WSFL-TV is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month by highlighting the contributions Latinos are making in South Florida. Today, we’re featuring Katherine Leiva, a former teacher, who’s made such an impact in children's lives.
Katherine was born and raised in Miami.
“I’m a Miami mut. I grew up all over the city, there’s not a neighborhood that I whole-heartedly represent,” said Katherine Leiva, co-founder of Fit Lit Camp.
Katherine’s parents, both from Nicaragua, died when she was young.
“My dad died when I was nine years old. He had Hepatitis C, his liver started to malfunction due to him being an alcoholic when he was very young. My mother died when I was 14 due to having a heart attack in her sleep because her diabetes levels were through the roof,” said Katherine.
The death of her parents, both caused by health conditions, inspired her to change her lifestyle. That led to workouts after school with students.
“I remember one day yelling out to the kids, ‘if you think this is cute, come do it with me,'” said Katherine.
That’s when Fit Lit Camp started. Founded in 2016, the provides educational programs that are focused on fitness and literacy for kids in underserved areas.
“No one was filling that gap to help children with literature as well as their health,” said Katherine.
“Her idea came up one day when we were just working out and she noticed my progress when my English started to become a little bit better,” said Elvys Melo, former camper.
The camp started off as a workout class, then when Katherine noticed communicating in English helped students like Elvys, she started to bring articles and books for them to read.
“I was forced to go out of my way to talk English, five days a week with her. That made me get better because I learned more vocabulary with her. Most of the time she would bring articles and say ‘hey read this I think you might be interested in this’. So we would have 5-10 minutes to read something then she’d be like ‘ok now we have to do 2-3 laps,’” said Elvys.
Elvys was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to the United States when he was 12. He was enrolled in ESOL, a program provided by Miami-Dade Public Schools. designed to improve language proficiency in English.
What helped him get out of the program? Attending Fit Lit Camp.
“To be honest if it wasn’t because of [Fit Lit Camp] I don’t know where I would be right now. I believe this is a really good help for kids that come from another country and find themselves in a different environment than they’re used to,” added Elvys.
“A kid who was working at a gas station, from the Dominican Republic, to what he has become today. [It’s] phenomenal to see what can truly happen to our community if we invest in it,” said Katherine.
Katherine says since the program has helped over 100 students accomplish so many of their goals.
Right now, the camp isn't open because of the coronavirus but to stay up to date head to fitlitters.com