Driven by my early passion for peace, I used my undergraduate studies in history and anthropology to study the common elements of peaceful multicultural societies. I concluded that some of these elements include multilingualism, economic equity, and ecological sustainability. Due to my mission-driven course work, I was honored as valedictorian and was placed on USA Today’s All-Arizona First Academic Team, which included a full tuition waiver to NAU and a congratulatory Proclamation by the Arizona governor, all of which gave me the self-confidence to move directly into a leadership position right after graduation.
I began my career as EL Coordinator for an Arizona school district right after ESL was banned. I designed and implemented new support services for EL students and teachers during a very disruptive time. I was also a member of the Yavapai County’s ELL Consortium, which advised the AZ Department of Education and co-created NAU teacher training modules on Sheltered English Immersion, the new alternative to ESL.
I then moved to Costa Rica and served as Senior Programs Director for a conservation organization. While there, I joined the Environmental Education Committee of a large municipality and helped establish their first recycling center and produce an eco-education campaign for their citizens. In addition, the Spanish International Cooperation Agency appointed me as an advisor for a group of young enterprising leaders who wanted to start sustainable enterprises on their family farms to wean off of ranching and logging. I provided them with mentoring, training, and seed funding. Before leaving Costa Rica, I also co-founded an educational camp and rainforest park, Three Seeds Camp, which has hosted over hundreds of youth groups, families and volunteers and which has provided over $200K in grants and pro-bono education programs to local schools and women’s groups.
In 2007, I started Conexiones Institute, initially just an outlet through which I could produce peace-education programs from home, since I had just had a baby. I took ECE classes to create an appropriate early childhood education program and got a home daycare license. As my first cohort grew older and my knowledge of childhood education grew, I piloted different programs. The AVENTURAS program received two gold badge awards from Best of Parent’s Press and the Spanish through the Arts program was requested by dozens of different sites. In the first 8 years, I trained 15 educators and we produced over 11,000 hours of bilingual education experiences for over 700 Bay Area children in over a dozen schools, daycares, and cultural centers. Yet, I was constantly turning children and sites away because of scalability limitations under the home-based business model I began with. Hence, Conexiones programs are on pause while I finish a master’s in educational leadership at SDSU that will provide me with the peer review, knowledge, and mentorship I need to take this peacebuilding social enterprise to the next level.