Felicia Benzo and Brenda Flowers Dalley are two community advocates who continue to provide unwavering care for their community.
Benzo is the founder of CATALYST, which provides mentors for public-school students, while Dalley founded RAAO, a nonprofit organization devoted to health care initiatives, especially for those affected by HIV and AIDS.
On April 13, Benzo hosted the Volusia Youth Organization Summit. This monthly meeting alternates between the east and west sides of the county.
The summit brings together leaders of youth organizations in Volusia County who are committed to the social and emotional development of youth through organized activities and experiences, with the aim of helping young people become successful adults.
At the recent summit at the Deltona Regional Library, more than 20 organizations were represented.
Each representative spoke about his or her program’s initiatives and upcoming events.
The focus was a collaboration to meet the needs of the youth and working together to maximize resources and efforts.
“It was incredible to see so many enthusiastic people from different walks of life, even some homegrown, collectively come together for one effort, the children’s future. My heart was truly blessed to experience this and what’s next,” tennis instructor Travis D. Glaster said.
One of the primary speakers was Rachel Rutledge, who works for Volusia County Schools.
She talked about the many career technical programs that are available for high-school students, and said there are more than 400 manufacturers throughout the district where graduates would be able to work.
Michele McCoy, secretary of Volusia United Educators, also talked about the positive impact of public education and discussed various professional-development opportunities available to educators, paraprofessionals and clerical staff.
In another youth initiative, RAAO is involving Stetson University students to help increase awareness about HIV and AIDS.
RAAO, a DeLand-based nonprofit, had its first Spring Health Fair in Earl Brown Park, to mark National Youth HIV and AIDS Awareness Day.
Stetson students participated to help people learn about the resources RAAO provides, such as free health screenings.
The volunteers from Stetson were Breanna Shi, Justin Pinero, Naomi Antoine and Jasmine Hartsgrove, all math and biology majors interested in enhancing the community.
RAAO founder Dalley works diligently each day to provide resources to those in need and can be found helping in various capacities. The RAAO Center on South Woodland Boulevard in DeLand is a certified HIV-testing center.
To find out more about these two initiatives, visit risingagainstallodds.org and catalystmentoring.com.
— Cameron, a longtime educator, lives in Orange City. Send email to email@example.com.