40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Karen Ruiz León

Community Outreach Coordinator, Berkshire Commuity College; Age 35; Education: Universidad de Especialidades Espíritu Santo, Ecuador (BA)

Ruiz Leon’s job is multi-faceted, to say the least. Among her myriad roles, she conducts recruitment initiatives in the community and helps underserved populations — such as international, ESOL, and immigrant students, students of color, students with disabilities, and veterans — access a college education, while developing programming to recruit, retain, and promote the success of these populations. She also assists with Admissions Office enrollment efforts, processes visa requirements, and administers financial programs and benefits that these students can utilize. Meanwhile, her community involvement goes well beyond BCC; for instance, she has been involved with Berkshire Immigrant Stories at the Norman Rockwell Museum, and also serves as a mentor in the Rites of Passage and Empowerment program in Pittsfield, which celebrates and honors the entry of adolescent girls into womanhood and provides them with skills and knowledge they need to be successful, independent, and responsible women. She also co-chairs the steering committee for the 1Berkshire Youth Leadership Program, administering the leadership-development and career-exploration program to a new class each year.

Karen Ruiz León

Karen Ruiz León    Photo by Leah Martin Photography

What did you want to be when you grew up? Wonder Woman.

What three words best describe you? Loyal, funny, hungry.

What’s been your biggest professional accomplishment so far in your career? Being there for my students and witnessing the transformational power education brings to the lives of the people we serve.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? It starts with asking myself how can I be of service in someone’s life, whether it’s helping a student, a friend, or a co-worker. At the end of the day, having a positive impact on people’s lives is so rewarding.

What are you passionate about? Social justice and equity.

Who inspires you, and why? My parents. They worked and continue working hard to provide me and my brother everything we needed to thrive, especially an education that will afford us better careers.

What do you do for fun? Karaoke.

How do you relieve stress? Snuggling with my kitty.

What’s your favorite hangout or activity in Western Mass., and why? Anywhere with my Massachusetts family — wherever they are, there is always laughter, joy, and food!