Alumni Story

DSAG scholars are committed to making educational equity a reality

By Katrina Nash Published on

Each year, the Dean’s Superintendents Advisory Group (DSAG) provides scholarships to USC Rossier EdD candidates who aspire to the superintendency. In 2023, the DSAG Endowed Scholarship was awarded to four outstanding scholars who are committed to making educational equity a reality.

Lori Gonzalez, superintendent of Lamont Elementary School District, said the scholarship continues to allow her “to learn how to truly be a culturally responsive school leader from the lens of the Latina Superintendent.” Lori is motivated by a strong sense of purpose and a desire to make a positive impact by helping students achieve their full potential. Her passion lies in “creating a learning environment that is centered on the whole child, where students are seen, heard and valued, and their unique strengths and needs are at the forefront.” When asked why Lori chose to pursue this line of work, she said she chose this career because her “experience as a female minority student who struggled as an English Learner in a system not designed for me motivates me to improve teaching and learning for all students.”

Jarrod Bordi, an assistant superintendent of educational services of the Yosemite Unified School District, said the scholarship “has fueled my passion to use course work and application of research to impact large urban districts.” As a first-generation college student, Jarrod’s passion for educational equity is fueled by hearing stories of his grandparents attending segregated schools in El Centro. Following his baseball career with Team USA in China and Australia, Jarrod is now committed to thematic schools and programs that foster rigor, relevance, and relationships. He says, “attending USC Rossier has offered me the best academic foundation to be equipped to lead instructional systemic change within a school district.”

Zaia Vera, leader of the Social Emotional Learning and Strategy at Oakland Unified School District, said receiving the scholarship “shows that people acknowledge, support and truly believe in my potential.” Growing up as a Latina with a single mother in the mountains of West Virginia in a predominantly white community, Zaia was equipped with feminist values that play a prominent role in her career today. “My students are my inspiration,” Zaia said. “I see what happens in schools and classrooms regularly; we have the capacity to build a more humanizing education system that recognizes and grows students’ potential and honors teachers’ preparation and growth.”

Carol Castro, the 2023 TELACU scholar, is the assistant superintendent of Academic Services in the ABC Unified School District. When she immigrated to the United States from Santiago, Chile as an elementary school student, Carol remembers struggling with the English language. While Carol’s parents always encouraged her in academics, they too went to school and both became teachers, influencing Carol’s love for education. When asked what inspires her, Carol said, “I work to support equity in our school systems and processes. My goal is to make sure that every student in my district graduates with the ability to make a choice – whether that be college or career, military or job placement.” Receiving the scholarship confirms for Carol that with her “skills and abilities, and the support of the DSAG community, I can work towards a superintendency in order to ensure students feel welcomed and have a sense of belonging in schools.”

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