Ralf Rho hails from Les Cayes, Haiti and came to the United States when he was sixteen. Following his graduation from high school, the Catholic school system-educated young man attended the University of Massaschussetts Dartmouth, where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. Following graduation, Rho begun a lustrous career as a public servant.
Two years ago, he founded the Kanari Foundation and in addition to sitting on that foundation’s board of directors, he is also active in many local charitable organizations throughout the City of New Bedford, Massachussetts. The married father of two says he ran for a municipal post and lost by one vote, and currently works as an analyst at the Office of New Bedford Mayor, William Flanagan.
So, you attended the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and selected Political Science as your major. Most students who major in Political Science usually do so with the intention of becoming attorneys. Was that the case with you?
Yes, conventional wisdom commands Political Science majors to attend law school. Yet, I have personally learned with such degree one becomes the architect of his destiny. Though I do cultivate the aspiration of being an attorney, I also contemplate being a physician assistant serving humanity in a meaningful way.
If you were the motivational speaker for the day at an event where it was half high school seniors and half college new graduates, but you had to make a speech that had to appeal to both groups, what would you say?
At this point in life you all have one thing in common: the future. Each one of you reserves the power to mold it to precision. No matter what path you choose there are three things that will guarantee your success: purpose, planning and persistence.
At this point, you are an Analyst at the office of Mayor William Flanagan. What steps did you take to go from college graduate to such a career?
I first joined the City of Fall River as an intern in the Office of Mayor William A. Flanagan. Shortly after, I was promoted to oversee the Building Blocks Initiative, which focused on neighborhood revitalization projects, involving aspects of public administration and law. Currently, I am an Analyst serving in a liaison capacity between the Office of Mayor William A. Flanagan, the Community Development Agency, City Departments, the Attorney General’s office and various neighborhood organizations.
Do you think that there’s going to be a time when formal post-secondary education is going to be obsolete?
Though it’s difficult for us to realize, I think the design of traditional post-secondary education is already being obsolete. This emerging era of science and technology has revolutionized learning. We just don’t learn the same ways anymore. Our generation is responding more to online resources outside of physical boundaries once imposed by post-secondary institutions. This alone is a huge disruption of education that warrants a complete remodeling of post-secondary teaching.
What would you say is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned about leadership?
Very early in my career I have learned that leadership is collaboration. It is all about creating the conditions of service that inspire others to be a productive member of the team, to move outside comfort zones, to grow beyond present limitations, circumstances and hurdles of any current position.
You’re the founder of the Kanari Foundation. Tell us more about this initiative.
I founded the Kanari Foundation, Inc with a mission to target students from disadvantaged backgrounds in Haiti to foster their literacy skills, leadership and university readiness. The aim is to achieve lasting improvements in the quality of education through a commitment to scholarships, mentoring programs, academic decathlon, study groups and other learning activities. Through the organization we have been able to provide a significant number of critical educational services to Haitian youths in response to the needs of extreme poverty.
Anything in particular that sparked the idea?
I truly believe that our generation bears the obligation to elevate the unfortunate, not only in Haiti, but all around the world to a comfortable degree of self-reliance. And to build that shift from poverty to sustainable existence one must begin with a first-class education. It is for these reasons I strongly endorse Kanari Foundation’s mission to help students attend schools only in the best network of educators.
When was the last time you took a trip to Haiti?
I visit Haiti every year. Sometimes twice a year… I last traveled there in September 2013.
Before you make an important decision, what factors do you usually consider?
I evaluate the impacts associated with each alternative. I revisit my own experiences to find potential answers. Then I involve many stakeholders to generate more solutions.
And what’s the one thing you’ve learned about taking risks?
The greater our calculated risks are, the larger their dividends.
Time is money. Money is time. Or so, we have all heard! How do you make the most productive use of your time?
Yes, this tenet holds true in the financial sphere. But I find that time I spend in public service carries more of moral rewards. Hence, to make the most productive use of my time I set daily goals, prioritize what needs to be done, stick to the plan and manage the interruptions. This stability helps me stay on top of my game!
A family member is often the first self-help guru we encounter, and sometimes without realizing it. What would you say is the most valuable lesson taught to you by either parent?
My father taught me the power of giving without expecting in return. He was a pastor, an advocate for social causes volunteering time and financial resources to make our neighborhood in Haiti a better place. Because of him helping people becomes more than an easy gift. It is a compulsion that inhabits my heart and in whatever sector of life I serve, I become distinguished by this willingness to invest my all for the good of those in need.
Some people’s lives have changed just from reading a book. If you could pinpoint a book that has helped guide your life, what would you say it was? What did you learn from it?
The Bible. It inspires me adhere to a more sound faith and an unwavering determination in life.
What should we expect from you in the future?
To be an elected official in New Bedford.