SEBRING — Arzinia Jacobs’ smile and laughter light up the room, and her bubbly, upbeat personality naturally draws people and children to her. Her hallmark is taking seemingly insurmountable obstacles and overcoming them with a smile.
When the Sebring Boys & Girls Club was shut down, she rallied forces and helped establish a new program that grew from less than 20 students the first week to full capacity — 65 registered students — by the end of the month. Growing pains stretched her, but she refused to settle for anything less than absolute excellence.
Instead of simply filling a teacher’s position to quickly fill a spot, she advertised and sought only the best applicants. She even asked for student and parent input regarding teachers. The stress was high during those initial months, but she always wore a smile and demanded the utmost professionalism.
“I want my teachers and staff to model a positive attitude for students and set an example,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs’ heart is to help children. “When I was a child, I was molested by an uncle,” she said. “It was his sickness, not mine.” Even as a child, she displayed an incredible strength and resiliency. She understood it was not her fault, yet she struggled because she wanted to talk to someone.
“As an 8-year-old kid, I couldn’t talk to anyone,” Jacobs said. Her uncle threatened to kill her family, so she remained silent. She told herself, “When I grow up, I will be there for kids. They will always know they can tell me anything. They can come to me. I won’t judge them.” Jacobs smiled and then added, “I kept my word to myself and God.
Jacobs related a story about a child who came to her and told her that she wanted to die because she was being bullied. Jacobs told her, “They don’t want you to feel special, because they don’t feel special.”
Jacobs assured her that she was special, perfect just the way she was, and that she shouldn’t allow anyone to take that feeling away from her. Later, the girl wrote a note that talked about bullies, and the girl mentioned that two staff members had told her that she was special. The ostracized girl who wanted to die suddenly became a child who felt valued and realized that she should never bully anyone.
“I can’t help but be positive when I see miracles like that,” Jacobs said. “I am still here. I can make a difference. This is my dream job. I took this job because it allows me to spend time with kids individually and as a group.”
“I’ve learned in 46 years that there are always going to be trials, but they are always going to pass,” Jacobs said. She tells herself, “I have to get through this [trial], especially with my faith. God’s always got it worked out. I have to walk by faith and trust in him. It [the trial] will add to my testimony and help someone else.”