📸 Photography by Taylor Fu
Howdy, Kate! Who are you? What do you do?
I am a passionate advocate for mental health education and accessible programming. For over five years, I’ve worn many hats at NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), the largest peer-led mental health nonprofit organization in the U.S. This includes being a presenter and trainer for our mental health education program for middle and high school students, a helpline responder, and outreach coordinator.
Currently, I serve as Walk Manager for NAMI’s local affiliate, NAMI Miami-Dade, spearheading the Walk for Mental Health Awareness, the organization’s largest fundraiser and awareness event that brings thousands of community members together to raise awareness and crucial funding for local mental health services.
What neighborhood(s) are you reppin’?
Midtown and Coral Gables! I’m new to the Midtown area but I love it already. I’ve worked in Coral Gables for as long as I’ve lived in Miami.
What brings you most alive about the 305?
The passionate people. Through my work with NAMI Miami, I have had the privilege of interacting with so many incredible individuals and changemakers in our community, from nonprofit professionals to faith leaders and CEOs. My work has taken me all over the county and I have met some wonderful, generous, and dedicated leaders that are devoted to helping others. It’s very inspiring.
What’s your favorite Miami memory?
My last birthday. My friends surprised me with a vigorous, unrelenting schedule of back-to-back Miami attractions that began with an iconic cafecito at Versailles, an art tour at the Design District, a trip down to the mystical Five Sisters store in Kendall, dinner in Coconut Grove, and ended with a bang at Ball & Chain in Little Havana. I grew up in Fort Lauderdale, but having these experiences made me feel at home in Miami.
If you could eat only one meal from a local restaurant for the rest of your life, what would it be?
The mushroom and pear tacos at Uptown 66 Taqueria in Upper East Side. If you are what you eat, I’m part taco at this point. It’s so rare to find a vegetarian option that steals the show!
Outside of the obvious stop above, share your other top three destinations for where you’d go on your perfect Miami day.
On my perfect Miami day, I would go thrifting, either at Harlow’s in Upper East Side or Dragonfly Thrift Boutique in Coral Gables, which supports empowering women who were formally incarcerated, and I always find something unique! Then, I would eat at Sushi Chef on Coral Way, which has phenomenal and affordable sushi with that hole-in-the-wall feel. Lastly, a beach day at Crandon with friends.
What’s your favorite local social media account and why?
I love to see all the amazing work the @CortadaFoundation is doing by combining art and environmentalism. @BrennanKai gives me so many amazing ideas on how to incorporate more sustainable practices in my day-to-day.
If you could give any one piece of advice to locals, what would it be?
Go out and volunteer! It has been reported that Miami ranks as one of the lowest metropolitan areas for volunteering. I’ve always found my people and purpose through volunteer-work. You will end up getting back more than you give.
How does Miami help you do what you do or influence your work?
My passion for helping others through my work and Miami are interwoven. When I moved to Miami four years ago, I deeply desired to educate others, especially teenagers, about mental health conditions and the experiences I had been exposed to — but I had no idea how I would go about doing that. Thankfully, through NAMI Miami, I have had the opportunity to present to middle and high school students all over the county, from Miami Gardens to Homestead, and speak to locals every day through our helpline, including concerned parents, faith-leaders, and social workers, to name a few.
Through this work, an image of the mental health landscape emerged, and it was clear that people lacked information on the resources available and what options they could take to get help for themselves or their loved ones. This blew my mind, especially since now we know 1 in 4 people experience mental health conditions. This is why the Walk for Mental Health Awareness is such a valuable community resource.
First, it provides a free opportunity to gather in celebration of a new era, one where we can talk about the once-taboo subject of mental health with support from key leaders such as elected officials, community influencers, and celebrities. This is especially important in Miami-Dade County where we have a variety of diverse communities that historically haven’t had access to care and are still experiencing stigma around mental health. Additionally, Walk participants will have the chance to interact and learn from over 50 amazing local organizations and clinics that address and treat mental health conditions, including NAMI Miami’s free programs for peers and families, which are offered in both English and Spanish.
If there was one thing you could change, address, etc. about Miami, what would it be?
The underlying stigma around mental health. While we are making progress, there is still work to be done. We can all do our part by being open about our experiences and struggles as well as by educating ourselves and those around us on difficult topics such as the warning signs of mental health issues and suicide. There is help available but sometimes it’s difficult to ask, which is why we have to look out for each other. If you’re experiencing any of this, please reach out.
What are you looking forward to in 2023?
The 2023 Walk for Mental Health Awareness, of course! The Walk is being held this Saturday, May 20 at loanDepot Park, a.k.a. the home of the Miami Marlins.
You can join me and countless others on Walk Day by registering at namiwalks.org/miami.
That’s a wrap on this week’s Locals to Know. Know someone who ought to be featured or would like to be featured yourself? Reach out by sending an email to [email protected] with the subject line “TNT Locals to Know 2023.” If chosen, you might just see yourself or a friend in a future newsletter.