Ara Grimaldo: Working to ensure access to education for all
Ara Grimaldo was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. Growing up in a lower income, working class, minority-based area had a huge influence on the type of career Grimaldo wanted to pursue, as she saw the need for resources in areas like she grew up in. She also had a strong desire to be representation for people who looked like her.
Grimaldo states that to this day, her parents are her greatest role models. Her mother, after immigrating from Mexico at a young age, always ensured they had everything they needed. Her father worked hard and sacrificed much during Grimaldo’s childhood to ensure she had everything she needed. Her mother also inspired Grimaldo’s appreciation for education, as she recently got her GED. This was inspirational to Grimaldo and has made her strive to help others receive access to education.
Grimaldo is the current Executive Director of After8 to Educate. This organization is a collaboration between the public sector, private sector, and Dallas ISD that aims to shelter and work with unsheltered youth. There are two components to the organization. On the drop-in side, the organization allows students to come in and use their resources, whether it be a laptop or toiletries. On the residential side, they currently house unsheltered youth 14-21 years old.
Access to education is an important issue to Grimaldo. She states that education is an important gateway out of chronic poverty and that it can be the key to long term generation change. She attended Texas A&M University and states that she believed this to be a huge cultural decision, as she was a woman leaving home. Grimaldo states that access to education can be a first step to so many other opportunities in life.
There are two things that Grimaldo states as her exposure to politics. In college, she was fortunate enough to hear Dolores Huerta, a civil rights activist who co-founded the National Farmworkers Association with Cesar Chavez, speak. She said that it was incredibly shaping to be able to hear such a prominent Latina woman speak on such a large platform. Secondly, she states that the grassroots work and volunteering she has been able to be a part of has been incredibly influential in her exposure to politics, as it helped her realize that you really can make a difference.
When asked what she believes to be the biggest milestone in her career so far, Grimaldo answered that it would have to be her role as the Executive Director of After8 to Educate. She advises anyone who wants to pursue a career like hers to absolutely go for it. She says that women often put parameters on themselves when they shouldn’t. Becoming a mother to three daughters has made her realize the power that women can have. It’s clear from her extensive work that Grimaldo is an excellent example of this.