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My role in the community initially was one of being quiet. I was a pastor’s kid and my father didn’t want me to be someone who ended up on the news for the wrong reason, so I focused on how I could just participate and not have a negative impact. But the more I grew up and the more I started interacting with young adults, I realized that they truly wanted to understand how I got to where I was. And it wasn’t because I got great grades or did certain things that got me to this point, but because I was very genuine about who I was.
Both in my faith and at work, I've learned that those types of interactions, no matter how small, will bring change to people's lives. Everyone has a reason, and everyone wants to do good. If you're willing to take the time to learn about them — how they tick, what makes them happy, what makes them feel loved — they will respond in ways that you probably didn't even imagine. And that will inspire that individual to then live the rest of their lives to be that for someone else.
I’m a senior project manager at Suffolk, and I’m the executive pastor at my church, Ru Tampa. That role requires me to be involved with all the behind-the-scenes movements — our involvement with volunteers, making sure teams are running well, making sure the budget is running well. I love to do it at work. Why not do it for my community? Both roles involve talking to individuals who want to produce their best. My responsibility is to simply attend to them, provide what they need, and see how it flourishes. And the fruit of that is you see lives change in your community, and you see buildings get built and teams who love what they do. That gives me a heightened sense of joy.
Everyone has a reason, and everyone wants to do good.
There was this fad once where people would buy coffee and pay for the next person. I live my life thinking I'm paying it forward at all times. I'm constantly talking to people hoping that the interaction we have is something they think they could do with someone else. That's what we're taught at all times, especially in my faith, that it’s not the Bible and all sorts of crazy stuff that's going to change someone. It truly is interactions and stories. Those create memories and lock in moments for people to carry on for the rest of their lives and pass on for generations. And that's how communities change.
Gabriel Augustin met his wife at Florida International University, when she was handing out sign-up sheets at a National Society of Black Engineers meeting — he was there for the free food. The couple now has a 5-year-old and a fried ice cream company.
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