Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I was born in Worcester, Massachusetts and grew up in nearby Framingham. Both my parents are from the Dominican Republic and came to the U.S. in their 30’s. I was the first person in my family to be born and raised in the U.S. I’m a musician, a pianist to be more specific. I currently work at the Community Music Center of Boston as an Arts administrator. As the registrar, I’m in charge of getting kids into the Center and handling their billing and financial aid. I do a lot of HR (human resources) work as well. Because I’m the only Spanish speaker, I work with Spanish-speaking families who might not have an English-speaking parent. I always make a point to give them some extra help to make sure they have the same opportunities everyone else has. I see my role as helping give kids the chance to work with music and express themselves and excel in that way.
You’d mentioned in a past conversation that you did a lot of translating for your parents growing up. What did taking on that role teach you?
I was lucky to have an older brother who also spoke English and helped guide me through what being American and Afro-Latino meant. Translating makes you grow up fast. You’re a part of conversations that many children aren’t. You grow up with a different perspective, maybe not as innocent, but definitely more practically able. Now, I meet all these parents at my work and I understand their cultures, for the most part, and I also understand why they might be skeptical about our center. Because of my experiences growing up, I’m able to represent a trustworthy entity that they can connect with in their own language and that’s an advantage.
Did you always know you wanted to go to college?
I did. My parents went to college, but they didn’t get their degrees in the U.S. They had no idea how the U.S. education system worked. Thankfully, I had a brother who served as an example and who gave me a crash course on what to do (and what not to do). Although I knew I wanted to go to college, how to go about it was a different story. I did a couple of semesters at community college because I didn’t really understand the process of applying to college, and I also wasn’t the most committed high school student.
I did really well at community college and ended up transferring to University of Massachusetts, Lowell, a four-year school. I knew by my junior year of high school that I wanted to major in music, which in hindsight, must be terrifying for a parent, especially a parent who doesn’t necessarily understand the application process. I know my mom was always worried about me falling in with a bad crowd if I decided to pursue music. I’m 26 and she still constantly reminds me to stick to my roots and not do anything stupid.