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Farah Despeignes (pronounced des.pain) was born on July 25, 1974 in Brooklyn, New York to Haitian immigrants. As an infant she was separated from her parents, as she was sent to Haiti to be raised by her paternal grandmother and maternal aunt who were charged with the task of teaching her all there was to learn about Haitian culture and history.

 

While living in Haiti, she would attend a Methodist Elementary School, modeled after elementary schools in Switzerland. Timid by nature, her teachers would immerse her in theater, public speaking and poetry as the young Farah demonstrated a talent for anything that had to do with the written and spoken word. As a youngster, she would spend many of her summers in Queens, NY (where her parents had moved to from Brooklyn) and her academic years in Cap-Haitien, where she would continue to learn Haitian-Creole, French and what it meant to be of Haitian descent

 

Upon graduating from elementary school in Haiti, she would return to Queens, NY to attend P S 135 for a semester. Farah continued her middle school education at Incarnation School, where she would continue to explore her talent for the spoken and written word in English. She attended Saint John’s Preparatory High School in Astoria, Queens where she continued to explore Literature and History through Advance Placement classes, the debate team and by writing short stories, poetry, essays and plays – which she would coerce her teachers and peers into acting out and filming. In 1992, as a high school student, the Congressional Youth Leadership Council awarded her the National Young Leaders Conference Youth Leadership Award for “meritorious achievement in scholarship, leadership and citizenship.”

 

Farah’s entrance into politics seemed irreversible at that point. Yet, her parents would force her to take a detour to St. John’s University to study pharmacy. That did not go very well and her parents would again convince her to attend the City College of New York to study Chemical Engineering. That didn’t go well either. Encouraged by mentors, she would finally pursue degrees in History and Literature, where she fairly excelled. Upon her graduation, she was asked to teach Comparative Literature at the City College of New York (CCNY). While pursuing her graduate degree in Literature at CCNY, she taught her own classes in the English Department. She also assisted professors and tutored students in the History Department. She later taught at the Educational Opportunity Center, run by the Borough Manhattan Community College, in Harlem.

 

By the turn of the century, Farah realized that her heart really belonged to children and underserved communities and her plans for multiple doctoral degrees would be abandoned. The year before, in 1999 she had left Queens and moved to the Bronx in search of a teaching opportunity in the poorest Congressional district in the nation. Her dream came true in February 2000 when she was hired at Samuel Gompers High School.

 

There, as a teacher, she would go above and beyond the call of duty to encourage her students to succeed. Beyond rigorous academic practices (for which she was reputed to be the toughest teacher for many years), she would give her school an annual arts festival, an education summit, a United Nations assembly – all in an effort to address the social and economic issues that impede education in poor neighborhoods. In 2009, she would organize her students to appeal to President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and local elected officials to address inequity in education.

 

Due to her father’s tragic death in December 2011 and her mother’s debilitating stroke in January 2012, Farah took a leave of absence from teaching; in 2014 with a heavy heart, she resigned from the DOE to care for her mom and children. She would continue to teach Humanities courses at Touro College, a move that allowed her a more flexible schedule.

 

In spite of the fact she was no longer a regular in the classroom, she continued to lobby elected officials on behalf of Bronx students and underserved communities in the Bronx. She would lobby the Former President and Former First Lady to visit the Bronx and was thrilled when the Former President finally stopped at Lehman College in the Bronx to unveil the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance. On the heel of that, Farah wasted no time. She urged the Former President to tie My Brother’s Keeper into the school system in New York State in what she envisioned as a pilot program that could help mitigate the effects of the school-to-prison pipeline that sealed the future of so many Latino and Black boys. As the mother of two African-American boys, the My Brother’s Keeper initiative is one that is dear to her heart.

 

She also continued her activism through Organizing for Action, commonly known as OFA. OFA is an offshoot of Obama for America and Organizing for America, which were the electoral campaign organizations for Former President Obama in 2008 and 2012 respectively. OFA in its present form is a community and issue organizing non-profit organization started by then President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. In 2013, Farah became the OFA-Bronx Chapter Leader. Through her position as the OFA-Bronx Lead, she participated in many summits with the former president in Washington, D.C. and attended special trainings in Chicago.

 

In this capacity, Farah passionately advocated for underserved communities and was very proud of her role in the development of the OFA / FTP (Fulfilling the Promise) program, specifically geared towards organizing in underserved communities like the Bronx. In her position as one of the most regarded OFA volunteer leaders, she would partner with BuildOn, Teens Take Charge, The Bronx Defenders, etc. and schools to groom student leaders and address many important social and political issues in her community. She would also partner with churches, other community stakeholders and organizations to bring awareness to community issues and empower Bronxites. In September 2017, she was honored by Bronx Community Board 9 in recognition of her “excellent and devoted community service.”

 

In addition, she continues to lend her voice and time to the struggle for equity in our schools as a member of the Community Education Council for School District 8 (CEC D 8). As the current president of the CEC D 8, she continues to fight for inclusion and fairness in our schools. She continues to challenge institutional bias both towards our students and their parents. She continues to work to empower parents, students and communities. In May 2018, she was honored by Senator Jeff Klein for her role as a parent leader. In June 2018, she was honored by Councilman Reuben Diaz, Sr. for her work on the Community Education Council District 8.  In June 2018, she was also honored by NYC Department of Education Chancellor Richard A. Carranza " in appreciation of [her] leadership and ongoing commitment to the success of all students." 

 

Farah Despeignes is a Permanently Certified New York State Public School Teacher. She became very engaged in politics in 2008. In 2012, she successfully completed the training to become a fellow for Organizing for America, the grass roots campaign that worked to re-elect Former President Barack Obama. Farah was stationed in Philadelphia in the great battleground state of Pennsylvania.  Farah was appointed Staging Location Director (SLD) for the GOTV (get out the vote) operation and was recognized as the best GOTV director by her Regional Field Director. In 2013, Farah agreed to volunteer for the campaign of NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio and reprised her role as an SLD during the re-election campaign of Mayor De Blasio in 2017. She was once again recognized as one of the best volunteers by the field director. She also regularly volunteered for then Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda for the 87th district who is now the current State Senator for the 32nd district. Her heroism has made her a sought after political strong hold during election season.

 

 

 

 

  

 

 


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