“On the 9th of April , I lost my only sibling, my twin brother, Happy Patel, to a plane crash. So when I lost this 26 year old, young and dynamic human from my life, I was devastated. And I was like, what do I do to overcome my grief, and to honor my twin’s memory? [So we changed} this movement from Global Experiences to a Happy World. Because the ultimate goal of global experiences is that all of us live in a joyful world, free of bigotry and prejudice. So we changed the name of the nonprofit. We changed the logo to a globe with glasses that my twin brother used to wear.”
In Episode 21, I got to talk with the wonderful Akash Patel. While Akash’s biography is impressive in expanse, variety, and leadership, note with me those award labels that trace the path that he has set his feet on, as he invited all he meets to find and follow their own: Service Above Self. Spirit of Hope. Innovation. Human Rights.
Akash is a man gifted with energy, joy, and insight; he uses these gifts in the service of others, transforming even tragic loss and grief into invitations to change the lives of all we meet for the better, for the good of all. Be sure to watch his eulogy for his brother, as well as his TED talk on global citizenship. Share Akash with your friends and loved ones; take him up on his invitation to reach out and find out how he and his Foundation can do more for you, and perhaps help you find a new path of service in your life, too.
Akash Patel’s Bio
Mr. Akash Patel is the Founder of Happy World Foundation, Inc., an international non-profit organization that promotes global citizenship education in schools and communities worldwide. In 2018, Patel, a Spanish and Mathematics teacher with Dallas ISD, was selected as a Top 50 finalist from over 30,000 teachers for the Global Teacher Prize, a $1 million award that is granted annually to one teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession.
In 2020, Patel was elected to the National Council of the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA) to serve the 2020-2022 term. He was also appointed as the chair of the Global Engagement Summit, the largest gathering of American grassroots changemakers and global activists in the General Assembly Hall at the United Nations and the chair of the UNA-USA Educators Affinity group that helps educators from across the United States champion the Sustainable Development Goals in their classrooms. In 2021, Patel was inducted in the International Literacy Association’s 30 Literacy Leaders Under 30 list. Patel is a recipient of several national and international honors for his work with anti-bias global education. He speaks six languages and has traveled to over 50 countries.
Akash Patel began his teaching career in very small rural communities in Oklahoma where people had never seen or met “a brown Indian guy who spoke five languages and had traveled to over 50 countries.” He used his travel experiences to design all of his lessons. For example, he used his experiences of working with elephants in South Asia to teach children to make elephant poo-poo paper and map elephant DNA to study poaching patterns. He currently teaches Spanish at a Title I ACE (Accelerating Campus Excellence) 100% low socioeconomic middle school in Dallas and has previously taught at a similar elementary school in Oklahoma City. In both schools, his students have come from very difficult backgrounds and have included gang members, drug addicts, and juvenile delinquents. The majority of his students at both schools had never traveled outside the US.
In his first year of teaching, he was recognized by the State Department of Education and the Multicultural Education Institute as the January 2015 Educator of the Month and the 2015 Multicultural Teacher of the Year for promoting global citizenship in his classroom and achieving a successful academic turnaround. In December 2017, Patel was selected from over 30,000 nominations as one of the top 50 teachers around the world and shortlisted as a finalist for the Varkey Foundation’s Global Teacher Prize, a $1 million prize that is awarded annually to one teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession.
In June 2020, Patel was elected to the National Council of the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA) to serve the 2020-2022 term. He was also appointed as the chair of the Global Engagement Summit, the largest gathering of American grassroots changemakers and global activists in the General Assembly Hall at the United Nations and the chair of the UNA-USA Educators Affinity group that helps educators from across the United States champion the Sustainable Development Goals in their classrooms. In 2021, Patel was inducted in the International Literacy Association’s 30 Literacy Leaders Under 30 list.
Akash has connected all of his classrooms with people and professionals worldwide using virtual platforms such as Facebook video calling, Skype and Google Hangout. At first, he started inviting his friends from social media platforms. Eventually, he mobilized over 1,000 volunteers from over 150 countries to join his Global Connect database at the Happy World Foundation (www.happyworldfoundation.us), a Texas based global education nonprofit he founded after the passing of his twin brother Anand Happy Patel.
Patel frequently speaks at regional, national and international conferences about his classroom experience. He has also trained over 40,000 teachers to use the Global Connect database and other multicultural programs. Today, thousands of American children travel to countries worldwide through Happy World Foundation’s global education programs.
National Council Member, 2020-2022 term, United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA)
Chair, Global Engagement Summit Committee, UNA-USA
Chair, Educators Affinity Group, UNA-USA
Board Member, Institute for Humane Education (IHE)
Nominations Committee Member, American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL)
Founder, Happy World Foundation Inc.
2020 – George H. W. Bush Inspiration Honor Roll
2019 – Texas Foreign Language Association’s Excellence in Teaching Award
2019 – Rotary Club of Dallas’ $2500 “Service Above Self” Teacher Award
2019 – Spirit of Hope Award from CNN Hero and one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People Sister Rosemary
2019 – Outstanding contributions to the teaching of foreign languages and innovation in education award from the Government of Samsun, Turkey
2019 – Outstanding contributions to the teaching of English as a Second Language Award from the Government of Tamaulipas, Mexico and the Superintendent of the public schools of the city of Nuevo Laredo
2018 – Oklahoma Human Rights Award, Oklahoma Human Rights Alliance
2018 – Leo Benardo Award for Innovation in K-12 Language Education from the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL)
2018 – $1 million Global Teacher Prize Top 50 finalist
2018 – Immigrant Professional Excellence Award, Immigrant Journey Awards Gala
Teacher Ambassador, Varkey Foundation
Daily Point of Light Award by President Bush, Sr.
2017 – Alumni Hall of Fame, Oklahoma City Community College
2017 – NextGen Under 30 Award, IonOklahoma Magazine
2017 – Labor Commissioner Mark Costello Spirit Award, NextGen Under 30 Gala
2017 – Outstanding Asian American Award, Asia Society of Oklahoma
Leadership Oklahoma’s 2017 Helping Oklahoma Award
University of Central Oklahoma’s 2016-2017 Mr. International
University of Central Oklahoma’s President’s tuition waiver scholarship
University of Central Oklahoma’s 2017 Certificate & Medal of Global Competency
University of Central Oklahoma’s 2017 Outstanding Commitment to Civic Engagement Award
Commendations and citations from the United States Congress, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, OK Speakers Hickman & McCall, the Texas and Oklahoma legislatures
32nd Annual Multicultural Education Institute’s 2015 Multicultural Teacher of the Year
Department of Education’s January 2015 Educator of the Month
Journal Record’s youngest honoree of the 2015 Class of Achievers Under 40
Oklahoma Gazette / Oklahoma Business’ youngest honoree of the 2015 Class of Forty Under 40
2015 Oklahoma Human Rights Award
University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma’s 2015 Young Alumni Award
Peace for People’s 2012 Inspiring Youth Award
Oklahoma City Community College’s 2012 Outstanding Academic Achievement in Speech Emphasis Award
Keynote speaker, 2020 IV International Congress on Education, Tucuman, Argentina
Keynote speaker, 2020 Oklahoma and Colorado Annual Foreign Language conference
Keynote speaker, 2020 Oklahoma Literacy Association summer conference
Keynote speaker, 2020 SWCOLT Southwest Conference on Language Teaching Annual Conference in Disneyland, California
Keynote speaker, 37th Annual Multicultural Education Institute (MEI), University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond, February 2020
Featured speaker, 2019 American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) 2019 national convention in Washington DC
Keynote speaker, Arizona, Wyoming and Virginia Language Association’s 2019 annual conference
Host, 2019 Global Citizen Awards Gala, Happy World Foundation Inc. at the Embassy Suites by Dallas Park Central
Keynote speaker, Uganda Mathematical Society’s 41ST National Mathematics Teachers’ Conference at Kampala University
Keynote speaker, American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) 2018 Assembly of Delegates at national convention, New Orleans, Louisiana
2018 TEDx speaker, TEDx speaker on “Bringing the World to Your Schools & Communities” at TEDxUCO conference in Oklahoma City
Keynote speaker, 2017 Arkansas Bilingual Association’s annual conference in Hot Springs, Arkansas
Host, 2017 and 2016 Global Citizen Awards Gala, World Experiences Foundation Inc. at the Oklahoma State Capitol and the Embassy Suites by Hilton in Downtown Oklahoma City
Happy World Foundation Inc.: www.happyworldfoundation.us
Eulogy for my twin brother Happy: https://tinyurl.com/yaj5meuv
TED talk on global citizenship: https://goo.gl/jHELj2
To learn more about previous guests on It’s About Language or access other episodes of the podcast, visit It’s About Language or click on the Podcast tab above.