Q&A with Ahiza García-Hodges and Gregory Lorjuste
DreamWakers’ Board of Directors is instrumental in furthering our vision of supporting students across the country to see what they can be. Leading our organization into its next stages of growth, Board members drive DreamWakers’ strategy, provide instrumental thought partnership, serve as ambassadors in their respective industries and across the U.S., and much more.
We are thrilled to introduce, by way of Q&A, our two newest DreamWakers Board members: Ahiza García-Hodges and Gregory Lorjuste. Ahiza and Greg, both longtime DreamSpeakers, transitioned to the Board in 2021 following their tenure on DreamWakers’ Advisory Council.
Ahiza García-Hodges attended Columbia University and graduated with a degree in psychology before obtaining her Master’s degree in broadcast and digital journalism from Syracuse’s S.I. Newhouse School. She is currently a reporter at NBC News covering media and its intersection with tech, sports, business, and entertainment. Ahiza is originally from California but spent more than a decade in New York City, which “feels more like home than anywhere.”
Gregory Lorjuste had big dreams and wasn’t afraid to fail as a kid. Born to Haitian immigrant parents, he graduated from high school with a 1.4 GPA, but persevered toward his dreams, going on to earn a degree in elementary education from Rider University. He has since worked for Presidents Clinton and Obama, traveled to more than 36 different countries, and now serves as Chief of Staff at ACRONYM.
How did you learn about DreamWakers’ work and why were you compelled to become more involved?
Ahiza: I learned about DreamWakers at the annual Women in the World conference and was struck by how brilliant the idea behind the organization was. I signed up to be a volunteer speaker while sitting in the darkened hall at Lincoln Center and then became more and more involved as the years went on.
Greg: A good friend told me about DreamWakers and from the minute I was introduced, I was hooked. I started doing flashchats and wanted to do more, so I soon joined DreamWakers’ Advisory Council. I continued to volunteer for flashchats and then said to myself, ‘I want to do even more’. At the end of last year, I joined the Board and will still — you guessed it — continue to do flashchats and commit to advancing the mission of DreamWakers however I can.
What has been your personal experience with mentorship? Why do you believe in it?
Ahiza: I’ve benefited greatly from people who held the door open for me and helped me pursue and realize various opportunities. I firmly believe the best way to acknowledge and repay their assistance is to do the same for others, and it’s something I’m very committed to. In addition, I think mentorship is particularly important for people of color and women, who historically have not benefited from it or received it in the same way that white people and men have. Thus, mentoring other minorities and women is something I try to prioritize as much as possible. I want to make sure that a workplace, community, or space that I leave is more diverse than when I entered it.
Greg: I truly believe that it is hard to be what you cannot see, so the impact a mentor can have on a person is priceless. Being able to spark curiosity in young people and serve as a guide — helping pave the way while carrying the torch when times are dark — is a privilege I get to experience through my role as a mentor. The sad reality is there are so many people who do not have access to mentors based on things that are out of their control, like where they live, where they attend school, or what their parents do for a living. This is my why, and I will always share my experience and time with those who can benefit from it.
What is your dream for the future?
Ahiza: My dream for the future is that people will better learn to respect and celebrate differences while realizing that there are so many commonalities that unite us. My hope for the youth of today is that each of them knows what it is to be loved and supported for who they are.
Greg: Personally, I dream every day about finishing my book proposal so I can share my story with the world. For the youth of today, my dream is that regardless of socioeconomic status, race, background, and urban or rural location, they will not start life with a societal disadvantage. All youth deserve to receive a great education and access to information that will allow their young minds to flourish and crave exploration.
If you could have a flashchat with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
Ahiza: As a kid, I probably would have said Joan of Arc or Harriet Tubman. As an adult, I’d say my abuelito, who lived to be 90 but passed away a couple of years ago. He was always so wise, and I’d love to hear how he would talk about his life, what he viewed as his successes, and what he might have done differently. It would be interesting to hear him address a group of students and share his perspective in such a different context from how we’d usually have interacted.
Greg: My younger self would probably choose Michael Jordan. Hearing his story firsthand on how he overcame being cut from the basketball team his freshman year of high school to becoming one of the greatest athletes of all time is something that would have resonated with my teenage self.
Anything else you’d want us to share with the DreamWakers community?
Greg always leaves our students with a meaningful quote: “Those who say they can and those who say they can’t are usually both right.” Our job at DreamWakers is to remove the word “can’t” from the vocabulary of young people with whom we interact. Ahiza asks that you sign up for a flashchat and get involved in this community, which makes it so easy to have a meaningful difference in students’ lives!
In addition to Ahiza and Greg, the DreamWakers Board of Directors includes a number of other passionate leaders: Monica Gray Logothetis, DreamWakers Co-Founder and Board Chairwoman; Annie Medaglia, DreamWakers Co-Founder and Senior Manager at Bain & Company; Abbie Klinghoffer, Vice President of Investor Relations at Charter School Growth Fund; Gaurav Ahuja, Venture Capital Investor at Thrive Capital; and Juliette Dallas-Feeney, Head of Marketing at Love Stories TV.
We are grateful to each of the dedicated DreamWakers Board members for all that you do in service of supporting students to see what they can be!