Decades after starting a new life in the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant from Uruguay, Damian Pacheco is now working to help underserved students in New York City—many of whom remind him of himself. 

I just want to know that I’ve helped as many students as possible, especially students who have experienced what I’ve experienced,” said Pacheco, a New York City Department of Education administrator who is graduating this May with his Ed.D. from the Graduate School of Education. “I want to make sure that our kids know [their worth].” 

Pacheco serves as executive director of school support and operations for New York City Transfer High Schools, a district of 42 schools that supports students who have dropped out or fallen behind in credits. He enrolled in GSE’s highly ranked Educational Leadership, Administration, and Policy program to help him better support his students. His coursework has taught him how to lead with empathy, apply his research to his work, and learn from his failures, he said. 

“It’s really changed the way that I look at my work, from the small things to the big things,” said Pacheco. 

Earning a $500K Grant to Help Students, Thanks to Fordham 

In his Leading Instructional Improvement course at Fordham, which teaches students how to apply academic theories to real-life problems, Pacheco and fellow doctoral student John Sullivan designed a remote academic program that helps nontraditional students earn their high school diploma. In 2022, Pacheco and Sullivan were awarded a $500,000 grant from the New York City Department of Education to turn their idea into reality. 

This spring, they will launch a three-month-long pilot program based on their idea, which will support the city’s high school students who are struggling to complete their high school education. Among the students are new migrants who are simultaneously working to support their families. Their program will allow students to continue working while remotely completing their high school education. 

“[Their] remote academy is an exemplar for the kind of theory-to-practice connections we hope doctoral candidates will make, and will be a great benefit to NYC youth,” said associate professor Elizabeth Stosich, Ed.D., who taught their Leading Instructional Improvement course.  

‘I Love to See Our Kids Succeed’ 

Pacheco previously worked as a field support liaison at New York City Transfer High Schools for four years. He’s also worked in nonprofits and the city’s Department of Youth & Community Development. More recently, Pacheco helped to prepare a grant proposal on behalf of New York City Transfer High Schools that received about a million dollars to support students in their schools who are from asylum-seeking families, he said. 

“Our kids are some of the most vulnerable. At some point in their lives, they experienced something that set them back in their academic career,” Pacheco said. “I love to see our kids succeed … Anything that I can do to help a kid graduate and get on a career path, I’ll do.”


Taylor is a visual storytelling strategist in Fordham University's marketing and communications department, where she documents University life through photography and video. Since joining Fordham in 2018, she has served as a writer, photographer, videographer, and social media manager, dividing her time between University Marketing and Communications and the Office of the President. She earned her bachelor's degree in journalism from Stony Brook University's School of Communication and Journalism and her master's degree in public media from Fordham University's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Her work has appeared on NPR, NBC New York, and amNewYork METRO.