Local Teacher Takes on New Challenges as a CBS “Survivor” Contestant

Imagine competing on CBS’s “Survivor”—leaving behind friends, family, central air-conditioning and even your hairdryer.

You’re dropped at a remote location with more than a dozen strangers, all rooting for your demise. Conditions like that make most people declare, “not if you paid me a million dollars.” But for Chicago Public Schools Special Education teacher Alicia Rosa, it was a lot more than prize money that drew her to the contest: It was the chance to serve as an inspiration and share a message about empowerment.

Teaching in a New Classroom

Alicia, who has seen many of her special education students defeated by their perceived limitations, wanted to show them what can happen when you focus on your goals. She knew that at first glance she may not appear to be a contender, but that her confidence and hard work have packed a lot of punch into her 5-foot-2 frame.

“It was a chance to practice what I preach,” she says. “I always tell my students to get out there and do the things you’re told you can’t, and show people that you know who you are, no matter what you’re told.”

A Lesson for the Ladies

Hard work is nothing new to the 25-year-old, who maintained two full-time jobs while earning her master’s in education. Her second career as a makeup artist has given Alicia plenty of insight into women’s self-image issues.

“I’m confident in my own skin and when I do make up for young girls, I tell them they are the same beautiful person with or without the makeup, so being stripped of all my beauty products on national TV was a chance to prove I mean it,” she says.

Alicia says showing off her body on TV was another opportunity to convey a positive message: “I’m this little curvy Puerto Rican girl surrounded by all these tall, skinny women and I was proud to show female viewers that I wasn’t intimidated.”

The Teacher Gets Schooled

Life on the island offered Alicia a few lessons of her own. The self-proclaimed “Diva,” who also enjoys success as a singer, had never even been camping before and knew it would be difficult to leave behind all the comforts of home, but she learned it was her loved ones that she missed the most.

“When you are all alone with nobody cheering for you, no family on the sidelines, you really see how much you take that for granted,” she says.

Join Alicia’s friends and family to cheer her on as “Survivor: One World” premieres this Wednesday, February 15, at 7 p.m. on CBS.