By: Sharon Aron Baron
A Broward County Public School teacher, and city volunteer, has announced that he will be running for Coral Springs City Commission in 2018.
Joshua Simmons, 29, said he will be running for seat four, currently held by Commissioner Lou Cimaglia.
He said when he decided to run, he didn’t necessarily pick a person to run against.
“I’m not running against anyone,” he said. “I’m running for something. I’m running for what I believe in.”
Currently serving on several Coral Springs committees: customer involved government committee, multi-cultural advisory committee and the Martin Luther King Jr. committee, Simmons also attends city commission meetings.
He said that the City of Coral Springs, filled with people from all backgrounds and cultures, is on the verge of being the hub of Northwest Broward. However, he believes there are issues with infrastructure that needs to be improved. One of them is revitalizing some of the city’s oldest neighborhoods.
“I want to make sure that while we’re trying to make the downtown a reality, they don’t feel forgotten.”
Simmons is a big believer of clean emissions, and one of the items he will work on once elected is implementing solar panels into at least one of the parks to see what kind of returns the city gets on it.
“I also want to support small businesses. I want to make sure they feel like part of the community – and we have a ribbon-cutting ceremony for them.”
Born in St. Louis, when Simmons was 13, his mother joined the Navy and they moved to Virginia. A football player at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, Simmons once aspired to play for the NFL. After transferring to Florida Atlantic University, he decided to turn his focus on his education and his involvement on campus instead of chasing a “pipe dream.”
During Simmons senior year at FAU, his mother called him and said she needed his help. She was going to be stationed in Japan for several years and needed to find a stable home life for his younger sister, Jade, who was 14 years-old and about to enter high school. Since his mother would be out to sea most of the time, it wasn’t an ideal situation for a teenager.
Simmons assured his mother that he would take care of Jade. In 2011, he received legal guardianship over her and began looking for a family friendly place to live.
“I was looking for a great city, I was looking for a nice place to raise her. I was looking for great schools,” he said. “I was looking for everything we needed to live: a 25-year-old taking care of a 14-year-old.”
His sister was a basketball player at the time and they knew a coach who had just taken a position at Coral Springs Charter School, and that’s where he decided to enrolled her.
During this time, Simmons graduated from FAU and was accepted to law school at St. Thomas University. However, studying law and being a guardian for Jade took its toll, and he was academically dismissed from the school after a year and a half. Something that took him a long time to come to grips with.
“It wasn’t because I wasn’t smart, I just didn’t have the time because I was so involved with my sister’s life.”
Jade was playing basketball year-round, and as soon as he would get out of class, he would drive from Miami to pick her up at school, take her to practice and get her home by 10 p.m. This regimen would be repeated every weekday. On the weekends, it was even busier due to all the out-of-town games.
“My mom was doing her job defending her country. So I wanted to make sure I supported and make sure that my sister had the best life she could have.”
Simmons decided that law school wasn’t the course in life he wanted to take.
“The funny thing about growing up, is that now I realize that; that’s not my life. If something doesn’t work out for you, for whatever reason, then obviously it wasn’t for me.”
Her basketball team made it to States two years in a row in 2011-2012 and later she would transfer to Dillard High School where she made it to Nationals before graduating in the top 10 percent of her class. She is now attending college in New York.
Simmons holds a bachelor of arts in political science and a master’s in psychology. In the future, he said he wants to earn his doctorate at Nova Southeastern University.
Before he went into teaching, he worked as both a paralegal in a foreclosure law firm, and mental healthcare worker. A believer that God is steering his path, one day, he said that while working as a therapist, he was sitting at Pompano Beach Middle School waiting on a student, when the principal asked him, “Have you ever thought about teaching?”
He replied, “well, my mother always said I’d be a great teacher.”
The principal asked him if he wanted to teach, and it was then he decided to change his path.
Simmons began teaching civics at Pompano Beach Middle School in 2016 and said that the most rewarding part about it was how one minute a student may seem like they’re not paying attention, but when he puts them in a real-life scenario where they can demonstrate their problem-solving abilities, this helps them understand the lesson. But Simmons makes it clear that he’s not always the nicest teacher, because there are many things the class has to do.
“We have to get ready for our end-of-course assessment which I want them to do well on. We are working towards a goal together.”
This fall, he will be working as a social studies teacher at Coral Springs High School and said he wanted to teach in Coral Springs to be closer to the city, its children and parents.
Once the day came that Jade graduated from high school, Simmons said experienced a bit of an empty nest syndrome at the age of 27. He realized what he did best was out helping the community and driving change.
As a former Greek council president at FAU, once Simmons transitioned out of college, he realized there was a severe lack of political education with young adults in Broward county. He formed the Broward Young Black Progressives, a nonpartisan group, which educated, engaged and empowered young millennials to be involved in the political arena.
Besides the city committees he sits on, he also volunteers for the Lynn Johnson Award Nominating Committee, Worldfest, and the Coral Springs Festival of the Arts.
He realizes that many people do not know him, however, as he continues to build his campaign this summer, he said more people are going to recognize his name and face as he begins walking door to door.
“To me, this isn’t a gig, this isn’t something for me to hang my hat on, this is for the future of Coral Springs and helping the city become the jewel of Northwest Broward.”