The Happy World Foundation, a nonprofit founded by top Dallas ISD Spanish teacher Akash Patel from Ignite Middle School, annually recognizes important citizens that have made a “Happy” difference in the world by promoting Global Citizenship Education, Citizen-to-Citizen Diplomacy, and Cross-Cultural Understanding in schools and communities worldwide.
Patel and his twin brother, Anand “Happy” Patel, previously founded a nonprofit several years ago in Oklahoma before coming to Texas. The organization worked around the world with people who were supporting schools and communities.
Once in Texas, Patel approached Amy Anderton, Dallas ISD’s Director of World Languages, with the idea of co-founding a new non-profit in Dallas, using his previous experiences and contacts. As they began the founding process, tragedy struck Patel, when his twin brother “Happy” was killed in an airplane crash. Patel and Anderton decided to honor “Happy” by founding the non-profit in his name. Thus, the “Happy World Foundation” was created.
Their annual awards gala this year was hosted by local Congressional Representatives Colin Allred and Eddie Bernice Johnson and recognized people from education, business, and government. One of this year’s six award recipients included Dallas ISD’s own Chief Academic Officer Ivonne Durant.
“Dr. Durant was selected by our board because of her support, promotion and expansion of the country’s largest urban Dual Language Program and also of her support for Dallas ISD’s World Languages program, which has grown to nine foreign languages and more than 30,000 students,” Anderton said. “Her continuing support and forward thinking brings people together that normally wouldn’t be aligned, all for the common purpose of providing an innovative, world-class education for all children. We are proud to honor her with this award.”
In her award acceptance speech, Durant shared her story of being an immigrant herself and the hardships she endured as a child because of a language barrier. Those experiences heavily influenced her current work with children in an effort to break down language barriers and promote intercultural understanding among people through learning a second language.
“Recognizing the effort that support languages is paramount in the education of the total child. By all of us embracing the importance of language, we are embracing a higher level of education of all students,” Durant said. “It is through language we improve relations with each other for a better world. Es sólo a través del lenguaje que comenzamos a entendernos unos a los otros. It is only through language that we begin to understand each other.”
Anand “Happy” Patel was known for his charismatic personality and actions. His trademark was popping the lenses out of cheap sunglasses and proudly wearing the no-lens frames as a fashion statement. At the recent Awards Gala, each guest was given a pair of no-lens glasses to wear in his memory.