The Leadership Initiative invited its members to reflect on different aspects of leadership, bringing to light unique pathways, approaches, challenges and lessons learned. TLC hopes that through this series you get to know these diverse individuals and take away an appreciation for their journeys and leadership skills and its impact on the lives of children, families, their staff and communities.
Criselda Carmenate is the Director of Children’s Programs at Riverdale Neighborhood House (RNH) overseeing programming for children ages 3-10. This is her 2nd year as the director but have been a part of RNH for 17 years in a variety of roles. She has a MSED in Early Childhood Education and Educational Leadership.
1. When did you first recognize yourself as a leader? How did that recognition feel to you?
I have always been large and in charge. I recall being nine years old and playing school with my younger brother and cousins. I was always the principal! As I got older, I recognized the need in me to be the leader in school projects and things of that nature. At the same time, I was very shy at times on my own but in a group I flourished. When I began my undergrad courses in college, my professors saw the spark. They helped me nourish it and develop those skills. The recognition felt amazing! I thrived in it and was able to help others along the way. I learned that leading is not meant to be done alone. You need a team. You have to develop and support a group of people to be leaders themselves and in turn they will help you develop and grow as well.
2. There is a lot of conversation around systemic racism. How have you seen that manifest and what are two or three changes you’d like to see shift/move?
Systemic racism is engrained in the foundation of this country and the world as a whole. I have seen it manifest in every aspect of life from education to housing to the job market. The first change I would like to see is an admission of this problem. How can we begin to move towards change and progress if we don’t admit as a nation as a community that there is a problem that must be solved. Secondly, I would like our local communities to begin the fight. Let’s start where we live to change the small things like providing an equitable education for ALL of our children. Providing our families with the support and resources needed to succeed so that we are not repeating the same cycle generation to generation. Lastly, I’d like us all to get out and vote. Let’s pressure our politicians and representatives on a bigger stage to pass laws that benefit all of the people in its country and not just some. It is up to us as a collective to make this world a better place, a more unified country for the children we teach every day.
3. How do you handle criticism?
I enjoy receiving feedback! I believe in any role you have to keep changing and evolving. Criticism from your peers, supervisors, staff and even the families served is necessary in order for you to know if needs are being met and how one can continue to provide the appropriate resources and support. It also helps me reflect on my own practice and how I can further improve my leadership skills, communication and interpersonal relationships with the community as a whole.
Serene Stevens is a Leadership Coach at the Institute.