October 2019 Student Spotlight
October Student Spotlight with Alejandro Cintron Carrasco, Executive MPA ‘20
In this month’s student spotlight, hear from Executive MPA student, Alejandro Cintron Carrasco, who is pursuing his career in public service as associate director of language access at the New York City Department of Education (DOE).
Tell us about your role at the DOE. What are some of your current projects and past accomplishments?
As the Associate Director of Language Access at the NYC Department of Education (DOE), my role is to work with our team of Field Language Access Coordinators to support all 1,600 public schools in engaging and communicating with families that do not speak English. Of the 1.1 million students the DOE serves, nearly 40% of parents speak a language other than English at home. We help schools create a plan and connect them with direct resources to provide translation and interpretation.
We are currently coordinating Language Access Coordinator Conferences for school-based staff to connect them with best practices and workshop topics that they’ve highlighted interest in. Since I’ve joined the DOE, with our team of coordinators, we have set up a network of support for schools and have ensured that each school has a designated point-person to attend training and share this information with other school staff. Each year we do site-visits to schools, review schools’ Language Translation & Interpretation Plans for Parents, troubleshoot questions, and help schools think through solutions when resources are limited.
Can you discuss the DOE leadership program LeadDOE? What is it and what did you learn?
LeadDOE is a six-month leadership development program that brings together a group of high performing emerging leaders across the divisions to develop and strengthen leadership skills. Through the program we received access to a career coach, Denison 360 leadership assessment, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment, and multiple workshops with a focus on managing change, building better teams and working with other personality types. It’s an amazing program that allowed for DOE staff, who are usually swamped with work, to challenge and learn in a safe space. I learned so much from the program such as the impact of my leadership behaviors on those around me, techniques for effective coaching, assessing a team’s health, and identifying areas for improvement. However, my biggest take away was getting to meet with others in the DOE who’ve accomplished so much, and being able to learn from them and their experiences. Our group will continue to stay in touch and it’s something I am very grateful for.
What first drove you to become a public servant? What drives you to continue?
I’ve been driven to public service through my father and grandfather, who instilled in me the importance of working hard and helping others. I grew up enjoying every community service project and after-school event that involved helping someone, whether that was tutoring, community clean-ups, or helping at a soup kitchen. Throughout high school and college I fully immersed myself in volunteer opportunities that were in the community and throughout the country. Programs like Alternative Spring Break Outreach allowed a group of students to travel to another part of the country during spring break week to help communities in need. From high school to college I was able to travel to places like New Orleans, Atlanta, Pensacola, Galveston, Tennessee and a small town in Mexico. In every trip, hearing from locals and reflecting on our experiences was a central focus. Families would share how disasters like hurricane Katrina affected their lives and what living in poverty meant. Their challenges, hopes and motivations all left a very strong impression on me and I left these trips wanting to do more. I also learned the importance and impact of public service and the responsibility public servants have.
All of these experiences lead me to the NYC Civic Corps AmeriCorps program, where I was placed in my first city government office at the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA) focusing on language access citywide. After two administrations at MOIA, I eventually moved on to the DOE to focus on language access for schools.
How has your experience in the Marxe Executive MPA program been?
Being part of the Cohort #35 Marxe Executive MPA program has been extraordinary and one of the best life choices I’ve made. I am constantly learning from our professors and my classmates, all who are experts in their fields.
What are you learning and how will you be able to apply it to language access, translation, and interpretation in an educational setting?
Everything I’ve learned through my work at the DOE is being expanded on through our classes, and they allow the opportunity to test theories, question what we’re learning and apply it to our own positions. From our Communication in Public Settings class, led by Dean Birdsell, I learned presentation styles and techniques that help me at the DOE when presenting to senior staff. From our Research and Analysis II class, I’ve learned from Professor Remler to think more analytically when reviewing research reports, to question causations/correlations, and how to read and understand the data to make our case- such as when tracking language resource usage by schools. From each class, I’ve learned something to help me directly in my role or it has improved my confidence to take on new challenges. We are about halfway through the first year and it’s hard to believe how quickly the classes have gone by. I am very excited to continue the program and continue learning/challenging myself.