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Former Key Clubber heads CasaCuba cultural center

Julie Saetre | May 28, 2019

Maria Carla Chicuen Key Club International members build leadership skills that can take them far long after graduation. In 2018, Maria Carla Chicuén — a former Key Clubber at a high school in Miami, Florida — was appointed to lead Florida International University’s new CasaCuba initiative. As executive director, she will work with the university to create a leading intellectual and cultural center designed to foster global understanding of Cuban affairs and culture. Education, research, discussion and the arts all will be incorporated into CasaCuba’s efforts.

“It has been an honor to lead FIU’s CasaCuba as founding executive director for the past year,” Chicuén says. “I am humbled by this opportunity to shape the construction of a center that aspires to be a leading global venue for the creation and sharing of impactful knowledge about Cuba, and the celebration of Cuban culture. It is my hope that all individuals with an interest in Cuba will be inclined to support us on this historic effort.”

Chicuén brought extensive experience to the role. She previously was an education consultant at the World Bank in Washington D.C. and at the Inter-American Development Bank in Panama City, Panama, and most recently led special projects in the Office of the President at Miami Dade College.

She was a recent immigrant from Cuba herself when she joined Key Club during the second semester of her freshman year. She served as the club’s vice president as a sophomore and became president her junior year.  Upon graduation, she attended Harvard University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in history.

Kiwanis International caught up with Chicuén in 2016, just after she had become a published author. She wrote “Achieving the College Dream” to help other high school students reach their own educational goals.

“These were the essential ingredients I was determined to include in my book: comprehensive guidance to find and afford the right college for each student, as well as an inspiring message based on my own experience as a college applicant and higher education professional,” she said at the time.

Part of that experience included her Key Club leadership.

“Without a doubt, my participation in Key Club enhanced my chances of admission to top colleges,” she said. “As I led Key Club throughout most of my high school career, I gained unmatched experience in team building and project development which in turn prepared me to contribute actively to the student community at Harvard.”

Chicuén went on to receive a master’s degree in international relations from the London School of Economics before launching her career and ultimately landing her newest leadership position at CasaCuba.

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