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Envision Blog

A Classroom in a Pushcart


September 14, 2015

“Each person has a hidden hero within... Look inside you and search it in your heart.”
~ Efren Penaflorida, 2009 CNN Hero of the Year

Every year CNN selects a Hero of the Year, awarding $100,000 to that “everyday person” whose extraordinary accomplishments make a difference in their communities and beyond. In 2009, that Hero was an educator: Efren Peñaflorida, who started a "pushcart classroom" in the Philippines to bring education to poor children.

Anderson Cooper presented the award to Efren at the All-Star Tribute in Hollywood. The event was aired on Thanksgiving night, 2009, on the global networks of CNN.

Education Triumphs over Gangs

Efren Peñaflorida was born into a poor family and grew up in the slums of the Philippines. Gang activity was rampant in the streets, with children pressured to join as early as nine years old. Efren remembers being pressured by a gang leader, and refusing to join. After the confrontation, he realized he could help divert other children away from the gangs. In 1997, at age 16, Peñaflorida and several of his friends started Dynamic Teen Company, to give children an alternative to gangs and help them become productive members of their community.

In 1999, Efren’s company started a program to extend education to slum children. Every weekend, Dynamic Teen Company pushes a cart filled with school supplies through the slums. Children ages 2-14 flock to the cart to learn reading, writing, arithmetic and English. The group also started a hygiene clinic, where children can take a bath and learn basic hygiene, such as brushing their teeth.

At first, Efren’s company funded their efforts by recycling old bottles and newspapers, and creating and selling crafts. Dynamic Teen Company now has more than 10,000 members and has helped more than 1500 slum children. They have successfully mentored former gang members, addicts and dropouts, who are now serving as volunteers, mentoring other children and helping to raise funds. The company has four pushcart classrooms and hopes to expand.

"I always tell my volunteers that you are the change that you dream – and I am the change that I dream. Collectively we are the change that this world needs to be."

Global Attention

Anyone can nominate a Hero from their own community for the CNN award. CNN’s global viewership selects the winner via online voting. In 2009, more than 2.75 million votes were cast, for over 9,000 nominees.

Efren has been using his $100,000 award to continue his educational – and perhaps lifesaving – work with children. Here at Envision we’re proud to remember and honor him for his contributions. Tune in October 8 when CNN's Anderson Cooper reveals the Top 10 Hero nominees for 2015, on New Day and CNN.com.

Who Inspires You? Tell us about others educators who are making a difference.

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