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Hawaii Business Magazine’s 20 for the Next 20: People to Watch 2012

20 emerging leaders in local businesses, nonprofits, government, education and law

(page 3 of 21)

Photo: Courtesy of Jill Baldemor

JILL BALDEMOR age 38

Executive director, Teach for America (Hawaii)

The crowded second grade classroom in the low-income Washington Heights district of New York City was made up primarily of Spanish-speaking children from the Dominican Republic. For many, school was a haven from a world of drugs and gang violence.

In that classroom 16 years ago, Jill Baldemor learned about the power of possibility.

After graduating from Northwestern University with a B.A. and M.A. in Communication, Baldemor spent two years in that classroom as a member of Teach for America. That experience set the stage for her leadership of the organization’s Hawaii region.

“I helped the children raise their expectations and saw so much promise and potential,” says Baldemor, who had attended Punahou School from kindergarten through 12th grade. “I had the opportunity for a great education and I wanted to ensure that these kids had the equal opportunity to have an excellent education. With the right support, I believe it’s possible for all students to achieve.”

Following her teaching commitment, she attended the University of Washington School of Law, then returned to Hawaii to join the law firm of Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel.

After seven years as a litigator, Baldemor discovered that Teach for America was opening an Oahu office. TFA’s Hawaii region opened in 2006 and she joined as its executive director a year later.

Baldemor has partnered with the state Department of Education to increase the number of TFA teachers in local public schools to about 150 and expand to Hawaii Island. She is committed to bringing Hawaii-born teachers home. The Hawaii region boasts a 30 percent kamaaina teaching corps.

She has taken the organization to new heights, according to TFA’s Hawaii board chair, Mitch D’Olier.

“In a very unheralded and humble way, Jill is playing an important role in bringing talented teachers to Hawaii to work with our teachers in Hawaii’s public schools,” says D’Olier. “Her dedication, focus, community understanding, sensitivity and relentless pursuit of her goals for Hawaii’s children make her such a valuable asset to the organization.”

– SYH

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