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May 18, 2011 / HandsOnCorps

HandsOn Miami: Recapturing the History of North Dade

More than 100 faculty, staff, students, and community residents showed up to North Dade Middle School on the morning of Saturday, May 7th, 2011 to reconnect the schools rich history with the present.  In just a little over four hours, volunteers transformed North Dade, painting 37 murals, building 7 mural benches, and constructing 3 picnic tables.

The four hours of work was the culmination of more than 8 months of planning for the North Dade project.  With the generous support of the City of Miami Gardents, Hands On Miami worked closely with the North Dade Middle PTSA, North Dade Alumni Associations, and North Dade faculty, students and administration to plan the project, settling on a theme that ran constant through all of the project:  to cultivate and preserve the history of North Dade Jr. Sr. High School.

North Dade is a historic school; it opened in 1957 as an all-black Jr./Sr. high school in Miami-Dade County.  It graduated 7 classes before converting to a junior high school servicing grades 6-8.  In 2010, the school facility was abruptly shut down due to structural problems in the original school buildings.  North Dade was forced to move locations twice while the old building was raised, much of the school’s history being raised with it.  Because the school was forced to so quickly abandon much of its history, the PTSA saw this project as an opportunity to recultivate its history and ready it for placement in the new school.    As such, each of the original 7 graduating classes were afforded a mural bench that represented their class.  Additionally, volunteers painted 37 murals from pictures drawn directly out of yearbooks from the original graduating classes, as well as old student newspapers and photographs provided by North Dade alumni.

In all, we used more than 600 man hours, 25 gallons of paint, 1660 ft of wood (almost 1/3 mile), 50 years of memories, and endless determination to recapture the history of North Dade.  Additionally, the contribution of many groups allowed this vision to come to fruition.  The City of Miami Gardens generously provided support for the purchase of materials, the North Dade Middle PTSA contributed motivation and direction, the North Dade Alumni Associations provided their history and memories, the North Dade faculty, administration, and students lended their energy and facility, and Hands On Miami facilitated the project.  The collaboration between so many groups illustrated the true success of the project; showing that the community was able to rally together to create and preserve the history of a historic school for future generations.

-Matt Borden
AmeriCorps VISTA, Community Outreach Coordinator
Hands on Miami

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