Alumnus of the Month
November 2015 Alumnus of the Month
Hometown: Allentown, Pennsylvania
2008-2009, CHCI Public Policy Fellow
2010-2012, Programs Coordinator, CHCI Alumni Association
2012-2014, Vice-President, CHCI Alumni Association
2014-present, President, CHCI Alumni Association- Washington, D.C. Chapter
Graduate Fellow Review Committee
Public Policy Fellow Review Committee
Scholarship Review Committee
Intern Review Committee
Ready 2 Lead Presenter
CHCI Program Placement(s): Office of Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA, 15) White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics
Current Position/Organization: Senior Manager for Data and Evaluation, CASA de Maryland
1. Many CHCI alumni and current program participants have battled and continue to battle common challenges as they strive to become Latino leaders in their communities: living and working in low-income communities, some in single-parent households, as recent immigrants, DREAMERS, or first-generation American citizens. What challenges did you have to face to get to where you are today?
Throughout my life, I’ve faced obstacles that have pushed me to become a better person and subsequently shaped me into the person that I am today.
I was born into a single-parent, low-income Dominican household in Manhattan, New York. My mother worked two jobs to provide for my older brother and I. Growing up I was a quiet and introverted kid who didn’t cause many problems and was often overlooked by my teachers. At the age of six, I developed a severe stutter which still impacts me to this day. Throughout my educational and professional career, I’ve struggled to overcome my stutter. Through hours of practice (thanks to CHCI and other wonderful organizations), I’ve worked to improve my speech, but this is an obstacle that I am still fighting to this day.
When I started high school, I was an average student and never really saw myself as college material. I just got by under the radar and was encouraged by my counselor to pursue a technical degree or become a mechanic. In 10th grade, my older cousin spoke to me about the importance of college and how I had the opportunity to change the trajectory of our family. He told me that I could be the one to alter the course of our family. His words helped transform me from a shy, reserved and ambivalent individual to someone who was determined to succeed.
It wasn’t until I got to college, though, where I started to come out of my shell. As a first-generation Latino at a small private, predominantly white institution, I struggled to adapt. I knew that the transition to college would be tough, but I had no idea how difficult my first semester would be. As I struggled through my first year of school, I felt the added pressure to succeed for my mother, my brother and my sister.
As I continue through my educational and professional career there are several struggles that I continue to face: navigating the journey to completing a doctorate degree, plotting my career path and, of course, my stutter.
Through it all, I’m happy to have the support of my family, friends and loved ones. Through their support, I strive to be a better person and overcome the challenges that have come to define who I am.
2. What motivated you to apply to the CHCI program(s), and why do you think they are important for Latino youth?
In the fall of 2007, I was traveled to Washington, DC for a week-long leadership program through the Hispanic College Fund. During that week, I met Public Policy Fellows and Alumni who told me about how the CHCI programs were a transformative experience. They told me how after completing the Fellowship program that my life would never be the same again. At that moment, I knew that I had to take a chance and apply for CHCI’s fellowship. I wanted to push myself forward and at the same time, represent my community at a national level.
CHCI’s programs have the potential to drastically change the lives of Latino youth across the country. Before coming to Washington, DC I had only seen Congress on television. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would be working in Congress one day and advocating for my community. The fellowship gave me the opportunity to see more for myself and more for my community--that’s the true power of CHCI.
3. What have you been doing since you finished the CHCI program(s)?
Since completing the fellowship, I have remained living and working in Washington, DC. I have worked in education policy and research for a number of organizations throughout the area. Through each position, whether on Capitol Hill, a think tank or as an Adjunct Professor, I have remained committed to my passion for improving the educational outcomes of Latino and immigrant communities.
Currently, I serve as the Senior Manager for Data and Evaluation at CASA de Maryland in Hyattsville, MD. Through this position, I work to evaluate the organization’s programs, policies and practices. I am also currently pursuing my Ph.D. in Higher Education Leadership and Policy at the University of Maryland, College Park. I have also transitioned into becoming an active member of the CHCI Alumni Association. Currently, I serve as the President of the DC Chapter of the CHCI Alumni Association.
4. What impact did your CHCI experience have on your career and development as a leader?
CHCI has changed my life. I can honestly say that I would not be where I am today without CHCI. Both personally and professionally, CHCI has helped me obtain jobs, develop life-long friendships and find love.
My fellowship was key in helping me develope as a Latino leader. Before my fellowship, I was a Dominican from Pennsylvania who never knew about the experience of my fellow Latinos from California, Texas, South Carolina and Illinois. Through discussions with my fellows about the diversity of the Latino community, I learned from my fellows much more than I could ever teach them. To this day, they continue to teach me.
5. How do you continue to give back to the community?
There is so much that I still want to achieve. In the next 5 years I see myself completing my Ph.D. and continuing to serve the Latino community through advocacy, effective policies and perhaps public office. After that, I want to find a way to best support Latino undergraduates and graduates, whether that be through founding a non-profit or working in the private sector.
6. What advice would you give current and future CHCI participants?
Be solutions based. Strive to not only challenge the establishment but also provide recommendations for improving the process.
Focus. Multi-tasking is a good skill to have, but some tasks require your undivided attention. Crowd out the noise and chatter and focus on achieving your goals.
Work hard. Hone your craft and be the first one in the door and the last one out.
Be Humble. Realize that there will always be someone who is better and worse than you at any given task. Stay true to the people, communities and passions that got you to where you are.
Be Authentic. Be genuine and speak from the heart. Be yourself, everybody else is already taken.