Three Stories That Define Our Success
FICS' strength is in our approach to working with communities as partners. The following stories illustrate our successes since our inception in 2002. We hope that you will consider partnering with us on any or all of our events and programming. FICS builds on strengths, every day, at the community level. Join us!

One Goal, Many Voices
One Goal, Many Voices half day symposium was held in November 2005, with approximately 90 participants from across Florida. This Simposium was a response to multiple requests by "helpers" in the immigrant farmworker community. Simply put, outreach and community health workers felt that they needed to know more in order to do an incredibly hard job. FICS involved outreach workers, community educators and farm workers across the state in designing the Symposium. Through a participatory process, over 70 outreach workers prioritized these learning needs: 1) learning about indigenous Mexican and Central American cultures, 2) self-care and avoiding burning out on the job and 3) safety while doing outreach. FICS pulled together an amazing team to provide the sessions, including popular theater, lunch panels with indigenous Mexican immigrants and break out sessions. This effort was funded by Aetna Foundation and Gulfcoast North AHEC. Our evaluation data showed that this Symposium was rated as Excellent overall and that it should continue as both a web site and a biennial event. If you are interested in learning more, contact Dr. Alayne Unterberger at 813.477.2882.

Gang Prevention
The February 20, 2006 murders of two Town N Country (TNC) young men, reported to be gang-related, shocked and horrified youth, adults and the community in general. Many of the youth who attend the FICS Multicultural Family Center knew at least one of the young men who lost his life. Sebastian, 16, died on the scene not even one mile from our Center. Town n Country became a hotbed for the local news stations, who swarmed the location and looked for people to interview. As part of their grieving process, youth went from shock to anger to dismay and denial. They wondered out loud what would happen to the community's perception of them. Would they be labeled gangsters? Would anyone want to help them? How could they help their friends and relatives, especially younger siblings, not fall into the "gangster" lifestyle?

Instead of wondering, the youth mobilized and worked with staff at FICS to organize a series of three community roundtables to discuss the situation. Youth were trained and facilitated roundtables mixed with adults, service providers and educators, to come up with priorities for prevention. The result was that our Center youth, though in mourning, stood up with the parents of the slain youth and took a stand against youth violence. The press, TV, newspaper and radio, was on hand to document this and we were able to begin a real community dialogue about the need for more positive places for youth in Hillsborough County to go after school. We have to remember that youth are not adults and be sensitive to their needs. At one roundtable, a 10 year old girl asked, "What if the gang members are the only adults who are ever nice to you?"

Indeed, that's why we are here. Now, we are proud to say that we offer afterschool programming to youth aged 7 to 17 everyday! We need mentors and tutors, as well! Call 813.249.8100 if interested.

Wimauma, Florida
In 1992, as a Research Assistant at the University of South Florida, FICS Director Dr. Alayne Unterberger was sent to Wimauma FL, an agricultural rural town populated primarily by persons of Mexican and Guatemalan descent, who first came to the area to work in the fields in South Hillsborough County. Her goal was to conduct a focus group on children's health issues with Mexican farm worker women. What she learned was that the community representatives believed steadfastly in the American Dream and wanted to give their children everything they did not have back home. When the Florida Institute for Community Studies (FICS) began in 2002, Alayne had already worked with the Wimauma community for ten years and had embarked on her dissertation research in Guanajuato Mexico and Wimauma Florida, tracking health issues with the migrants. FICS prioritized working with farm workers and immigrants in its founding concept paper in 2001. Through our work in Wimauma, FICS formed a model for working with communities that builds on community development and participatory research methodologies.

In this model, the community guides the program, from the identification of problems and strengths to data analysis, strategic planning, and finally, becoming project staff carrying out the program as planned. Our first project of FICS in 2002 came from work carried out previously on male-to-male family planning and responsibility. Since then, the program has grown and blossomed. Now we have a strong community advisory board that plans, organizes and holds three major events that build on what is right in South County: Three Kings Day (January), Mother's Day (May) and Exemplary Father of the Year (June). FICS helped begin the Rural Youth Soccer Association (RYSA) in 1999 which is still playing strong and is now run completely independently in Wimauma. In South Hillsborough County, we continue to have success on many levels. Our goal is to outreach as many families possible and teach them the basics on diabetes, HIV/AIDS, cardiovascular disease prevention, family planning, cholesterol and good eating habits. Join us in prevention at 813.249.8100.