We had the good fortune of connecting with Virginia Ansaldi and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Virginia, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I feel like risk assessment is a pretty important part of how I make decisions. My dad always told us, “el que nunca se equivoca, nunca hizo nada” (he who doesn’t make mistakes, never does anything). I believe that we have to be willing to take risks, and make mistakes, if we’re going to achieve anything meaningful in our lives, both professionally and personally. When I decided to leave my job as a high school teacher to start Aim, the nonprofit after school program I co-founded with Derek Waddy, I was sick with the anxiety and heartache of the decision. I knew it was a huge risk on my part: bye-bye regular paychecks, health benefits, schedule routines, and pretty much everything I felt really confident doing. I had no experience in running a nonprofit! Now, 2 years in, I look back proudly at having had the courage to take that first step. At Aim, we have had the chance to work with over 150 youth, building meaningful relationships, and my personal life is at large much more enjoyable than during my frenetic times as a public school teacher. It was a significant risk, but all the worth taking.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’ve been an educator since 2009, having worked for a variety of programs and institutions across the country. In 2015, I became a high school science teacher and in 2018 was awarded the Rising Star Award for Sustainability from the City of Coral Gables due to my efforts in environmental education. Alongside my career in education, I’ve been teaching yoga since 2013, working not only in yoga studios and schools, but also in rehabilitation centers, prisons, and juvenile detention centers. Then, in 2018, I left my job as a science teacher to start a nonprofit after school program for high school students envisioning a world in which youth have the guidance and confidence to accomplish their goals. At Aim our mission is to encourage high school age youth to be agents of change that invest in themselves, each other and the world. I am proud of the work that we do and the opportunities that we provide our youth to explore their thoughts, ideas, relationships and interests. It certainly wasn’t easy, and there’s still so much growing room! But we have been able to overcome challenges with thoughtfulness, authenticity, and genuine care. We truly believe in capacity of our youth and that everyone can live a life of their dreams given the right support.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I’m not much of a night scene frequenter, which usually gets all of the attention in Miami, but I do love my city. I love the Key Biscayne beaches for their natural appeal, catching the sunset off the Rickenbacker Causeway is a family tradition. Paddleboarding for sunrise in Biscayne Bay or Miami Beach with schools of tarpon underneath can take your breath away. I love local, healthy eats like The Last Carrot and The Beehive. If you can venture just an hour or so outside the city, any of our National Parks (Biscayne, Everglades, Big Cypress) will never disappoint. I love cruising around 8th street too and stopping for a cafecito or mamey smoothie. The Center for Subtropical Affairs in Little Haiti holds a special place in my heart and is an amazing permaculture and educational hub.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My shoutout definitely has to go to my dear friend and Co-Founder of Aim, Derek Waddy. Without a partner that I can trust, see eye to eye with, and learn from, Aim would have never come to fruition. My husband, Ian Wogan, and my dad, Ricardo Ansaldi, have also been pivotal in their constant encouragement to follow my gut, take risks, and believe in myself.

Website: aimmiami.org
Instagram: @virgxx, @aim_miami, @colonyandcomb
Facebook: facebook.com/virginiaansaldi

Image Credits
Health Information Project (HIP)