Martin Rubin has been part of many impressive deals and garnered a host of honors, but one of the projects for which he’s most proud lies well beyond the borders of the telecommunications realm.
It sits squarely within Orlando’s Pine Hills neighborhood, amid the hustle and flow of the students at Maynard Evans High School.
The school now has an on-site social workers for kids. It has a health center, where students have medical, dental and psychological help at their disposal. Its PTA has been rebuilt from scratch and its principal, says Rubin, is “fantastic.”
After earning multiple consecutive F ratings, the school -- in a neighborhood that’s been called “Crime Hills” -- has earned a solid B. Its students are excelling now, when just seven years ago more than 40 percent did not graduate. In fact, in 2016, two of them were accepted to West Point – a school that accepts less than 10 percent of its applicants .
“The school has been very focused on getting the kids to either go to college, enter a vocational school or go into the military, three very viable options,” says Rubin, president and CEO of Lake Buena Vista-based Smart City, the technology provider for Orange County Convention Center, Walt Disney World and 40 other major convention centers.
The turnaround came as a result of a project helmed by the Children’s Home Society of Florida, a nonprofit for which Rubin is a tireless worker and proponent.
He discovered the organization back in 2001, when his company acquired Vista-United, the telecommunications company of Walt Disney World.
“The staff used to have an annual golf tournament and asked me if they could continue doing that,” he explains. “I said yes, but we’d have to do it for a nonprofit.” They suggested CHS, which Rubin had never heard of, but he schooled himself pretty quickly, enrolling in a Rollins College program for nonprofit leadership. Since then, Smart City’s golfers have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for CHS and Rubin was drafted onto its Board, logging more than 13 years of service with passion.
“There’s a limitation on how many years you can serve – which is the right thing,” he says. “There should be a turnover. But it was a very exciting experience and I learned a tremendous amount about child welfare and the adoption and foster care systems.”
The Evans High School project, an undertaking inspired by the work the Children’s Aid Society had done turning around failing high schools in New York City, came as a result, says Rubin, of the cooperation of CHS, professors from the University of Central Florida, Pine Hills’ community leaders and the hard work of the Orange County Public School system.
For a kid from Yonkers, N.Y., whose grandfather was a key player in distributing Disney animation – among other magical bits of celluloid – to the culture-craving masses, being in an entertainment-driven town like ours makes a lot of sense.
“He wasn’t a part of the glamour, but he was in the back, helping to deliver it,” Rubin points out. “To some degree, it’s like what my business is today.” As Rubin’s company generally handles the Super Bowl, the Inaugural Ball, and the Republican and Democratic National Conventions among other high-profile events, this could be construed as the understatement of the year.
“We’re in the back, behind the performers,” he says, “and I’m happy to be there.”