Lena Morán is a native of Mexico City, Mexico. She moved to Santa Barbara, California at the age of six, where she grew up. She went on to graduate from AUSB’s MA in Education, Leadership & Social Justice program. At present, Lena is the Director of Programming and Language Justice at Just Communities Central Coast, a company dedicated to advancing social justice in communities.
While the social justice advocate graduated with her MAE in 2016, the road was anything but typical. Originally, Morán’s mother was the only one enrolled at Antioch University. As an English language learner, her mother would frequently ask Lena to edit and brainstorm.
Lena had thought about continuing her education but hadn’t found an opportunity. After getting a feel for the coursework, Lena finally made the leap and dove into the Liberal Studies program at Antioch University Santa Barbara.
“We ended up at the same commencement for our bachelor’s programs. I can’t say that I’m a first-generation grad because she walked across the stage first. I think we broke the record for the closest in time!” says Lena.
As Lena continued studying at Antioch, she found that she resonated with the core principles, which include a critical, practice for social justice. Her studies ignited a deep passion for such subjects. She went on to formulate a thesis, which focuses on an evaluation system of interpretation and translation services in school districts.
When asked about it, she breathes deeply, saying, “My thesis is an ongoing process. It took a year and a half to write, and now it’s my business. It’s already enhanced our company a lot! We are now able to use it as a service offering at my organization.”
While Lena’s thesis focused on education, her specialty is in interpretation and translation in school systems (districts). She examines both programs and curriculums in school districts to ensure they connect across the board while also monitoring their language access. If the entity has such programs in place, she looks to improve them. If they don’t, she provides their leaders with the tools to start some.
Overall, the organization offers a diversified set of programs to strengthen surrounding communities. They currently work in non-profit, government, education and social service sectors. The team believes that every community should be a place of opportunity; not a place of limitations.
“At my current company, we do everything from providing and designing training for interpreters and translators to training and providing consultations for language coordinators. I reach out to districts for evaluations and help them improve. My thesis has expanded because we are doing the work. Because I did the research, I was able to turn it into a service,” says Lena.
Lena has come a long way from her original office manager position. Thanks to the flexibility of Just Communities Central Coast, she was able to complete her MAE on the job. Once she graduated, she was promoted to the position of Program coordinator. At present, Lena is the Director of Programming and Language Justice, a role specifically designed for her.
With an eye for the bigger picture, Lena now oversees more than the execution of her programs.
So, what’s next for Lena? With more hard work, she hopes to one day be the Associate Director of Programs. From there, she will likely move onto executive roles.
“It’s been quite the experience to immerse myself in social justice; it’s not an easy job by any means. To be a lifelong learner and have that practice for social justice, I think it’s a unique position to be in. All and all, it is a job that is wonderful and rewarding,” she says.
Those interested in working with Just Communities Central Coast can apply for an internship program, which is available to high school and college youth. There’s also room for donations to keep the work going! Getting part of the conversation when it comes to race, sexism, classism can also be a great way to get started.
You may reach out to Lena at [email protected].