Why are you running for a position on the Board of Trustees? Is there a particular passion that motivates you to serve?
I’m running for school board because I believe that every student in Pasadena has the potential to lead in their life and that education is the way to enable students to reach that potential. Having grown up here, I know that the majority on the current school board fail to see the problems that plague this community, and it’s largely not their fault. The demographics of Pasadena have shifted in the last few decades, and the reality is that cultural differences between the students we serve and the decisions doled by the board are dissonant. There are unique issues in this community, like, for example, the fact that many students will only ever travel beyond this country if an educator who has empowered them invites them on a school-sponsored EF Tours trip because their parents (who can finance it, but cannot leave the country) are undocumented. I know this to be true because I grew up with these students, and they exist and thrive in our community. I’m running because those differences between the board majority and the community are irreconcilable, and ultimately, they lead to diminished outcomes and morale for both students and educators in Pasadena ISD.
What qualifications, work experiences or volunteer efforts prepare you to serve as a member of the Board of Trustees?
I'm a young alumnus of Pasadena ISD who earned a degree in biomedical engineering from Columbia University. My capacities to learn and lead are solid, and I’ve been blessed to hone those skills by training at some of the top institutions in the world. In addition, coming out of Pasadena ISD in the last few years, I know what students today need to succeed. With that said, the bottom line is that we need local leaders who listen and make young folks feel valued. We need leaders who can understand the issues affecting us, from our perspective. We need someone who embodies all of this at the school board and can advocate for the student experience there. My professional experience thus far has led me to full-time employment as an engineer at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, where I work on the International Space Station’s Crew Health Care System. Furthermore, I have been actively involved with the Pasadena ISD School Board for several years now, on numerous occasions sharing my perspective on relevant topics as possible. Now is the time for me to make my voice a permanent fixture on the board, and with your support, it’s doable.
What accomplishment are you most proud of for Pasadena ISD?
I am most proud of Pasadena ISD’s educators and how they *single-handedly* equip students for the world beyond high school. As a student, I was a high-achiever; I graduated second in my class at Pasadena Memorial, and so I got to know the other high-achieving students from across the school district quickly. It brings me immeasurable joy to see educators—teachers, counselors, even administrators—enabling these students to aim high in their goals and providing them with the recommendations and basic skills they need to make it there. A small percentage of Pasadena ISD students make it to top schools, which is important, because for most of them, this comes with a full or near-full grant that covers the costs associated with a post-secondary education. This changes the path of an entire family and then possibly, our area. To know that folks doing so much already (teachers) continue to give, brings me joy beyond comprehension. The next logical step I see is to begin bringing in help from outside organizations via strategic partnerships that will lessen the work educators do in this realm and prepare those students with expert precision to make it to where their dreams are.
What challenges and opportunities for change do you think exist currently?
I see thinking a certain way for so long, as well as a strong belief in a skewed strategic plan as great challenges to bringing about change in Pasadena ISD. Pasadena ISD has been led at the school board level for so long by folks who think the exact same way. There is little room for discussion or dissent, and this groupthink harms our community by not even considering outside perspectives. The strategic plan is supposed to integrate the voice of the community, and I believe that in theory this works, but in practice, the majority of the community has no say in the development of this document. I see the candidacy of folks like me, who wear several hats at once—engineer, bilingual, son of educators, former student—as an exciting opportunity for change. People like me on the board can elevate many perspectives at once, and in addition, can speak with the large subset of our community who speaks only Spanish. I see this as an opportunity to begin updating the leadership we’ve become accustomed to with the needs of our community today, while also tying in the historical knowledge that has carried us to where we are now.
Our community is facing significant workforce challenges, how would you work to collaborate with other stakeholders and partners to address this issue?
One of the central tenets of my campaign is to better prepare students by working to provide internships and practical skills that can be used after graduation, particularly through collaboration with key community partners. Pasadena ISD has a variety of technical programs where students learn skills needed in our community, and I am thrilled to hear the Chamber of Commerce is looking to the local school district for ways to alleviate the problem. A deepened strategic relationship can and should be considered with the Chamber, as well as other regional partners, to benefit both the local economy and our graduates as they transition to the world after high school. I would work to bring this to fruition by building relationships and bridges amongst different stakeholders in the community, ultimately coming back to the school district. Furthermore, I would leverage my proximity to students to share the value of these opportunities, and thereby excite them as they continue writing their own story.
If elected to the Board of Trustees, what do you think your primary responsibility would be in leading as a trustee and what is your personal leadership style?
If elected, my primary responsibility would be to work to open the school district to the world accessible to us in our region (fulfilling my promise in running) and then using my voice—as a bilingual young adult, engineer, son of educators—to shine light on the hidden issues existing in Pasadena ISD. Students know what’s afflicting them—let them tell us what’s wrong. Teachers know what afflicts them—let’s listen to them, and work on solutions together. I would sit on a team of seven who work together to make decisions that we see as best for students, and I will do what I can to educate the other trustees on the world as we younger folks see it. My personal leadership style is that of a servant-leader; what I mean by this, is that you can expect to see me at community events, helping students where able, and making myself accessible to the community here in Pasadena ISD. Everyone’s voice matters, and I’m here to listen and then integrate this into a package that can be shared with those at the board and beyond who are able to bring services to students here in Pasadena.