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Dream Big: Reflections from LEE’s Ready to Run Program

  • Alejandro Espinoza

“OK, who can go around and name everyone’s name?” the workshop facilitator asked with a warm smile.

I turned to my table group, scanned the rest of the room and saw that no one had raised their hand. I felt slightly embarrassed that, at a leadership development workshop, I had failed to do the simplest of tasks: learn people’s names.

That moment prompted me to reflect on my intentions and motivations for participating in the workshop — the Latinx Political Leadership Program. Looking back, I am thankful for the challenge and recommitted to holding myself accountable for why I was there — to seriously consider running for public office.

My personal and professional background as a child of Mexican immigrants, a K-12 student of Chicago Public Schools, a low-income student, and an educator of black youth in Detroit drove me forward. Soon after the Latinx Political Leadership Program, I participated in LEE’s inaugural Ready to Run workshop with a clarified conviction to run for a Local School Council seat in my hometown of Chicago the following year.

I knew that I needed a quick skill-building lesson in messaging, fundraising, and organizing a campaign, and Ready to Run gave me the tools I was looking for. The lessons I learned there propelled my civic engagement back home.

My first step was to immediately get more involved in my community, and so I joined the fiduciary board of a nonprofit organization based in Chicago’s South Side. As I was learning the ins-and-outs of board governance, I did what I set out to do and ran for the community representative seat on the Local School Council of my neighborhood high school. With 2,880 students, it’s the third largest high school by student enrollment in the city, and being my alma mater, it holds a special place in my heart.

I won the election, and in my time on the council I have been an active member, building relationships with other members and the school leadership, and volunteering my time, talent, and treasure in support of the school’s mission. I also pursued a fellowship with The Surge Institute, where I receive training to actualize a vision of a diverse, equitable and inclusive public education system with a cohort of 20 other leaders.

I am thankful for the opportunities LEE has provided to help me grow. These experiences removed my hesitance to dream big, developed my ability to think strategically, and put me on a path to build relationships and networks so that I can continue to dream big and consider what's possible for the youth and families of Chicago and beyond.


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