Hello! I’m Serissa R. McAnally, the founder and manager of Footprints on Fire, LLC. Thank you for coming to meet me today. I’ve already tried to answer some questions you might have. If I missed one, please send me a message and I’ll promptly respond!
I’m a former IT professional, certified teacher, fearless traveler and amateur writer. In 2002, I graduated from DeVry University with a BS in Computer Information Systems. I spent several years performing web-based software development. I left my IT career behind in 2007 to pursue a career in education. In various countries around the world, I worked as a teacher until having to return home to the United States. Since earning my Florida Educator’s Certificate in 2015 to teach elementary education, I quickly discovered my niche providing reading instruction to struggling readers. Outside the classroom, I enjoy spending time with my family, traveling when possible, playing tunes on my violin, improving my broken Spanish and managing Footprints on Fire, LLC.
I asked myself this same question for many years. My name is not only uncommon, it is LESS than uncommon. Appropriately, my flower-child generation mother managed to hear of it while working in a greenhouse. A Serissa is a small, subtropical shrub with tiny white flowers and delicate green leaves which can be made into a bonsai tree and is also known as Snow Rose, Tree of a Thousand Stars, and Japanese Boxthorn. Such a beautiful name… for a plant! Surely, if I am not the first, then I’m among the few lucky ones to have this name. Oh, how I dreaded roll call on the first day of school every year. When the teacher called my name, all heads pivoted out of curiosity to see the girl called Serissa – the name with an S in each of its three syllables. I would feel a silence spread like wildfire throughout the classroom. Even the white noise would stop as everyone took notice. Serissa would echo in my mind. The first S would sizzle like fire being extinguished with water. The second S would hiss like a serpent in the face of danger. Then, in that fraction of a second before the teacher called the next name on the list, the third S would sigh with relief at my name’s conclusion and dissipate into the white noise as it returned to end the deafening quiet. Indeed, there were periods in my life when I asked my parents to call me by a different name. Molly was a preferred moniker of mine. Another was Dorothy – with my red shoes! But, the fact remained that Serissa was still my name. It was different and, as a child, I didn’t want to be different! It wasn’t until much later in life that I truly came to appreciate my name because a name is so much more than simply a label. I AM Serissa.
Way oh way too late! I could have traveled to Mexico with my church group. I could have traveled to France with my high school French class. I could have spent a summer on my Uncle’s kibbutz located just outside of Jerusalem. Suffice it to say, juvenile behavior, anti-social tendencies, and a new crush caused me to miss out.
Now, let it be known that a Serissa plant can’t thrive in a root-bound environment. So, until I ventured beyond the United States to set foot on foreign soil when I was of legal drinking age, I hadn’t realized how root-bound I had become. In that moment, I experienced a feeling of freedom never felt before. London! A cruise around the British Isles! As if stimulated by the shock, my roots reached out to grab hold of this newly found freedom. However, this type of freedom comes with a price – travel bug affliction. But since a Serissa can’t thrive in a root-bound environment, this price was worth paying.
Fortunately, my lucrative career in IT/computer programming in addition to my employer’s generous vacation package enabled me to make frequent trips to Europe. I satiated the travel bug for a spell but in the end, my programming skills where no match for this bug. Utterly defeated, I resigned from my position. To live and work overseas, I reinvented myself as teacher. My childhood dream to become a teacher came true after all!
First, I found myself in China one train stop west of Shanghai teaching 2nd grade for $300/month. Sounds crazy, and I probably was, but the money stretched like silly putty!
After China, I found myself teaching Kindergarten in Honduras for the same salary which did not stretch quite as far. I left Honduras weighing 100 pounds. But, I was strong from walking everywhere and carrying my groceries home in that dusty little cowboy town called Gracias, which is a highly appropriate name because I’m very thankful for that “something” in the water which allowed me to become pregnant despite my doctor’s professional opinion.
I returned to the United States and eventually gave birth to TWIN girls. Almost two years later, I accepted a job in Egypt just outside of Cairo. Of course, my girls accompanied me and we celebrated their second birthday at the Great Pyramids of Giza.
The following year, they accompanied me to the Dominican Republic and we celebrated their third birthday at Boca Chica, a truly authentic public beach just outside of Santo Domingo.
Unfortunately, my overseas teaching career ended abruptly, and we had to return to the United States. However, that has NOT stopped me from traveling to faraway lands.
Having lived in so many different places and after traveling to many others, both in the USA and abroad, the word home carries a different meaning. If home is where you hang your hat, then my home is in Florida. If home is where your heart is, then my home is the journey. Florida is just another stop along the way.
The best journey is ALWAYS with family. I hope to travel again with my twin girls, but until they are grown, it’s just me and my man, Gary. We met ONLINE in December 2014 which was shortly after my return from the Dominican Republic. Trying to meet someone online appealed to me because I was a single mother with two very young children who occupied all of my time. After reading the profiles of several potential suitors and chatting with a few of them, I was NOT impressed. But after receiving a polite message from Gary and reviewing his profile, I immediately knew that Gary was the man for me!
Causes I Support
I support Mayan Families, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, operating in Panajachel, Guatemala. Mayan Families helps the indigenous Mayan population living in rural communities around Lake Atitlan.
They provide food, shelter and healthcare. But more importantly, they educate! Mayan Families believes that education is key to a better future. As a teacher, I couldn’t agree more!
They help children attend school by providing funds to cover enrollment fees, school supplies and uniforms. Also, they operate several trade schools where adults can learn marketable skills related to sewing, carpentry, welding, computers and art. These trade schools are sustainable because the products created or the services rendered generate revenue which is used to support the school, the community and other organized activities.
Confucius said, “Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you’ve fed him for a lifetime.” Mayan Families is truly making a difference in Guatemala by emphasizing the importance of education.
Through Mayan Families, I sponsor the education of a young girl named Maria. Maria lives with her mother, grandparents and younger sister, Asunción. Maria’s father is no longer involved with the family. Maria is 9 years old and in 3rd grade. I requested to sponsor a 3rd grade girl because my twin daughters are in 3rd grade, too. My daughters and I communicate with Maria via email. Mayan Families encourages and facilitates our correspondence.
In the near future, I intend to travel to Guatemala to meet Maria and her family. Ideally, I want my daughters to travel with me, but I might need to postpone that thought for a couple years. However, my man will accompany me.
Apart from meeting Maria and her family, I also want to volunteer with Mayan Families for 2-3 weeks in June 2020. Unlike many other volunteer programs, Mayan Families does NOT charge a fee to volunteer. Volunteers must only cover the cost of airfare, accommodations and food during their stay.
As a volunteer, I would teach English or computer literacy skills. My man would repair existing structures, build new structures, or perform general maintenance.
I’m collecting donations for Maria, her family and community as well as to support our volunteership. However, we expect to cover most of these expenses ourselves using Spirit miles and Expedia points. Donations will be used to personally purchase and deliver food, clothing, medicine and other critical supplies.
If you’re interested in my mission and want to support Maria, her family, and community, please visit my GoFundMe campaign!
If you’re unable to donate at this time, please visit our SUPPORTERS page to learn about the fun and free ways to support Footprints on Fire.