"The world does not turn without moments of grace.
Who cares how small."
Activism and social justice are at the core of any true artist or educator. It is our great privilege and responsibility to establish and foster a more diverse, equitable and inclusive world through communication, curriculum and acts of service.
Maria Paz Alegre - Pictured with students from the Dalton School Human Rights Club. Keynote speakers for KivaNYC with PayPal CEO Dan Shulman and President Bill Clinton. Photo by Getty Images
ACTIVISM & DEI
Kiva NYC Trustee and Keynote Speaker:
I have long been involved with Kiva - an international micro-finance organization that raises funds to loan to small businesses in developing countries at a zero interest rate. The CEO of Kiva, Premal Shah heard about me bringing Kiva to my schools and asked me to be a Keynote speaker during the NYC Kiva launch, alongside PayPal CEO Dan Shulman and President Bill Clinton. I insisted my students come with me, and together we spoke about the power of giving back to your community and your world. Later, I was invited to become a trustee of Kiva and to date the contributions of myself and my students have helped over 150 people in 29 different countries.
Volunteer Children's Librarian in Ferguson, MO
Following the state of emergency in Ferguson, MO after the murder of Michael Brown, Parents found themselves at a crossroads when they were expected to go to work when all of the public schools were closed. The Ferguson Municipal Public Library opened their doors taking in thousands of students and sheltering them until their parents could pick them up after work. Librarian Scott Bonner would later go on to win the Librarian of the Year award for his altruism and support for his community during their difficult times. He announced in a press conference that he was happily overwhelmed with donations and only wished he had librarian help to process them and begin the work of building their budding children and young adult section. I was happy to answer the call and spent a week as their volunteer children's librarian, cataloging books for the new UNITY collection and lending a hand to help local students with literacy.
Volunteer Librarian in Orlando, FL
I happened to be in Orlando, Florida for a library conference when the horrific attacks against the LGBTQ Latinx community at the Pulse nightclub occcured. This was a particular blow to the local Latinx community, who were the prime targets during this awful crime. As someone who speaks Spanish at an intermediate level, I saw there was an opportunity to provide service and volunteered for several days as a guest librarian in the local libraries. Using my Spanish speaking skills I was able to help elder members of the Latinx community sign up for email, participate in bilingual story times and assist during their children's movie time, a program that provides free lunch to school children over the summer.
In the summer of 2017, I was approached by playwright Ray Yamanouchi. Ray was impressed by my work on stage, as well as my theatre criticism for Theatre Is Easy. While Ray and I were both thrilled to see more and more theatre featuring diverse artists, we also expressed frustration and helplessness with the lack of diverse theatre critics of color. We had both witnessed countless criticisms that were out of touch, ignorant, or simply racist. He proposed we take action to rectify this issue, and thus re: (pronounced "regarding" ) was born. We pride ourselves on being two POC recommending the most lit theatre in NYC. Broadway already has its fanbase so we stick to theatre that you might not have heard of, but are definitely worth watching.
NAIS (National Association of Public Schools): PoCC (People of Color Conference) Facilitator:
Since 2017 I have had the honor of working for NAIS as a facilitator of the Asian-American and Pacific Island Affinity group. Over the course of several months, I work closely with a small team AAPI educators from around the country, to create and curate a three day program which aims to enrich and engage AAPI attendees. To date, we have helped create and present programs to over 2000 AAPI educators.
FADE (Filipina American Decolonization Experience) to Freedom: A Journey of Power, Actualization, and Solidarity
I had the privilege of teaming up with four other Filipino colleagues from around the country in a presentation to the attendees of the NAIS People of color conference. Our abstract is as follows: To decolonize is to reflect on internalized oppression and to heal; to decolonize is to question colonial narratives and to recover memory; to decolonize is to tell our stories and to encourage other critical narratives. Filipino/a/x* educators are disrupting the halls of silence and dismantling centuries of colonization and oppression. Inspired by Leny Strobel’s Coming Full Circle and E.J.R David’s Brown Skin, White Minds, Filipina American educators representing multiple perspectives examine research on decolonization and post-colonial psychology. Learn how to leverage the FADE framework to identify opportunities to redesign approaches to culturally responsive teaching and to create an inclusive curriculum, classrooms and communities, and to provide leadership pathways for educators of color. Due to the success of our first presentation, we were invited back the following year to present FADE 2.0: Island Womxn Rise, Walang Makakatigil: Collectivist Cultural Approach For Healing, Sustaining, and Inspiring
American Library Association: ALSC Excellence in Early Learning Digital Media Award Committee Member
I had the honor of being appointed to a national committee for the ALSC - the Association of Library Services to Children, a subgroup of ALA, the American Library Association. I worked with a committee of librarians to find, judge, and award different types of media for their distinguished contribution to children's education. During my 2019-2021 tenure, I was proud to give an award the app Molly of Denali, which is related to of a popular PBS Kids show of the same name created by indigenous natives of Alaska. "In Molly of Denali, children join Molly, her dog Suki, and her friends Tooey and Trini in the Alaskan village, Qyah. Children use diagrams, pictures, field guides, and utilize maps, charts and informational text to help them solve problems and accomplish tasks. The app’s games, adventures, and explorations of Native language, art and music engage users while developing foundational skills in informational literacy. The committee was especially impressed by the roles Alaskan Native peoples played in every phase of development and production of the story, resulting in an app with ample opportunities for children to engage in cultural exploration." The following year we gave the award to a podcast called The Imagine Neighborhood by Scotty Iseri and produced by the Committee for Children. Their recent season includes a series calledImagine Equity: Six New Stories About Race, Identity, and Making Things Right.
Chinatown NYC Historical Walking Tour for Schools:
The best way to learn about any city is to walk through it! After learning about a need for student-friendly tours through historic ethnic neighborhoods in New York, I created my own walking tour through Chinatown - my beloved home neighborhood. To date, I have toured dozens of classes and families from schools like the Dalton School in NYC and the Andover School from MA. Students learn the history behind street names, landmarks, businesses and buildings throughout the neighborhood leaving with the most important message of all - Asian-American's have not been in this country for decades, but for centuries! They are (and have always been) an important and vital part of the beautifully diverse fabric of New York City.