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El Portal Cares celebrates five-year anniversary

El Portal Cares celebrates five-year anniversary
El Portal Cares, a nonprofit organization, celebrated its fifth-year anniversary with students, parents and staff at Village Hall.

Special to The Miami Herald
When 9-year-old Elijah Jennings brought home his report card last school year, his mother was alarmed he had earned a D in math.

Worried her son might fail the subject, Stacey Hernandez took Elijah’s report card to the nonprofit organization El Portal Cares, located at 8760 NE Second Ave.

”When I first walked in to El Portal Cares, they told me not to worry, that Elijah will soon be getting an A or B,” Hernandez said.

A few weeks later, Elijah’s report card from Phyllis Ruth Miller Elementary showed a B in math.

”When I saw the B, I was so excited,” Hernandez said.

Elijah is one of many students who use the free services offered by El Portal Cares, which celebrated its five-year anniversary at an alumni awards ceremony and barbecue at village hall on May 31. That same day, Elijah took home an award for most improved. Other students were honored for improvements in individual subjects.

El Portal Cares was the brainchild of former El Portal Mayor Audrey Edmonson, now a Miami-Dade County commissioner who landed a $350,000 grant from the North Dade Medical Foundation to get the center started.

”It was something that was needed in this community,” Edmonson said. “We had so many families who couldn’t afford this for their young kids.”

The agency offers village residents services such as free after-school tutoring for students and lunch for seniors.

Other programs include yoga classes that also are free, but donations are encouraged.

El Portal Cares, which helps about 20 people daily, opened in 2006. Its staff includes Executive Director Linda Marcus, six board members, two tutors, a yoga instructor and volunteers.

El Portal Councilman Harold Mathis said the center has been a big help to the community.

”The parents and kids love the program and you see it on their faces,” said Mathis, who is also the chairperson of the agency’s board. “To see these kids have a thirst for learning is great. I can sleep at night.”

Since it began, the agency has served 650 meals to seniors and has provided 1,040 hours of after-school tutoring.

Stephanie Darring’s son, Al Jacobs-Darring, was having difficulty in first grade and made a turnaround in school after being tutored by El Portal Cares staff.

Al, 7, wasn’t doing well in his first-grade class at Phyllis Ruth Miller.

”They found out [he] was smart and cooperative,” she said. “He is doing multiplications and fractions and he is only in first grade. El Portal Cares discovered his level of comprehension and reasoning.”

Mathis said the agency’s goal is to offer more services but needs money. El Portal Cares receives funding from the county and private donations.

Hernandez said she hopes the program can help others in the same way it helped Elijah.

”His school informed me that they will be testing him for gifted classes,” she said. “That’s a big jump from just barely passing to gifted classes.”

The agency is now accepting enrollment applications for summer camp and is also seeking volunteers.

For information, contact EL Portal Cares, 786-412-7879.

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