Citizens for a Better South Florida (CITIZENS) came to life in 1988 when the organization’s founder, Arsenio Milian, a Cuban born environmental-civil engineer was serving on the board of The South Florida Water Management District. Here Mr. Milian increased his awareness and knowledge of environmental issues in the Everglades, the Biscayne Aquifer, Lake Okeechobee and their profound effects on South Florida ecosystems.
Due to rapid population growth, flood control and urbanization in South Florida, there have be consequent major changes in the flow of water that charges the Biscayne Aquifer and sustains life in the Everglades. Mr. Milian realized that water-related issues would be a predominant factor in the future of South Florida’s ecology, its citizens and their families. He also realized that immigrants coming to South Florida needed to learn about these issues so they could become stewards of their new home. Under Mr. Milian’s leadership, a group of business and community leaders, dedicated to environmental issues came together. They began the process of finding the most effective way to address environmental issues in South Florida in order to improve quality of life for it’s citizens.
Mr. Milian set the foundation for CITIZENS and the organization has kept his mission alive. CITIZENS believes that intervention in the form of grass roots, community-based education is greatly needed to maintain South Florida’s native ecosystems and the quality of life for South Florida citizens. CITIZENS understands the beneficial role of native flora in urban landscaping and believes that if people have the chance to learn about these benefits, they can help the environment by planting native flora around their homes. CITIZENS believes that if people are given the opportunity to learn about important environmental topics, particularly in their native language, they can be called to action within their local communities.
CITIZENS became incorporated as a non-profit in 1989. The first project of the board was the development of innovative teacher training and education programs, which trained teachers to use an environmental education curriculum for ESOL students in elementary schools, childcare centers, and after-school programs as means of learning English. More than 1,200 teachers were trained using this curriculum and these programs received the Governor’s Environmental Education Award.
CITIZENS is a pioneer nationally in multi-lingual environmental education. The organization continues to work closely with The South Florida Water Management District, Waste Management, Dade-County DERM and other county and city governmental and non-governmental agencies. CITIZENS is a leader in the Environmental Educator Providers Association of Miami-Dade County.
In 2006, our publication, Go Native! became an important part the City of Miami’s “Our Green Miami” communications campaign. CITIZENS participated in the Green Commission for the development of the City of Miami’s Master Tree Plan. CITIZENS has made numerous contributions to this plan and is one of five non-profit urban forestry organizations that assist in planting trees as a part of this initiative. CITIZENS also serves on the Urban Forestry Team for the City of Miami.
CITIZENS recognizes that the ethnicity and culture of South Florida leaders as well as the organization’s partners play an integral role in the cultural competency and overall capacity of the organization. CITIZENS engages local community leaders to educate their neighbors, family and colleagues on pertinent environmental issues and their respective solutions or mitigation techniques. CITIZENS accomplishes this through the maintenance of a diverse board, staff, interns and volunteers that act as liaisons between the natural environment and local urban communities.
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CITIZENS’ Organizational Values and Guiding Principles