ORLANDO - Several years back, Sagie-May Dorcely needed a backpack upgrade. The one she had at the time was ripping apart and broken at the handles. Its defects made it quite challenging to lug around.
That’s when Orlando After-School All-Stars (ASAS) stepped in. With the new school year about to kick off, ASAS bought her a brand new one that she picked out. It was pink and purple and, in her words, “fancy, pretty, and gorgeous.”
Not only did this new backpack make it easier for her to carry around books and other school supplies, but she also recognized this gift was a symbol of everything ASAS represents – life enriching programs and curriculums all wrapped together for students in one cohesive package that they can take with them for life.
“I still have it to this day,” she said. “It just really reminds me what the program stands for and what the organization really cares about. They didn’t have to (buy the new backpack), but they did.”
The organization, currently serving over 2,600 students and their families annually, utilizes an innovative and diversified year-round curriculum to engage youth to help develop the life skills, maturity, and confidence necessary to become responsible and productive citizens at home, at school, and in their community.
Now, because of a $30,000 donation from the DeVos Family Foundation through its 30 Grants for 30 Years Initiative, ASAS will extend further into the community, empowering even more students. All programs are school-based and tailored to supplement and enhance the existing efforts of each specific school site, while centering around the core components of academics, enrichment, athletics, and service learning.
“It shows our students and families that there are partners in the community like the DeVos Family Foundation that want to help our students grow,” Orlando After-School All-Stars Executive Director Daniel Toffoli said. “It gives our students and families faith that they are not alone and that they can succeed moving forward.”
Dorcely, originally from Haiti, who moved to the United States shortly after her native country’s large-scale earthquake in 2010, is one of the program’s many success stories. She first joined as an incoming sixth grader and, over the next several years, benefited from its comprehensive youth development curriculum. She learned about robotics and digital media through S.T.E.M. classes, participated in performing arts clubs like theatre and dance, discovered some new meal recipes through cooking classes, received homework assistance, and made friends for life.
The program made such an enormous impact on her that even after graduating, Dorcely still wanted to be a part of it, which is why she is now a staff member helping inspire current grade-school students.
With two main components in the program – academic enrichment and personal enrichment – the donation will help integrate more activities for the students and create more access and opportunities throughout the community.
As part of the DeVos family’s 30 Grants for 30 Years Initiative, a total of $3 million will be donated to 30 area nonprofit organizations over 18 months, investing in people and projects impacting youth, essential needs for families, and community enrichment across Central Florida.
"Much like Orlando ASAS, as caretakers of the Magic, it is our intent to engage. We aim to act as a liaison between this organization, the fans – who are the real stakeholders in the team – and our community," said Orlando Magic Chairman Dan DeVos. "There are tremendous things happening in the Orlando community every day, and we wanted to mark this 30-year milestone by coming alongside and recognizing nonprofits who are doing impactful work. They are the true leaders in Central Florida."