When I was presented with the opportunity to be ‘featured’ as writer for Black History Month, something about it didn’t feel right. It’s because I understand this journey isn’t one to be traveled alone.
It is an incredible privilege to have an opportunity to work alongside other leaders who are walking the path daily – driven to fulfill the mission of YES Prep Public Schools to empower all Houston students to succeed in college and to pursue lives of opportunity.
Allow us to introduce ourselves
Aleece Lowe, Managing Director of School Operations
The Overview: An introverted strategic visionary who thrives on aligned collaborative execution. Powered by her faith, her energetic and loving sons, and her extroverted supportive spouse.
The Hometown: Originally from southern California but a certified military brat.
The Education: University of Arizona (B.B.A.); Lamar University (M.B.A.).
The Thing You Should Know: I rather always be diving in the ocean or climbing a mountain.
Carmen “Carm” Darville, Chief Operations Officer
The Overview: Year 8 at YES, wife & mom of 2, Queen Bey stan, relentless rider for students, cross-functional leader.
The Hometown: Originally from right outside of Cleveland, Ohio.
The Education: Case Western Reserve undergrad, UT-Austin grad school.
The Thing You Should Know: There is always time for a joke.
Kiara Hughes, Director of Organizational Strategy and Initiatives
The Overview: A strategist and a problem solver. Mother of an independent and daring daughter. Married to the smartest man I know.
The Hometown: H-town native with strong roots on the Southside.
The Education: Baylor University (Sic’ em Bears); master’s in Public Policy and master’s in Education Leadership.
The Thing You Should Know: I’m winning when the team is winning!
We are not a monolith
Aleece: Raised by two black parents from Denver, Colorado, and a stepfather from Griffin, Georgia, I was acutely aware of my Blackness, darker skin tone, Black history, and privilege. My experiences growing up on military bases and civilian neighborhoods in five states made me either one of a handful of Black students or one of many (shout out to the DMV). It was through my beautiful lighter-skinned mother that I learned to love my Blackest features (hair, dark skin tone, full features). Throughout my life, hard work has been the only example I have seen and presenting myself in a less honorable manner would be an insult to my granny, cousins, mother and father. My experience as a young 20-year-old single mother taught me that education, strong relationships, achieving specific goals and putting them into action are crucial to obtaining a better life. I used to see my Blackness as a reminder that I had to conform in certain settings. I now hold my Blackness high, giving other Black women grace, visibility and awareness.
I used to see my Blackness as a reminder that I had to conform in certain settings. I now hold my Blackness high, giving other Black women grace, visibility and awareness.”
Carm: My mom was bussed to integrate schools on the southside of Chicago. My dad was the first Black partner at a predominantly Jewish law firm. I grew up in tokenism. My Blackness was reinforced by the church I attended – a multigenerational PK. My Blackness was underscored when I attended an HBCU (Historically Black College University) my freshman year. My Blackness was celebrated through music my parents loved. While I dated the spectrum, I found Black love. I had Black children. My Blackness is an intersection. I see the world as a Black woman of faith, of competition, of inclusivity, of strength, of resilience.
Kiara: I grew up immersed in Blackness. My elementary school, my church, my neighborhood and my friends were all Black. It didn’t help that my dad is one of six kids so I have fifty-ellum first cousins (shoutout to the “AGKs,” Audrey’s Grand Kids) who lived nearby. My living grandparents who hail from Georgia, Louisiana and Texas infused my life with Black cowboy culture, Creole cooking, and a deep respect for the complexity and resilience of Black southern life. I wish I could say that I treasured it then as much as I treasure it now. I did not understand the immense privilege and honor of growing up seeing the vast spectrum of Blackness for myself. For a significant portion of my life, I treated my Blackness as a footnote instead of a headline. Now, I know that my Blackness and my village are foundational to my success.
We are powerful beyond measure
Aleece: The experiences I have had and the ones I hope to create for my children motivate me to do this work. As a student who received a wide range of education in different cities and states, I had a first-hand experience with educational inequity. There was no concept of charter schools, but I knew I only had one option, figure it out and figure it out quickly. As Black women, we are always told to be prepared, to not come off too strong or passive, and not to make mistakes. That either paralyzed me or propelled me to strive for excellence. I now choose the latter.
Carm: I was always told I would have to “work twice as hard to get half as far” so I carry that mantle. Outwork me? Good luck. Want to win together? I’m your gal. I am motivated and unwavering about winning for YES Prep’s students. I have returned to my token role in a different context. I lean into my intersections and work to identify similarities and differences of value. But it’s the same story in a different book. This is year 8 at YP and I am incredibly committed to doing right by all stakeholders I am here to serve.
Kiara: I spent the entirety of my childhood less than 5 miles from YES Prep Southside Secondary. However, I never went to a school in my neighborhood. I knew why I didn’t, but I didn’t understand how it was allowed to continue. I wanted to learn more about the decisions that contributed to students being bussed across the city; the economics of it, the policy aspects of it. I didn’t find studying about the problem to be satisfying enough. While knowledge is extremely important, and I’m glad someone is studying them, I finally decided to join the fight and stop sitting on the sidelines. Now, I get to bring my passion and my skills to the work every day.
I finally decided to join the fight and stop sitting on the sidelines. Now, I get to bring my passion and my skills to the work every day.”
Our strength is not a myth because we don’t go at it alone
Aleece: Our ability to support, see, celebrate and lift one another has limitless value. In addition to extending grace, providing essential feedback, and blazing a path for each other that may not exist, Black women can also celebrate one another with one simple look and one word. Any success I have experienced has been due to a strong support system, starting with my grandmother and mother. Women who stand by my side, in my place, and challenge me to do and be better make my growth possible. My success is determined by how I expand, grow and support my sisterhood.
Carm: I am here to be a mirror – to empower, to affirm, and to challenge. I am here to clear the path, be a voice in rooms that others may not be in, and to pay forward all of the investment others have made in me. My altitude is only possible because so many people reciprocate that effort and lift me up, encourage me, and hold me accountable to working to be the best version of myself. To the sisterhood of all colors and dispositions: thank you. Gracias. Cheers. I’d never choose to willingly go it alone.
I am here to clear the path, be a voice in rooms that others may not be in, and to pay forward all of the investment others have made in me.”
Kiara: There is power in the sisterhood. As I’ve entered spaces where people look less and less like me, I’ve sought out those that do. My circle has provided counsel, fellowship, hair advice and a reality check when I’m moving more recklessly than normal. For many of us, we are a series of firsts: the first to graduate, the first to hold leadership positions, and the first to break through barriers that shouldn’t have existed to begin with. As I’ve pushed the boundaries of what is possible for myself, my Black female friends and mentors have led, walked alongside me and pushed me from behind. I remain inspired and commit to carrying the torches for Black women that come behind me.
Sisterhoods are sustaining. If you have not found your circle, in whatever form, to hold you accountable, to lift you up, to push you and to rally with and for you, it quite possibly will be the best investment you will ever make.