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Between a Rock and a Good Place

By Kenna Arana

Veronica Alonzo_Lead Retreat 2024

Have you ever had a rock in your shoe?

What did you do when you noticed it? Did it bother you enough that you did something about it?

When it comes to empowering teachers, Verónica Alonzo (ND ‘97), Associate Superintendent in the Diocese of Dallas, knows what it’s like to be that rock. “I’m always that little rock in your shoe,” she says with a laugh. “Whenever I talk to people I ask them, ‘What are you doing to recruit Latinos to your program and how can I help you do it?’”.

Alonzo recognizes that it’s an important question to ask, especially given the demographics of the student population in Dallas Catholic schools. According to NCEA data, 38% of elementary and high school students in the Diocese of Dallas identify as Hispanic or Latino. In fact, the actual number may even be higher.

"I'm always that little rock in your shoe ... Whenever I talk to people I ask them, 'What are you doing to recruit Latinos to your program and how can I help you do it?'"

“When we get to the race box where Latinos are categorized as white, we’ve started to see a bigger increase in people identifying as multiracial,” Alonzo explains. “When you select ‘multiracial’ there’s not an option to identify which races, which leads me to believe that we probably have more students that have some Hispanic or Latino background but just may not be 100%.”

Both research and experience have shown that it’s important for students to see parts of their identity represented in their teachers and leaders. However, data from the National Center for Education Statistics demonstrates that the number of Hispanic/Latino teachers is significantly lower than the number of Hispanic/Latino students. This is something that Alonzo and her colleagues are working to change in Dallas.

In her seventh year as the Associate Superintendent of Operations for the Diocese of Dallas, Alonzo diligently strategizes ways to support the development and growth of teachers and schools, with a special emphasis on Latino populations. It’s work that she began long before she started working in the diocesan office.

Originally from South Bend, Indiana, Alonzo first moved to Dallas to teach middle school math and science as a member of ACE Teaching Fellows Cohort 4. Even then, she saw the need to have more Latino educators working in schools that predominantly serve students of color.


Veronica Alonzo_ACE Dallas
Veronica Alonzo as an undergraduate student at the University of Notre Dame (left); Veronica teaching middle school science in Dallas with ACE Teaching Fellows (middle); Veronica with students at a Catholic school in the Diocese of Dallas while serving as associate superintendent (right).


“Having been a product of ACE Teaching Fellows and then having been involved in supporting ACE teachers after I graduated, I asked [ACE Executive Director] John Staud and the team, ‘What are you doing to recruit more Latino candidates for ACE Teaching Fellows?’”, Alonzo says. “That started a bigger conversation.”

Since ACE started more than 30 years ago, the organization has grown its commitment to serving Latino students and forming Latino educators through a variety of programs. In addition to recruiting more Latino candidates to serve as teachers, programs like the Latino Enrollment Institute (LEI) and the Latino Educator and Administrator Development Program (LEAD) are aimed at empowering Latino students, families, and teachers.

When Alonzo started working at the diocesan office, she faced a similar challenge in recruiting educators. “When I took this position I started to see that when we had principal openings it was harder to find applicants for schools that served primarily Latino students,” Alonzo says.

Alonzo and the superintendent discussed a strategy to address this issue. In addition to raising the base salary for principals, they developed their own aspiring leaders academy for any new or aspiring principals in the diocese. They also doubled down on professional development opportunities through the University of Notre Dame, including the Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program and the newer LEAD Program.


LEAD 4_Dallas LEADers
Veronica Alonzo with LEADers from the Diocese of Dallas at the winter retreat in Scottsdale, AZ (left); LEAD Cohort 4 in Scottsdale, AZ, at the winter retreat in January 2024 (right).


LEAD is a one-year program that aims to form, advance, and retain Latino educators in Catholic schools through professional development and mentorship from Latino leaders across the country. Alonzo was part of the team that started LEAD, and she now serves as a mentor for a group of LEAD participants.

“When LEAD started, I thought, ‘Who knows me well enough that I can ask them to try it and let me know what they think?’”, Alonzo says. The first year, one teacher from the Diocese of Dallas participated in LEAD and it was such a successful partnership that Alonzo helped recruit additional educators for year two.

Veronica Alonzo_presenting to LEAD Cohort 4
Veronica Alonzo speaking to members of LEAD Cohort 4 about her journey as a Latina leader in Catholic education at the winter retreat. 

“After the second year, my approach was to ask people who had participated in LEAD to nominate others,” Alonzo says. “I would also send cold emails, but then last year I decided to leverage the people who have lived it and turn it back to them and empower them to make them the leaders.”

With nominations from Alonzo and previous LEAD fellows, LEAD Cohort 4 includes 12 educators from the Diocese of Dallas. Of the 117 Latino educators who have been mentored through LEAD in its first 4 years, 19 of them have been from Dallas. Alonzo attributes this relatively high number to the personal touchpoints that she and previous LEAD fellows have with candidates they help recruit.

Alonzo’s commitment to pushing educators towards opportunities for growth comes from her passion for forming teachers and students. “I believe that we can all grow and improve in the work that we do,” she says. “If I find a program that’s a good fit for someone, I will connect them with that and encourage them to do it.”

So, why has Alonzo encouraged so many educators to participate in LEAD?

“I tell people that it’s a way for you to recognize the power of our cultura, for you to be a great leader within our Catholic schools,” Alonzo says. “It doesn’t matter if you’re working with Hispanic children or not because there’s still a way that you can leverage your superpower.”

Join a national network of educators who are showing children in Catholic schools what it looks like to lead. Applications to join LEAD Cohort 5 in the 2024–25 school year are open now. Applications close on April 12th. To learn more or apply, click the link below.

If you have any questions about the Latino Educator and Administrator Development Program, please contact LEAD Coordinator Kenna Arana. (


Learn more about LEAD