Milagro Center Celebrating 25 Years of Service to At-Risk Youth
Today we are privileged to sit down with Barbara Stark, Executive Director of Milagro Center, whose mission is to ensure the social and academic success of underserved children through its Cultural Arts, Living Values, Academic Support, and Mentoring programs AND is celebrating 25 years serving At-Risk youth of Delray Beach on May 21 this year. Friends of Delray: First off Barbara, congratulations on 25 years of success and the positive impact Milagro Center has had on underserved youth in Delray Beach. Can you share with our viewers a little about the beginnings of Milagro Center? Barbara Stark: Thank you so much for allowing us the opportunity to share such a wonderful milestone! Milagro Center originated with the dream and desire of local artists who wanted to provide the at-risk children in our local Delray Beach community with the opportunity to experience art after school. The impact of this creative expression was remarkable. These underserved children who attended this small afterschool program grew in confidence and self-esteem. From there, it’s history.
Friends of Delray: Milagro Center has had a remarkable run of successful programming over the years. What are some of the key programs and services Milagro offers the children? Barbara Stark: Milagro Center has grown over the last 25 years to now serve children entering Kindergarten all the way through their senior year in high school with three separate Centers focused on the individual needs of underserved elementary school (our STARS Program), middle school (Junior Teen Leadership Program), and high school (Teen Leadership Program) youth. Our innovative curriculum integrates cultural arts enrichment – including visual art, musical instrument instruction, dance, and performing arts; academic support provided through small group lessons; and individual tutoring, and ACT/SAT prep courses for our high schoolers (free of charge!); mentoring, and life and career skills – resulting in 100% of our high school teens graduating from high school and 100% grade level reading for our little ones. Our children simply “transition” up through all of our programs until they launch successfully following graduation into college, trade school, or the military.
Friends of Delray: How has the Covid pandemic affected the needs of the community you serve? Barbara Stark: During the height of the pandemic, many of our underserved families became food insecure as a result of job loss or job reductions. In addition, the lack of technology (computers and internet service) impeded virtual learning for the children and teens. During this time, Milagro Center was fortunate enough to partner with many community organizations to provide food (meals and staples) and laptops to our families to enable them to succeed. Friends of Delray: What are some of the challenges facing Milagro Center? Barbara Stark: The need in our community for high-quality afterschool and summer camp enrichment programs far exceeds the availability. Milagro Center has consistently maintained a long waiting list of families wishing to enroll their children in our programs. With our mandated Department of Health enrollment cap, our biggest challenge is expanding and opening additional Centers to accommodate the needs of our families to help their children succeed in school and in life. Friends of Delray: What opportunities are there for the public to get involved with Milagro Center? Barbara Stark: We often say “it takes a village” so we are always seeking individuals, local companies, and organizations to collaborate with Milagro Center to enhance and expand our programs. Adults are welcome to volunteer singly or in groups; those seeking a continuous engagement could consider becoming a Mentor at Milagro Center, meeting one hour per week with a child; fundraising event sponsorships are available for local companies and professional practices; and of course, funding organizations and individual donors are always needed to provide the financial support necessary to maintain and grow the integrity and quality of our programs. Friends of Delray: Milagro Center has a truly remarkable, dedicated staff. Tell us a little about who some of your key staff are and how they impact the lives of the children Milagro serves Barbara Stark: Milagro Center is truly blessed with a remarkable staff of caring educators, professional artists and musicians, and administrative experts, overseen by a diligent Board of Directors. Our STARS Program Director, Mr. Mychael, has an extraordinary background of education and youth program development and oversight. Mr. Anthony has been a driving force of Milagro Center for 7 years now, along with our Teen Leadership Program Director Mr. Andre and Jr. Teen Leadership Program Director Mr. Andre, are all terrific motivators and role models for our middle school and high school youth. We are so proud that one of our past graduates, Mr. Amaru, is now a full-time employee and teacher with Milagro! And Ms. Jennifer, our Director of Volunteers, has assembled and oversees Milagro Center’s more than 70 Mentors who have a resounding and long-lasting effect on our children.
Friends of Delray: Circling back to the 25-year milestone, we understand you have a big event coming up to celebrate this seminal anniversary, can you tell us a little about it? Barbara Stark: We are very excited about this wonderful milestone and we are going to PART-Y! Milagro Center’s “Sip, Sip, Hooray!” 25th Birthday Gala is scheduled for May 21, 2022 at The Loft at Congress and features the entertainment of the Abba cover band “Almost Abba”. We will celebrate all that Milagro Center has achieved over the years and feature several of our “Success Stories” live and in person. A cocktail hour, full dinner service, dancing, silent and live auction are all part of the fabulous program. Tickets are $125 each; and sponsorship opportunities are available. Friends of Delray: Is there a link to the event we can share with our audience? Barbara Stark: We hope you all will visit our website where information and details about our 25th Birthday event can be viewed. Please go to www.milagrocenter.org/birthday and here is the actual website link: Sip Sip Hooray! – Milagro Center Friends of Delray: Barbara, congrats again and thank you and your team for the positive community service Milagro Center has made over the past 25 years, having such a positive impact on our youth here in Delray Beach, all the best!