On June 15, Zone 126 appointed Anju Rupchandani as its new executive director. Rupchandani has been involved with the group since its inception in 2011.
“Anju’s career has been dedicated to supporting students and families living in public housing and providing access to equal opportunities that level the playing field from cradle to career,” said Lynn Grossman, board chair of Zone 126. “We can’t wait to see the new heights that Anju brings Zone 126 to.”
Raised in Astoria, Rupchandani is a product of the local public school system, including PS 70 and William Cullen Bryant High School.
Her journey in the education and advocacy sectors began 20 years ago as an after-school counselor for the Sports & Arts in Schools Foundation (SASF) at PS 70.
“That experience really shaped me wanting to be an educator,” she said.
Rupchandani was the first person in her family to graduate from college after receiving a bachelor’s degree in adolescent education and history from Pace University. She would later earn her master’s degree in leadership and community-based learning from Bank Street College of Education.
She also received certificates in executive education management from Fordham Center for Nonprofit Leaders and Columbia University.
After working in several community schools, Rupchandani joined Zone 126 at its founding nearly a decade ago.
“The work here at Zone 126 is really personal,” she said. “To be able to rise to this position is very humbling for me.”
As the new executive director, Rupchandani said her goal will be to elevate the importance of creating a student pipeline from elementary to high school, and ultimately to community college or a four-year university.
“I really believe in bloom where you grow,” she said. “I want other children to be able to see this as a path and a pipeline.”
Another goal, Rupchandani said, is to ensure community partners understand that “collective impact” is not a threat, but rather an opportunity for collaboration.
She said she wants to sit down with local leaders and elected officials to plan strategically so the limited resources available will support as many students as possible.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic struck, shutting down schools and in-person after-school programs, Rupchandani said Zone 126’s team has been on the ground delivering food pantry bags to local families.
The team has also been sending hotspots to students who don’t have internet service in their homes.
“We’ve been in and out of the office supporting families,” she said. “We will continue to do that post-COVID.”
Rupchandani said she feels ready to serve her home community in a new capacity.
“I’m really excited and ready to go back out there, roll up my sleeves and support,” she said. “With everything going on with the pandemic and race relations, to be a woman of color leading during this difficult time is a challenge, but it’s a challenge I’m ready for.”