Asked to pen a few words of tribute to Dr. Constance Carroll, I immediately agreed and then asked worriedly about how much time I had. I knew it would be no easy task to put into words the profound effect this educator-scholar-leader has had on my work and the students whose lives my work touches. I offer this humble effort.
Most who will read this know that Dr. Carroll’s achievements are legendary. From gracing the pages of Ebony magazine in 1979 (“Young, Gifted and Black, She Heads California College”) to garnering Woman of the Year and Lifetime Leadership awards, the vastness of her impact is quite clear.
Perhaps what isn’t as well-known is how much Constance has been a key force for a more equitable and just education from a culturally-affirming and aspirational perspective. Constance has powerfully affirmed our richly diverse identities in inclusive and compassionate ways. Using an expert equity lens, Constance has increased justice within institutional procedures and processes through her investment in professional growth and leadership development. The tangible result is greater support for our students’ aspirations, for their hopes and dreams. We cannot underestimate the value of empowering people’s ability to aspire against so many odds, against systemic inequalities, poverty and poor health outcomes. “Aspira” (the Spanish word for “aspire”) can be the reason our students celebrate on that graduation stage.
This is what has made Constance such an effective and powerful leader. She understands the root causes of outcome disparities and has led the District toward tackling equity issues by creating educational opportunities in welcoming and respectful ways, so that all can feel valued to fully participate.
If the purpose of education is to empower students to participate more fully in our democracy, then Constance’s legacy will serve to boost those efforts for upcoming generations. As Nina Simone’s moving elegy to Lorraine Hansberry (author of the play A Raisin in the Sun) emphasizes,
In the whole world, you know
There’s a billion boys and girls
Who are young, gifted and black
And that’s a fact!
Dr. Carmen Carrasquillo
San Diego Miramar College
Professor of English
District Honors Program Coordinator