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July 14, 2017 40 Under Forty 2017

Paul Diego Holzer

Photo | J. Fiereck Photography
Photo | J. Fiereck Photography (From left to right) Jacob A. Hunter, Julia Monique Johnson, Katie Hanley, Paul Diego Holzer and Karen T. Taylor.

Age: 39

Company: Achieve Hartford!

Title: Executive Director

Town where I live: West Hartford

Town where I work: Hartford

College: Dartmouth, Yale

Fun Fact

On the side, I run a business in career development called Career Cadence.


What do you do in your current job? At Achieve Hartford!, I lead a team of six in the development and execution of programs that really push stakeholders to support education in ways that can actually increase the quality of schools in Hartford. It's not always comfortable, but helping people change their mindset and behavior seldom is.

What are your goals in your current job? My goal is to make Achieve Hartford! the go-to partner in solving the toughest education problems in our city whenever the solution must work across sectors. We have an approach to collective action that we believe works, and every year choose a handful of challenges to try to address.

What's your biggest passion? My biggest passion is helping people recognize and realize greater potential in themselves than they previously thought possible. I used to put this passion into students when I was a teacher, and then into both students and staff when I was an administrator, and now it goes into the stakeholders we partner with. Despite constraints such as budget cuts, politics, or even tough personalities, my job is to help people see the solutions and work towards them.

What are your future professional aspirations? In the not-so-distant future I hope to publish a book on how to create systemic change without waiting for institutions to change themselves, and draw from all that I have learned from my almost eight years at Achieve Hartford! and my time in the nonprofit sector and classroom before that. With key concepts in this book, I hope to consult other districts and cities to support their efforts to address systemic problems.

How are you involved in the community? While my current job keeps me very involved in the community, I relish the time I get to spend as a board member of the coolest nonprofit in Hartford, called Hartford Performs. I also serve on the board of visitors at the University of Hartford's School of Education, Nursing, and Health Professionals.

If you had one wish to brighten Greater Hartford's economic future what would it be? I would not wish for a gift of $100 million to support schools or the entire talent pipeline in Hartford; instead I wish for Hartford philanthropies and nonprofits and schools to all work under one budget to drive outcomes for students by any and all means necessary. Then, we could address any challenges our students face together, and in doing so ensure the Greater Hartford region has the strongest talent pipeline of any region in America, with businesses flocking to Hartford to take advantage.

List four reasons why you deserve to be a 40 Under Forty: I've stewarded Achieve Hartford! successfully throughout eight years to become the recognized voice for high-quality education in our city. I've strengthened the bridge between the private sector and the public sector here in Hartford so that more problems can be addressed and more students impacted. I've catalyzed the launch of programs that have helped hundreds of families in Hartford make informed school choices or become stronger partners in their children's educations. I helped found a charter school at age 26 in Washington D.C. that still to this day is the nation's capitol's only bilingual vocational school.

Click here to see all 40 Under Forty winners

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