Leslie Carrillo is a community organizer with SWOPs Parent Mentor Program currently studying to get her teaching license. She has been working with SWOP for the past three years and has been involved in the organization since she was in 7th grade during the Teen Reach program. As a Parent Mentor organizer, she has three schools that she oversees for the program. Leslie makes sure that parents are in the classroom supporting students academically and that the program is running smoothly. Some of her responsibilities include assisting with recruitment of parents and teachers into the program and making sure that the parents are trained on the academic end of their work. The program is also focused on parents' personal development, which looks different for everyone; whether it is a chance to learn about themselves or simple training that allows them to support their child at home.
As a young person being exposed to gang violence and the discrepancies between the resources in the schools on the south side compared to the north side, Leslie began questioning the things happening in her community and was frustrated at what she was seeing. When she joined the Teen REACH program, she posed her questions to her program mentors who began to pick her brain about why she believed there were so many differences in the quality of resources for the schools. That was where she began to learn about organizing. Teen REACH taught her leadership skills and she learned the power of community.
When asked about the necessity for this work, Leslie had this to say. “I know this work is empowering. We are given the tools to realize that we can make changes in the community and sometimes we are so afraid to question things and just go on living as if our struggles are just something to accept, but with these organizing skills we are able to build strong relationships to make the changes we want to see. I look back at 12-year-old me at a time where I didn’t have the tools to advocate for myself and it makes me realize how being able to engage with community teaches us that we are not alone in our struggles.”
For anyone interested in being a part of organizing or even anyone who wants to see better in their community, Leslie encourages everyone to know where their interests are and where their passion lies. Having such a large interest in schooling, finding her passion in this work came about as easily as just wanting to follow her dream. We all deserve to be heard and organizing allows us to create these spaces where we are validated and seen.