What does it take to help schools run smoothly in a big city like Washington, D.C.? People like Cinthia Ruiz, who helps lead an invisible, effective system of operations and combines intense organization with people smarts and the ability to solve problems on the fly.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, “we had meal sites up in a week, learning packets and laptops within two weeks, and hotspots for Internet access soon after,” she said. “We provided PPE and ran vaccination sites as well. We do so much for our community that helps our students reach their full potential.”
Cinthia, who was an EP Fellow in 2011, was motivated to work in education after her early-career experiences at a large accounting firm, where she was one of a handful of non-white employees. She helped expand the firm’s recruitment outreach and joined the board of her alma mater, a finance academy high school that had inspired her to study accounting.
“I wanted to start a chain reaction for every person that I helped,” she said. “But I realized that my impact could be more if I went into education.”
In graduate school at New York University, Ruiz completed an Education Pioneers Summer Fellowship helping with the New York City Department of Education’s first-ever audit of high-school graduation exams.
“I was seeing how I could still do finance and accounting, but from a public-service perspective, while also gaining different skill sets in education,” she said. “Education Pioneers was almost like holding my hand to shift my career.”
That led to operations leadership roles at two charter school networks before she was recruited by DC Public Schools to help run a new School Strategy & Logistics department.
One ongoing source of support and expertise: the local Education Pioneers Alumni group, which maintains a regular meeting schedule and ongoing text chats.
“The DC Alumni group has created the space for like-minded people to get together, share ideas, and broaden our impact. It’s a crucial resource,” she said.
“There’s just so much we all can do within the education field, and it’s our way of influencing and cultivating and shaping the next generation of leaders,” she said. “We come together to share our stories. And in all these ways, we ensure students have the tools and resources they need to develop and become whatever it is that they want to be.”