Growing up in poverty and changing schools more than ten times, the odds were stacked against Monica Trejo. But with teachers who supported and believed in her, Monica became the first in her household to graduate high school.
“Living in Arizona is a constant battle for educational equity. After joining Teach for America, I felt frustrated with our district and state policies that impacted my classroom and my kids at home,” Monica said.
In 2015, she participated in the Latin@/x Political Leadership Program (LPLP), where she was able to reflect on her identity and the impact she could make for students by serving in elected office. She also served as a Policy & Advocacy Summer Fellow, where she worked with LEE member and Arizona State Representative Reginald Bolding and gained a deeper perspective on policy and the inner workings of government.
“Participating in the LPLP was truly transformative for me. It was the first time I believed that I could run for office. In the past, I worked on other campaigns, but never actually saw myself as a potential candidate. LPLP helped pushed my perspective and made me see that it was possible.”
For Monica, it was important to see people who look like her doing work that she hadn’t imagined doing herself.
“I had an opportunity to learn from great Latinx leaders in education, like Erika Beltran. It was truly inspiring to see and hear from a Latina in elected office. Unfortunately, there aren’t many elected leaders in my state that look like Erika, and we need to change to that. By the end of the program, I walked away with new friends, a new perspective, and confidence in my mission to impact my community through political leadership. I was ready to run for office. I realized I would not be running to win, but running to make change. Win or lose; I would continue to fight for my community.”
Monica took the skills and networks she gained from LPLP, along with her commitment and passion for education, and won a seat on the Tempe Elementary School Board in Arizona. Though she knew that the challenges — and opportunities — would be different than teaching or state policy work, the goal was still the same: improve education for students.
“I have served as a teacher and school administrator, attended countless campaign and candidate trainings, participated in LEE programming, earned two master’s degrees in education — and I still felt I was ‘not ready’ to run for school board. We just need to remind ourselves that our kids can’t wait until you are all out of self-doubt. They need us now more than ever.”
If you’ve ever thought about serving your community as an elected leader but second-guessed yourself because . . .
- You were afraid you didn’t have the right skills or experience
- You didn’t think you had the right network
- You didn’t have enough money
- You don’t look like the current elected leaders in your community
. . . the Latin@/x Political Leadership Program will help you shake away your doubts.
Over the course of three months, you’ll discover more about yourself, and how your identity and community are assets to the political process.
Apply to the Latin@/x Political Leadership Program by July 18 for priority consideration. The final deadline to apply is July 25.