Who She Is
Administrative assistant in Fordham College at Lincoln Center’s residential life office since 2006.
What She Does
“I man the front office and assist with any parent questions or concerns,” she said. “I supervise the student workers and assist the housing operations director with anything housing-related.”
Dealing with Mom and Dad
“Transitioning from high school to college is an adjustment for both students and parents. A lot of parents [of first-year students]think, ‘This is my first child going to school and I just want to make sure my child has everything [he or she needs].’ So I help calm those nerves and help the parents let go a little bit. Helping parents and students navigate this transitional time is one of my favorite aspects of working in the office of residential life.”
Born in the Dominican Republic, Bred in the Bronx
At 8 years old, Baez immigrated to the U.S. She grew up in the Bronx, where she attended Theodore Roosevelt High School—just across the street from the Rose Hill campus.
“I’ve joked around that I didn’t want to go to Rose Hill because I didn’t want to just cross the street to go to college. A year into me being at Marymount, I find out that Fordham is purchasing Marymount. So I still graduated with a Fordham degree, even though I didn’t want to just ‘go across the street,’” she said with a laugh.
Over the next three decades, Baez became a three-time Fordham alumna. In 2005, she graduated from Marymount College with a bachelor’s degree in business. In 2016, she earned a master’s degree in counseling from the Graduate School of Education. In 2018, she received a master’s degree in nonprofit leadership through Fordham’s Center for Nonprofit Leaders. (From 2005 to 2006, Baez also worked in the Rose Hill career services office as an internship coordinator.)
Leading a New Nonprofit
In the summer of 2017, she created Strive4HigherEd: a grassroots program that provides minority students, particularly those from the Bronx, with events and activities that build financial literacy, wellness, education, and career exploration skills. Several months ago, Baez shortened her nonprofit’s name from Strive4HigherEd to StriveHigher.
“I wanted to make sure that there wasn’t just an emphasis on higher education because the idea of ‘strive’ is to expose students to different experiential and learning opportunities and life skills. I wanted to create a nonprofit that wasn’t just pushing kids to go to college. While that’s something that we do focus on, I focus more on developing the whole child,” she said. “My goal is to help children develop into well-rounded individuals who can reach their full potential. I think that everyone has a different path in life, and the main thing is just figuring out what works best for you and what makes you happy.”
This month, the nonprofit officially became a 501(c)(3) organization.
“Hopefully it will be funded through grants pretty soon,” Baez said. “But right now, it’s been a grassroots nonprofit … so just out of pocket and friends and family donating. But the support I’ve received with this nonprofit fuels me to continue the work and know that I’m on the right path.”
From Storytime to College Tours
Baez’s program offers activities for children of all ages, ranging from pre-K to high school students. In the past, she has coordinated financial literacy workshops with Bank of America, where several children created their first savings accounts. She has brought coding classes, courtesy of Code Equal and Fordham’s office of multicultural affairs, to Bronx kids on the Rose Hill campus. And most recently, she started reading stories like “Lucía the Luchadora” and “Hair Love” to children in a local T-Mobile store—stories that often spotlight characters of color, who resemble many of the children that attend Baez’s storytime sessions.
“A lot of kids in the Bronx are not at reading level,” Baez said. “My goal is to express to parents how important it is to read to their kids and to have the kids reading and being excited about the books they’re reading.”
She also spearheads local college tours for Bronx students, including children as young as 11 years old. In the summer of 2017, Baez took a group of middle school students and their parents on a tour of Fordham College at Lincoln Center. The following month, they toured the Rose Hill campus and met the women’s basketball team.
“A lot of parents are like, well, why do we even have to think about that [now]?” Baez said. “It’s [about]exposing the kids to a campus, to a dorm room, and have them hear the words ‘studying abroad’ and know what that means … being able to have that type of vocabulary, no matter their home situation or their neighborhood.”
‘I Want Them to Be Successful and Happy’
“[I want to create] a legacy of students building generational wealth. What matters to me the most is for kids to be able to grow up and buy a house or that car and not be in debt, travel, do all these things that are normal in other families and races … and I want them to be successful and happy. I want that to be the legacy that I leave behind.”
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