Dr. Andrea Ramirez, Executive Director of the Faith and Education Coalition, recently invited Dr. Almarie Munley to discuss education standards for K-12 students.

Almarie E. Munley, PhD, serves as the Dean of University College at Hampton University. She is an invited scholar and lecturer for Leadership Studies at several renowned universities across the globe. Born and raised in Guatemala, she earned her BS from Universidad Del Valle de Guatemala. She received her MA and PhD from Regent University.

Dr. Almarie Munley has served as a dean at Hampton University and is a founding member of our Leadership Advisory Council for the Faith and Education Coalition. She worked on the Globe Study, which is well known within leadership circles and among scholars in the field of leadership. I’m eager to hear the message you’d like to share with readers today.

Thank you. These are exciting times to be in the field of education. One of the key messages I share with others is that whatever you have, ALL you've been given, ALL you've been allowed to do, give that back. Turn it right back. Education stays with you all of your life. So what are you going to do to give that back? What am I going to do as a Latina woman to give back all that I've learned, that I've experienced?

I have a firm belief that we can do more together than we can apart, so I love to see the body of Christ come together, in particular from the Latino community, saying, "This issue on education equality, it matters to us as Latino Evangelicals." Why do you care about educational standards and that they would be high and equal, and education equality in general? Why does that tap on your heart

I started my desire and passion for education in Guatemala. I was a national assistant director to a literacy program for the Indian girl. This is a group of young women in our country that will never be educated, ever. If they are, they'll attain maybe first grade and that's about it. Starting on that project in my young college days really gave me that passion to say, "Everybody deserves an opportunity. Everybody has an equal right to know." God says it in His word. He says it clearly. His word gives us this encouragement, to know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction, to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth.” I saw so much breakthrough in that project that my heart continued to desire more and more in helping others achieve breakthrough in learning.

As a Latina who is in high leadership positions, what obstacles has the Lord helped you to overcome? What advice would you give Latinas who are struggling, maybe with being the only Latina in the room? I received a text just last night from someone who's in a different part of the country, who said, "I'm the only female in this room, so what do I do?"

That happens a lot in higher education. It's interesting. I get texts from some of my colleagues saying, "How does it feel to be in that room?" I’ve sat on a dean’s council and it was interesting. I was the only Latina, as a matter of fact, the first Latina dean appointed at a historically black university, the great university that is Hampton University. But we know, it's not about making those historical marks, it's more about what legacy are you leaving in those marks.

To my fellow Latina leaders, don’t focus on the blockages you may encounter. Focus on the opportunity that the situation presents. If there is stress or pressure, think about, "What can I do to deflect or distract from that stress?" You may encounter attitudes such as, "That's a Latina woman. She's young." Don't go by that. Go by the legacy. What is it that you do and what do you do well? What is your skill and how do you do it? Others will see that.

The world needs people who are committed to education equity. We're raising the standards for education. We shoot for excellence. People will notice. In that boardroom, I can be the only one. Sometimes I pinch myself and think, "Wow. The only female in this boardroom and a Latina woman."

The Lord is tapping different Latinas to open the door, and then to leave that door open. When I began my PhD program, I knew three Latinas who had their PhDs, and I held on to them, because I thought, "The Lord let you do this and paved the way for you. It was hard work, but you did it with His strength." I believe that the Lord is calling more people at home and more women to pursue higher education, because for many doing so would be to love the Lord with the entirety of their minds. That means different things for different people, but I absolutely believe that there are more Latinas who might be reading right now and thinking, "I need to be open and ask the Lord what loving Him with all of my mind means for my life.”

Yes, they can discover their God-given desire and passion. You see, education changes lives. I saw it in my homeland, Guatemala. I love my homeland. I love what I saw and the change that I saw in the women I worked with. It doesn't stop at high school. Continue. You've got to raise the standard, even for your community. You change yourself, you change your family, and you change your community. Imagine this, Dr. Ramirez. We can change a nation.

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That's what we're talking about here, aren't we? We're talking about being game changers. We need all Latinas to know they are part of that group. You can go as high as you've dreamed. Don't let anything hold you back. Nothing is too difficult. We can do it. We can with the Lord’s strength.

Praise God. Be a game changer. God has a plan for you, and we pray that you'll be motivated to walk into that path.

[ This article is also available in español. ]