YMCA of South Florida Announces Awards for Students, Community Leaders in Miami-Dade

YMCA of South Florida has announced the recipients of the Dave W. Cash Youth Leadership Award, presented annually to a Miami-Dade County student that has embodied the ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in advocating for social change in the community, and the Spirit of Community Award, which recognizes a community advocate in Miami-Dade County who exemplifies the social activism, advocacy, nonviolence, civic engagement and diversity ideals of Dr. King.

Belen Jesuit Preparatory School senior student/athlete Shawn Martinez received the 2023 Dave W. Cash Youth Leadership Award and with it a $2,000 college scholarship supporting his continued education. A member of the Belen water polo team, Martinez maintains a 4.91 GPA.

He founded AVUS Connect, an intergenerational volunteer platform addressing isolation and loneliness in older adults designed as a way for youth volunteers to contact homebound older adults on a weekly basis and to conduct a virtual connectivity bridge between young and older generations. Over a two-year period, the AVUS volunteer platform has delivered a total of 15,126 hurricane preparedness meals to 1,725 homebound older adults living in 10 underserved communities in Miami-Dade County in partnership with Florida Memorial University, Thelma Gibson Health Initiative, Sant La Haitian Community Center and the Village of Allapattah YMCA, where Martinez also served as a Community Health Strategies intern in 2022. The meals were donated by FPL/Next Era Energy and coordinated for distribution through United Home Care, the not-forprofit where AVUS volunteers provided more than 3,000 hours of community service hours.

(L to R) YMCA of South Florida President and CEO Sheryl Woods; Dave W. Cash Youth Leadership Award recipient Shawn Lawrence Martinez; Eddie Dominguez, City National Bank

A shareholder of multi-practice commercial law firm, Becker, Yolanda Cash Jackson is on the Management Committee that oversees all aspects of firm policy, operations and strategic growth. Cash Jackson is a double Gator, earning her undergraduate and law degree from University of Florida. With a passion for lobbying and policy, she is among the power elite when it comes to lawyer-lobbyists in the Florida State Capitol. Cash Jackson is committed to giving back to the community through such non-profit and service organizations as the University of Florida Foundation, Levin College of Law’s Law Center Association Board of Trustees, Orange Bowl Committee, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, National Social Action Committee, the Urban League of Broward County and the National Bar Association. Cash Jackson’s accomplishments have been recognized throughout the country, including the National Bar for Outstanding Service, Daily Business Review “Most Effective Lawyer,” Junior League and most recently as 2022 Floridian of the Year by Florida Tend for being an advocate that “clears the way for others to rise.”

“Shawn and Yolanda are an inspiration to all of us and are both so deserving of this recognition,” YMCA of South Florida President and CEO Sheryl Woods said. “They truly live the vision of Dr. King every day.”

Both recipients were recognized at a recent luncheon with keynote speaker Michelle Duster, author, public historian, professor and granddaughter of civil rights and women’s rights activist Ida B. Wells, as part of the Y’s 19th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Inspirational Weekend that raised funds to support the YMCA of South Florida’s “I Have a Dream” Youth Scholarship Fund. The Y offers a variety of youth programs which include preschool, after school, employment opportunities, teen groups and college tours and readiness.

Presenting sponsors of the 19th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Inspirational Weekend were JM Family Enterprises, Brown & Brown Insurance and City National Bank. For more information about the Y, visit www.ymcasouthflorida.org.

About the YMCA of South Florida

The Y is a leading nonprofit committed to strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Every day, the Y works hard to build healthy, confident, connected and secure children, adults, families and communities through over 200 afterschool, preschool, special needs, sports, camp and youth programs, family centers, and senior health outreach sites. To learn more, visit www.ymcasouthflorida.org, connect on Facebook or Twitter, or call a Y near you.

(Photos courtesy of Downtown Photo)