I grew up in St. Louis, MO, one of the most racially segregated cities in the US. I went to private high school in the suburbs, a place where some white students refused to attend the school’s mandatory diversity training. History books taught me that racial inequities were resolved in the 1960s, but experiences showed me otherwise. This set me on a path to relearn history, recognize my privilege, and interrogate my biases.
In my 20s, I lived, taught, and worked in Vietnam and Cambodia, where I learned to explain American culture in a way that was inclusive and whole. My students not only learned English, but also the language and skills to have critical conversations about social issues.
As Director of Operations at Success Academy Charter Schools in New York City, I practiced creating space for people from historically marginalized communities to drive change & growth. The 150 people who reported to me were some of the most engaged and the highest performing in our network of 43 schools. I also made mistakes. I was sometimes too complacent with how race, gender, and other factors influenced how each employee’s performance was interpreted. I learned how hard it is to lead with equity, and that it is a practice not a destination.
The most rewarding growth in understanding my own biases came from my marriage. My family prizes education all the way back to my great grandfather who sold hot dogs from a pushcart in Passaic, New Jersey, to put his kids through school. My husband has incredible creative intelligence, but grew up in El Salvador during a civil war and didn’t have an opportunity to pursue higher education. When we met, I thought I was better than him because I had a higher level of formal education. Misunderstanding, assumptions, and blame dominated the first two years of our marriage, but once he helped me uncover this bias, I was able to do the necessary work to start dismantling it.
My goal is to disrupt the status quo by meeting people where they are, holding up a mirror, and helping them to change themselves and the world beyond what they believe is possible.