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#5 – Finding Your Own Lane with Stephanie Castellanos

Stephanie Castellanos is a Talent Consultant, Diversity & Inclusion strategist, expert facilitator and grassroots community organizer. Her passion for social innovation and youth empowerment stems from her upbringing in Inglewood, CA, experiences as the first in her family graduate from college, and as the daughter of Mexican immigrants.

Stephanie has innovated the recruitment strategies of national education and political organizations, working across more than 30 states including California, New York, Texas, and in Florida for President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign. Her expertise includes community organizing strategy, recruiting top-talent for nonprofits and school districts, diversity & inclusion training design and facilitation, and leadership development for first-generation & students of color.

She is the Co-Founder of The Coalition for Diverse Educators (C4DE), a national grassroots movement to increase teacher diversity in urban public schools. Stephanie’s leadership and equity trainings, WOKEshops, has empowered over 20,000 diverse youth, college students, young professionals and community leaders at over 70 campuses nation-wide.

She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Justice Now, a nonprofit organization advocating for the rights of women in prisons, and is a member of the Young Professionals Network (YPN) of Latinas Lead. She graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a Major in Sociology and a Minor in Urban Planning & Regional Studies.


Stephanie Castellanos


Key Topics

On WOKEshops

  • If people knew the gravity of our teacher and the shortage we have, then more people would want to get involved. A lot of the time being the first in a family of color – The students are being pulled in different directions.
  • In many ways, the youth will be the main one supporting their families.
  • These help the youth write resumes and prepare for the workplace, because most of their families do not have that experience. Navigating through these things is difficult, but now she is able to share what she has learned with others.
  • This work is happening all over the West Coast for recruitment and training.


On making a change

  • Plant seed of hope first. Then, provide education and training around teaching.
  • We create the change and the government isn’t going to make a change. It starts at the grassroots level with us.
  • Her biggest challenge: Growing up and finding the right mentors. She didn’t feel like she had a lot of people to ask the big questions. Now, she gets to make a change for others and be the mentor for others.


On Education

  • Charter schools don’t work well with traditional school districts. We can all work together and bridge the gap.
  • The real question is how to educate our communities about the impact of school system and what our educators need.


On growing up with Immigrant parents

  • Bounced around a lot in Inglewood. Her parents separated when she was young and she was raised by her Mom.
  • She didn’t think about college because of where she was raised. She appreciated the teachers she had and one of her teachers kept asking her what college she would go to. At that point, she started thinking that college would get her places.
  • Growing up in Inglewood she was the “Token white kid” because of her lighter skin. This was a challenge because of the micro-aggressions she faced.


On the Obama campaign

  • This was the hardest and challenging job she ever had. She helped manage a campaign office and worked every day.
  • Learning the importance of time and how our time is valued! How many people can you contact in an hour? Quick lunch breaks were key to make a bigger impact.
  • So many doors were opened before, during, and after that job. Posting on social media about politics helped build her brand and land this job!


On creating good habits

  • One big goal: Wake up early so you are set up for success by 8 am!
  • Schedule your hours in advance and prioritize your tasks.
  • Trust your gut!
  • Make time for yourself and meditate.
  • Reach out to the right people and create a core group of mentors. Find someone who has the job you want and learn from them.



Stephanie Castellanos and Valentine Ewudo


Key Quotes

On charter vs. public schools:

“We all want the same thing at the end of the day, BETTER schools.”

On being a Latina woman

“Embrace your roots and be who you are”

Life tips:

“Setting yourself up for your life – starts with your job.”

“I don’t believe in work/life balance. For me it is life/work balance”


Thanks for Listening!

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Connect with Stephanie on Instagram | Twitter | Website




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