Wynwood program leader earns respect

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The Miami Herald

February 9, 1992

By Olympia Duhart

Around these parts they just call him X. That is short for Xavier Cortada, who heads a youth group in Wynwood. For the past four months, Cortada has united teenage boys and girls in the North Central Dade neighborhood for rap sessions, field trips and football games.

“They don’t have a place to hang out, and they just have a lot of time on their hands,” Cortada said. “People exchange drugs around here like they are at a flea market, and these kids are living in this environment. This gives them something else to do.”

Cortada’s work in Wynwood recently earned him a nomination for the 1992 President’s Annual Points of Light Awards. The awards recognize outstanding individuals, families, groups and organizations for community service aimed at addressing serious social problems.

The 1992 President’s Annual Points of Light Awards will be presented this spring.


Cortada first came to Wynwood as chairman of the city of Miami’s Youth Task Force, which sponsors the youth group at La Mission San Juan Bautista. The youth group meets two hours every weekday at the chapel, 3100 NW Second Ave., which is a satellite center for Corpus Christi Catholic Church.

At the meetings, the teens discuss their problems and try to develop their self-esteem. On the weekends, the group takes field trips and organizes football games. The kids also look to X for words of advice and encouragement.

“He’s got courage,” said David Rivera, 15, a member of the Wynwood youth group. “It takes a lot to come out here and work with us.”

Motivating youths with special needs is nothing new for Cortada. For the past two years, he has served as executive director of Regis House, a drug and alcohol abuse center for
adolescents in Little Havana.

A native of Albany, N.Y., Cortada moved to Florida as a young boy and spent his childhood in Allapattah and Grapeland Heights. He received his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Miami.

Cortada has also served in a slew of other fields and service organizations. He worked as a substitute school teacher, as a campaign coordinator in Rosario Kennedy’s congressional campaign and as a volunteer for the Miami Coalition for a Drug- Free Community. But nothing quite compares to his experiences in Wynwood.

“All I’m trying to do is teach these kids to respect themselves, respect others and start accepting the system,” Cortada said. “I don’t know how we’re going to do it. But we’re going to do it.”