"I live, breathe, and think like a social worker." - Ursulina Ramirez
Summer Search is honored to welcome Ursulina Ramirez (She | Her), our incoming Chief Executive Officer!
Ursulina is a nationally-recognized education leader who notably served as Chief Operating Officer for the New York City Department of Education (DOE) and, most recently, as Chief Program Officer for XQ Institute.
At XQ, she worked to #ReThinkHighSchool and create a more equitable and student-centered educational experience for young people.
At the New York City DOE, Ursulina transformed early childhood education:
- She launched the 60,000+ child ‘Pre-K for All’ program;
- She implemented a ban on early-elementary school student suspensions;
- She expanded social and emotional supports for elementary schools.
Ursulina has placed the success and wellbeing of young people first.
Beginning January 3, 2023, Ursulina brings her experience, vision, and commitment to educational equity to Summer Search.
In November 2022, Ursulina visited Summer Search's office in Oakland, California to connect with staff and alumni, including Marie Pierre (She | Her) -- Summer Search Boston Alumna, Bay Area Board Member, and Co-Chief of Staff of Portfolio Management at Hall Capital.
Please enjoy three excerpts from Marie and Ursulina's 1-on-1, with minimal edits for clarity.
Watch their full conversation here and embedded at the foot of this article.
JOURNEY TO SUMMER SEARCH
Ursulina discusses her experience as a first-gen college student, her work as a mentor and social worker, and how they helped shape her career path.
[Ursulina Ramirez]: I was a first-generation college student. Then I ended up becoming a mentor and advisor during undergrad. And so, like a lot of our staff at Summer Search, that's where I started. I was actually advising and mentoring first-generation students in Santa Barbara School District. That really put me in the space of 'I needed to be at the intersection of social work and education.'
I live, breathe, and think like a social worker. It's how I operate. I've been in leadership roles since then and [I] really go back to my core... meeting people where they are.
I have been at the intersection of education and youth development for the last 20 years. I was looking to do more direct work. For me, this was a homecoming of what I wanted to be. It's where I saw myself.
LANGUAGE + CULTURE
Responding to the prompt of 'Do you speak any other languages?', Ursulina and Marie share stories, unpack complicated culture, and discover common ground. Both are striving to reclaim and (re)learn those important parts of their cultures.
I grew up with my Grandmother... and she was hit by the nuns for speaking Spanish and it really impacted how she raised us. So, unfortunately my Spanish is not strong, but it gets by. But, it's really important for me that my kids speak Spanish... so they're in a bilingual immersion program and I'm taking tutoring because I need to perfect it.
I want it to be perfect to represent my Mexican culture and also recognize that it was like forced assimilation for my family. So, its painful for me that a lot of my family members cannot speak [it] with ease. It actually angers me more than anything else. Like, how is this not part of our life?
I feel the same way. My parents are Haitian. So I grew up speaking kind of French Creole and English. But my dad speaks a plethora of languages.
I just remember him always telling me, growing up similarly... the nuns would tap you any single time you spoke in French Creole and not French, and so for that was always a reason why I didn't want to pick up French. As I got older, I'm like, I want to pick it up, but I want to have a renewed found importance around it.
IDENTITY + LEADERSHIP
Ursulina reflects on how her identity has shaped her career journey and inclusive approach to leadership.
Being a Chicana from LA is first and foremost of everything that I bring to discussions, to how I work, to how I lead.
A big piece for me is making sure that I'm bringing more chairs to the table from a leadership perspective. That I'm raising up Black and Brown voices. That it's an inclusive environment, that people feel like they belong and that they have a voice and their voice is being heard. To have a voice and to say something is one thing, but to have the organization hear you and listen to you and take it to heart is really important to me.
I'm doing this for my family. I'm doing it for my Mom. I'm doing it for my Dad. I'm doing it for my Grandparents... And now I have two young kids, and making sure that they see what it looks like to see a Latina leader, because I want them to recognize that and to see that for themselves.
Ursulina and her partner Tom Gray are proud parents to Tomás, 4, and Luna, 3.
In 2023, you’ll see and hear from Ursulina as she kicks off her tenure with visits to the Bay Area, Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, and Seattle.
Join us in welcoming Ursulina and her family to Summer Search!
Watch Marie and Ursulina's full conversation: