Helping improve Liberty City block by block

Helping improve Liberty City block by block

The Miami Children’s Initiative is a nonprofit organization dedicated to transforming Liberty City into a more prosperous community. At the helm of the agency is its CEO and president, Cecilia Gutierrez.
Gutierrez has always been passionate about helping those most in need, particularly children. As the second CEO to take over the Miami Children’s Initiative since it was first established in 2008, Gutierrez has made it her mission to improve the lives of children in Liberty City. She said her upbringing helped contribute to the passion she has for service today.

“I grew up poor. I lived in Section 8 housing. I know what it’s like to struggle from an early age,” Gutierrez said. “What we’re trying to do at Miami Children’s Initiative is end poverty and expand education for the children in this community. We want 100 percent of kids in Liberty City to graduate high school and go on to college. We’ve launched several programs to help accomplish that.”

The Miami Children’s Initiative partners with religious centers, schools and businesses to develop and provide quality education, accessible health care, youth development programs and employment opportunities for families in Liberty City and surrounding communities. Gutierrez first came on board in October 2011 as the agency’s vice president for development. In January 2013, she became the CEO and president.

Utilizing the framework of the nationally renowned Harlem Children’s Zone, Gutierrez said the Miami Children’s Initiative uses a “cradle-to-college-to-career” approach to help children realize their promise and affect lasting change. In addition, the agency’s “block-by-block” strategy has helped to pick up trash in Liberty City, fix roads and beautify the community. The “impact zone” is currently focused on Northwest 59th to 63rd Streets and 15th to 22nd Avenues, but Gutierrez said the goal is to reach all of Liberty City.

“We help connect residents block by block with the essential resources that have eluded them for so long,” Gutierrez said. “I’m so proud of the work we do here.”

Prior to joining the Miami Children’s Initiative, Gutierrez served as an executive director of Breakthrough Miami, an education nonprofit organization, and as a senior program officer for the Beaumont Foundation of America. She also served as a special assistant to a member of the New York City Board of Education, crafting policies on instructional technology, improving middle grade schools and strengthening bilingual education. But it’s the work Gutierrez currently does with the Miami Children’s Initiative that drives her today.

The organization holds its annual signature event in June, “Over the Edge Miami,” where participants rappel down a building to raise funds for its programs. In addition, the agency has partnered in the past with the Village of Key Biscayne for its “Christmas in July” event, which provides free school supplies to kids, and last year participated in the Clinton Global Initiative University’s Day of Action to work on improvement projects requested by Liberty City residents. “At the end of the day, I want to be on the streets with the residents. I want to be able to impact the community and bring people together,” Gutierrez said.