1. What is the one word that best describes you?
2. When are you happiest?
There are two times I’m happiest. When I’m with family and when I’ve accomplished my goals.
3. Tell us about your family:
My husband and I both have a pretty big family. My mother had 16 siblings and my father had 18. And, on average, each of them have 2-3 kids. There is no differentiating between immediate and extended family. Everybody is immediate family! I have one sister but my cousins are also like my sisters and brothers. It’s a beautiful thing!
My family is incredibly loving, loyal, and generous. Their greatest desire is to share everything they have with others and help one another achieve their greatest potential. They are full of life and greatly enjoy celebrating it together…especially around great food and good music!
When I was 8 years old, we moved to the Dominican Republic. We moved back to New York three years later because of the political unrest in the country. But those three years were among the most memorable part of my life. There was such warmth and love amongst the people and I deeply appreciated the time to immerse myself in the richness of the Dominican culture.
4. What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
Perhaps one of the toughest challenges for me was uprooting and leaving my family to go away to college. Growing up in a tightly knit family, it was hard to let go of the comforts of home. It was also tough because I had spent a large portion of my life going to public schools in under-resourced neighborhoods and I was stepping into an Ivy League school where the majority of people had been trained to excel in a highly competitive environment. But once I was there, perseverance, hard work and the love of family—though far—kept me going and I learned to thrive in my new environment.
5. How would your friends describe you?
They would say that I’m passionate and determined. Given the opportunities and privilege that I have been given, I am committed to affect change so that others can have the same opportunities I have been afforded in my lifetime. Those that know me, know that I hold fast to two scripture verses that say “To whom much is given, much is expected” and “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” These verses drive my determination and fuel the passion to change the status quo.
6. What was your favorite childhood meal?
I love anything with plantains. I especially love Mofongo! I also love pasteles en hoja, they are the Dominican version of tamales.
7. What life experience has strengthened you the most?
It’s hard for me to separate my upbringing and the places where I’ve been able to grow from this question. I was born in New York where I witnessed the grit and weight of living an urban-dense city where equity—or lack thereof was a constant struggle. Some people would want to wish that all away. Not me. I am privileged to have experienced that grit and exposure to the struggle of family and neighbors. It has made me who I am today.
8. What is your superpower?
Tough question. The first thing that comes to mind is compassion–the ability to empathize with people from all walks of life. Connecting with people at the deepest levels and then using that power to push for change.
9. What are the two most important Latino issues to you and why?
The first, by far, is education. I am convinced that education is the pathway to breaking the cycle of poverty. We need to focus on getting the graduation—both at the high school and at the highest level of education— rates to rise. We are in a historic and fast-paced season of change in this State and in the country. The exponential growth of technology brings along a myriad of opportunities and open doors—and we must be ready for it. We must have a generation ready to thrive and excel in this new environment.
The second issue would be civic engagement. Getting people energized, engaged, and involved in every aspect of policy, civic, and community life is critically important. Without those two things, we can’t move forward. For me, these are not just Latino issues; these are highly important American issues. As the fastest growing population, we have a great deal to contribute to the economic growth and success of this country.
10. Who is your hero and why?
Hmm. That’s another tough question because I don’t really have someone I would call a hero. I do have several people that I deeply admire for different reasons. One person that comes to mind right now is Maya Angelou. I really admire her ability to use the power of words to change the hearts and minds of people. I believe that’s where real change happens. Changing laws and legislations is at times the easier thing to do. But people must embrace that change and be willing to live out in every aspect of their lives. People like Maya Angelou have used the power of words to do just that—for people across different generations, racial/ethnic backgrounds, and income status.
Lin-Manuel Miranda also comes to mind. He is a young Puerto Rican actor, composer, and playwright who infused the language of his generation to creatively communicate the essence of culture, history, social justice to the masses. He did it with the Broadway hit “In the Heights” and is doing it again with “Hamilton.” He touches the core of people’s hearts—people of all background, age, and ethnicity. That’s very powerful to me.
11. What is your proudest accomplishment?
That would probably be the most recent accomplishment where I was part of a small but effective team that helped to build and launch one of the largest Health Foundations in the State of New York. I am proud that we created systems that impact lives of people in tangible and meaningful ways. On a very personal level, I also have several ‘Godchildren’ who grew up in tough places and who are now thriving in life. I hope that I have influenced and inspired them along the way. I am a firm believer that it does take a village to raise a child.
12. What are the three things you hope to accomplish during your first 100 days as CEO?
I have a lot more than three but these are probably my biggest priority:
1) Establish a strong rapport with the Staff.
2) Get in the field. I want to meet with the Giving Circle donors, our partners and our grantees. I want to meet the people that care most about our success. This is why I am here.
3) I am committed to scaling the work of LCF. This is a powerful organization with a very important niche. For me, it’s not enough to think about the next 5 years. It’s about the legacy of this Foundation. In the next 100 days, I want to get us in a firm path of growth—growing our impact, establishing our statewide presence and creating our endowment.
To read Jacqueline’s full biography, please click here.