Born and raised in Miami among a diverse population of Caribbean immigrants. When I lost my father in the seventh grade, it was a time when young boys really look to the men in their lives to figure out who they’re supposed to be. Yet, bolstered by my mother’s strength, I found a way through my grief and discovered a deep desire to be part of something bigger than myself.
"Education Changed Everything"
Many people considered me to be one of the lucky ones. After being accepted into a magnet program at South Miami Middle School located across the county in another city, I discovered a whole new world in education. I built strong relationships and was exposed to neighborhoods that did not struggle with the same burdens shouldered by communities like my own. I began to envision a different future for my own neighborhood and made a promise with my fiends - that we would take our new perspectives back to our high schools in the inner-city. In order to build our schools up with similar programs which give every kid a chance to achieve a better future.
"I BEGAN TO ENVISION A DIFFERENT FUTURE FOR MY OWN NEIGHBORHOOD"
Once in high school, some of those same friends and I became laser-focused on making our mark by focusing on winning a award that would show the whole county we were just as gifted as everyone else. We just needed the same opportunities and resources. I decided my service project for the award application would be coordinating initiatives to take back our local park, to make it a safer place for neighborhood kids to play at again - instead of the dangerous alternative of playing in the streets. Three years later during my senior year, I was stunned when our goal was realized and my name was called as the recipient of the distinguished Miami Herald Silver Knight in Athletics from Miami Central Senior High – an honor rarely bestowed upon a kid from an inner-city school like mine. After college, I experienced success climbing the professional ladder in retail management with respected companies like Target and Nike. Soon after, I transitioned to the world of sports entertainment and began making tracks in the National Football League and Players Association, assisting with coordinating events from the NFL Draft to Superbowl Week.
"Time for a Change"
However, after President Barack Obama was elected, I took stock of my life and despite my professional success - I realized something was lacking. I started to feel that familiar pull from the skinny high school kid who fought for safe playgrounds in Miami, and decided I had to do something bigger, and more meaningful with my life. So, I enrolled in graduate school at FIU where I earned my M.S.Ed. in Higher Education Administration to pursue the next chapter of my journey. Even though I left the glitz of the NFL, I’ve stayed close to my athletic roots. I first became an Academic Counselor and Lecturer at North Carolina A&T State University coaching student-athletes to aggressively pursue their academic studies alongside their athletic pursuits; then served as a Senior Advisor for the Miami Business School and currently as a Success Coach at my Alma mater.
“People were pouring life into my dreams”
Looking back on my childhood in Little Haiti, I still marvel at how my mother was able to juggle it all. She always managed to provide for me and my sister; we were never deprived; and never felt we were less than. I also realized how much support I received from my teachers and my community. It occurred to me that the education that made my early success possible would have been completely unattainable without my strong mother, public schools, public transportation, and the support of my friends and neighbors. Without public funding for systems and programs that lift people above life’s obstacles, what chance does a poor kid from the inner city have?
"Serving the Community that Made Me"
Today, I am more determined than ever to give back to the community that made me who I am. As someone who co-founded their local neighborhood association, volunteered as a Citizen-on-Patrol with the Miami Police Department, and who has spent hundreds of hours serving as a Mentor to our youth. My passion is fueled by a love of my community, and a deep sense of gratitude for all that my city has given to me.
Image of Michael A. Hepburn, M.S.Ed.