Agent of Change Spotlight: Karla Silva Roldan

Karla Silva Roldan

DFOY has been a part of Karla Silva Roldan’s life for as long as she can remember. Karla is currently Assistant Program Director at P.S. 498/Van Nest Academy, but her first exposure to DFOY programs came in elementary school when she and her sister were students at P.S. 72. In the after-school program, Karla and her sister Karelys, also a current DFOY employee, participated in dance and cheerleading, worked on their homework, and even learned to crochet. Karla shared: “From then on, DFOY was a constant in my life. Now that I have reflected on those early years, DFOY was so important for my mom because it offered a safe space for my sister and me to explore, develop our interests, and stay focused on school. My mom was a single parent working on her career, and from the beginning, she loved what DFOY offered. She brags that I am the boss now!”

When it came time for Karla to enter middle school, there was an after-school program in her new school. However, Karla’s mom loved what Karla and her sister got out of DFOY, and rather than have Karla enroll in the program offered at her new school, she encouraged Karla to continue working on her homework at P.S. 72. Later on in middle school, Karla also began volunteering and assisting program staff with the younger participants. Her experience as a volunteer made her a perfect fit for a DFOY Camp Instructor when she got to high school, and then as a Program Aide at P.S. 72. During her time as a Progam Aide at P.S. 72, Karla also met ‘Mr. Nana’, current COO Nana Apenteng.

“Mr. Nana had a big impact on my life and is the main reason I developed a love for math. He is a huge reason why I picked math as my initial college major.” When she got to SUNY Albany, Karla found college math very challenging and ultimately changed her major, but she credits the relationships she formed at P.S. 72 for keeping her focused on continuing her education. “When I came back to work at P.S. 72 during breaks and over the summer, Ms. Frances and Ms. Sharai pushed me, supported me, and consistently checked in on me. I always felt welcome at DFOY!”

Upon completing her degree, Karla knew she was ready for a new challenge and again felt DFOY calling. Karla returned to P.S. 72 as a Group Leader and was quickly promoted to a leadership role at P.S. 498 because of her years of experience and leadership qualities. In her leadership role, Karla has seen a lot of change at DFOY since her days as a participant:

“Programs are more structured now! After-school should be fun, and the current DFOY model encourages fun and exploration, but there is more of an academic focus now. We emphasize math and science, where students from low-income communities tend to struggle. DFOY also hires college graduates, which encourages participants to develop relationships with relatable role models who have diverse life and education experience.

Karla’s favorite memory from her years at DFOY is when she was on a school break from SUNY Albany and she was wearing an Albany shirt while working at P.S. 72. Veronica, one of the younger participants asked Karla about her shirt, and Karla talked with Veronica about her college experience. When it came time for dismissal, the first thing Veronica said to her mom was to point to Karla and share that she wanted to go to college because Ms. Karla went to college. That experience with Veronica, and memories of Ms. Crystal, a paraprofessional at P.S. 72, and Karla’s group leader in 4th grade, shaped Karla’s desire to eventually pursue a teaching career. Her long-term goal after she uses her experience at DFOY to become a teacher, is to become a principal. Like Ms. Crystal, Karla wants to use her career to make a difference.

Outside of DFOY, Karla likes to travel and has already visited her native Puerto Rico as well as Mexico, Canada, Jamaica, California, and Texas. Karla’s travels have offered her a unique lens into a variety of cultures, including many cultures in the DFOY community. Her time in these countries has also provided a deeper appreciation for cultural differences, and also helped her develop more authentic relationships with her participants at P.S. 498.

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