What excites you about coming to work for CISTN?
The team. I am at my best when I am surrounded by people who unify around a collective mission – and that is exactly what CISTN is. Each member of the team is so talented, but they are also very collaborative. I can tell they believe in lifting each other up so they can all be the best possible support to students. I admire that this team loves our students unconditionally and are always searching for new ways to help them be the best version of themselves.
What do you hope to achieve in your role over the next year?
I think Nashville is having a moment this year – one where the city is realizing the severe impact absenteeism has on our students. I hope to help CISTN elevate our site coordinators and our work so we can lead this conversation and help the city reject chronic absenteeism as the status quo. I want CISTN to be an example of how trained, caring adults can come together to reduce the barriers of attending school for students. It feels like this moment is important for Nashville. And I think it will be important for CISTN to have a seat at the table.
What does true leadership mean to you?
In my experience, the best leaders are mission-driven. They rarely talk from a script because they are so internally convicted by their values. They care about their people and listen intently. They admit their mistakes, and they are reasonable and fair. They challenge their team to reach their greatest potential, even (and especially) when their team doubts what is possible. They are always learning. They never consider themselves the ultimate expert. They do not work for credit or fame. They see outsiders as potential partners, not a threat to their work. And they never, never give up on their people, their mission or their values.
Tell us something that might surprise us about you.
I played the cello for nearly 10 years. My first cello was much bigger than I was when I started playing at nine years old. I had to cart it around on a luggage caddy because I was too small to carry it. It was a very … cool look.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
My parents. I watch my parents work hard every day to live their best lives. They are diligent in sticking to their personal values – living a life full of purpose, joy and love for others.
What three traits define you?
Whenever I take self-assessments, they usually result with these three themes: listening to others, personal responsibility and inclusion. I hope that is true.
What would you like to be your greatest accomplishment in life?
If people can remember me as someone who valued listening to others, living joyfully and with purpose, I would be happy.
What’s your favorite Halloween costume you’ve ever worn?
My mom made my brother’s and my costumes growing up, and I loved every one of them. But if I had to pick, I would choose the year when I was Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. My mom even made the ruby red slippers.
Where is your favorite place to be?
Anywhere my family is. Those places tend to be my grandfather’s house in San Diego, my dad’s back deck in Ohio, my great aunt’s house in Maryland, or my aunt’s farm just south of Nashville. My family is spread out across the country, and it is rare when we are all together. No matter how much time or distance separates us, whenever I am in these places, I am surrounded by happiness and love (and lots of good food).
You're hosting a dinner party. Who are the 3 people, living or dead, you would invite and why?
I would want to be surrounded by some really smart ladies who are leading the charge around education and equity. So I would invite Nikole Hannah-Jones and Shereen Marisol Meraji because I think they are strong female forces in the national conversation about the work CISTN is trying to address. They are important voices in this moment. And I would of course invite my grandmother, Canice Ciruzzi, who was absolutely one of the smartest women I’ll ever know. It would be such a treat to hear the conversation these ladies would have.
Click here to learn more about Allison's professional background.