Where have you worked and/or studied since you graduated from USC?
After I graduated from USC in 1996 with my psychology degree, I knew that I wanted to do something that involved helping other people. I actually had a difficult time adjusting to USC as an undergraduate student, and it wasn't until my senior year when I finally fell in love with college life. Because of my personal experience, I decided to work in college student affairs so that I could help college students. So, I went straight to a master's degree program in College Student Personnel Services at the USC Rossier School of Education. This degree is now known as the Master of Education in Postsecondary Administration and Student Affairs (PASA). After obtaining my master's degree, I worked for the USC Viterbi School of Engineering's student affairs division. I loved working in student affairs, but I also witnessed firsthand that there were not enough students from low income neighborhoods, including the neighborhood surrounding USC, who were getting into prestigious universities such as USC because they did not have a strong K-12 academic background. As a result, I was inspired to become part of the solution by becoming an inner city elementary school teacher with the Los Angeles Unified School District. In order to make an even greater impact on urban education, in 2004, I helped start a free public charter school, Synergy Charter Academy, in South Los Angeles near USC. For the past nine years, I have been helping to oversee the non-profit organization, Synergy Academies, that now operates three charter schools in South LA. Additionally, this May 2013, I will get hooded at USC for obtaining my Doctor of Education degree.
What professor or class do you most remember?
In addition to being one of the first students to take the inaugural Art and Adventure of Leadership Class with then USC President Steven B. Sample and Distinguished Professor Warren Bennis, I also remember that one of the most powerful classes I took was on the Holocaust taught by a Rabbi. The class was memorable because we learned how the people who executed the horrendous initiatives of the Holocaust were not necessarily inherently evil people, but how they were regular everyday people like you and me, and as a result, any of us could end up doing terrible things. In contrast, we also read about the everyday heroes who risked their lives to save complete strangers during the Holocaust such as the heroes in a French village as described in one of my favorite books from this class: "Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed: The Story of the Village of Le Chambon and How Goodness Happened There." After taking the class, I vowed to make a conscious effort to work hard on being an everyday hero.
What do you enjoy doing during your free time?
I love singing, watching musicals, and watching singing competitions on TV such as The Voice and American Idol. I also have an annual pass to Disneyland and season tickets to USC football games. Fight On, Trojans!
Any awards, accolades, etc. after you graduated from USC?
When I was getting my master's degree at USC, I was awarded the Rockwell Dennis Hunt Scholastic Award for the graduate student who best represented the university. When I was a teacher, I was awarded the Golden Apple Teaching Award from LAUSD in 2003. As an educator, I became one of the first Emerging Leaders identified in 2006-2007 by Phi Delta Kappa International, a leading international education organization. In 2008, I was awarded a Women of Distinction Award from Speaker of the California Assembly Fabian Nuñez. In 2009, I became the first recipient of the Phi Delta Kappa International Eve Proffitt Emerging Leaders Grant that allowed me to study Spanish in Costa Rica. In 2010, the elementary school that I helped start, Synergy Charter Academy, became the first and only elementary school in the history of South Los Angeles to be named a National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education. In2011, I was awarded the 40 Under 40 Leadership Award from the New Leaders Council for being among the top 40 progressive leaders nationwide who are under age 40.
Do you keep in touch with any other members of the Trojan Family?
Absolutely! I married my college sweetheart and I have kept in touch with many of my college roommates. My closest Trojan friends and I recently met up for a reunion in Vegas. Facebook and LinkedIn have also allowed me to keep in touch with many other Trojan friends. I also continue to make new Trojan friends since I am actively involved with the USC Alumni Association's Second Decade Society.