WSVN — Twenty years ago, a teacher told a North Dade Middle School student that she would never amount to anything. Fast forward to today, and she’s back in South Florida with a life lesson for students.

In 1996, Ariana was an honor roll student at North Dade Middle School.

Dr. Ariana Monica Martin: "That was the same year I was nominated for ‘most popular,’ ‘most beautiful’ and ‘most likely to succeed.’"

But those accolades could never have prepared her for what would happen when she asked for help in math class.
Ariana Martin: "I raised my hand asking if he could elaborate on it more and he scribbled some gibberish on the board."

Out of frustration she tore up the assignment.

Ariana Martin: "Slammed his hands on my desk and said, ‘Is that how you’re going to tear up your welfare checks?’"

Thomas Burgess: "What my daughter did was wrong, but he should watch what he’s saying."

Her family protested for the teacher to be fired. Ariana never forgot that day, or what her teacher said.

Ariana Martin: "I actually do remember that feeling. That feeling of inadequacy, worthlessness."

But 20 years later, Ariana looks back at how the incident impacted her life.

Ariana Martin: "When that tear came, came down my eye and just how I looked down… definitely brought back memories. If anything, it pushed me forward."

She got her high school diploma and went on to college. And then, on to medical school.

Ariana Martin: "That journey has taken 13 years. I’ve done a lot!"

She helped publish a book and is a world traveler.

Ariana Martin: "I spent three months in Ethiopia doing research. I’ve been to Egypt. My husband and I spent our honeymoon there and recently went to Paris and London."

The accomplishment she’s most proud of though are her twin boys. They are the reason she has decided to relive that day.

Ariana Martin: "To show them the importance of resilience and perseverance and courage."

The teary-eyed teen in that story from 1996 is a far cry from the woman she is today.

Thomas Burgess: "Very proud. She’s come a long way."

Ariana Martin: "It gave me strength."

Strength she hopes to pass on not only to her children, but to anyone who needs inspiration.

Ariana Martin: "I would gladly be the sacrificial lamb so that another child can be encouraged."

Ariana Martin: "I am Dr. Ariana Monica Martin. Look at me now!"

Ariana now practices in Maryland, but comes home to South Florida to visit family.

Join our Newsletter for the latest news right to your inbox