women that we met every day,” she said. “It was a wonderful feeling to be able to form real relationships and connections with the families we were building for.”

Raia made sure her group had time to explore the area she’s become familiar with. They hiked, traveled by boat to other small towns surrounding Lake Atitlan, and played soccer and freeze tag with some of the local kids.

“It was awesome because the language barrier for a lot of our students melted away with simple games,” said Raia, a rising senior in UM’s premed/biology program.

Raia’s agenda included time for reflection as well. Each evening she led an exercise she referred to as “the rose of the day,” based on the idea of stopping to smell the flowers and experience the moment.

“I would ask each participant to describe a moment during the day during which something happened that really made them stop and think,” she explained. “This trip was meant to broaden our students’ horizons and also force them to ponder things like poverty and different cultures that they wouldn’t normally think about in their day-to-day lives.”

Launched by Marissa Orenstein, B.S. ’10, M.D. ’14, Miami International Outreach has spent five summers providing services to those in need while immersing UM students in new cultures and environments and introducing them to social issues affecting humanity.

The group’s advisors are Michelle Gonzalez Maldonado, associate professor of religious studies; photographer and UM employee Byron Maldonado, who hails from San Lucas Toliman; and Andrew D. Wiemer, director of the Butler Center.

 

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Students Screen Top Films in Los Angeles, Fill UM with Pride

By Robin Shear
UM News

At Raleigh Studios Hollywood, UM alumnus Paul Orehovec shows UM film students and recent graduates around the set of Major Crimes, the TV series he co-produces with fellow 'Cane Michael Robin, A.B. '85.

At Raleigh Studios Hollywood, UM alumnus Paul Orehovec, far left, shows UM film students and recent graduates around the set of Major Crimes, the TV series he co-produces with fellow ‘Cane Michael Robin, A.B. ’85.

LOS ANGELES, Calif. (June 5, 2015) —From a migrant worker in Beijing to a would-be “Marielito” in Cuba, from hacking computers to “hooking up” in college, the ’Canes Film Showcase offered a wide variety of subject matter and style for the 450 attendees who filled the Directors Guild of America Theater on Hollywood’s famed Sunset Boulevard last Thursday.

The annual event, in its 10th year, showcases five student films selected by judges as the best of the ’Canes Film Festival, held each spring at UM. Those students then get to travel to Los Angeles to mingle with an impressive array of industry professionals and alumni.

“I swell with pride when I see the quality work our students produce,” commented School of Communication Dean Gregory Shepherd after the screening. “The quality is tied to the education they receive and the amazing job our faculty are doing.”

In addition to a Hollywood who’s who that included industry veteran David Isaacs (M*A*S*H, Mad Men), A.B. ’71, actor Dawnn Lewis, B.M. ’82, and director John Herzfeld, ’69, among many others, there were a number of University Trustees in attendance, along with Interim President and Provost Thomas J. LeBlanc, who called the students’ films “fabulous,” citing their “incredible professionalism” and impressive range of subject matter.

The films included Espionage 101, Home, I Want to Beat Up Clark Peters, The Mermaid, and El Mar y Él. Tony Mendez, producer and director of El Mar y Él, grew up in Miami and took his inspiration from his uncle’s tale of trying to leave Cuba in the 1980s. Mendez said HBO Latino has optioned his project in the U.S. and that it is set to be released in October.

The highlight of the showcase came when audience members had the chance to vote via Internet for their favorite film. I Want to Beat Up Clark Peters, about a college guy who seeks revenge after the woman he’s casually seeing starts seeing someone else, won both the City of Angels audience favorite award and the Best of the Fest Award from the professional panel of judges.

Accepting the awards, Joseph Picozzi, the movie’s writer, director, and producer who graduated this spring from the School of Communication, credited his cast and crew of fellow ’Canes, many of whom were in the audience.

“It’s great that people like it. There were some amazing films that also deserve the same recognition,” said Picozzi. “I saw a story that wasn’t being told about the hook-up culture. It’s something all of my friends were going through.”

Picozzi said he plans to move to Los Angeles in July with a fellow ’Cane to pursue his chosen career.

It’s a decision Paul Orehovec, B.S.C. ’02, encouraged as he showed a group of 20 UM film students through the inner sanctum of Raleigh Studios Hollywood, where he has worked for “one third of his life.”

The students had ample opportunity to ask technical and detailed questions, examine advanced camera equipment, and see a working set, thanks to Orehovec, co-producer with Michael Robin, A.B. ’85, of the TV series Major Crimes.

Speaking from his experience of 11 seasons with the studio, Orehovec urged UM students to get out of Miami and give L.A. a shot.

“There’s this excitement about being here, about creating. I highly recommend it. At the very minimum give it a try,” he said. “I learned more in my first year of being here about the way things actually work than can ever be taught in school. You just have to be in it, you just have to see it. It’s an adventure. It’s fun.”

But it’s also highly competitive, he noted. “Out here you’re a small fish. You have to work harder, but the reward is definitely bigger.”

Kenny Langer was one of those inspired by Orehovec’s pep talk. This year was the first time screenplays were judged at the Canes Film Festival at UM, and Langer’s feature-length Villify was the inaugural winner. Langer, who received recognition Thursday evening, is shopping around his script about a closeted teen who agrees to sleep with his best friend’s girlfriend to help break them up. Like Picozzi and several other recent UM film grads, Langer plans to move to L.A. in the coming months. “Here I go!” he exclaimed with a smile.

UM is also going to L.A., noted Dean Shepherd, with its Los Angeles semester program launching in January 2016.

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No Wake Zone: Oceanographer Free Dives into Her Research

Special to UM News

Paris.Free.Dive

UM alumna and associate professor Claire Paris-Limouzy is at the top of her game, as both a scientist and free diver.

MIAMI, Fla. (June 5, 2015)As an associate professor in ocean sciences at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, Claire Paris-Limouzy, M.S. ’87, spends many days observing the minuscule movements of fish larvae in an underwater, drifting laboratory.

But she hasn’t just developed specialized scientific instruments to listen to and observe these important but often unnoticed life forms on the reefs and in the open ocean. She has discovered a unique way to imperceptibly interact with her research subjects in their environment. She uses her competitive talents as a certified free diver to minimize the human intrusion.

“The bubbles from SCUBA disturb the pelagic environment,” said Paris-Limouzy, a native of southern France who spent a lot of time in the ocean as a child.

The Rosenstiel School alumna is at the top of her game, both as a scientist and free diver. She has led numerous groundbreaking studies on larval dispersion and navigation, including one that showed that reef fish larvae can smell the presence of coral reefs from as far as several kilometers offshore, and can use this odor to find their way home. She also found that fish larvae migrate in groups and communicate by emitting sounds.

She has developed innovative scientific instruments and sophisticated computer models to predict how fish larvae, as well as other planktonic organisms and pollutants, are transported with the ocean currents. These tools were used in helping to track the behavior of oil during the Deepwater Horizon blowout, and they continue to be used to simulate the fate of oil, predict oil spill impacts, and optimize the first response to future spills.

A member of the United States Freediving Association, Paris-Limouzy was selected for the Team World Championships in 2014 and for the Individuals World Championships in 2015. She is ranked by AIDA International (Association Internationale pour le Développement de l’Apnée) and holds a Performance Freediving International certification.

Her goal is to promote scientific free diving nationwide through the American Academy of Underwater Sciences with the Rosenstiel School as a frontrunner.

Paris-Limouzy got hooked on the sport after her husband, Rosenstiel School alumnus Ricardo Paris, M.A. ’92, now also her coach, signed them up for free-diving lessons six years ago to celebrate her birthday. Turns out it was the gift of a lifetime.

“Free diving makes you feel one with the environment and promotes a sense of peace and fulfillment,” said Paris-Limouzy, who notes that finding her potential and having no fear of diving deeper have made her a better scientist.

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