Alumni Spotlight: Amaya Capellan ’95

Amaya Capellan ’95

Going to De La Salle Academy (DLSA) was a journey for me and so many other students. I lived at the end of the F line in Queens and the trip was about an hour: 169th street to 53rd Lex., transfer to the 6 and then my brother put me on a cross town bus. And then of course I had to climb four flights of stairs! It was a great exercise of willpower every morning just to get to school :).

I had an older brother who graduated DLSA the year before I started, so I knew DLSA was a special school. But when I became a student it was clear that I had joined a family: we were each others’ “brothers and sisters”, we greeted each other with hugs, we even shared responsibilities for chores. 

One thing that surprised me was the seemingly endless ways DLSA and its incredible faculty helped us learn…here are some memories: 

  • Meditation exercises with Mr. Witty in Drama class
  • Building tetrahedrons and drawing fractals with code in MathLab with Brother David
  • Going on an astronomy trip to upstate New York with Brother David and studying and then seeing our first constellations
  • Singing in Spanish with Ms. Bunn playing her guitar
  • Earning extra points from a Koosh basketball hoop with Mr. Hipolito in Spanish
  • My first “powerpoint” presentations with Hypercard in the Mac Lab

DLSA was always experimenting with new ways to challenge us. I remember being a member of an experimental French class for students with Spanish speaking families – we had both Spanish and French class concurrently – that one year of French allowed me to communicate at a wedding in France 15 years later! I also remember being advanced to an eighth grade history class in seventh grade. The first few weeks of the class resulted in tears as I struggled to understand the original historic texts we were asked to read. I remember begging my parents to let me drop the class. The DLSA family support system came in: a fellow seventh grade friend who was in the class with me, the teacher, and Brother Brian gave me the pushes and encouragement I needed to stick with it. I ended up doing well in the class and it was an important lesson in facing and not running away from a challenge.

Today, I am passionate about Diversity & Inclusion as a leader at Comcast in the technology group where there are few people of color, especially at the leadership level. Being a diverse leader who can create greater diversity is my highest motivation as an executive in tech. The DLSA community and environment was the living embodiment of many of the tenets of Diversity & Inclusion you hear today:

  • The value of seeing people who look like you: DLSA has always had a diverse faculty and I remember being so inspired by Ms. Rivera who was my favorite Math and Science teacher and was also so funny! I could relate to her and see myself in her. Seeing her teach and her success in these subjects made me believe I too could succeed in STEM and was a key stepping stone in my technology career. 
  • Starting each and every relationship from a place of respect and curiosity. At DLSA our day started with acknowledging that we were in the “holy presence of each other” which really drove the respect point home and curiosity was embedded in all the ways our talented teachers brought learning to the classroom. As one of many Hispanic kids in my class I learned so much about the diversity of our experiences: born here/born abroad, parents who only spoke English/parents who only spoke Spanish, and comparing notes on all the variations in the language that reflected the countries our families came from. While we could check the same box on a Census form, I learned how dramatically different our family and cultural experiences could be.

I was recently on a Latinas in STEM panel and it was so powerful to meet other women like me who again shared my experience of being a Latina in tech, but each had our unique journeys and backgrounds to contribute. What we found was that we all shared the same commitment to work hard, achieve what our parents hadn’t been able to but sacrificed so we could, and bring others along with us to achieve success. In seeing those shared values and accomplishments, I saw the DLSA spirit in these women too. 

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