Hispanic Heritage: Profiles in Leadership

An Advocate For Equity and Inclusion
Posted on 10/15/2019
Enrique Vela with students

For more than 20 years, Dr. Enrique Vela has worked as an educator in New York and Florida, including the past five years in Palm Beach County. Currently, Dr. Vela serves as the Principal of Woodlands Middle, a Cambridge International School that offers the Latinos in Action course aimed at empowering Latino youth to lead and strengthen their communities.

“As an educational leader, I get great satisfaction from establishing school programs that create opportunities for all students to succeed,” Dr. Vela said. “I am also motivated by opportunities to hire and develop teachers and leaders who share the same commitment. I enjoy knowing that I have the opportunity to make a positive connection with a student at school every day.”

His efforts to support the Latino community also include serving on the board of directors of the Florida Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents. He contributes to the development of aspiring school leaders through his work as an adjunct professor of Educational Leadership at Florida Atlantic University, where he helped develop a Leadership for Social Justice course.

Before becoming the Principal at Woodlands Middle, Dr. Vela was the Director of Professional Development for the School District. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Hunter College, a master’s in School Psychology from Purdue University, and a doctorate in Executive Educational Leadership from the University of Central Florida. 

Vela is of Cuban descent, raised in a diverse section of Queens in New York City by his single mother Elena who did not speak English when she came to the United States from Cuba. 

Despite her struggles, she taught Vela to see the good in every situation, and that there is value in every person. She also taught him that the more he gave to others, the more blessings he will receive in life.

“That philosophy led me to pursue a career in serving students with disabilities and English language learners,” Dr. Vela said. 

The School District of Palm Beach County