Name: Betsaida Alcantara
Hometown: Dominican Republic and New York State
Current Job: Press Secretary for the Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C.
CHCI Program: 2006-07 Public Policy Fellow
CHCI Program Placements: The Office of Sen. Charles Schumer (NY) & The Office of Sen. Robert Menendez (NJ)
1. What have you been doing since you finished the CHCI program(s)?
I have been fortunate to have worked for two U.S. senators, the 2008 Obama for America campaign, and currently as a presidential appointee in the administration. In each of these roles I have worked in communications, developing strategies to engage and inform the public on legislation, regulatory actions or a position on critical policy issues. I am currently the Press Secretary for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and spokesperson for the chief of the Agency, Lisa P. Jackson. The EPA’s mission is to protect our air, land and water from toxic pollution in the places where we live, work and play. I’ve learned a great deal about how important it is to move our country to a clean energy future and I’ve also learned that Latinos are disproportionately impacted by pollution in our communities. It’s important for us to be more engaged in these issues because Latinos have a lot at stake. For example, Puerto Ricans have the highest rates of asthma in the country and a majority of Latinos live in areas of the country with poor air quality. Our community also has a lot to gain from being part of the discussion around jobs of the future, in clean technology, wind and solar manufacturing and development.
2. What impact did your CHCI experience have on your career and development as a leader?
CHCI is an organization that creates opportunities. The fellows are chosen because of the leadership skills we bring to the table, but what we gain from the program is an ability to exercise that leadership at the national level and take advantage of the opportunities that have been presented to us, which otherwise may not have been available. Because of CHCI’s alumni network, I have been able to open doors that otherwise may have stayed shut.
3. How have you stayed engaged in community service?
I’m always excited when I get to volunteer to read CHCI fellowship or internship applications. There are so many talented young people out there who apply to CHCI programs and I’m inspired when I read through the applications. I’ve reviewed applications almost every year since I finished the program and I encourage the alumni community to get involved in this and other ways. I’ve also stayed connected to the public service and advocacy organizations that I was involved in prior to coming to Washington, D.C. and joining the CHCI family.
4. What advice would you give current and future CHCI participants?
We have one of the best networks in the country. Let’s keep talking to each other and helping each other out. I always welcome the chance to help CHCI participants reach out to me, because I know how valuable the advice of CHCI alums was for my professional growth.
5. Where do you see yourself in the next five to 10 years?
I would like to expand on my public sector work experience and work in the private sector at some point in my career. I want to continue to use all the opportunities I’ve been given to serve a public good. I can’t predict in what capacity that will be, but I hope it is a job in which I feel challenged and that allows me to work with people who inspire me.