Last month I had the incredible opportunity to partake in the Dubin Fellows New York City Leadership Trip, and I have just recently started to process the entire amazing experience. I joined about 20 Harvard Kennedy School classmates in New York City to have intimate conversations with high-impact, socially minded leaders–like Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Former NYC School Chancellor Joel Klein, Harlem Childrens Zone CEO Geoffrey Canada, and Teach for America Founder Wendy Kopp. The three-day sojourn was sponsored by Glenn Dubin, who is the founder and leader of Highbridge Capital, a successful hedge fund company.
The most impactful portions of the three-day trip were the meetings with both Joel Klein and Michael Bloomberg. Because of my background working in the education sector and my aspirations to be part of the movement that creates systemic change in the sector, the entire weekend seemed to be specially tailored to my interests since we met with several prominent education leaders! Our discussions with Bloomberg and Klein really helped to give me the bigger picture perspective on leadership and how to make an impact through different angles in my life. I could tangibly feel Bloomberg and Klein’s energy and sense of purpose. I felt like both of those meetings were also a call-to-action in some sense, and it seemed like they were giving us as much advice and wisdom as they could because they could see that we were the next generation of leaders. In that sense, I was invigorated and felt empowered by their call-to-action.
EDUCATION IS A “PEOPLE BUSINESS”
I think it was coincidentally appropriate for the field visit to be so educationally skewed because of the urgency of the issues facing the education sector. My biggest take away from those conversations was that education is a “people business.” Despite all of the issues surrounding the debate for solutions, the education sector needs an infusion of great talent at all levels in order to create true systemic change. Multiple leaders–Deborah Kenny (CEO of Harlem Village Academies), Canada, Kopp, and Klein–mentioned this pressing need, and again, personally it felt like a call-to-action. To me it also signaled an incredible opportunity, and got me thinking, “how can we open up and widen the pipeline of talent into the education system and what are the levers we can use to make that happen?”
Another major issue that was constantly in the back of my mind was the issue of scaling impact. How were these leaders tackling the issue of scale, or were they at all? It was fascinating to see the different approaches to scaling impact from the very strategic and methodical widespread impact (Teach for America, Endeavor) to the thoughtful saturation of one market (Mt. Sinai Adolescent Center, Harlem Children’s Zone, Harlem Village Academies). Throughout the trip, I wanted one of the leaders to just tell me which method was the right way to go, but it became clear that there is no one right answer. Both approaches seem to be necessary in order to push an entire movement forward. However, I did appreciate getting insights from Kopp, Rottenberg, Canada and Weinstein (Robin Hood Foundation) about using data to thoughtfully inform their decision-making. And what I realized about myself is that I am the type of leader who doesn’t just want to create an excellent program that serves one market well; rather I realized that I am the type of leader who strives to disrupt a system to create long-lasting change at a large scale. Listening to Kopp talk about starting Teach for America with 500 corps members because that was the tipping point for a national movement really resonated with me.
Probably the biggest takeaway I had was not even a tangible meeting or something that a leader said, but for me it was having the incredible opportunity and privilege to join a talented group of students to meet some highly accomplished leaders. Being surrounded in that environment with these people is something that was truly energizing, and something that I had never dreamed of. I kept thinking about what the young me (shy, immigrant kid) would have done in that environment, and it blows my mind to realize that I had this opportunity. It was affirmation for me to follow my heart and my instincts and to continue to fight for what I am passionate about. All of the leaders we met were inspirational in that they were following their hearts and doing what they believed was right. I appreciated being in their presence, and truly appreciated having the opportunity to be part of this prestigious group.
At one point during the field visit, I looked around the conference room and I didn’t see the faces of fellow graduate students or competitors vying to get better grades in class or the more profound answers to questions. I saw the faces of future leaders, movers, shakers, and change-makers. Future colleagues, funders, mentors, advisers, friends, confidants, and comrades fighting against inequity and injustice. I was rejuvenated when I realized that we will be making an impact on the world soon, and we all had this foundational experience together. Learning about their rich experiences during busrides, lunch, or en route to the next meeting was valuable, and I sincerely hope that we take the opportunity to stay connected with each other.
BREAKING SOCIAL BARRIERS
Growing up, I rarely engaged with people outside of my social strata. I think there was a sense that barriers existed between people from different social classes, particularly if you grow up with humble means. What I appreciated about my interaction with the Dubins is that they made sure that those social barriers did not exist with them and even among the visiting fellows. They went out of their way to expose all of us who came from different backgrounds to high-performing leadership. Glenn was incredibly down-to-earth, and from his example I was reminded that high-performing leaders are people, too. I was able to see myself in his shoes. The biggest lesson that I learned from Glenn Dubin was the importance of finding, cultivating and nurturing talent. And to do that, you’ve got to be able to communicate, connect and build relationships with people not in spite of your differing backgrounds but because of them.
I cannot emphasize enough how grateful I am to the Dubins, the Harvard Center for Public Leadership staff, the Highbridge staff, and all of the leaders we met, to have had this incredible opportunity! It was a clear call-to-action, and I will definitely use what I have learned to make an impact on our society.
It’s Sunday night (Jan 2) here in the Philippines, and I’ve been having a fantastic time catching up with my family before getting started on the Gawad Kalinga project. I’m staying with Tita Badette, Tito Bong, Jovic, Gelo and Bea, and we celebrated New Years with my Tito Eddie, Tita Ving and Robert. I thought the end of the world was coming, but it was just the hundreds of illegal firecrackers going off all over the city. And of course, we ate tons of amazing food. Yum.
I got some more concrete details about the project plan, and below is my schedule for this week.
Monday, Jan 3
Meet with GK National Office folks to get more background on the organization. We are possibly meeting at a farm in Valenzuela.
Tuesday, Jan 4
Meeting with the team that runs the Center for Social Innovation (CSI, catchy, huh?), including GK Founder Tony Meloto, at Ateneo de Manila University (one of the top universities in the Philippines). They’re going to give me an orientation on CSI, and then in the evening, I’ll get to meet some of the entrepreneurs from the program.
Wednesday & Thursday, Jan 5-6
We are heading to check out some GK farms/villages in north Bulacan, which is a provincial area just north of Manila.
Over the weekend
I’m spending the weekend in Bacolod, which is about an hour and a half flight away in Western Visayas. This is the target location for the next expansion of CSI, so it’s important that we check this out. They speak Visayan there, so that should be interesting since I don’t speak Visayan and I’ve never been there. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve been to northern Bulacan either.
In between the work, I’m also trying to get together with a few other relatives and family friends. So far the trip has been great (thanks to my family here), and the rest of it should be quite an adventure.
I can’t believe I’m nearing the end my first semester here at the Harvard Kennedy School. Over the last few months I’ve been knee-deep in the ethics of public service, the quantitative joys of microeconomics and statistical analysis, and riveting cases in the nonprofit and educational sectors. While I am loving my academic experience, I have been yearning to get my hands dirty — to apply these learnings to something real and tangible. Just when I was starting to get this itch, an amazing opportunity popped up!
Back in early November, I had the privilege of meeting Tony Meloto, the founder of Gawad Kalinga (GK, which means to “give care”), one of the Philippines’s largest and most successful NGOs addressing poverty in my home country. At a presentation at Harvard, he spoke passionately about GK’s mission to eradicate poverty for over 5 million Filipinos over the next decade by building communities and empowering impoverished people. I was inspired and hooked.
I had never met a Filipino who was so passionate about a social cause until that day, and I knew I wanted to learn more from him and GK. After chatting with him at school and through a few international video conferences, I volunteered to do a consulting project with GK. Based on their needs and my background, I will create a strategy to scale GK’s newest initiative, the Center for Social Enterprise. Basically I will help GK figure out how to create more business incubators in low income communities, so more people are empowered to be entrepreneurs in their communitiesÂ across the Philippines.
I just could not pass up the opportunity to make a difference with skills I’ve learned both professionally at BUILD and academically at Harvard.Â So instead of hanging out on the couch during my winter break, I’ll be spending about 20 days in the Philippines in January to do field research in Manila. I’ll be meeting with GK staff and community members, learning the ins and outs of their process, and formulating a replication strategy that is founded not only on the theoretical stuff I’m learning here, but, more importantly, the practical day-to-day operations. On a personal note, this will enable me toÂ give back to the country in which I was born and will hopefully be the start of my foray into international development work. Because this project goes beyond the expectations of schoolwork here at Harvard, there is no funding available for first year students to do international development projects.
This is where you, my kind and generous friends, come in. I leave in about one month, on Dec 29 for Manila, and I need to raise $2,500 to allay the expenses of the trip, like my flight, food, public transportation, etc. If you and 99 other friends donate just $25, I’ll be set and more Filipinos in low income communities will have the opportunity to start socially responsible businesses that improve their communities. Any amount I make over $2,500 will go straight to GK as a donation.
I hope that you will be able to support me and GK’s mission by making a donation today and by spreading the word to other friends who may be able to help. Thank you!
I have these gigantic 3 ft by 2 ft calendars on my wall to see all of our activities and events for the upcoming three months. Since today was June 1, I took down my May calendar, and put up the July and August calendars… And then it hit me. I’m not even going to be working at BUILD in August! My last day at the org is July 16, and I have about seven weeks left at this organization that I called home for five years. A few days after my last day at BUILD, I’m driving down to Las Vegas to spend time with my family, and then flying to Boston to find an apartment. Crazy.
Over the last few days I’ve been trying to brainstorm all of the things I want to do/get done in the Bay Area before I leave, so below is my audacious (narrowed down) list of fun things to do. If you are around and available, please join me!
Yes, I’m going back to school! I’m moving to Cambridge, Massachusetts! I’m going to Harvard! 2010 is truly the year of leaping and landing.
I’ll have more to say about BUILD over the next few months as we go through transition — I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve done over the last several years, and very optimistic about what the future holds. I’m deeply indebted to the BUILD staff for believing in me, challenging me and trusting me with our flagship site. All of our amazing mentors, volunteers, and board members have been crucial to BUILD’s success as well, and I would be remiss if I did not thank you all.
And I especially am grateful to our BUILD students and alumni, who continually inspire me to do the work that we do and show me that our society’s educational inequities and problems CAN be solved… even if it is one student at a time.
I’m pretty sure that I’ll have more to say about my Harvard experience as I transition to the East Coast. Ya’ll know that education is extremely important to me — and I specifically wanted to model that by going back and getting more education. Special shout out to my parents for instilling the love of learning in me! And they say it takes a village… to raise a child, and then send that child to college, and then to send that child to grad school. I want to communicate a deep gratitude to all of the people who aided me throughout the application process: Oudete, Karla, Chantal, Suzanne, Larisa, Sal, Tim, Amber, Craig, Kenyon, Alex, Jim, Amber, Sandie, Regan, Steve, Adriana, Elizabeth, Tony, Jed, Richie, Bola, and of course my family–Mom, Dad, Francis & Rachel. I literally could not have taken this gigantic next step without you!
Below is a note I sent out to everyone in the BUILD Family, with a little bit more explanation for why I chose to go to Harvard.
Onward & upward!
Dear BUILD Family,
Over the last five years, BUILD has grown in significant ways. We have expanded into three sites with a robust, life-changing and innovative program. I have had the privilege of working with phenomenal BUILD students, aiding their growth into confident young entrepreneurs and college students. And I have had the opportunity to work with talented community members and partners, like you, in the fight for educational equity. I am so proud of all that we have accomplished together in my five years at BUILD.
This summer I am about to embark on another personal journey. It is with careful thought and great anticipation that I want to let you know that this will be my last school year with BUILD. In August, I will pursue a master in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Pursuing my education in this country has been a lifelong dream. This next step will allow me to be a better leader for communities of youth in our country and around the world. After delving deeper into education policy in graduate school, my goal is to affect systemic, transformational change in the education sector at national and international levels. Although it is hard for me to even imagine leaving BUILD (and California!), I would be a hypocrite if I did not take risks in the way we ask our students to.
The BUILD Peninsula site is in good hands. Nicole Oppenheim, our current E1 program manager, will be the next site director of the BUILD Peninsula site, and I have the utmost confidence that she will lead the Peninsula team to achieve new and exciting heights. Her management experience and innovative vision and implementation of our freshman year program showcase her qualifications for the site director position.
My last day at BUILD will be on July 16th, and I encourage you to please reach out directly if you have any questions before I leave in the summer. I am equally available on phone or email.
Thank you for our relationship, your continued support of BUILD and your partnership in the fight for educational equity.
With deep appreciation and gratitude,
PS – Because of the transitions, we are hiring an Academic Program Manager and an E1 Program Manager at the Peninsula site as well as a few other positions in Oakland, DC and our Headquarters. Please check out our website for more information and please spread the word: http://www.build.org/browse/employment
I can’t believe my Aussie trip down under is more than halfway done. I had all of these grandiose plans to visit other parts of the country (like Melbourne or the Great Barrier Reef), but alas, those plans did not come to fruition as I realized that the real reason why I am here is to spend time with my extended family. And I have done plenty of that so far while exploring ridiculously beautiful Sydney.
Week two was slightly more relaxed and chill than week one. I didn’t go on any 5-hour bike rides, but I did wander the city one day by train, bus and ferry (Good Lord, the view from the ferry was just amazing). And below, you’ll see pictures from Michael’s fun-filled Bucks Party (aka Bachelor Party), which took up the entire Saturday from 7:30 am (that’s when we started playing paintball… who plays paintball at 7:30 am??? Apparently Aussies do) to midnight, when we continued the party at his house with not one but TWO evening entertainers. To protect the innocent, I haven’t posted any scandalous pictures up, but I’m sure you can use your imagination.
And to top off the week, I took the twins, Jeff & Chris, to our first live footy (that’s what they call rubgy down here) game. The Sydney Roosters lost to the North Queensland Cowboys, and even though our home team lost, it was a great experience for all of us.
This week we’ll see a HUGE influx of family flying in from all over the world, including my parents, who I’m picking up tomorrow (I haven’t seen them since April, so we’ll be reunited, too. 🙂 So this week is all about spending quality time with all of the family, and of course, the whole reason why we’re all here is Michael’s wedding to Charmie on Saturday. And then just like that, I’ll be whisked away to the US on Sunday and back to work at BUILD after a three-month sabbatical on Monday! Excited about getting back to my home and work, but not looking forward to leaving this beautiful place. Check out the pics below. 😉
So far my brother and I are having a great time in the Philippines with our family. I can’t believe a week has flown by, but we’ve done a lot! Check out some pictures below or on my Flickr account. You can also follow my tweets on Twitter.
Nanay Ising’s 80th Birthday Party
Check out more pictures after the jump or on my Flickr…
November is going to be one heck of a month. I can’t even believe it’s less than a week away till Halloween is over, and the presidential election is over. And before we know it, Christmas and New Years will be upon us and a brand we’ll usher in a brand new 2009. Here’s what’s on my calendar for the next four weeks:
Oct 31-Nov 2 – Los Angeles for Cindy’s wedding, hanging out with Billy, USC’s homecoming for a hot second, and visiting Ms. Van Hunnick, hopefully
Nov 4-9 – Cancun for Shanif’s wedding. Yup. Cancun!
Nov 14-15 – College Tour with BUILD sophomores and juniors. We’re going to St. Mary’s, Cal, UC Davis, and Sac State
Nov 26-30 – Vegas for Thanksgiving with the family
If you are in a city near me, give me a call or email to get together. If you’re going down to USC’s homecoming, I’m going to try to make it to the tailgate before the wedding, and I’d love to see you!
And by the way the photo has nothing to do with this post, but I figured I would add it anyway since Kenyon and I had a lovely afternoon in the Mission drinking tea and coffee on Saturday.