I started as a student teacher in the Bronx in 1997, then became a full-time high school teacher in LA Unified School District once I graduated from college. I taught Social Studies because my abiding passion is American History & American Government. I taught for four years and loved what I did – I felt impactful – but I wanted to do more.
I got my Masters in Public Affairs since I was interested in education policy and wanted to meld my practical experience with policy. That led me to go back into schools and work with children and parents again. I did a principal residency in NYC with the organization New Leaders, and in 2005, I founded a small high school called the Urban Assembly Academy of Government & Law. I aimed to advance equity for students and create smaller, supportive communities so kids got more personalized attention. It was the toughest, hardest thing I’ve done professionally but also the most rewarding. During my four years as principal, we doubled the graduation rate of the school it replaced.
In 2009, I become principal of Cesar Chavez Charter High School in D.C., and I brought my experience in public schools to the charter space. Then I joined the Education & Society Program at the Aspen Institute, where I learned about how education policy works or doesn’t work and how it impacts kids. I could see how things ultimately played out at the federal, state, and local levels, and it was a tremendous opportunity to be on both the inside and outside of the education sector. I witnessed education policy shifts through an educator and policymaker’s lens.
Before joining Stand, I accepted a political appointment in 2014 at the U.S. Department of Education under President Obama, where I had a direct influence on federal education policy. It really was the privilege of a lifetime, and I brought all of my experience in schools and with students to bear on the work I did there. I was also able to make sure policy was infused not only with my practical experience in schools but also by my own personal experience as a Latino, a gay man, the grandson of immigrants, and the son of a single mother who is also a middle school teacher.
While I look fondly at the good work accomplished during my time at the USED, I’ve turned my sights on making sure marginalized children have not just an equal chance, but a real chance to live a quality life.