This past year, at-home virtual learning has significantly challenged the education system as a whole, and has made it more important than ever to ensure children have the resources they need to succeed both in school and in life. That’s where Kids Helping Kids Succeed comes in. Founded in 2012 by Debbie Aquino, the organization is dedicated to providing children with the tools necessary for success including school supplies, mentoring, group activities, art programs, and celebrating important milestones such as birthdays and graduations.
While Debbie’s work with Kids Helping Kids Succeed has had an immense impact on its Florida community, she hadn’t always known she would start a charity organization such as this. Debbie began her career as a model when at a very young age, and has been heavily involved with the modeling industry to this day. She’s originally from Brazil, but as soon as she was old enough, Debbie moved to Italy to take her modeling career to the next level. She worked as a showroom model and eventually booked her first catwalk show. After two years of living out her dream, she moved home to Brazil for six months, then quickly decided she wanted to live in the United States.
After moving to the US, Debbie managed to create her own bikini and activewear line, continued modeling, went to college, and became a mother. She eventually got her real estate brokers license to have a more stable career for herself and her family. When her son was in school, he had a project in which they found out that there were almost 50,000 children living in homeless shelters in Florida. This was the initial inspiration behind starting Kids Helping Kids Succeed. Since then, the charity has been focused on underserved children living in shelter facilities and school districts with less resources in Miami-Dade County.
However, Kids Helping Kids Succeed’s mission became challenging as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to rise. Despite the circumstances, Debbie and her organization did whatever they could to support underserved children and their families. They even started a grassroots movement to collect and deliver weekly basic supplies and nonperishable items. Kids Helping Kids Succeed has continued delivering boxes since the schools closed on March 13th, 2020, and they are now delivering 100 boxes to families from Kendall, Hialeah, Bay Harbor, Miami-Dade, and Broward counties in Florida.
“When Covid started, we began feeding the families with disabled kids,” says Debbie. “We started with 30 families, and now we are capped at 150.”
All of the work Kids Helping Kids Succeed does is entirely dependent on volunteers and donations from the community, and they have made impressive fundraising efforts over the past few years. It’s safe to say that Kids Helping Kids Succeed is an admirable charity that is worth donating to. In the near future, Debbie would love to be able to open her own youth center, and she already has plans in the works for it once she can raise the funds to be able to break ground on the project.