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Miami Tomorrow

Michelle Abbs is an academic advocate, an entrepreneurial leader, and a staunch proponent of women-run startups. Miami native Matthew Anderson is a community activist who has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and helped guide organizations serving under-privileged children across the region. Vance Aloupis parlayed his mission as CEO of The Children’s Movement of Florida into a successful 2018 run for the Florida Legislature, where his mission is the welfare of children statewide.

All three share two common attributes. Each is leading the way in shaping Miami’s civic, cultural, and leadership landscape. Each also was a recipient of the Center for Leadership’s Emerging Leader Award.

The Emerging Leader Award honors South Florida’s next generation of leaders under the age of 40. Nominated by senior leaders from across the community, the honorees are recognized for their efforts to foster positive change and motivate others to action. 

“Each year, the Emerging Leader nominees represent the very best that Miami’s youngest and brightest bring to the everyday life and work of our community. This year is no different,” said Mayra Beers, Ph.D., director for the Center for Leadership. “These exceptional leaders are driving Miami’s tomorrow. And we are excited about that future holds.”

Vance Aloupis, elected last November to represent district 115 in the Florida House of Representatives, was recognized with the Emerging Leader Award in 2015.

“Although young in years, those honored by the Emerging Leader Award become examples for the good that can be done by the next generation of leaders,” said David Lawrence, Jr., the former Miami Herald publisher and current chairman of The Children’s Movement of Florida who nominated Aloupis for the Award in 2015.

“Some awards celebrate individuals for their decades of a lifetime of service,” Lawrence said. Recognizing up-and-coming leaders encourages and “signals to others what is genuinely valued in this world.

“Vance combines all the right elements. He is honest as the day is long, has all the basic human values, and wants to make a difference in this world – and he will,” continued Lawrence. “Many people know and respect Vance for the work that he does. But his being honored shows people his work is really important.”

For Aloupis, the Emerging Leader award provided another platform to share his vision for improving his community. In time, his platform included elected office, which allows him to reach a broader audience where he can advance his work for children even more. A native of Bangor, Maine, Aloupis appreciates how Miami welcomes those, like him, who hope to improve the community.

“You don’t have to live [in Miami] for 10, or 15, or 20 years before you can start to make a remarkable impact,” said Aloupis, who frequently meets with mentors Lawrence; Alberto Ibargüen, Chairman of the Knight Foundation; and Miami community activist Ruth Shack. Aloupis described them as “people who have ascended to that transcendent leader level where their leadership is community-wide and not just issue specific.”

“As an emerging leader, regardless of how old you are, it’s your responsibility to understand issues outside your own silo or community -- how everything is interconnected -- and then do your best to be an example for others in the kind of leader you want to be.”

Among Aloupis’ required reading is Freedom Summer, the Bruce Watson book he distributed at his award ceremony.

A year after receiving the 2018 Award, Michelle Abbs’ achievements in the community remain on an upward trajectory. As director of WIN Lab at Babson College Miami, the FIU masters’ alumna works tirelessly to expand opportunities for women entrepreneurs in our community. She provides operational support, speaks at area organizations, and shares her vision in a host of ways, amplifying her voice while educating people about the Miami start-up culture. Her vision of building stronger community connections that benefit every sector.

“Winning the award has allowed me to think about my personal leadership style,” she said. “It has helped me clarify how I can have a broader impact when I’m working on the day to day." 

On Abbs’ reading must haves include Be Fearless: 5 Principles for a Life of Breakthroughs and Purpose by Jean Case and Recode Decode, the digital media outlet by progressive technology business journalist Kara Swisher.

Matt Anderson had amassed impressive accomplishments before being named the 2017 Emerging Leader. His successful financial services career – Anderson currently is a wealth advisor with Bank of America Private Bank – is only part of Matt’s work. He graduated from Leadership Florida/Connect Florida Class VII, co-chaired the United Way Young Leaders, is the youngest incoming chair of Miami non-profit, MCCJ, and has spearheaded numerous other community charitable events. He also lends his talents on the FIU President’s Council and the Fostering Panther Pride initiative helping students in the foster care and homeless system reach higher education goals.

A Miami native, Anderson was born to a family of philanthropists. Giving back and activism for the collective good is in Anderson’s blood.

“A lot of people are voluntold, but I was voluntaught early on that volunteering was a responsibility,”

said Anderson, who lists among his mentors former Miami Herald publishers Alexandra Villoch, Alberto Ibargüen, and David Lawrence with whom he meets regularly.

“At 34, this is the time to set the real foundation professionally and socially and to find out what you want to give back to the community,” he said. 

On Anderson’s bookshelf: Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi and Mr. Shmooze: The Art and Science of Selling Through Relationships by Richard Abraham.

The Center for Leadership at Florida International University will announce the recipient of the 2019 Emerging Leader Award this coming August and an event to honor the recipient will follow in the fall. The recipient will also receive a $1,000 award.