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Camlinh To ’04
September 21, 2023
“Understanding yourself is so important and every opportunity you have to discover who you are is incredible. I needed someone to tell me that when I was younger. Understand yourself and discover what boundaries you can push.” — Camlinh To ’04
Pushing boundaries is a consistent theme in Camlinh’s professional journey. A data and research manager for Boston Public Schools, she embraces the many different personas the role has to offer: relationships manager, data analyst, grant writer, and community advocate. For Camlinh, the determination to challenge the stereotypes of what an educator can and should look like is drawn from her exposure to various pathways in the field and, initially, the value her family placed on education.
“Education is highly valued in my culture. I’m of Chinese and Vietnamese descent and I grew up in a single parent household. I believe education is one of the most powerful levers for any individual. The more you know, the more power you have. Curiosity is a superpower.”
With education considered to be a “powerful lever” within her family, Camlinh’s—and her brother’s—participation in Steppingstone comes as no surprise. While the relationships she’s built with her peers and mentors have certainly played a role in her drive to work in the field, it was witnessing the challenges her brother faced as a student with a learning disability that fueled her commitment to education equity work:
“My brother had what would now be considered a learning disability. Because of this, there was a lot of mistreatment. I was very aware of all the inequities he faced. This mistreatment stemmed from a limited understanding of how individuals with disabilities navigate the world, and it was exacerbated by the disparities he experienced in education. I wanted to make a change.”
After receiving her first master’s degree in education from UMass Boston in 2017, Camlinh would go on to empower students with disabilities as a special education teacher at the Dr. William W. Henderson K-12 Inclusion School. It wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic that Camlinh began to explore the intersection of technology and education. Although this was a new path for Camlinh, the world of technology was not new to her. In fact, it was one of the first settings where she was pushed to challenge norms:
“I did a lot of internships at tech companies in high school. Tech, at the time, was a heavily male-dominated field. It was challenging to convey the difficulties of navigating a corporate environment to my peers, especially as a first-generation student and non-native English speaker. Despite not pursuing it professionally at that time, I persisted in my self-guided learning.”
In the 2021-2022 year, she received her second master’s degree in education with a focus on learning design, innovation, and technology at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and was honored with the James Conant Bryant Fellowship Award for her achievements. Now, in her primary role as a data analyst, she gives back to the school district that she grew up in. In bridging her experiences as an educator with her current role, Camlinh strives to “reimagine what teaching is and address what students need right now” using data to support programming changes and optimize communication between key stakeholders in the field. Her ultimate goal, however, is to “work behind the scenes and support students” in any role that she holds.
“People only see educators as teachers in a classroom for the rest of their lives. But we’re more than that. There are teachers who also want to be policy makers, love research, and are entrepreneurs. I love supporting students. Just seeing students grow, taking advantage of opportunities, brings me so much joy.”
As a Steppingstone Alumna, this joy is palpable in the support Camlinh offers prospective families hoping to learn more about the organization, and to Scholars that are currently enrolled in the program. She shared that she oftentimes finds herself recommending the program to parents and would even offer to cover any programming related costs.
Camlinh’s journey is a reminder to embrace the multi-faceted identities, roles, and journeys we hold and are all a part of. She encourages all to welcome the journey of constant self rediscovery, which she says is filled with moments where pushing the boundaries is needed. She affirms that despite these challenges, however, there is always a truth that prevails: “There are many different ways to lead and be a leader.”
In so many ways, Steppingstone’s Alumni community empowers the next generation of Scholars. If you would like to discuss opportunities to get involved as an Alum, please contact Makeda Daniel ’09, Manager of Alumni Relations, at email@example.com.
Steppingstone is an educational nonprofit which serves students of every race, color, religion, sex, gender identity, national or ethnic origin, or political beliefs to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to Scholars enrolled in the program. It does not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, color, disability status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, religion, or national or ethnic origin in the administration of its educational policies, admission policies, scholarship programs, or other organization-administered activities.