Barrio's Living Library
MSC: Kaylee Carpinteyro
Updated: Nov 11, 2022
In our continued efforts to tell our own stories and evaluate our impact, we have started using the Most Significant Change Framework. We implemented this framework in 2021 and in the first year we identified four domains of impact: personal transformation, leadership development, business/entrepreneur development, and community building.
Kaylee Carpinteyro's story is one of the stories selected from the first round. Her story highlights the leadership development domain. You can listen to the whole story in the audio file above.
Note: This is part of Barrio Alegría’s Most Significant Change process. The stories in this series share the stories of individuals in our community and the changes they perceive in their lives by being a part of Barrio. The interviews are designed to be heard so that the listener hears the story directly from the storyteller. Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers and may contain errors. This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Daniel: Hi Kaylee, how are you?
Kaylee: Good, how are you?
Daniel: I'm doing good. Well see other people are going to be reviewing this audio, video. So I have to make sure that I sound really happy and peppy. But I'm here because I would like to ask you three questions. So, the first question is, can you please tell me how you first became involved with Barrio and what is your current involvement right now?
Kaylee: I first connected with Barrio through Penn State Berks. I was a senior in college. We were working on a project where we connected with other organizations or local leaders trying to tell their stories. And through there I got involved with Storytelling Through Dance and leadership cohort. And since then, I've been with Barrio. Right now I'm still in the leadership cohort. But last year I was working with Barrio Alegría working with the rental assistance program through PHFA through a grant from the United Way. And yeah, since then, I've been involved with Barrio.
Daniel: Dude, you have been a participant, you have been a staff, you have been part of the leadership cohort, then you became a board member. Like what haven’t you done in Barrio?
Kaylee: Yeah, I forgot. I'm a board member too.
Daniel: You literally exemplify what the means of acquiring power inside of Barrio looks like. You are the epitome for that.
Kaylee: I never thought I would be in this position.
Daniel: No? You never thought about it?
Kaylee: No, I feel like it just gradually happened. And like, I don't know.
Daniel: Yeah, cuz if we had dreamed that first day when we met, when you were like, “yeah, who the hell is this dude?” If we had dreamed that you were going to one day be a board member in our organization? I wouldn't have thought that.
Kaylee: Yeah me neither.
Daniel: I remember that first time when we met. And I was like, “I don't think she's very impressed by me.” Which that could still be the case. You probably already learned a lot about me. But you stuck with it.
Kaylee: I think it's just in the beginning I had a hard time understanding what Barrio Alegría really was.
Daniel: Do you think that's for the majority of people, though? Like, because it's not, you know, we are not at an arts organization. We are not a community development organization. We're all over the place. We’re a community engagement creativity lab.
Kaylee: Yeah. And I think coming from a communications background, we have to know what your brand is. And I think once you actually are in Barrio Alegría and get involved, we start slowly understanding like, “Okay, this is a kind of like a community transformation, not just with the community, but with like, the individuals are involved”.
Daniel: I’m glad to see that you got that part. What do you think is the most significant change in your quality of life since you started working with Barrio? And if you can tell me a story that exemplifies that?
Kaylee: I think a significant change was within myself. Like I said, Barrio's known to get people out of their comfort zone. And so, I think one of my significant change stories would be when I was a staff member for the rental assistance program. I know I learned a lot about myself and a lot about the community members.
It was a tough time, it was the peak of the pandemic, many people were struggling financially, and so when I got involved and took on the program, helping people fill out the applications or giving out information, and any other resources, for me, especially with the Spanish-speaking community, it took me out of my comfort zone.
Especially, speaking Spanish when I was doing the outreach work, when I was going out to the local taquerias and grocery stores trying to connect with them and with the owners, trying to have them see what I'm doing. Trying to pretty much assists, you know, people in the community, residents, apply for this help that I know, many, especially in Mexican community, don't want to accept the help.
But I think in my position it was important to not necessarily push it down their throats, but to let them know, “Hey, I'm here to assist you with whatever you want and I speak Spanish. I'm one of you guys,” or try to make them feel comfortable in knowing that there are resources available for them. But that's pretty much what I learned, being more vocal, and communicating with Spanish-speaking residents, because I'm not really confident in my Spanish. But even that, I learned that even though my Spanish wasn't perfect, they understood me. Or like, they felt comfortable in approaching me and asking questions.
Daniel: You didn’t just like improve your quality of life, you improved the quality of life of many other people. Because people began to hear about the work that you were doing, and they were like, “Oh, why don't we have a Kaylee?” And they were like, “All right, well, let's hire her.” And then they went ahead and hired you to basically continue doing that work. So from that you basically created your career.
Kaylee: Yeah, pretty much. I thank Barrio for giving me the opportunity. Because yeah, that's how I made connections. I guess networking is a really big thing in how I got the job that I'm doing right now. I was in the meetings with local leaders like with the Berks Coalition to End Homelessness and the Commissioners, the Human Relations Commission and I was invited to attend one of their zoom meetings to talk about the new rental assistance program that was coming up. And that was where Natasha, who used to work for the Berks coalition, she reached out to me and asked if I wanted to work with them, and I said, of course, I already have an idea of how the PHFA works so I'm pretty sure it's very similar. And as she was explaining it to me, it was very similar to the work that I was doing with Barrio.
Daniel: Truth be told, Kaylee, I didn't connect you with anybody, you did that on your own.
So why is this story significant to you? And I think that you mentioned that a little bit. The fact that you internally stepped out of your comfort zone, to go out and talk to people, especially in this Machista society, especially even more, in the Latin American Machista society, you were a young woman telling older men, to apply for aid. And some of them were like, “no, why are you telling me this?” and they began to push back. Why was this significant to you?
Kaylee: I guess, just speaking up. I remember this time when I was at El Puente, there was this man who saw my table and was asking questions, and his first thing was “people don't need help, they should just go to work.” And I'm just like, okay, it's not that easy. You don't understand every person’s struggle, the pandemic hit people hard in different ways. And in like the Latin community, especially Mexican community, we're used to: “work hard”. I tried to ask to the guy, “why do you have to work hard, you know, there's assistance available for you. You're paying taxes for this.” I try hard to explain to him, “you pay taxes for it, you should apply for this program. You don't have to pay this money back. It’s gonna benefit you.”
I try to explain to him in many ways that a lot of people need this. Why are you like, not upset towards me, but upset that people applying for this program. But I guess, he was working every day to get his bills paid so why can't other people work? But, you know, I tried to explain to him people are getting sick and people are vulnerable because of COVID-19, there wasn't a vaccine yet.
It was hard to communicate with him. He finally I guess, let it go. I tried to be nice about it. But it was hard, but at the same time I guess you could say I found my voice in stepping up and like telling him “No, this assistance is here for a reason, take advantage of it. There's no shame in accepting the help.”
Daniel: You found your voice. That's incredible. Because being able to show up as yourself is not easy. I am still trying to figure out how to do that. How to be the same Daniel at home that is at meetings, because there's definitely a Daniel behind closed doors that is a little bit different than the Daniel that shows up at meetings and has to be more careful with what I say. And, of course, there are filters but at the same time being able to say what you really think in a way that won't hurt people, but will definitely still give your voice that's hard to do.
Kaylee: It is hard. You have to learn how to communicate with people effectively without offending or you just have to choose your words wisely. Yeah, you're not trying to disconnect from them, you know?
Daniel: Yeah, for sure. Anyway, thank you, Kaylee for this interview. I'm gonna stop the recording now.