As a sophomore in high school, Monique Cueto-Potts, Coordinator for Recruitment and Admission at Andover’s Institute for the Recruitment of Teachers, saw a classmate’s self-confidence dissolve with each poor grade and disapproving look from his teachers. After working closely with this student for over two years, Cueto-Potts developed the passion for community service that she will bring to the Community Service Office next year.
After serving in current position for six years, Monique Cueto-Potts will become the Director of Community Service and will replace Brad Silnutzer, Interim Director of Community Service.
As Director of Community Service, Cueto-Potts hopes to integrate systematic reflection sessions into community service in order to have a greater impact on students.
“I think I’m most eager and excited to bring in some critical reflection and thought into the work that we are doing. I hope to create an environment for our students to think about why we are doing what we’re doing, what the impacts are and what else needs to be done,” Cueto-Potts said.
In addition, she wants to create learning interest groups that meld academics and community service for students to discuss topics such as civil rights, education and health care.
“I’m really excited about looking into ways we can incorporate community engagement work in what we are doing in classrooms,” she said.
Cueto-Potts traces her first interests in community service back to her work as a tutor in high school.
“What I thought was going to be once in a blue moon kind of a thing ended up being me tutoring this person everyday after school for two years.”
“He was trapped since elementary school in this remedial track, even though his skills surpassed that level. I started to see how that affected him not only educationally, but also in his self confidence and on his views on what he could accomplish in the world,” Cueto-Potts said.
“It was when I saw how these issues that you read about in the newspapers or in books really affected those around me that I realized that I could never turn my back on thousands of kids who were like him. I knew that I had to do something about it,” she added.
Throughout college, Cueto-Potts’s interest in community service flourished. She ran a number of different community service and tutoring programs.
“It was not like community service was on the side of my life anymore, it became my life,” she said.
Although her current job at Andover is not related to community service, she is involved in various community service activities both at Andover and in Lawrence.
For example, she volunteers at The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA), Lawrence Boys and Girls Club and Bread Loaf Writing Workshop.
According to Cueto-Potts, seeing the third grader’s excited and eager faces when their tutors come in for Writing Workshop is one of her favorite moments each week.
“Then on the way out, I hear tutors talk about the things that they have noticed during the session that relates to individual students but that also prompts group discussions about much larger contextual issues,” Cueto-Potts said.
“For me, it is not only that there is a lot of joy in the work that I am doing, but it is also causing other people to re-thinking about their preconceived notions that may have changed. I think that experience for me is huge,” she added.
Linda Griffith, Dean of Community and Multicultural Development, said, “[Cueto-Potts] has been connected to our community service office since she arrived here five years ago. Her background seemed very well suited for this job. She has shown passion and interest in social justice and service learning since I have known her.”
A search committee looked nationally for an individual to fill the Director of Community service position. Cueto-Potts was one of four invited for an interview, out of an original pool of 80.
The Search Committee included Griffith, Silnutzer, Sarah Coghlan, Assistant Director of Community Service, Mark Cutler, Instructor in Spanish, and Carol Israel, Associate Director of Graham House Counseling Center.
Griffith said, “I think the combination of her previous community service experience, her ongoing connection with it since and her experience in Lawrence many years ago made her an ideal candidate for this position.”
“I think she has a very good understanding based on her own experience in community service of how rewarding and how life-changing a service opportunity can be for young people,” added Griffith.