Guardian Watch is an initiative by Paul Marino
By R.A. Romero, The Miami Laker staff
The brainchild of a retired police officer turned Guardian Ad Litem and a businessman resulted in the creation of Guardian Watch, Inc. a 501c(3). Guardian Watch was formed in 2013 by business teacher and entrepreneur, Paul Marino, where it began providing educational enrichment, mentoring, tutoring, meals, character development and even transportation to foster and at-risk students in the Northwest Miami-Dade area.
The program focuses on providing services to middle school and sometimes high school students who are in danger of falling behind in school usually due to socio-economic situations. Guardian Watch provides these services completely free of charge, sustaining operations purely through grants and donations. Guardian Watch also gathers high-caliber educators and counselors to offer top of the line resources and mentors for their students.
Marino works closely with Dr. Mara Zapata, chairperson for K-12 Teacher Education Programs, School of Education at Miami-Dade College. Zapata also serves as director of Programs, Development and Integrity for Guardian Watch. Together with highly trained staff members, Guardian Watch provides outstanding services to help students pass their classes.
A total of 90 percent of students in the program passed last semester. The end goal is that the student is self-sufficient. The program also has its own Boy Scout troop to involve students in extra-curricular actives that build interpersonal skills. The staff frequently attends field trips to vocational locations, such as Le Cordon Bleu where the students were exposed to different career paths.
“If someone doesn’t help these kids it’s not just them who suffer, we all suffer as a community, as a society and as a country,” said Marino.
An on-staff psychologist addresses each student’s character and self-esteem development. Counselors and tutors must maintain a minimum equivalent of a state certification in teaching and a Jessica Lunsford level two background check.
Tests are administered to incoming students to determine their academic and social strengths and weaknesses. A comprehensive Individual Educational Plan (IEP) is then developed to address each case. In many instances, counselors act as educational surrogates and advocate for the students within the Miami-Dade County School System working closely with their teachers and guidance counselors. Foster parents and guardians are provided with periodic reports in their preferred language to keep them abreast of their child’s development and progress.
“We were very humbled by Miami Lakes Councilmember Frank Mingo who worked to fund the entire summer program,” said Marino. “And truly appreciative of Roberto and Alexandra Alonso who allow us to work out of their Adult Day Care Center in Miami Lakes twice a week to meet the needs of these kids.”
The program currently serves approximately 25 students and plans on expanding in the fall to accomodate 50. All services are provided at no cost to qualifying individuals.
“This is an open invitation to any parent or guardian going through a crisis situation, and I want you to know we are here in Miami Lakes ready to help. We will advocate for your child at their school, especially for guardians who may not speak English.”
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