United Inner City Services (UICS)-Metro Center looks a little different in 2021. There are updated art display areas, interactive resource boards, and new spaces dedicated to showing appreciation for teachers. All are results of a very special new addition to the UICS leadership team and school family, Roberto Diaz. Roberto is UICS-Metro Center’s new Director of Early Learning and Inclusion!
Born and raised in Los Angeles, CA, Roberto comes from a rich and diverse background in early childhood education and curriculum.
“I grew up in an urban part of LA and came from a single-parent household. I know how important education is in a kid’s life.” Roberto shared.
Upon attending California State University in Long Beach and also enlisting in the Marine Corps during the same period, Roberto’s career took flight in education.
“First I worked for City Year.”
As a City Year AmeriCorps member, Roberto helped prepare students with the social, emotional, and academic skills needed to reach their fullest potentials.
“After City Year, Teach For America took me to Chicago, where I taught pre-K.”
Teach For America offered Roberto the opportunity to relocate to the Midwest and teach pre-K in Chicago at El Hogar del Niño (The Child’s Home). This allowed Roberto to gain experience teaching Chicago’s littlest learners in a predominately Latino neighborhood.
“I speak Spanish too and was really able to communicate with many of the students and families there, which was really good.”
“I came to Kansas City after that two-year commitment for Teach For America, because I received the Green Fellowship.”
In 2016, Teach For America Kansas City launched the Green Fellowship, with a goal to attract talented Teach For America alumni teachers like Mr. Roberto to move to and teach in Kansas City. Through the Fellowship, participants engage in professional development and networking opportunities amongst Kansas City’s educational leaders.
“Currently, I’m a board member at the Latinx Education Collaborative (LEC) too.” Roberto added.
The LEC is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing and retaining the number of quality Latinx education professionals in K-12 across the Kansas City metro.
Roberto explained his move to UICS felt like a pretty natural transition.
“I came to UICS, because I felt like I was at a crossroads in my career. I wondered ‘Do I want to pursue early childhood education leadership or do I want to go into nonprofit management?’ UICS allows me to do both!”
When discussing what Roberto hopes to accomplish in his new role, he offered, “I want to build our collective goals and elevate our shared language at UICS-Metro Center. I also want to incorporate even more student art in the building and focus on empowering the kids.”
Roberto expressed that when students see bright colors and their work featured throughout the center, it makes them excited and engaged when they come to school.
With this past year being as difficult as what it has been, Roberto says he wants to amplify gratitude and a sense of stronger community for UICS-Metro Center teaching staff.
“One of the first things I wanted to do was to create a culture board for the staff.”
Roberto did this by painting a wall in the employee break room with chalkboard paint and supplying a large quantity of chalk. He didn’t stop there…. Roberto wrote a very important question on the chalkboard which facilitated quite a robust conversation at UICS-Metro Center: What’s your favorite Kansas City barbeque spot?
Smiling, Roberto said he quickly learned how seriously Kansas City natives take their barbeque and that he is glad to contribute to the fun community he wants to uplift at UICS-Metro Center.
Roberto also created a fully stocked cereal breakfast bar for the teachers’ break room.
Assistant Director of Early Learning and Inclusion, Melissa Funaro said, “I want to spotlight Roberto for all of the upgrades he’s led at UICS-Metro Center. It makes a huge difference.”
“The goal is to make sure people have a space to gather, express their thoughts, and feel comfortable. I want the teachers to know that sometimes we might need to have tough conversations, but ultimately I’m here for them and to support them.”
Roberto’s diverse experience paired with his student and faculty empowerment model will bring an uplifting perspective to UICS and the greater community. Welcome, Roberto! We are glad you are a part of the UICS family!