When Catherines, a women’s clothing brand, released its fall collection earlier this month, All Our Kin’s very own Nilda Aponte was among the models featured. Through their national campaign, “Living an Inspired Life,” Catherines seeks to highlight real women making a difference in their communities and inspiring others to do the same.
And as a fervent advocate for women and children in New Haven, who approaches her work transforming the lives of All Our Kin’s family child care providers and the children and families they serve with an incredible passion for justice and a genuine love for others, it is no surprise that Nilda was one of the five women chosen.
“I was so honored to be selected; it’s something I never imagined in my wildest dreams,” says Nilda, reflecting on the experience. In May, Catherines sent Nilda and her daughter Sarah down to Cape May, New Jersey for three days of pampering and photo shoots at Willow Creek Winery and Farm. “It was a whirlwind few days,” Nilda recalls. “The best part was the opportunity to connect with the other women who were chosen: laughing, sharing stories, and celebrating the incredible work that is being done in the community. It was really powerful.”
As part of the campaign, Catherines interviewed each of the women about what drives them in their work. “I’m most proud of my service to others when I see parents speak up and advocate for their children and their rights,” says Nilda. That statement exemplifies the type of leader Nilda is—she uses her voice to encourage, empower, and motivate others to reach their full potential and see themselves as leaders.
This is the approach Nilda uses in her work with family child care providers at All Our Kin. And the story of how she got here is truly special. “I came to Connecticut on vacation, and I stayed because of All Our Kin,” Nilda remembers, smiling. “Somehow everything fell into place to allow me to stay and grow with this organization and in this community, and I’m so grateful.”
In 2003, Nilda was living in Puerto Rico, raising her five children and working towards her Master’s degree. She boarded a plane to Connecticut to visit her brother, who lived in Stratford. She made it a point to spend some time in New Haven to see Yale University. As she was walking around the city, she spotted the Spanish newspaper La Voz. In the corner was a tiny advertisement that indicated that All Our Kin was looking for part-time help. Something about the advertisement stuck with Nilda; she called the number and made a decision: if she got the job, she was going to stay in Connecticut.
“My mother thought I was crazy!” Nilda laughs. “She tried so hard to convince me to come back to Puerto Rico. I was leaving my whole life behind. But it felt right. I was at a point in my life when I knew I was ready for a change.” And as if in response, the stars aligned: Nilda got the job with All Our Kin, she got a house nearby, and she got subsidized slots for her two youngest children at Creating Kids Childcare Center, a high-quality local preschool program that is also a longtime partner of All Our Kin. It was meant to be.
When Nilda joined All Our Kin in August of 2003, she was the fourth staff member and the first Tool Kit Licensing Coordinator. Since then, she has taken on a variety of roles and has been pivotal to All Our Kin’s growth, launching the Tool Kit Licensing Program in Hartford and Norwalk and heading expansion to Bridgeport. In 2015, Nilda returned full-time to All Our Kin’s New Haven office as the Provider Showcase Program Director. In this role, she heads an innovative new initiative aimed at raising the quality of child care and giving parents and employers easy-to-understand information, all in one place, about high-quality local family child care options.
“Coming to New Haven has really shown me that I have a voice, that I can speak up for my children, and that I am part of a community. When I lived in Puerto Rico, everything centered on the family; I never felt a broader sense of community. But since moving to New Haven, my community has become an extension of my family, and I have raised my kids to be engaged as well,” Nilda says.
Throughout her time in Connecticut, Nilda has received numerous awards and recognition for her service, dedication, and leadership. She attributes her success to her ability to approach all things from a place of love: “I think with love, you can accomplish so many things and really get to people’s hearts.” We could not agree more—Nilda touches the hearts of so many in the All Our Kin community every day, and we are so excited to see her honored through the Catherines campaign!
To learn more about Catherines’ “Living an Inspired Life” campaign, see photos of Nilda in the fall collection, and read Nilda’s interview, click HERE.