My work: transforming low-income neighborhoods by identifying local leaders and guiding them to earn college degrees
This profile was prepared when David Castro was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2009.
The New Idea
David founded the Institute for Leadership Education, Advancement & Development (I-LEAD) to help poor communities realize their full potential by identifying grassroots leaders and preparing them to be agents of change. In the United States, those adults who do not continue their education after high school are likely to languish in marginal jobs working hard with little reward. Often, they become part of a permanent underclass, living in areas where low expectations are ingrained in children early and eventually become self-fulfilling prophecies. At the same time, however, there are individuals within every community whose ability has never been tapped. For these individuals, David seeks to offer a college education in their own neighborhood designed to help them understand the systems that constrain their communities, learn to navigate those systems, and lead their neighbors to work together to bring about change.From his work in community development, David knew that leaders can emerge even in the most impoverished settings. Oftentimes, however, there are not enough local leaders with the knowledge and skills necessary to guide their communities to self-reliance. He also saw that to effectively articulate and advocate for the needs of their communities, emerging leaders need the analytical thinking and writing skills offered in college-level courses. Since most people living in poverty have no post-high school education, it was clear that grassroots leaders would need at least an Associate Degree to develop necessary skills, understand political and institutional systems, and articulate the community’s agenda. Therefore, David’s overarching goal is to expand post-secondary educational opportunities to low-income communities. David created I-LEAD to serve community-based leaders educational needs. I-LEAD combines organization, negotiation and conflict resolution, emotional intelligence, and systems thinking curriculum into a program unlike any other. Through this project, David aims to empower leaders in marginalized communities and give them the tools they need to flourish. Ultimately, he hopes to see people using their knowledge to liberate themselves from entrenched poverty and create the wealth and opportunities they seek.