Plus, the push for affordable housing could be on next year’s ballot and the latest #TBT with Miami Dade College.
The New Tropic

😷 Florida students will stay masked up for now

Plus, the push for affordable housing could be on next year’s ballot and the latest #TBT with Miami Dade College.

By Zach Schlein

It’s Thursday.

The sun is shining (depending on what time you’re reading this); there’s a storm brewing somewhere (because it’s a Florida summer and there always is, but more specifically, Tropical Depression 13 is moving around in the Gulf of Mexico at the moment); and after several months of protracted political battles, it seems Florida public schools can finally enforce mask mandates at their discretion.

Read all about it — and other Sunshine State news — by scrolling on ahead...

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😷 Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper reiterated last month's ruling that Gov. Ron DeSantis’ order prohibiting school mask mandates is unconstitutional. The judge determined the blanket ban violated Florida’s new Parent’s Bill of Rights and echoed his previous findings during a court hearing yesterday, emphasizing that the state cannot ban school districts from imposing mask mandates while it appeals his Aug. 27 ruling.

A spokesperson for the governor’s office said they’d be appealing Cooper’s latest ruling as well. In the meantime, many school districts are requiring students to don face masks, only allowing exceptions under special circumstances and for children with notes from licensed Florida doctors.

In other news...

🏠 Florida’s one step closer to getting an amendment on the November 2022 ballot that would set aside funds for affordable housing. The proposed amendment would create new trust funds relying on existing real estate taxes to build more affordable housing. As of writing, there are 62,522 signatures on the petition, but it still needs 222,898 signatures to warrant a review by the Florida Supreme Court. Additionally, the initiative will need to net 891,589 total signatures by Feb. 1, 2022, for ballot consideration. (Orlando Weekly)

➡️ August was the deadliest month of the pandemic for Florida so far. On average, 213 Floridians died of COVID-19 per day in the state. (NBC 6 South Florida)

Three people have been arrested and charged with stealing the identities of victims killed in the Champlain Towers South collapse. Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle held a press conference yesterday announcing the charges brought against the suspects and referred to the apprehended trio as “cyber grave robbers.” (Local 10)

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🗣 Miami Dade College’s Fermin Vazquez shares how the school changed his life and empowers students

North Campus Interim President Fermin Vazquez (right) has been celebrating I AM MDC Day for a long time. (📸: Courtesy photo) 

🗓 Today is the last installment of The New Tropic’s #Throwback Thursday series spotlighting Miami Dade College. Today we’re throwing it back to just a few days ago for I AM MDC Day, which took place this past Monday. Every year on September 6, the college commemorates its opening in 1960 and invites Miamians to make a financial donation to an institution that’s served millions of students across six decades. The funds raised by I AM MDC Day go toward upholding the school’s mission of keeping higher education affordable and accessible by funding tuition and supporting students in need.

This year, Miamians helped to raise $1.4 million for the school’s scholarship program, allowing countless students to take their next steps toward realizing their dreams and serving the community. However, there’s still time to give: You can still make a contribution by visiting this page and donating a gift to one of the most essential educational institutions in the 305.

Miami Dade College North Campus Interim President Fermin Vazquez spoke with The New Tropic about how the college made a difference in his own life from a very young age as well as why the mission of I AM MDC Day is so important and extends far beyond September 6. 

Read on for more... 

The New Tropic: You have a long history of working as an educator within Miami-Dade — could you tell us a little bit about your career?

Fermin Vazquez: I have worked in various capacities within education since 2003. Before being appointed to my latest position as Miami Dade College’s Interim Campus President of the North Campus, I served as the Senior Director of Campus Administration of the North Campus and Carrie P. Meek Entrepreneurial Education Center. 

Miami Dade College is where it all started for me as a student and where I earned my Associate in Arts degree; as a staff member, I take great pride in working for an institution I care deeply about.

How does MDC empower students and set them up for success?

Miami Dade College is an organization that endeavors to create opportunities for students and manifest their dreams through education. Our faculty and staff care deeply for everyone enrolled and strive to ensure that all the tools necessary for success are shared in the classroom. Our programs are designed to take workforce demands into account, and our Associate in Arts degrees build ramps for students to be able to transition to the next steps in their education. As an MDC-FIU graduate myself, I can speak to how MDC set me up for success in my career and life.

MDC also has a number of initiatives that engage with the larger community like the Second Chance Pell Experimental program; can you talk about these programs and why it's crucial to extend the school’s reach beyond its campuses?

MDC has many programs that are relevant to today's technology-oriented workforce, including cybersecurity, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence. However, given MDC’s commitment to helping students in all areas, school faculty felt there was a need to bring a college education program to the state correctional system. The Second Chance Pell program has allowed us to teach college courses at the Everglades Correctional Institute, and we were recently approved as a Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) approved outreach site, meaning enrolled inmates will be able to earn Associates Degrees while inside the correctional facility. We hope to have our first graduating class earn their degrees in the following academic year. This program combats recidivism and helps place lives on the right track.

Why is I AM MDC Day so important and how does it make a difference in the lives of students?

I AM MDC Day is a day that nurtures school spirit and reminds us of the many lives that MDC has touched in our community since 1960. I have been a faithful contributor ever since the initiative began several years ago, and I try to emphasize to donors just how much every dollar helps to finance scholarships and change lives. The college has touched Miami and so many other communities through education, and I AM MDC Day is a great opportunity to give back and cultivate opportunities for the leaders of tomorrow. 

The full interview with Fermin Vazquez is available online and can be found right here. Be sure to read The New Tropic’s other blasts from MDC’s past by checking out five fun facts from the college’s history, our interview with school archivist Rene Ramos, and a chat with inaugural graduate Gary Canner. You can learn more about I AM MDC Day and make a contribution to the college’s essential mission by clicking right here. Be sure to follow MDC on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to stay up-to-date with the school, its students, and how they’re making a difference in Miami-Dade.

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⛑ Hear how you can give back to your community and honor those who served during Miami Dade College's 9/11 National Day of Service Involvement Expo (Homestead)

👀 Check out opportunities at Esmé Miami Beach and Tropezon, a new gin and tapas bar opening on Española Way this fall, during a job fair hosted by Lost Boy & Co. (Miami Beach)


💃🏼 Enjoy the art of fancy footwork as Adele Myers and Dancers take the stage with special guest Sarasota Contemporary Dance Company to share a work never before performed in Miami(Cutler Bay)


🎫 Explore the history of Jai-Alai by watching a game live and learning from its players alongside HistoryMiami Museum(Dania Beach)

🎤 Dance with somebody during performer Nicole Henry’s tribute to the music of Whitney Houston (Cutler Bay)

🏞️ Learn how to illustrate a 3-D effect illusion during this Drawing and Painting with Pastels art course(South Beach)


🇲🇽 Commemorate the 200th anniversary of Mexico’s independence during a traditional Grito ceremony with Miami Dade College and the Consulate General of Mexico in Miami (Kendall)


🍄 Join Soho Beach House Miami members and learn about the changing conversation on substances and the law during the latest Psychedelic Series seminar (Miami Beach)


🍾 Get a taste of getREEF — a new way to order in — at an outdoor food bazaar featuring the best of Miami neighborhood dining along with a full bar and entertainment between September 14-26 (Brickell)


🇧🇷 Celebrate South American cinema during The Inffinito Brazilian Film Festival's 25th edition taking place Sept. 4-18 (North Beach)

👋 That’s all for today

See you back here tomorrow for the final newsletter of what felt like an impossibly short week.


Zach at The New Tropic

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