Michael Hepburn

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MICHAEL HEPBURN

I was 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

I was 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 didn’t struggle with the same burdens shouldered by communities like my own. I began to envision a different future for my own neighborhood. So I made a promise with some friends - 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 and 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 eyeing a particular award that would show the whole county we were just as gifted as everyone else. We just needed the same opportunities and resources and I knew exactly what I would do as my service project for the award. I was going to coordinate initiatives to take back our local park to make it a safe 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 I heard my name called as the award 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 the Superbowl.

Time for a Change

However, after Barack Obama was elected, I took stock of my life. Despite my professional success, I realized something was lacking. I began to feel that familiar pull from the skinny high school kid fighting for safe playgrounds in Lemon City, and decided I had to do something bigger, and more meaningful with my life.

So I enrolled in grad school at FIU where I earned an M.S.Ed. in Higher Education Administration and 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 and I recently served as a Senior Academic Advisor for the School of Business at the University of Miami.

“People were pouring life into my dreams.”

Looking back on my childhood, 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, 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’ve 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?

My passion is fueled by a love of my community, and a deep sense of gratitude for all that my city has given me."

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. I am the co-founder of my local neighborhood association, as well as a volunteer Citizen-on-Patrol with the Miami Police Department. I spend time as a Youth Mentor with DCS, where we support students between 4th and 11th grade on Saturdays, and I still fight for my public parks. As a former member of the Miami Park and Recreation Advisory Board, I recently even helped pass a city ordinance banning Styrofoam in our city parks.

My passion is fueled by a love of my community, and a deep sense of gratitude for all that my city has given me.

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