David Castro (KNFP 13), President, Institute for Leadership Education, Advancement, and Development, Philadelphia.
This article was originally published in the September 2004 issue of the KFLA Newsletter.
For David Castro, driving four hours across Pennsylvania and then facilitating a workshop isn't exhausting, it's invigorating! David spends much of his time in low-income, high-crime communities to help build leaders out of concerned residents. "For me, it's such an incredible joy and gives me so much energy to be with people involved in discovering their own capacity," says David. In 1995, during his Kellogg Fellowship, David founded the Institute for Leadership Education, Advancement, and Development (I-LEAD). Before, he worked in the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, where he was named chief of an inter-agency enforcement program targeting crack houses and nuisance liquor establishments. David devoted his fellowship to the study of community leadership development and its relation to improving the quality of life in communities. "I've always believed, especially after my fellowship, that one of the central problems confronting communities that are suffering is a leadership vacuum," says David. "These communities lack enough capable, motivated, principled people doing the work that needs to be done." I-LEAD identifies people trying to affect change in marginalized communities, and uses leadership development as a strategy for community improvement. Explains David, "A lot of people in these communities think leaders are born and not made, or that leaders have to be anointed from outside. We go out and recruit people into the program who are working on neighborhood issues. Then, we build on their experience and help them think about how leadership applies to what they're doing." Starting out as a small program in Philadelphia, I-LEAD is now active in 16 cities across the state, working with more than 400 participants. Last year, I-LEAD developed a partnership with Harcum College in eastern Pennsylvania to offer an associate degree in community leadership. Overall, David measures success in his work by the stories emerging from people involved in his leadership training who are now doing extraordinary things. In one instance, he recounts, "We recruited a man in Lanchester who was coming out of a drug treatment program. After graduating from our program, he obtained his GED, then went on to college. He later ran for city council and was elected. Just this summer, he attended the National Democratic Convention and was appointed the Governor's delegate." David witnesses transformations in the lives of many of the people he works with. "It's common to have people come back and say to me, You turned on this capacity I didn't know I had.' When people who were marginalized take on responsibility and ownership for what's happening in their community, that's success," he says.