Voice of the Board: Kathy Shea Westra

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Meet Educando Board Member Kathy Shea Westra

Ms. Kathy Shea Westra has tirelessly served Educando since 2004. After three years serving on the Advisory Council, Kathy joined the Board of Directors where she continues to help guide and advance the Educando mission. Kathy heads the Audit Committee and is part of the Executive Committee as well. 

Kathy is a Director at HSBC Securities specialized in Latin American Equity Sales. She  was previously an Executive Director and Head of the Latin American Equity sales desk Morgan Stanley, and was Co-Head of Sales at Santander Investment Securities.  Kathy has been involved in Latin America for most of her career, including 4 years living in Brazil. Kathy earned her M.I.M. at the Gavin School of International Management (Thunderbird) and her B.A. at Trinity College.

What inspired you to first get involved with Educando?

Two things inspired me to get involved with Educando. Luanne Zurlo, the founder of Educando, and the cause of improving education in Latin America. Like Luanne, I have built a career around doing business in Latin America and I wanted to give back. There is huge opportunity in the region. However, how can countries develop, if they are only educating a small segment of the population? In most Latam countries, the public school education systems are not adequate, illiteracy and drop out rates are high. I am a firm believer in education helping to break the vicious cycle of poverty. When my grandparents on my father’s side came to the US from Ireland, their first jobs in the US, were as gardener and a maid. However, my grandmother was very focused on education. My father and his sisters all went to private schools and then college. They all had professions that allowed them to have a better lifestyle than what they grew up in.

What about Educando keeps you committed to this type of investment?

What keeps me committed to this type of investment is the true belief that education can transform lives. Educando has numerous inspiring stories of lives that have been transformed by our programs. IAPE, LISTO and STEM have had a positive impact, not just by increasing the skills, but by inspiring teachers to become leaders and these empowered educators inspired students, the school and the community around them. There are so many stories.  When I was up in Dartmouth at the IAPE program 2 years ago, I met teachers who told stories of kids who had been trouble makers and who wanted to drop out of school. However, the IAPE teacher was able to reach the student, give them confidence and enjoyment in learning. Because of this English teacher, the student started to do better in school, wanted to stay in school and even said that one day he wanted to become a teacher. I am very proud of the fact that Educando’s programs have trained over 8,500 teachers and reached over 4,000,000 students.

In your opinion, what is the most important work that Educando does?

I think the most important work that Educando does is that it, not only inspires the teachers and students impacted by the programs, but it is helping to transform education and communities in Brazil and Mexico. Like our motto, “give a student a great teacher, you will give them the world”. 

How do you see Educando changing the world today and in years to come? 

I see Educando’s programs growing, inspiring more teachers, creating leaders,  and contributing to improving the quality of lives of many in Latin America. In the years to come, I look forward to bringing STEM to Mexico and LISTO to Brazil. I would also love to see Educando expand to other countries in the region.  

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