Mentoring Matters: Shake-A-Leg Miami Teaches Life Lesson On The Water

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Shake-A-Leg Miami has been teaching kids and young adults with disabilities how to have a fun and safe experience out on the water, while at the same time teaching life skills many of us take for granted.

CBS4’s Mike Cugno introduces us to a special group of students and volunteers.

From the water’s edge of Biscayne Bay, Shake-A-Leg Miami has been mentoring and educating children and young adults with both physical and mental disabilities for 25 years.

“We teach kids how to become self-reliant, become confident, how to work on the water and how to participate in various activities,” said Harry Horgan, co-founder and president of Shake-A-Leg Miami. “That transforms into improving their self-esteem and quality of life”

Horgan was paralyzed in a car accident in 1990 and started this program after participating in water activities inspired him to make a difference.

“Kids are growing up here. Parents are finding a place where their kid feels comfortable and can grow and can make friends,” he said. “We see ourselves as a not only a recreational place and learning center, but a laboratory where new ideas are explored and partnerships are formed.”

“That was the trick. Try to take water perspective activities, put them on perspective of on the job training without losing the concept of having a good time,” said outings coordinator Karis Starke.

When Cugno visited Shake-A-Leg, members of the WOW Center put on their life vests and hit the docks for a kayak and sailing lessons.

Shake-A-Leg and WOW – a state funded program – are setting out to teach adults communication and teamwork skills so that they can be placed in internship programs and ultimately the work force.

On this trip, volunteers and coordinators like Starke assisted a group of young adults with developmental disabilities ranging from ages 18 to 30.

“Where’s my chip? Right here! And what do I want on my chip? Water… dip.”

On the water they used relatable terms to teach them new skills.

“After the big show, what does the person decide to do on stage? They decide to do what? Bow. So what is the front of the boat called? Bow!”

From there the students take the reins, or in this case the rudder.

“We allow them to come out here and become limitless,” Starke said. “To get in the water and make these movements we take for granted every day.”

The mentors admit a day on the water is gratifying in itself. But passing on real world skills is the best part of all.

“For someone to succeed in life, for someone to get a job, for someone to have friends, it’s all about communications,” Horgan said. “It starts with a person feeling good about themselves. If you’re not feeling good about yourself, you become shy, reserved. You tend not to push yourself outside of your boundaries. So this whole environment is all about working with nature and Miami’s magic comes from Biscayne Bay. So what better way to help charge these kids up.”

If you are a mentor and would like to share your story with us, please email us at mentoringmatters@cbs.com

Click here for more Mentoring Matters

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