“It takes a lot of courage to embrace differences and to begin dispelling myths,” said David Ruiz in a recent interview. Hired in July 2020 as Hebron’s Dean of Student Life, he was soon asked to chair the faculty task force for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as well. “I leaped at the opportunity to contribute,” Ruiz said. Soon afterwards, Ruiz was invited to join the Advisory Council for the Albert Lepage Center for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
The Advisory Council drafted a charter for the center, created a mission statement, and started building a plan for rolling out the initiative. As he was working on the job description for the Director position, Ruiz thought, ‘Hey, this sounds like me.’ Fortunately, others on the committee and in administration were coming to the same realization and he was offered the position. “I’ve always thought of this kind of work — issues around opportunity, equity and social justice — as my calling. They’ve always been things that have spoken to me,” said Ruiz. “Having come from humble circumstances and having been able to attend an independent high school followed by an Ivy League college, I understand that nothing should stand in the way of someone’s opportunity to thrive, particularly being denied simply because of who you are.”
In his nearly three decades of being an educator, issues around equity, social justice, and opportunity have always been priorities for Ruiz, whose parents came to the United States from Puerto Rico in 1948 with nothing but the clothes on their back. Because he was able to have opportunities they never had, he is keen to foster an environment where everyone deserves a chance to thrive and where students feel that their voices are being heard and listened to. “This work is a way of dispelling myths and stereotypes and helping people understand that all individuals are entitled to be treated with dignity and integrity and afforded opportunities. It’s part of our social contract.
If you’ve followed the law, if you’ve been earnest and hardworking, then you’re entitled to the privileges and rights that the country affords you. And when a person is denied those advantages and rights as a result of their race, their religion, their gender identity, a physical or mental disability, or their socio-economic status, then something is wrong with the system,” says Ruiz.