On April 7th, 2016, the Social Skills class from Cypress Bay High School traveled to the Housing and Development Software main office in Weston, Florida for a tour of the grounds and a professional presentation given by HDS employees. This presentation aimed to give these students useful information about the various skills utilized by many work-force participants on a daily basis. Additionally, the HDS workers provided insight into job interviews. They gave their own input about how to best prepare for an interview and discussed effective ways to build a resume. Through these bits of knowledge, HDS hoped to assist the students in preparing for the eventual move over to the working world. Helping them further understand and feel comfortable with the facets of that world is a vital part of preparing them sufficiently.
Upon arrival at HDS, the students got off the bus while Katherine Gilson, daughter of HDS CEO Cristina Miranda and student in the Social Skills class, began the tour and introduced HDS staff managers. This was a productive start to the day, as it gave the class background knowledge about individuals who remain highly involved in the company and prepared those in the class for what they were about to learn from these HDS leaders. Following the tour, the students were taken to one of the building’s conference rooms, where they ate Jimmy John’s sandwiches and listened to the presentations given by HDS staff. Within the prepared PowerPoints was information regarding the job search process, what exactly HDS does as a company and the services they provide, and a variety of hard and soft skills necessary for a few jobs.
As a result of their visit, the students recognized the importance of knowing their own strengths and weaknesses and how to use them effectively, both in and out of the workforce. HDS is glad to have been able to help the Social Skills students feel more comfortable with the working world and, so, more comfortable with their own futures.
World Autism Awareness Day fell this year (2016) on April 2. Each year, HDS joins others around the world in celebrating Light It Up Blue, a campaign designed to spread awareness about and celebrate autism. Those involved “light it up blue” by showcasing and promoting the color blue, as a symbol of autism, as much as they possibly can.
HDS’ constant involvement in and dedication to Light It Up Blue, and autism activism in general, can be explained by a look into the family of the CEO of the company – Cristina Miranda. The cause remains close to Cristina’s heart because her daughter, Kate, has autism. Her desire to help those with the disability grew so much over time that in 2009, Cristina founded the HDS Foundation in efforts to provide work-skill opportunities and mentoring to teenagers and young adults with autism. The initial goal of the Foundation was to provide support for those with autism who need it. That ideal still holds today.
With this in mind, it is no surprise that Cristina’s office continues to be so enthusiastic about Light It Up Blue year after year. Workers were seen promoting the holiday on social media days in advance, and a countdown was held on the HDS Foundation website. When the day to celebrate Light It Up Blue came around again this year, Housing and Development Software, eHousingPlus, and The HDS Foundation came together and sought to spread awareness. With blue posters in hand (and on the walls) and blue clothing worn by all, efforts to ignite the autism awareness cause and to cherish the talent and uniqueness of those with autism were far from scarce. All at the office were involved in the festivities, and the unity could be felt throughout the day. After all, that’s what Light It Up Blue, World Autism Day, and Autism Awareness Month are all about: coming together to further understand autism as a disability; and, even more, to show love and support for those who struggle with autism. This is how awareness is spread. 2016 saw a successful Light It Up Blue, at least at HDS HQ.
On Saturday, January 23, 2016, Team Cypress Bay participated in the Dan Marino WalkAbout Autism at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Florida. The HDS Foundation and Cypress Bay High School (CBHS) teamed up and began participation in this fundraiser a few years ago. The efforts of those involved result in increasingly better outcomes as the years go on; and, this year was no exception. All people and groups participating raised tons of funds for the cause and, even more, spread awareness throughout their school and the greater community. Cypress Bay teachers Donna Mansollilo and Kathleen A. Gorman-Gard rallied students and their families and massively increased event attendance. The HDS Foundation team, including Cristina Miranda, Carla Otiniano MSW, and Dr. Sandy Rizzo-Weiner of Customized Interventions, worked diligently alongside the CBHS staff to ensure this event was a success. In the end, Team Cypress Bay was able to raise a hefty sum of $12,780.00, which proved to be quite an accomplishment for the group. Team captain Katherine Miranda-Gilson was the top fundraiser once again this year, beating out all other event participants. She worked hard, as did many, to recruit participants and raise funds for the Dan Marino Foundation. The CBHS ESE department was awarded approximately $3200 as a direct grant. This resource not only acknowledged the hard work and determination the department put forth, but helped provide classroom amenities and technological advancements for special needs students and classrooms at the Bay.
After the walk, the attendees danced to music sponsored by local radio DJs. Several local vendors were onsite providing more information about their programs and services. Walkers had the opportunity to sample foods and engage in other activities. It seemed to be quite an enjoyable event for all who attended.
We are so grateful to all the families and friends who came out to support each other and the larger cause and, additionally, those who were kind enough to donate to the fundraiser. The generous contributions to the various team members are what made this awareness-spreading and wholly helpful event possible.
On Thursday, January 14, the HDS Foundation, Inc. hosted a post-secondary fair at Cypress Bay High School in Weston. Parents, students, teachers, facilitators, and other professionals came together for an informative session that aimed to provide post-secondary educational options for students with disabilities. The meeting included staff from McFatter Technical College (Roger Barnhart, Director, Office of Student Affairs), Sheridan Technical College (Johanna Kelly, ESE Specialist), College Living Experience (Jessica R. Rothschild, Student Services Coordinator) and The Marino Campus (Susan Morantes, Director of Campus and Community Relations Admissions). Each school and program was able to provide helpful information about their own specific curriculum and took time to answer questions posed by curious parents. This platform for discussion between parents and these professionals proved to be quite beneficial for both parties involved. Additionally, after the presentations, the families were able to collect brochures, introduce themselves, and probe further with specific questions about their prospective students. The fair gave parents a unique opportunity to see which options, and how many, their students have to choose from.
Also attending were representatives from Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) (Gigi Clinton) and Agency for Person with Disabilities (APD) (Gerry Driscoll, MSW, Regional Operations Manager) who also provided parents with some information about their respective programs.
Thank you to all the schools, VR and APD staff for attending and presenting valuable and advantageous information to Weston-area families. This event was the first post-secondary fair at Cypress Bay High School for this population of students and was a huge success. For more information about available resources, please visit our resource page.
The First Tee of Broward has partnered with two South Florida business entities, Global Business Brokers and The HDS Foundation, Inc. to bring their national golf mentoring program to a group of older teens and young adults with disabilities.
“This is where individuals, businesses, and the community can come together to provide creative solutions that meet this growing population’s needs” explained Cristina Miranda, founder of The HDS Foundation.
The First Tee of Broward is part of the national golf association (www.thefirsttee.org) headquartered in St. Augustine, Florida. Their mission is to impact the lives of young people by providing educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values and promote healthy choices through the game of golf. Jack Bloomfield, Director of Operations of the First Tee of Broward reached out to The HDS Foundation, Inc. to bring this program to Weston. Having an interest in golf, Rod Burns, principal of Global Business Brokers also made a commitment to make this happen. Working alongside The HDS Foundation group, and the professionals at Weston Hills Country Club, the team worked very hard to make it happen. Assistant-Head Coach at WHCC Golf Professional Dustin Stearns is the Program’s lead instructor and mentor. Saturday January 9th , 2016 fifteen players, mostly from the Weston-area, began this nine-week program.
The HDS Foundation, Inc. is a 501 © 3 Non-Profits founded by Cristina Miranda, owner and CEO of Housing and Development Services, Inc., a software and services small business focused in the affordable housing and community development market. Through its business entities Housing and Development Software www.hdsoftware.com and eHousingPlus www.ehousingplus.com, they have leveraged their diverse skills and spirit of giving back to create and support several grass-roots programs in this community. “As a parent of a child on the Autism Spectrum, you understand the challenges and accomplishments that this community of young people have ahead of them. We feel that business can play an important part in creating solutions”. The HDS Foundation has been very involved in several community-based programs, particularly with Cypress Bay High School’s ESE Department and others. More information can be found on their website at www.hdsfoundation.org . Global Business Brokers is a professional business brokerage company specializing in the purchase and sale of businesses (www.globalbusinessbrokers.net ). Rod Burns, who is married to Cristina and an avid golfer, is also championing this effort.
If you would like more information about this program, please contact Carla Otiniano at 954-217-9597 Ext 259 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org, Rod Burns 954-913-5464 email@example.com or Jack Bloomfield 954.740.0622 firstname.lastname@example.org