International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day

March 8th, 2019 marks International Women’s Day. Started over 100 years ago, the first gathering on record was in 1911. This is an international celebration, acknowledged by various countries across the globe.

“Women are key members of our workforce and community.  At HDS, we continue to find opportunities for women through mentoring and leadership. Our vision and diverse skill sets create stronger foundations and platforms for emerging possibilities,” says International woman, Cristina Miranda Gilson, owner and founder of HDS Companies and President and CEO of the HDS Foundation (A 501(c) 3).

HDS Companies is a proud to announce that for the 15th consecutive year, we have received the Woman & Minority Business Certification from the state of Florida. Additionally, HDS is also certified by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council as a National Women’s Business Enterprise. We are an ethnic-racial diverse organization that continuously promotes a positive employee culture. HDS is pleased to have a ratio of 60% female and 40% males employed by the company.

To learn more about The HDS Companies, visit our corporate website where you can select each of the HDS units: Housing and Development Software,  eHousingPlus, and The HDS Foundation

For additional information contact Zainab Hageldain at 954-217-9597 x 260 or at



On March 7th the BRIDGES program and other ESE students from Cypress Bay High School took a field trip to Florida International University (FIU). The purpose of the field trip was to provide the students with information about higher education and other programs that are available to students with differing needs. Many students are not aware that they do not need to travel far to get a college experience or a college degree.

Upon our arrival, there were FIU staff members ready to give everyone a tour and information. The group was escorted to the Student Academic Success Center where the One-Stop is located.

The first presenter was Mayte Capo, the Program Manager for FIU Embrace – Plus and FIU Embrace – Life programs, both are programs offered under FIU Embrace. She provided the students with information about these two programs and services that are provided with them.

FIU Embrace – Plus is a Post-Secondary Transition program that is for individuals with Developmental Disabilities (DD). To qualify for these programs, you must have an Intellectual Disability (ID) and be a non-degree seeking student. Someone with Autism may be eligible for the program if they have an Intellectual Disability; however, the department assesses every student and ensures that the student is a fit. The programs provide students with social mentors on and off campus and also provides students with tutors and guidance.

Carla Otiniano, Program Manager of the HDS Foundation, asked if a degree seeking FIU student could transfer into the FIU Embrace program. The answer was only if the student is failing in their academics and are overwhelmed, they would be able to transfer. If a student is succeeding academically, they would not be accepted into the program. She also asked if degree-seeking students can partake in any of the services provided in these programs? The answer was that they do not have the resources or staff to do so. Currently they are able to serve 40 students, which is a small percentage of the student population of FIU. Mayte explained that FIU Embrace is looking into collaborating with other entities to expand the program but at the moment it is not available to other students.

Additional services provided to students are FIU Embrace – Medical and FIU Embrace – Law. FIU Embrace – Medical is a service available to anyone in the community. They aid adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Intellectual Disabilities (ID), and other neurodevelopmental disorders (OND). Services provided are medical doctors, women’s health doctors, behavioral health, and psychiatry. FIU Embrace – Law is also open to the community, and they help families with Wills, Trusts, and Guardianships.

Many of the visiting Cypress Bay students took the opportunity to ask questions. They were definitely engaged and interested.

After Mayte finish her presentation, the group was given a tour by Carolina, an FIU Embrace student. She walked us over to the Park view where she lived and gave a tour of her room. That was the highlight of the trip for many of these students.

Some of the questions that the BRIDGES students asked Carolina were does she have a roommate, if she shared the common area, and what time does she wake up?

After the tour of the dorm room, there was another presentation about the Disability Resource Center (DRC) and their services for degree-seeking students. Julie Alexander explained that they are the primary resource at FIU for students with needs for accommodation such as exams, coursework, housing, and information about the campus. She also explained the benefits of students enrolling with the DRC. Students can learn new ways to handle their academic work. She said that the student doesn’t need to suffer in silence as they can help build those educational gaps. When asked if a student is working with a DRC staff member and the student felt it was not a good fit, what can they do, Julie stated that the student could request to change staff members. She also mentioned it is very common for that to happen and the DRC role is to help the student be successful and find the best fit.

After the presentation, the group went to eat in the Panther dining area. The students sat around and discussed their experiences. Overall, everyone had a great time and gained much information.

This trip was very beneficial to the BRIDGES program. As this program is to prepare them for the transition after high school, this trip to a University puts the lessons learned in the classroom into perspective.

If you would like more information on the HDS Foundation, the BRIDGES Program, or how you can help, visit us online at or email

February Fun with BRIDGES

February Fun with BRIDGES

February was a fun-filled month for the BRIDGES Program at Cypress Bay High School. To start off the month, on February 6th the class went to A Painting Fiesta.  At this art studio, students are provided the supplies necessary to create a painting with direction given from an artist instructor. Students did a great job following the directions of the instructor, each creating their own serene sailboat painting.  Once finished painting, while waiting for the paint to dry, students socialized and ate their lunches. 

On February 26th the class visited Weston City Hall and the Emergency Operations Center.   Students learned about the people who work for their hometown and the various departments that manage activities around Weston including Parks and Recreation, concerts, parades and 5K Runs.  The students were very interested in the different jobs available and asked questions about Weston’s programs and job opportunities.  Next the class visited the Emergency Operations Center.  This was a special experience as this center is not open to the public.  Students continued their engagement in conversations, this time with the Director of Communications. 

If you would like more information on the HDS Foundation, the BRIDGES program, and how you can get involved, visit us online at or e-mail 

New Endeavors for the BRIDGES Program Coming Soon

The HDS Foundation has consistently supported the Exceptional Student Education (ESE) programs in Broward County Schools. For the 2019-2020 school year, the Foundation is hoping to continue its work in Broward County, but also to expand their support to include Miami-Dade County.

The BRIDGES program first partnered with Cypress Bay High School in the 2015-2016 school year. Since this partnership, the program has been able to expand the activities that the students participate in. Not only does this program facilitate weekly field trips for the students, but it also has given each student their own checking account. Participating in these outings and utilizing their checking accounts enables the students to work on their daily life skills such as budgeting and independent functioning.

“The BRIDGES program has been extremely successful at Cypress Bay High School. I have been privileged to be able to attend many of the field trips and participate in various functions with the students of Cypress Bay. Over the course of just one school year, I can see substantial differences and improvements in the quality of the social skills of these students. They learn so much from participating,” said Carla Otiniano, Program Manager of the HDS Foundation. She continued, “I am looking forward to next school year and expanding our BRIDGES program and expanding the commitment of the HDS Foundation. I know how impactful this program is, and I am excited to see the progress that the students will make.”

If you would like more information on the HDS Foundation and how you can get involved, visit us online at or e-mail




On Friday, February 8, 2019, the HDS Foundation was honored to attend the Florida Initiative for Suicide Prevention (FISP) 14th Annual Gala FISPY Awards. Miss Bryan, Producer of the DJ Laz Morning Show, was the evening’s MC.  In attendance were Presidents Harry Rosen and Jackie Rosen; all board members of FISP; the Mayor of Pembroke Pines, Frank C. Ortis; Commissioners from the city of Pembroke Pines; and various other guests from the community. Through education and resources, in addition to the FISPY Gala, FISP sheds a light on those who are affected by suicide and those who struggle with mental illness. 

At the event, the FISPY Mental Health Advocates Awards were given to Journalist Michael Mayo, HOPE Sunshine Club student Jason Tache’, and Memorial Hospital. The evening included a wonderful dinner and great musical entertainment. 

Carla Otiniano, Program Manager of the HDS Foundation, sat next to a mother who lost a loved one to suicide. The mother thanked the HDS Foundation for continuing support of FISP and she explained that this organization has helped her family tremendously. She candidly shared her experience and thanked FISP for helping her family in her time of need. Her two daughters dealt with this tragedy differently, but neither one dealt with the pain immediately. Rather, it affected them later in their life did and as a mother it was difficult to understand their pain and help them. With assistance from FISP, she was able to handle this sadness in a productive manner. 

For information on how you can contribute to FISP, visit them online at 

HDS Foundation was honored to be a part of this insightful gathering and will proudly continue their support. For more information on the HDS Foundation, visit us online at or email Carla Otiniano, Program Manager, at