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Miami Urban Educator of the Year Awards $10,000 Green-Garner Scholarship

  • Laura Garcia, Cuban-born 2020 graduate of South Dade Senior High School in Miami, has been awarded the $10,000 Green-Garner Scholarship. 

    Garcia was chosen by Lawrence Feldman, recognized as the 2019 Urban School Educator of the Year and recipient of the Green-Garner Award at the Council’s 63rd Fall Conference in Louisville, Ky. Feldman is a Miami-Dade school board member and immediate past chair of the Council. Laura Garcia

    Feldman took note of Garcia’s journey from Cuba – she was just 3, arriving by sea with her mother and grandmother – and the obstacles she has overcome to become a success story.

    She has excelled academically, was the valedictorian of her senior class and performed 500 hours of community service. She plans to attend the University of Florida with career ambitions of being a teacher.

    “Laura, like so many of our students here in Miami-Dade, came to this country in search of a better life and opportunities,” Feldman said in an email. “She struggled alongside her family, not only in her journey to escape her communist country, but in adjusting and surviving in a new land.  With tenacity and grit, she overcome insurmountable obstacles and has made her dreams of attending college a reality.” 

    In an essay, Garcia recalled leaving Cuba on a raft with her mother, grandmother and about 20 other refugees. She remembered her mother remaining “calm, with her chin up high, and with unwavering conviction” that making the arduous voyage was the right decision. Her mother worked multiple jobs to support the family, and Garcia too has worked since she was 14. 

    “Being an immigrant or a minority does not mean you cannot succeed,” Garcia told the South Dade News Leader. “More than anything, I want other students to know that the struggles that come with this reality can be used as fuel to ignite passion and never-ending drive. Having obstacles in your way only makes success more sweet and well-earned, because success will come.”

    In her essay, Garcia emphasized her admiration for her mother, Yovanna Alvarez:

    “I realized suddenly that all that challenges that my mother faced and continued to power through are the reasons I have to keep fighting. In my home and school life, hard work was not an option--it was a given. I thought about the millions of immigrants who, like me, were weary from hardships, whose shoulders ached, and whose heads throbbed. The very same immigrants that push on, become successful, and build the life they had once only been able to dream of.”

    The Green-Garner Award is named for Richard Green, first African American chancellor of the New York City school system, and Edward Garner, African-American school board member and former school board president of the Denver Public Schools. The award is sponsored by the Council, Aramark K-12 Education, Cenergistic and Scholastic Inc. and is bestowed upon a school board member one year and a superintendent the next. The winner presents a $10,000 scholarship to a graduating senior in the spring.