Celebrating Latinx Heritage: Two alumnae share their talents in education and engineering

"I was born in Guayaquil and moved to New York City when I was three years old," Karla says. "Growing up, I was surrounded by strong women who served as role models. My mom, abuelita and tia were a tight unit. From them, I learned resilience and a strong work ethic. I also learned to be bold and to pursue my dreams. Lastly and importantly, my Catholic faith has been my anchor during challenging times."
Kathya agrees. "While we didn't learn English at home, we learned important values from our parents and family. Our culture is one that values hard work, commitment, and support for each other. Throughout my education and career, these values helped guide and encourage me to succeed -- to push forward during difficult times and keep an open and kind heart for others. "
She points to her teachers at St. Catharine's, especially in math and science, as continuing that path. "These female role models (Ms. Morales, Ms. Cassaneto, Ms. D'Andrea, Ms. Kerrigan) demonstrated to me that these topics were not insurmountable, that they could be both fun and challenging.  I was intrigued - I began to explore paths in engineering and that led me to choose Cornell University upon graduation."
Karla says she found her passion for education at St. Catharine's as well. "A special shout-out to Ms. Morales, Ms. Panella, Mr. Dawson and Ms. Gonzalez. Really all my teachers demonstrated love and dedication. I thank them all for inspiring me to become a teacher."
Both sisters also agree that St. Catharine's provided a wonderful four years. They point to being able to be oneself and the companionship that makes St. Catharine's a true community.
The sisters talk about their careers and volunteer activities with energy and enthusiasm. Karla says, "I lead an incredible team of educators. My school is 95% Latinx and Black. Unlike screened schools, my school admits students from a range of academic readiness levels. We work incredibly hard to create a nurturing and academically rigorous high school experience that positions students to succeed in top-tier colleges. Most recently, we have entered into partnership with Howard University to offer Intro to Criminal Justice for college credit. We are proud to be a part of this pilot group as it will advance the work we are doing on equity and social justice."
At General Mills, Kathya manages a team that drives inventory accuracy, product traceability and material flow improvements across manufacturing sites and external partners in North America.  An active volunteer she works with Learning Ally, Partners in Food Solutions, and Muddy Paws Rescue in New York City.  "Most recently, I've partnered with a group of colleagues to start a non-profit that empowers BIPOC children and allies to strive for a more inclusive world through exposure to diversity in literature."
Karla concludes, "I would encourage everyone reading to find what they are truly passionate about and connect that passion in the service of others. We all want to contribute and we will contribute more meaningfully if it comes from that place within us that never stops inspiring and creating possibilities."
Kathya advises, "Do not be afraid to be yourself - let others see the beauty of your gifts and talents.  We each have our own story to tell."
Karla L. Chiluiza '99, principal at
the Global Learning Collaborative,
(second from bottom) celebrates
during a Thanksgiving feast with
some of her students.
Kathya Chiluiza '01, senior logistics engineer, is in the field at General Mills.
Published Print