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'Grounded in anger and in love': A Q&A with Richard R. Buery, Jr., CEO, Robin Hood

November 09, 2021

Headshot_Richard Buery Jr.Richard R. Buery, Jr. succeeded Wes Moore as CEO of New York City-based Robin Hood in September, after serving as CEO of Robin Hood's community partner Achievement First, a network of thirty-seven charter schools in New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. He previously served as New York City's deputy mayor for strategic policy initiatives, in which he led Pre-K for All, which for first time offers free, full-day, high-quality PreK to every four-year-old in New York City; created School's Out NYC to offer free afterschool programs to every middle school student; launched two hundred community school partnerships; managed the city's mental health reform initiative; and founded the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Mayor's Office of Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprises. His experience in civil and nonprofit leadership also included stints as staff attorney at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, chief of policy and public affairs for the KIPP Foundation, and CEO of Children's Aid. He also co-founded Groundwork to support the educational aspirations of public housing residents in Brooklyn, as well as iMentor, which pairs high school students with mentors to help them navigate to and through college.

A first-generation Panamanian American born and raised in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, Buery is a graduate of Stuyvesant High School, Harvard College, and Yale Law School and clerked on the Federal Court of Appeals in New York.

PND spoke with Buery about worsening income inequality and the racial wealth gap, the impact of COVID-19 on the fight against poverty, the importance of equitable access to early childhood education and mental health services, and diversity among foundation and nonprofit leaders.

Philanthropy News Digest: You've held leadership positions with and/or founded numerous organizations focused on children and education — from the KIPP Foundation, Children's Aid, Groundwork, iMentor, and Achievement First to spearheading Pre-K for All and community-school partnerships. How did you come to devote your career to improving educational outcomes for underserved children?

Richard R. Buery, Jr: I think it stems from love and anger. I grew up in a low-income neighborhood in Brooklyn but was able to attend a high-performing specialized high school, Stuyvesant, in Lower Manhattan. Riding the subway for an hour each way between East New York and Stuyvesant, I realized there were two New York Cities — one where children have all the resources they need to succeed, and one where they don't. Why was I one of the lucky ones who got to attend a great public school, when so many other kids in my neighborhood who were just as talented and driven were sentenced to a second-tier education?

Experiencing those two New Yorks every day did something to me. It made me angry. But I got lucky. In college, I began volunteering at an afterschool program in the Mission Hill housing development in Roxbury, Boston. I fell in love with the children, the families, and the community. It reminded me of home. I wound up starting a summer program to support those children when school was out.

So, I think my career is grounded in anger and in love. My experience in Mission Hill taught me that when injustice makes you angry, you can do something about it. You can organize people, organize resources, and you can work with communities you love to help solve problems.

Read the full Q&A with Richard R. Buery, Jr.

 

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