Raquel Cardona – CUP Fellow Spotlight – July 2012

What is your occupation and how did you come to work in this field? I am a nonprofit executive working for an education nonprofit called Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America. My journey to this career began with a crying sister in Massachusetts.  A group of high achieving students we're invited to a free bus trip to a school in Massachusetts called Amherst.  Since this was a unique opportunity and many of us had never left the state before we were allowed to bring one family member. I invited my sister who was struggling  in high school, hoping the trip would inspire her to persevere. By the end of the trip she was in tears. When I asked her why, she said "If I knew going to a place like Amherst was a possibility, I would have tried harder." Since then I have devoted myself to helping low income students, like myself, gain access and succeed in college.

What is the biggest challenge of your work? The greatest challenge of my work is providing a variety of resources the students I serve need to thrive at the highly competitive schools they attend.  Currently, I coach over 400 low income students across the country and help them through their psychosocial and academic transition to college. Meeting their needs has a lot to do with helping them navigate school with personal concerns of home.

What is your proudest achievement?My proudest achievement is creating programs at Amherst College that changed the experience of generations of low income and underrepresented students. Programs ranged from financial aid policies that allowed students to receive financial aid reimbursements quicker so they can buy textbooks, to meal and social programs for students who cannot not go home during break periods. The culmination of these initiatives was the creation of the Amherst College Multicultural Resource Center. A center I created to meet the rapidly increasing diverse student body on campus with over 30% of students being international or students of color, and over half of all students receiving financial aid.

What leaders, thinkers or doers do you admire most? I have always admired Theodore Roosevelt for his fearless leadership style, his diversity of expertise and his strenuous life doctrine.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? In ten years I see myself expanding the impact I have in helping low income and students of color succeed in college and beyond.

What is one thing you’ve learned from the CUP Fellows Program that you would pass along to young people who want their careers and lives to have an impact? The CUP Fellows program has taught me that no matter what field one works in anyone can work for positive change and that it is important to get involved in what you care about.