By Lauren Pastrana

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Miami Dolphins’ season isn’t over yet, but one of their key programs wrapped up this past weekend.

It’s safe to say, those who took part are champions for this community.

“We bring together kids from different organizations and they participate in five events with us. They do community service to learn the importance of giving back,” explained Dolphins’ Director of Youth Programs Rashauna Hamilton.

All season long, students from around South Florida have teamed up with the Dolphins to learn more about how to better serve the community through the Football Unites program.

CBS4 was there as they packed food at Feeding South Florida in October, and toured Little Haiti and Liberty City last month.

“It was great to learn about new cultures and stuff. Everybody should be involved in this program,” said student Cesareo Beruvides.

“You get to see new things and you get to learn about a lot of stuff, especially about our culture and the community that we’re in,” explained Malaika Saint-Juste.

“It means a lot to me,” added Carlos Lantigua. “There are a lot of people out there who don’t have the opportunity of meeting Dolphins players every day.”

At Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills, the kids came out of the tunnel just like the players and even had some one-on-one time with wide receiver Kenny Stills on the sideline before kickoff.

Back inside, they shook hands with Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, whose RISE program – which stands for Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality – facilitated a lesson on diversity, identity, and tolerance.

“Meeting people is how we start leadership. It’s how we start bonds. We don’t know people in our community unless we reach out. Be the difference in your community,” Beruvides said.

And while most of these kids will tell you they are Dolphins’ fans, their bond now runs much deeper than that.

“We’re really striving to make a healthier, more educated, united South Florida and that’s what Football Unites stands for,” Hamilton explained.

Lauren Pastrana

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