In her Twitter bio, Griselda Macias ’08 writes, “Life’s most urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” Macias has lived in Washington, D.C. for the past 11 years, moving there shortly after graduating from Carroll, where she studied communication and political science. She currently works as program director for New Futures, a local non-profit organization.
Macias was interested in reconnecting with Carroll. Since her move to D.C., she had lost touch with people with whom she had strong connections in college, and had a desire to learn about Carroll today. So, in early March, Macias volunteered with a group of eight students on an Alternative Spring Break trip. She met the group at D.C. Central Kitchen, a nationally recognized community kitchen. The group spent the day prepping and cleaning the kitchen, taking in donated food, and making meals that were then served to people in the community.
This trip was one of four trips in which Carroll students participated while engaging in volunteer opportunities throughout the United States during Spring Break week. Between the 50 students and five staff advisors that participated, a total of 768 service hours were completed.
Macias remarked on the inspiration she found in the students she visited and volunteered with: “It was amazing seeing all the wonderful Carroll students last week--they inspired me to keep giving back to Carroll and staying connected!”
She spoke with electronic communications assistant Lauren Brandmeier ‘19 during a Q&A focused on her experience with Washington D.C. with students and the chance to reconnect with Carroll.
What brought you to Washington, D.C.?
When I was at Carroll I was very involved on campus--Student Senate, LASO--and I minored in political science. I remember telling our provost at that time, Dr. (Joanne) Passaro, “I have a fascination for higher education, supporting young people, and politics.” And she said, “Why don’t you go to D.C.?”
She connected me with one of her colleagues, who was doing higher education policy and working on a non-profit, and I applied for an internship and ended up getting it. Thanks to her connection, I was able to get that internship.
Could you describe a day in the life at your current job?
I am currently the program director for a non-profit organization that supports young people who are looking to get a short-term post-secondary degree. I have a caseload of students that I mentor. I’m like an advisor. I work with them to make sure they’re on track in their program, ask if they need support, see if we can give them more money from their scholarship.
I manage three program managers who are also advising students. We’re always working together to find ways to keep supporting these students, whether it’s engaging them or navigating their challenges. Ultimately we want them to be successful in finding financial stability in their lives, so that they can break cycles of poverty and cycles of not having access to opportunities.
I like to say that my job is to connect the dots for everyone--to make sure we’re on the same page, moving forward, delivering on what we committed to our scholars, and that my team is supported.
What is your favorite part of your job?
At Carroll I was an orientation leader, so when I was a junior and senior I was able to mentor incoming freshmen, and I loved the opportunity to guide and support and empower a young person and for me to be able to say, “I believe in you and therefore you should believe in yourself.”
I feel like all of that transferred over to what I do now. As much as I love managing programs and managing a team of people, my heart is where the young people are. I love working with non-traditional students, meaning people who are between the ages of 20-29. Many of them either took a gap year, are young parents, or had a lot of other challenges that most students don’t have. I love being able to make an impact in a young person’s life and see them graduate and get that first job and start finding that stability for themselves or for their family.
That’s what gets me up every morning, because I see myself in many of them. I knew the pressure of having to be the first in your family to graduate, or the pressure of making sure you can be successful because you’re at a disadvantage, being a person of color or a woman. Those things always remind me of my experience so I tell them, “If I can, you can.”
What do you enjoy to do in your free time?
I don’t get to do it enough, but I love travelling, especially in the U.S. I’ve had opportunities to travel along the East Coast a lot. I love to be able to even take a small road trip to understand some of the dynamics of our country. The other thing that I love to do in D.C. is value the history we have. There’s so much history here, and still so many things I haven’t seen even though I’ve been here for a little over 10 years. I like to take time to reflect on and understand the history of our country.
Some of the students on the ASB (Alternative Spring Break) trip might have been visiting D.C. for their first time. How exciting was it for you to share some of your passion for your home and to make that connection for them?
I was excited for them to visit because I don’t get to meet many Carroll connections in D.C., and I haven’t been able to connect with Carroll in a long time. I’ve been so far geographically, and I haven’t been able to connect more beyond being really close to Dolores (Ocampo Brown, Senior Director of Alumni Engagement). It was great to be able to tell them about my experience and about the city. The funny thing is, they were staying a block from where I live. It was a complete coincidence.
I was able to share my perspective of living in D.C., and seeing how our country has shifted, what that looks like, and how that impacts communities. I shared a lot of my challenges and also a lot of the exciting things I’ve been able to do, like meet President Obama.
It was great for them to see the fact that you can take risks and find success in other places. It is challenging, but you build a lot of strength and resilience from it. I hope they see that their experience at Carroll will help them succeed wherever they go.
What encouraged or motivated you to sign up to volunteer with the Carroll students who were in D.C.?
I have a really big desire to give back to Carroll, especially now that I feel like I’m more settled in my career. I thought it was a great way for me to give back to Carroll. Having me express to them that if it wasn’t for my time at Carroll, I’m not sure I would be here today was also something I wanted them to know--how valuable that experience was.
I also wanted to learn from them. What is it like to be a Carroll student today? I wanted to know about some of the things I really care about like diversity, making sure we’re supporting students and helping them persist through their program. Not only students of color, but all students, and making sure we’re providing opportunities for them to connect with people that they feel comfortable with or making sure they have enough support systems on campus.
You mentioned that now that you feel settled in D.C. you have a desire to give back to Carroll. Why do you think that is?
I think it’s because of everything that I was able to take away from Carroll. I have to say I’m super thankful for all the mentors I had at Carroll, everyone from Dolores--Dolores is one of my biggest mentors to this day--and great professors. These people made such an impact in my life in making sure I became the young professional I am today.
Carroll gave me a home where I was able to meet wonderful people and have wonderful experiences, like Student Senate, LASO, and orientation, that now I’ve reflected on and said, “Yes, that had a lot to do with who I am today.” I feel like I found myself at Carroll.
As an alumni I feel like it’s my duty to give back, because I know there are a lot of young people who are in the same shoes I was a long time ago. If I can support an alumni or a student who wants to intern in D.C., I want to be a support system for them, because I didn’t have that coming to D.C. I want to be able to help the next group of students and alumni succeed as much as I have.
How did this service experience inspire you?
It made me so nostalgic having them here, talking about how campus has transformed. It brought back a lot of memories in a very good way. It’s easy to feel so disconnected when you’re far away, so having them visit made me feel more connected to Carroll. It was a great way to remember my good times.
Is there anything you want to add?
I want to say thank you to Carroll for everything they’ve done. I don’t think I’ve ever formally told any of the people there--my professors or Dolores (Ocampo Brown, senior director of alumni engagement)--how I will be grateful my whole life for what they did to support me on my journey, including former president Doug Hastad. They taught me how to make an impact in the community, they helped me grow as a professional, and everything I’ve accomplished is thanks to them.