Leslie Carillo has been ingrained in the culture of the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) since she first started in the Teen Reach program in the 7th grade. “As a youth, the intentionality behind the youth work helped build me into a leader at a very young age.” Leslie reflected, recalling her time in the youth program. Leslie talks about how her mentor at the time, David Castro, showed her that she had a voice and that through building relationships and connecting with others,she and the people she connected with, would be able to make actionable changes and get things done. Taking those leadership qualities that she gained in the Teen Reach program, Leslie began to develop them more in high school.
While in high school, Leslie was one of the few students chosen to be a part of the Bank of America Leadership program due to the leadership qualities she had fostered. During the leadership program, Leslie was given an internship role at a school which ultimately developed her love for teaching. Having built great relationships with organizers at SWOP, Leslie volunteered to be a part of different actions where she could share her story. When the opportunity was presented for Leslie to return to SWOP, Joel Rodriguez and David Castro advocated for her to join as a Resource Coordinator as they knew the time she had spent in the community as well as her commitment to being a leader.
SWOP always encourages their organizers to pursue further development and for Leslie, that meant going to school to one day become a teacher. “I really wanted to pursue my dreams while being able to give back to my community, so I decided to work and go to school full-time. My work as a Parent Mentor Organizer and my passion to become a teacher really went hand in hand. So, if I was working on one, it felt as though it contributed to doing the other” she shared. “SWOP and the Parent Mentors always supported me through my work and gave me the experiences I needed to be able to grow into my own. The organizing skills, the ability to build meaningful relationships and the enhancement of my understanding of parent involvement in schools were irreplaceable lessons and I’m thankful for the experience.”
In May of 2023, Leslie officially graduated from Northeastern Illinois with her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education with a bilingual education minor. Having already received a job offer, Leslie is ready to take the next steps in her path to becoming the person she wants to be. It is an indescribable feeling, being able to watch someone who started as a young leader develop into a bright, young woman and the connections she has made will last a lifetime. SWOP couldn’t be prouder. Although Leslie will soon depart as a Parent Mentor Organizer, SWOP cannot wait to see what great things she will accomplish as a teacher.