Miami Visionaries Awards education finalists

Education visionary: An individual who is creating positive change in the areas of public, private or secondary education.


▪ Eduardo Padrón, president of Miami-Dade College

▪ Jim McKelvey, founder of Launchcode

▪ Valerie York-Zimmerman, founder of Mindful Kids Miami

Scroll down to learn more about the finalists

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Here’s what their nominators wrote about these finalists.

Three words that reflect Dr. Eduardo Padron’s impact: MIAMI DADE COLLEGE. He has dedicated his entire professional career to MDC. From starting the Interamerican Campus in a borrowed classroom of a Catholic school to growing the college to the largest institution of higher learning in the country with the highest number of graduating Hispanics and minorities. Downtown Miami’s incredible growth is partly as a result of Dr. Padron’s vision for Wolfson Campus which has been the anchor of our downtown for decades. Miami Dade now has the largest study body of any college in the nation. It has been responsible for affordably educating many current community leaders and those of tomorrow.

As cofounder of Square, serial entrepreneur Jim McKelvey has plenty to keep him busy. But in his hometown of St. Louis and here in his new home of Miami, McKelvey has seen a disconnect between the jobs available in IT and the programs that would ready would-be workers — especially those from underserved areas -- for those jobs. To fill that gap, he cofounded Launchcode, a non-profit organization that creates pathways to economic opportunity and upward mobility through apprenticeships and job placement in technology. The program partners with hundreds of companies to set up special on-ramps into apprenticeships and jobs in technology. It is slated to go nationwide this year.

Valerie York-Zimmerman, founder of Mindful Kids Miami, is an educational visionary. She believes in a scholastic environment for children where benefits of mindfulness—increased focus and attention, enhanced self-awareness, stress reduction, and above all, kindness—infuse the classroom. An inspirational leader with extensive experience teaching Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction to adults, she envisioned expanding these life-affirming principles to children. Convinced the most effective way to reach children was by training their teachers, Valerie embarked on this daunting task with indefatigable energy and focus. In 2015 Valerie obtained approval of a path-finding pilot project between Mindful Kids Miami and Miami-Dade County Public Schools, providing mindfulness training to hundreds of teachers, who implemented the techniques in their classrooms. In just one year, results were remarkable: enhanced academic and social-emotional learning and improved student behavior. The program has tremendous potential for improving both school success and personal wellness of children for generations to come.