Shades of Change - Everyday Democracy's blog

Everyone Can Be a Change Leader

Jamil Ragland
Jamil Ragland
March 10, 2021

Rachel Santos wants to help make powerful people. No, she is not a villain perfecting a super soldier serum. She is a high school history teacher who knows that education and equity are the keys to helping individuals improve their communities.

“There’s a lot of powerful people in Attleboro,” she told me, the district where she works. “I live in Boston, so it’s been wonderful to see how other communities come together to solve their problems.”

So it was a natural fit for Rachel to get involved with Attleboro Be Heard, a coalition between community members, educators and students to increase equity in their schools. Through her work with ABH, Rachel met Everyday Democracy’s own Richard Frieder and began working with the organization.

Rachel is not making powerful people herself, but instead leading others to see and grow their own power. It is a lesson that she learned while attending Everyday Democracy’s Institute for Community Change Leaders (ICCL).

"The ICCL helped me to take hold of my own power, potential and voice. I honed my leadership skills and was able to experience what authentic community collaboration looks and feels like.”

As part of the process, Rachel developed her own project during the ICCL cohort. She designed several community conversations which she brought back to her school community. The conversations centered around the critical conversations such as understanding race, the history of the suburbs, and the representation of African Americans in the media, among other topics.

“What’s been great is that we’ve managed to attract new participants to each of our community conversations so far,” she said. “We’ve had involvement from local officials, civic leaders and everyday people who want to make Attleboro a more equitable community.”

Her work continues to this day. Later this month, Rachel will help to lead a conversation about the racial equity in schools which centers on the demographics of the building. She notes that the school’s staff is predominately white, while the students themselves are people of color.

“It’s a national problem, but we need to start finding solutions locally,” she explained. The district’s superintendent, assistant superintendent and director of human resources will join the conversation with parents and students to find community-based solutions to attracting more teachers of color.

Rachel’s commitment goes far beyond her years. At just 25 years young, she represents the next generation of civic engagement: people who are as active in their own lives as they are in the fight for racial equity. She hikes, travels, and dances with a company in Massachusetts, and brings that same energy and vigor to her work.

“I believe in the power of the people to come together, fill the void and make change. Everyone can be a change leader.”




Dialogue to Change

Our ultimate goal is to create positive community change that includes everyone, and our tools, advice, and resources foster that kind of change. Whether you’re grappling with a divisive community issue, or simply want to include residents’ voices in city government, Everyday Democracy's Dialogue to Change process, using a racial equity lens, can help.