How are you making your corner of the world better?

An Open Letter to Society From a Teacher in Urban America

“It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

For school employee Ana Rubio, her actions are producing fruit, today.

Who is Ana? Earlier this year, she was awarded the prestigious grand prize in the LifeChanger of the Year educator recognition program sponsored by National Life Group. She’s a teacher at Earlington Heights Elementary School in Miami who was recognized for making a huge difference in her students’ lives.

Since getting to know her and her work this spring, we’ve become huge fans. And so have our partners.

In fact, Ana was recently asked to attend a women’s conference sponsored by Appreciation Financial, one of our independent marketing organizations, to share her experiences.

In typical Ana fashion, she wowed the room with her energy and her passion. Her message was one that rang loud and clear: What are you doing to make your corner of the world better?

Here is an abbreviated selection of Ana’s message, written as an open letter to all who care about education in urban America.

I guess you are wondering what kind of important message a simple Physical Education teacher from a small urban public school located in the ‘hood of Miami could have.

But, I am also the nation’s LifeChanger of the Year Award recipient. This award is given each year by National Life Group! One of the few corporations in the United States that honors teachers. This year there were 720 nominees. Each of us were able to see how our community sees and feels about our work and we were able to respond with love. An incredible experience for teachers or for those who work in education. We are a very quiet group, silent heroes despite what the media would like to portray.

Throughout life I have faced my fair share of adversity and maybe you have, too. As a woman, I am breaking the chains of society’s stigmas and biases. Achievements don’t come easy. Overcoming obstacles is a constant. Like me, some of you have even overcome great adversity while being a single parent.

So you, my beautiful students and I do have a great deal in common. I believe we can achieve the American dream.

In this day and age, with the chaotic political climate we live in, we cannot wait for social change to evolve and come to us. We must become proactive and create the change for ourselves and for others. Change now occurs at the grassroots level. At the smallest level. It starts with you. With me, the simple P.E. teacher.

I have been a physical education teacher for 17 years. I have worked at Earlington Heights Elementary since 2006. This school is located in the Brownsville/ Liberty City northwest area of Miami Florida. An area that is brimming with crime and gang violence.

As reported by the Miami Herald, in the past 10 years 316 children have been killed due to gang violence. Since 2006, 16 of those deaths were my students.

I know what it is like to run from the PE field to the cafeteria and shield my students from danger. I know what an AK-47 rifle looks like, how it sounds, and the jolt given when it’s fired. There were 10 lock downs at my school this past 2016-2017 school year.

That’s my day job.

Then after school hours, I travel a short 20 minutes away to my second job at the University of Miami. There I serve the children from one of the most affluent neighborhoods located in the southwest area of Miami called Coral Gables. I coach USA swimming to beautiful children of privilege.

What I notice is that these children are well traveled, participate in many extracurricular activities, and are constantly looking for ways to enrich their lives. Their families give them great support and they attend the best schools.

The public schools have PTA/PTO’s with deep pockets raising upwards of $200,000 a year. As a result, the schools have resources that abound.

After being exposed to serving children in such poverty and then such abundance on a daily basis for years it came to my attention: Miami, Florida is segregated with great racial disparities. The northwest and the southwest. What is ironic is that no one seems to care.

I thought to myself, “What if we could break these social barriers? If we expose our urban elementary students to higher education and give them experiences outside of their neighborhood? Treat them as if they came from Coral Gables. Empower them by giving them opportunities. Providing urban teachers with the resources needed to ensure their students’ success. Write federal grants that will give them a quality aftercare program. Create volunteer and mentoring programs that will motivate our students to learn. Provide field trips that will expose students to enriching experiences.”

This is exactly what I did with the assistance of five other very passionate teachers and a principal that understands that more had to be done. We call our foundation Streamline Miami. We are, “Breaking Barriers by Supporting Education Because Every Child Deserves a Chance.”

Flash forward and we’ve seen some pretty impressive accomplishments at Earlington Heights. For four years now, Earlington Heights has received an F grade. This year everything changed. After being awarded with LifeChanger of the Year, the Department of Education congratulated me. The physical education facility renovation I had been seeking for many years was finally approved. And, our school was upgraded to a B+ school.

We have partnered with the University of Miami and Florida International University involving mentoring programs for our students who are in foster care. And we are planning a talent show that volunteers from the universities are organizing to bring together the children from the northwest and the southwest.

Streamline Miami is working towards becoming more sustainable.

So my next question is, how can we take this blueprint and expand it to other schools? We’re discussing this now. We’re planning for a brighter future.

There will come a time that you will ask yourself, “What legacy would I like to leave on this earth?” In this one life you live, are you making your corner of the world better? When you hear reports of poverty, violence or neglect, these are society’s cries. Are you inspiring others to achieve more? Are you assisting in some capacity to break the chains of ignorance? It can be as simple as going to a career day at a school, mentoring a child or donating to a cause that is important to you.

This is my challenge to you. Please reflect and help fix a part of your world. It starts by fixing you and then expanding your gifts to others. This is how a country stays strong. It starts with you.