From Port-au-Prince to Policy: A TRIO Upward Bound Journey of Service and Success

I was born in Boston but grew up in Port-au-Prince, where I spent the first fifteen years of my life. When I left Haiti, I pledged to my family that I would serve those who need it the most upon receiving my share of the American dream. When I got to Boston, my cousin insisted I enroll in TRIO Upward Bound. He talked about how much fun he had in the summer program and the tight-knit community he was part of, but little did I know TRIO Upward Bound would be a transformational experience at a critical point in my life.

I moved to Boston from Haiti during a tough time when I didn’t speak English and was adjusting to an entirely new world around me. I was uprooted from my community, away from my parents, who had given me everything they could, but I was determined to make the best of my opportunities. My first meeting with Terri, who was then the assistant director, made me feel supported and empowered to face whatever obstacle came my way – knowing I had a community of teachers and counselors who wouldn’t let me fail.

During my undergraduate years and beyond, I prioritized paying it forward by spending my summers supporting the program as a tutor, teacher, and counselor. My TRIO Upward Bound experience profoundly impacted my life, so I joined the Teach for America (TFA) program immediately after graduation. One of my recommendations came from a TRIO Upward Bound counselor and alumnus who proved once again that this community always delivers. I then went from TFA back to TRIO Upward Bound, where my mentor, Terri, who welcomed me into the program when I was 15, hired me to become the assistant director.

After completing a master’s in Education and Social Change at the University of Miami and a second master’s in International Education Development at Columbia University, I joined the foreign service as an American diplomat. Still, even then, I stayed true to my TRIO Upward Bound roots. I volunteered to speak to students in Ecuador, organized a book drive for underserved schools in Mexico, and helped create a State Department’s federal program to support first-generation college graduates in the United States and at our diplomatic missions abroad. I also made a mechanism to recruit Afro and Indigenous candidates to diversify our staff while showing these marginalized communities that the U.S. welcomes their perspectives.

Since 2014, I have served in various positions in the State Department. I was recently offered the White House Director for Global Engagement and Multilateral Diplomacy role, which I expect to begin this spring. TRIO Upward Bound was a life-changing experience that gave me all the tools to reach my fullest potential. I was blessed to have that community behind me at such a pivotal time, and I wouldn’t have been here without them.

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