Campus & Community

Pitbull encourages STEAM crowd to follow their own path

What is one key to success in life? According to Armando Christian Perez, better known as “Pitbull,” it’s to follow your own journey in life.

“I think that a lot of people always try to keep up with the Joneses as a way to benchmark their success and don’t follow their own journeys,” the Grammy award winner told the crowd of more than 650 at the Palm Beach State College Foundation’s 5th annual STEAM luncheon today. “I’m not here to keep up with the Joneses; I’m here to make my own Joneses.”

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The talk was given in the Kravis Center for Performing Arts Cohen Pavilion banquet room. Its walls adorned with images of pianos, musical notes, strobe lights and disco balls. In attendance was the Palm Beach Post’s Pop Culture Writer Leslie Gray Streeter, who interviewed the Miami born and raised music icon for the Q&A style luncheon.

Following his own journey, he said, is what drives him. Not making more money.

“Money is like a passport. It allows you to come and go, but it doesn’t make you who you are,” said Pitbull.

It is his hope that these messages and more will be instilled in today’s youth, which is one of the reasons he decided to get involved in education.

In 2013, he helped create the SLAM! (Sports, Leadership, Arts and Management) charter school in one of Miami’s most impoverished neighborhoods with one of the goals to make education cool and exciting for students. Last year, another SLAM opened in West Palm Beach and is a feeder school to Palm Beach State College.

“I want to see kids want to go to school even when they’re sick,” said Pitbull. “That’s why at SLAM, we try and come up with fun and exciting ways for them to learn like using Fantasy Football as a tool to teach about math.”

He particularly hopes students will become more interested in science, technology, engineering, arts and math fields.

“We are going to have to protect our workforce and protect our jobs and STEAM plays a big role in that,” he said. “When I visit Japan, I see robots now doing the work that people used to do. Technology is moving so fast that I want us to start talking about the jobs that don’t exist yet.”

Pitbull also spoke about spending time in foster care as a child, as well as time in and out of many schools that he believes were built to fail him. He hopes that today’s system will look different.

“Instead of programming students to be programmed, program them to solve problems,” said Pitbull. “I think a lot of people are scarred to step up due to protocol, but if you are solving problems that is the most important thing.”

Even though there weren’t many, other than his family, who believed in him growing up, he talked about two teachers in particular who did. One of them was Mrs. Hope Martinez.

“In high school, I would go outside and hold these rap contests we called ‘battling’,” said Pitbull. “This became my escape. However, the principal didn’t like it. Mrs. Martinez pulled me aside one day and told me the biggest risk you take in life is not taking one. I learned then that risks are worth taking.”

Pitbull also spoke about being a first-generation Cuban American and how his grandmother was part of the Cuban revolution, coming to America under Operation Peter Pan.

“Even though Miami was considered one of the most dangerous American cities in the 1980s, my grandma would tell me how blessed I was to live in the United States. That made me very appreciative. When opportunities came along, I took full advantage of them.”

In closing, when asked how he wanted to be remembered in life he simply said “as someone who cared. Cared about making a positive change in their community, state, country and world.”

The 2017 STEAM luncheon was chaired by South Florida Businesswoman and Philanthropist Yvonne Boice and top sponsors were: Bank of America, Alpha Media, Comcast, Florida Power & Light, Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center, Modernizing Medicine, Pratt & Whitney, The Palm Beach Post and WXEL PBS for the Palm Beaches. Proceeds from the event will go toward PBSC STEAM scholarships.

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