Paying the Purple Heart Forward (to the Veteran community and kids)

Reuben D’Silva, an educator, national speaker, and advocate for the Las Vegas community, enlightens Nevadans on what it truly means to serve and give back.


“I've always believed in service for the community, serving mankind. One of the most direct ways you can do that is by serving as a high school teacher, honestly any teacher. But my calling was really with the older students,” D’Silva said. The Purple Heart recipient and teacher at Rancho High School since 2013 served in the "The Surge" in the 2007 Iraq War.


“It’s one of those awards you don’t want to get, it means you have been injured in the line of duty. People receive the Purple Heart Award and never come back. It’s a real reminder to me of the sacrifice of our men and women overseas. Aside from my job, I do work in the veterans’ community and make sure that they have a voice, that they are heard, and that they receive the benefits that are due to them,” D’Silva states.


A leader and supporter for the combat wounded community, D’Silva has not only coordinated town halls, but has also drafted bills that have been passed in the Nevada legislature. Bill AB427 in the 2019 legislative session was passed and is known colloquially as the ‘The Purple Heart Education Bill’.


‘The Purple Heart Education Bill’ provides a free college education anywhere in an NSHE School for all combat wounded veterans. D’Silva recognized the change he was making in Nevada’s communities and began to share his experience and knowledge within the education system.


In 2021, D’Silva starred in a documentary called “The Disparity”. The film informs viewers on the disparities within the education system, medical field, and the effects of the pandemic.


D'Silva was raised with this notion of service and giving back to the community at large. He said, “I felt that it was important to speak up for the North Las Vegas schools and the education system.”


In the documentary, he shared that 15% of Rancho High School's student body was not in contact with staff during the pandemic. That percentage has now increased by 8%. “These were the kids who were already struggling to stay engaged. The pandemic made their disengagement permanent,” D’Silva said.


D’Silva explains, “Many do not have the sort of infrastructure they need at home or adults around them who are trying to get them engaged with school. Rancho High School did not have the resources to go out there and get the kids Wi-Fi, chrome books, etc.”


He discusses the significant difference in race and ethnicity in the education system and class differences witnessed during the pandemic. His perspective provides an inside view of what he was seeing on the front lines as a teacher.  D’Silva says, “Rancho High School is a minority majority school, and per capita it is located in the poorest zip code of Las Vegas. It is one of the highest socially and economically challenged parts of Vegas.”


“After watching the documentary, my hope is that people take away the knowledge that these disparities are real. It hurts to see kids going through so much and there was so little that you could do. As teachers, we worked hard during this pandemic. It was very difficult for us. But I have hope that the years ahead will be better for our young people and for American education at large,” D’Silva said.