Miami News

NAF steps up for the Latin community

NAF Aspen Challenge

NAF is providing work-based learning opportunities for Latinx students in Miami

NAF has stepped up during the COVID-19 pandemic to support students and families who were victims of unemployment. According to a report by the Economic Policy Institute, the Latinx community experienced an unemployment rate during the pandemic of almost 19 percent, compared to the unemployment rate in the white community of 14 percent. 

This was what NAF aimed to combat when they teamed up with the school district to offer an internship program in Miami where students were afforded the opportunity to learn new skill sets and how to apply them in the workforce. The internship was a paid one, which was much needed for many families since many were victims of furloughs or company closures.

NAF has been serving students in Miami for a while as a nonprofit organization trying to close the unemployment gap for Latinx students. To do this, they provide work-based learning programs to bring students from school to career settings. The organizations has programs in different areas of interest that are relevant to Miami students, including finance, hospitality, tourism, and many STEM fields. 

Serving a total of 112,000 students, 42 percent of whom are Latinx, NAF has 63 academies in Miami-Dade County, which is more than they have in any United States region. One student who graduated from an NAF academy in Miami was a Cuban immigrant, Erich De La Fuente. He started his own international public relations firm after graduating from NAF. 

miami beach aoht southwest - NAF steps up for the Latin community

Now more than ever, this program is important because it teaches students how to adapt to and accept change, according to the head of Miami’s NAF academies Dr. Lupe Diaz. During the internship which occurred during the time where the workforce was changing due to the pandemic, students had the opportunity to experience firsthand those changes and how important communication through technology now is. 

“The world has become much more complex and the future of work has created a need for employees to be creative, independent and exhibit what we call 21st century skill sets,” said Dr. Diaz, who adds that NAF is helping students develop these skills through teachers that are trained in project-based learning. 

Beyond just education, though, NAF is a way for students to feel engaged with their community and acquire a sense of belonging. NAF is more than just a system for education or an organization. It is a family. 

NAF advisory boards work to make sure that family is as best as it can be for students. This includes forming action plans, fundraising, staff development, and more, according to Dr. Diaz. The goal is for students to leave the program with skillsets that employers now believe are crucial to success in the workplace. 

According to Dr. Diaz, such skills include creative thinking, solving problems, and the ability to speak and write clearly.

For students who may be hesitant to join the program, Dr. Diaz insists that students consider the many benefits they can reap from joining NAF. 

“NAF is preparation for College and Career PLUS. The PLUS includes all the opportunities that will become experiences that makes the student marketable,” said Dr. Diaz. 

Some of these opportunities include being introduced to and given the opportunity to network within the business community, scholarship opportunities, community service involvement, and more. 

For more information about NAF visit the National Academy Foundation website.

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