When looking for leaders around the community to come speak at the Communication Arts Department’s Lecture Series, Communication Arts faculty member Raquel Perez was introduced to Alejandro Aristizábal. Mr. Aristizábal is the Felony Diversion Supervisor of the 11th Judicial Circuit Criminal Mental Health Project, Jail Diversion Program, in Miami-Dade, which assists more than 400 participants on a yearly basis. Its mission is to successfully transition adults with serious mental illness from the jail to the community.
“I felt a strong urge to become an advocate of such an important program. I believe the Mental Health community is underserved and needed a voice in the community,” said Professor Perez.
Aristizabal and his team were working tirelessly to spread information about their program and mental health awareness to the community with little success. With Professor’s Perez’s help, the pair collaborated on strategies to help identify and focus Jail Diversion’s communication goals, and change how leaders and businesses viewed the program in the community.
Knowing this would be a great project for a select group of students in her Leadership class, Perez identified three students who excelled on all the class projects, were involved in law and not-for-profit agencies, and were great class contributors. The three students, Margot Chomat, Glendalys De Jesus and Emilie Blitzer, helped provide strategic communication support for community outreaches, collaborated with the fundraising team on ideas and administrative coordination, and designed and implemented networking systems to enhance relationships between the program and community.
In addition, the students, along with the Communication Arts Studio, helped prepare videos and testimonials of staff and program attendees to be shown at the Mental Health Transformation in Action Conference in May. The staff and students recorded, transcribed, and edited speeches, while providing coaching in order to improve presentation techniques.
Over 1,000 visitors came to the Mental Health Transformation in Action Conference, engaging with community partners and listening to the speeches prepared by Jail Diversion staff. Professor Perez hopes to continue to work with the Jail Diversion program and give the opportunity for Communication Arts students to be involved in this ongoing project.