This blog post is part of our ongoing series introducing the La Piana team. This week I spoke with Brenda de Santiago-Stewart. Brenda joined La Piana Consulting in 2011 and is based in Providence, RI.
Tell me a little bit about your background, how did you get involved in the nonprofit sector?
Being involved in my community has been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember. As a child, my family was actively involved in our community church organizing different events. My parents fostered in my three siblings and myself a value in helping others. When my sisters entered middle and high school, they became very involved in community and school activities, and I remember being carted from one activity to another from a young age. It just seemed to make sense that after graduating from college I would follow my parents’ and sisters’ examples of serving and helping the community.
My first job out of school was working with an animal/social services nonprofit in Los Angeles that helped people with life-threatening illnesses keep and take care of their pets. After working in the sector for several years, I moved to Boston and went back to school to study Spanish literature. After graduating, I returned to Los Angeles and found myself drawn back to the nonprofit sector. I worked on the program side of an arts nonprofit. I enjoyed the daily direct interaction with the clients we served, being able to see the joy on the faces of the children coming and going from classes.
Is there a teacher or mentor that had a significant impact on you?
Mr. Franco, my high school Spanish teacher. My first language is Spanish and in first grade I switched to only speaking English. I was embarrassed by my now anglicized accent and my language. Studying under Mr. Franco in high school helped me develop a passion for and pride in my language and its literature. He understood that I was shy and embarrassed but really helped me move beyond that by creating a safe and encouraging classroom environment. He presented Spanish language and literature in a relevant way that made me excited for each assignment and class. When I completed all the Spanish courses offered at our school, he began lending me books from his own collection that encouraged my passion for literature -– one that I still have to this very day.
Tell me a little about what you do at La Piana Consulting?
I provide support and coordination on a variety of our client projects, making sure projects stay on schedule. I help keep us organized behind the scenes. Recently I’ve been attending more client meetings, which I really enjoy because it gives me the opportunity to have a direct connection with our clients and see the impact of the work that we do. That is very rewarding.
Outside of work, what do you enjoy doing?
I’m relatively new to Providence. I moved here almost a year ago, so I’ve been spending time getting involved in my new community through neighborhood association clean-ups and our community garden. I also enjoy taking classes at AS220, an arts nonprofit which provides affordable classes and studio space. I spend most weekends exploring Little Rhody with my husband and my dog, Mochi.
Is there a particular book or film that you read or watched recently that has really stuck with you?
Wes Anderson’s latest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel. I marveled at the details of the set and characters. Anderson’s films have a warm, vintage aesthetic that I find really appealing. If I had a choice, I would live in a Wes Anderson film set!