Tell us about yourself:
My name is Nedgine Paul, and I am a proud daughter of Haiti. So much of who I am and what I aspire to be is based on the family, faith, and community that have surrounded me since birth. Originally from Haiti, I moved to the United States at a young age. Following a few years in Maryland, my family moved to Connecticut where I spent most of my formative years. I was privileged to develop lasting relationships with members of the Haitian community in Norwalk and Stamford, CT, including playing a leadership role in community service and youth development programs within the Haitian community.
My professional experiences at Achievement First and Partners In Health were particularly transformative in cementing my passion for equal educational opportunity and social justice grounded in community relationships. I earned a B.A. in History from Yale University and an Ed.M. in International Education Policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. I am currently the co-founder & CEO of Anseye Pou Ayiti, which seeks to dramatically raise education outcomes in underserved and rural areas in Haiti by promoting teacher excellence and student success—all rooted in Haitian culture, customs, and community.
What led you to pursue your career?
Education has been a defining part of my life. I have personally experienced, researched, and witnessed how a quality education can transform lives. My passion for learning as a child was coupled with a personal identity strongly influenced by my Haitian heritage. I was incredibly fortunate to be raised by parents and in an environment where my passion for learning and culture was encouraged, including learning as much as possible about Haitian history, social systems, and language.
However, the privilege of my educational opportunities had me struggling to understand why it was “good enough” for quality education to be reserved for the privileged few. My belief in the power of teacher leadership training has developed over time, but my commitment to helping improve education in Haiti is personal.
How were you able to get started?
I was able to get started with Anseye Pou Ayiti based on the invaluable support of people who have believed in our model. Joined by co-founder Ivanley Noisette, I have had the opportunity to work with allies, partners, and advisors well before Anseye Pou Ayiti launched recruitment for its first cohort in January 2015. I am grateful to have received the Echoing Green Global Fellowship, which played a significant role in my ability to move forward with Anseye Pou Ayiti on a full-time basis.
When did you realize that you were making real progress with your career?
I realize I am making progress based on new opportunities to promote how quality education for all can transform Haiti into a global leader once again. Being joined by five outstanding leaders as members of Anseye Pou Ayiti’s Board has been a turning point. I also realize I am making progress based on the cultivation of more formal partnerships, both in Haiti and beyond.
What have been some of your professional highlights?
- Launching Anseye Pou Ayiti—including working with the school in Gros-Morne where my father once taught and led.
- Being selected for the Echoing Green Global Fellowship in 2014, awarded to top global social innovators.
- Being selected by my cohort peers as Commencement Marshal at Harvard Graduate School of Education.
- Supporting the development of the Residency Program for School Leadership with the Achievement First team.
- Leading the Achievement First Haiti Campaign, which raised awareness about the postearthquake recovery efforts and raised funds for two rural schools.
- Conducting management and leadership trainings for over 150 managers in Haiti as part of the Partners In Health team.
What have been some of the challenges you’ve had to face?
The status quo is a major challenge when working for social justice and equity. Skepticism, generations-old institutions, and cynicism are part of our reality, but our vision for change is not just necessary—it’s possible.
Do you personally know other Haitians in your field?
Yes, I personally know other Haitians working in the field of education, leadership development, and social justice. Honestly, I don’t think my career path would have been possible without the support, wise counsel, and solidarity of many Haitians who have shaped my vision. L’union fait la force!
What leaders, thinkers or doers do you most admire?
The key piece for me is not just what they have done for social justice – but how, choosing not to compromise on core values that I also uphold.
I admire Michèle Duvivier Pierre-Louis, President of FOKAL, for her unwavering belief in how quality education can transform Haiti. I admire Lillian Guerra, my former professor at Yale, for her bold approach to scholarship, research, and truth telling about transnational identity. I admire Michel DeGraff, MIT Professor, for showing what is possible within the Haitian education system and believing in others like me who want to support positive change.
Do you feel as though you’ve helped break barriers?
I feel I am walking in the footsteps of those who have broken barriers. I hope my future legacy is that I contributed to a movement to redefines Haiti through the lens of education.
What do you feel is next for your career?
My career is currently focused on Anseye Pou Ayiti. January 2015 was a milestone month for us, including the launch of our recruitment campaign for our first cohort – followed by our formal partnership with the Teach For All global network. The remainder of 2015 and beyond will hopefully be filled with milestones for our vision, and I am honored to be part of this journey.
What would be your advice to young people who want their careers and lives to have an impact?
My advice would be to remember where they came from. Our personal stories shape and inspire our purpose in countless ways. I also encourage young people to remain humble and never stop learning, especially when aspiring to become an informed changemaker. Do not underestimate the power of hearing the voices of those in need. Their voices may not always be included in headlines or publications, but they are the ones who have so much to teach us about the true purpose, challenges, and impact of social justice.
What do you think can be done for Haiti to develop financial assistance without having to be reliant upon others in times of crisis?
There are multiple pieces of this puzzle, but I believe it should be rooted in equal educational opportunity for all children no matter their socioeconomic background. From that type of system, we would be preparing citizens who are better equipped to participate in and contribute to society. I also recognize there are many other pieces to a healthy society, including employment, infrastructure, food security, political governance, and public health. Ultimately, we need to redefine how unified leadership through community investment can produce local solutions and self-reliance.
Do you believe a campaign highlighting the positives of Haiti would be worth exploring to take away the stigma of it being impoverished?
Absolutely. There are many different ways to build that type of campaign. So many of us who believe in Haiti are supporting this type of awareness building movement in our own ways, since it requires a collective effort at the personal, community, and national level. By looking inward – to the power and beauty of our history, culture, and people – we can push forward.
Would you recommend NAHP to Haitian students and professionals? Why?
Yes, I would definitely recommend NAHP. Together, we are stronger and we can succeed – and NAHP provides an excellent opportunity to connect, learn from, and collaborate for greater impact.