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#PREPpeople: Raisa Carrasco-Velez
Posted 08/09/2018 12:44PM

Raisa Carrasco-Velez One in an occasional series of snapshots spotlighting the people of the St. John’s Prep campus

HOMETOWN: Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

EDUCATION: B.A. in sociology and political science Merrimack College; M.P.A. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University

YEARS AT ST. JOHN’S: Two years

SUBJECT/DEPARTMENT: Director of Multicultural Affairs and Community Development

FUN FACT: I was born on Friday the 13th, and I am the luckiest person alive! For example, when I arrived in Massachusetts, I found a full-time job as a 17-year-old within two weeks. Think about it. You’re coming to a new country, you don’t have all the resources to be able to land a job quickly. And I really loved that job. I’m grateful that I had access to quality education throughout my life that helped me find employment quickly in the U.S.

My second fun fact is that growing up in the Dominican Republic, my elementary and middle school years were spent at a St. John’s. So every morning I would hear the same prayer—”St. John the Evangelist pray for us”— our students and faculty hear every morning. It feels like coming home, thousands of miles away.

DESCRIBE A TEACHER WHO INSPIRED YOU GROWING UP: I had two teachers who made a lasting impact. Our math teacher, Sister Theresa, always inspired me with her joy of teaching. Even though material was hard, she could teach and engage at a level where kids wanted to learn. That was magic. That is what an educator should do. I remember what I learned, of course, but most importantly, I remember her attitude and passion.

Sister Cecilia Reyes is more of a vocational teacher. We were learning technical skills like typing and accounting because the school wanted us to have skills that would help us get a job when we graduated. Sister Cecilia balanced discipline with mentorship. She never sat down; she was always walking and present. When I hear “be present, do not think about the past or the future,, she is the person who comes to mind. I remember her because she would tell me where I needed to improve and that was very significant in my life because she cared enough about her students individually—even with 60 or so students in the classroom—to think long term.She never missed that opportunity to think about us as the agents of change we were going to be as adults.

WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO TEACH FOR A LIVING?: I had a taste of it with my personal educational experience, which was fabulous in the Dominican Republic. I had amazing teachers. I went to wonderful learning institutions that really gave me what I needed. Having that experience as a student, and then as a young adult in the field, I saw firsthand the transformational power of education. You have the opportunity to make a difference in a young person’s life whether it’s through an agency, a school, a program or initiative. I fell in love with the work when I was hired at the Department of Public Health Initiative to work with young people. The work was serious and intense, but it was the win-win as I was able to give and receive.

WHAT EXPERIENCE OUTSIDE OF ST. JOHN’S INFORMS YOUR WORK WITH STUDENTS AT THE PREP?: I have a network of people who are also doing the work, doing the research, and sharing  with each other, whether it’s at the school districts, non-profits, or higher education. Having access to that wealth of knowledge, informs own my work at the Prep. It’s powerful when we get together to share our experiences.

I was at a Boys & Girls Club for 17 years, and a lot of the young people I worked with are professionals and leaders in the educational field now. I’m grateful that I’ve been here long enough to see that transformation in their lives. They are working with organizations to help students get into colleges. Another one is leading a social justice agency. They’re making an impact in a tangible way. I believe schools are that magical place where this transformation happens.

WHAT DO YOU LOVE THE MOST ABOUT WORKING WITH YOUNG PEOPLE EVERY DAY?: The energy. Even if I’m tired one day, it just takes one conversation with young man to really lift me up and remind me how important this work is. I enjoy that energy and being a witness to how creative they can be, how resourceful they can be, how eager they can be to learn. I want to go on the journey with them. Even though I am the adult, it’s a collaborative environment. I get energized and really inspired by what the future brings for these kids when they leave the Prep. I’ve only been here two years, but I see that they’re on their way to discovering their potential and discovering what is meaningful to them.
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