HSF alumna, Magda N. Yrizarry, may be a Vice President at Verizon Communications, but at heart, she’s a “kid from Brooklyn” in whom many people invested so she could achieve her dreams.
Yrizarry recognizes that “every single one of us has the opportunity to leave an imprint and make a positive investment” in another person, and sometimes the tiniest gift can mold a life in unpredictable ways.
When she was a student at Cornell University, from where she received a bachelor’s and master’s in city/regional planning, people from her neighborhood church sent her money to support her education. “I would receive envelopes with $5 in them,” she recalls with emotion in her voice. “Sometimes a small thing goes a long way.”
The encouragement and financial support she received from those around her led to an unexpected and meaningful profession in education, outreach, diversity management and even workplace safety. “A career path is not exactly straight,” she says with a chuckle, “and not exactly how you plan it.” Her first job after graduation was with a non-profit, where she directed early childhood outreach. She was a single parent and remembers thinking to herself at the time: “I’m going to go into teaching, to better balance a family and career.”
But other things were in store for Yrizarry. Her job gave her the opportunity to meet a board member for New York Telephone, which later became Verizon, and he offered her a position. Now 20 years with the company, she still feels synchronicity with its core values.
She has dedicated her career to elevating those around her. A founding member of 100 Hispanic Women and current Board Chair of ASPIRA of NY, leadership and educational enrichment organizations, Yrizarry’s personal motto, which she learned from her mother, is “to whom much is given, much is expected.” As a single parent who grew up on a farm in Puerto Rico, Yrizarry’s mother taught her to remember that “you are part of something larger…There is an expectation to be a leader, and give as much as you get.”
A passionate supporter of the Hispanic community, Yrizarry recalls feeling a swelling of pride when she learned she received an HSF scholarship from her college dean. “It made me feel like I belonged (at Cornell). It was a paradigm shift for me because it was a Latino organization” bestowing the honor.
She has carried that pride and devotion with her throughout her professional and personal experiences. Currently, as Vice President of Workplace Culture, Diversity and Compliance at Verizon, Yrizarry ensures that alliances with organizations such as HSF are part of the company’s strategic plan. Prior to her current post, she served as director of Operations and National Workforce Development Programs for Verizon Foundation, where she oversaw a $75 million budget, which included scholarship support.
Driven by the memories of the assistance she received, Yrizarry strives to help others see their own significance. “It takes so little to let people know they’re special,” she contemplates. “It’s validating and it’s powerful and all of us need to do more of this.”