Q&A by Christian Beltz
Our City Thoughts: Why did you create the Motivational Edge in Miami?
Ian Welsch: I founded The Motivational Edge in Miami because I am inspired by the diversity of this city’s student population and what that means for the ever changing world of education. Miami is a ripe and raw city; full of life and energy.
OCT: What is the Motivational Edge all about? How was it founded?
IW: The Motivational Edge uses music as a motivational and learning platform to help our city’s youth youth achieve greater academic performance and increased self confidence . We do this by providing youth with a creative outlet for musical expression through music programs that integrate literacy and other educational components into the experience of making music. Success in school is a vital part of ME’s mission, therefore, free tutoring is available for all youth, and is mandatory for students that want to participate in music and arts classes that we provide but are receiving a “C” or below in one or more core subjects in school. The youth currently served by The Motivational Edge are walking testaments that music is an extremely powerful learning tool when integrated into the academic setting.
The Motivational Edge was born in 2008 because I saw a dire need for a more progressive and relevant approach to education. I had worked as a teacher at Melrose Elementary School for four years and where I witness how many under-resourced and at-risk youth are slipping through the crevices of a deteriorating educational system, I started The Motivational Edge with the hope of finding a way to engage those youth.
OCT: Describe a challenge you had to overcome to make the Motivational Edge possible?
IW: The biggest challenge when starting a not for profit entity is funding. Our challenge was in many ways unique, however, because rather than fundraise to cover administrative costs or general operating costs as most other NPO’s do, we needed start-up capital to beta-test and prove our unique and progressive programs. Our instructors were paid, but I sacrificed my own paycheck for over 5-years to ensure long term success for The Motivational Edge. After years of beta testing and offering free programs to many community partners, our model has stayed true to itself and is now generating sustainable revenue for our Allapattah center and entire Miami operation, serving 100-150 students per week.
OCT: How did you and your co-founder end up collaborating?
IW: We collaborated because I rented a commercial location from him for my first tutoring center. He was a musical genius and brought a lot of music knowledge to the organization for the time he was acting COO.
OCT: What does your team mean to you?
IW: My team means the world to me! They are a talented, creative and passionate group that helps drive the unyielding and endearing attitude that is needed while serving our diverse populations. My team strives to earn the trust of our students and families, as well as general public, through hard work, progressive and effective programming, ethical conduct, and responsible service. They help unleash students’ potential across multiple artistic, musical and academic areas; enabling them to make better decisions that will enhance their lives for years to come.
OCT: How has Miami impacted who you are today?
IW: Due to the many walks of life here, Miami has impacted everything from the way I do business to what I choose to eat. Miami has helped shape me into an entrepreneur.
OCT: What do you love the most about how Miami is being redefined?
IW: Miami is constantly being redefined by the many, many divergent walks of life that inhabit the various parts of this city. It is being redefined through the arts, which is amazing because that is how people get to express their True Self.
OCT: Describe an innovation advancement you are working on?
IW: We are constantly working on programs that not only engage youth when they walk through our doors, but that also resonate with them when they leave us. It is vital that the learning continue when they leave our care, which is why we develop programs to build long lasting confidence.
OCT: What’s the most gratifying aspect of what you do? And the most grating?
IW: The most gratifying aspect is that I know we are positively impacting lives, young and old, day in and day out. We are empowering the younger generation to not only be successful themselves but to take that success back to their communities and spread the knowledge. I can honestly say that there is nothing grating about what I do.
OCT: What wisdom would you share with your younger self (maybe when you were 18)?
IW: I would say, “Ian – Stay on the track you are on and continue to trust your instincts. You are making your own way, so remember it will not always be easy.”
OCT: What community issue keeps you up at night?
IW: More than anything, I wonder, will all of my students be safe tonight? Do all of my students have a bed to sleep in tonight? Did all of them eat dinner? Will they make wise decisions as we continue to teach them?
OCT: Describe your ideal Miami. Why are those qualities important to you?
IW: My ideal Miami is one where youth are challenged to do their very best in and out of school.There is a healthy, yet competitive nature among people to always strive to perform their best. Teachers would be empowered and given the resources they need to make that possible in the short amount of time they have with their students.
OCT: How was the idea behind “The Motivational Edge” conceived?
IW: The seeds of The Motivational Edge first sprouted when I saw the need for a more constructive, engaging learning environment in after school programs. I worked to fill this void, but didn’t find my true calling until years later, as an educator for the Miami Dade School System, when I recognized a need for an alternative educational provider. ME was born in 2008 when I saw the future of this community and its children slipping away through the crevices of a deteriorating educational system.
OCT: Where does your passion for youth and education come from?
IW: It started from a very young age when my family was part of the Fresh-air Fund in New York. We would invite at-risk youth to come stay with us in the suburbs for the summer. I learned a great deal from these boys but my main takeaway was that love and opportunity are paramount for a child’s well being. As long as a child experiences love and knows that he/she has an opportunity to be successful, it is instinctual to want to achieve that success. This may sound foreign to some people, but most of our students and many other kids in this world are born into families that don’t know how to love or foster a nurturing environment.
OCT: Where do you see your organization on 5 years?
IW: I see our organization having multiple locations in Miami and also servicing youth in at least 2 other cities around the US.
Visit them at The Motivational Edge