Rios headshot

Emerson Fellow

Leslie Rios

27th Class, 2020-2021

Born in Wisconsin and raised in Hidalgo, Texas, Leslie graduated from St. Edward’s University with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a minor in Economics, becoming a Presidential Award Receipt and a McNair Scholar in the process. Leslie first became interested in food justice when she took a course surrounding where our food comes from, and through the course, traveled to Costa Rica to learn about organic farming and unfair farm-worker practices. During her time at St. Edward’s, Leslie also served as Student Government President and interned at the Texas Capitol during the 86th Legislative Session as a policy aide, where she became interested in creating equitable policy change. Leslie has also participated in three service break experiences in the U.S and abroad, which reaffirmed her passion for social justice and quickly became interested in issues revolving around poverty.

Field placement: Houston Food Bank

Houston, Texas

Leslie completed her field work at the Houston Food Bank, where she conducted an equity organizational assessment to increase understanding of specific areas of growth that can help HFB to become more consistent and aligned with their commitment to a diverse, inclusive, and more equitable workplace. She adapted the Washington Race Equity & Justice Initiative’s Organizational Assessment to measure Houston Food Bank’s efforts and commitment to racial equity work in the following areas: commitment, organizational culture, recruiting, hiring & retention of a diverse workforce, partnership to communities of color, and application of an anti-racist lens. Additionally, Leslie assisted the Advocacy Department with other projects like monthly Equity Work Group meetings, a pilot which strives to make the Houston Food Bank a better, more equitable place for everyone.

Policy placement: Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice

Leslie worked with the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice, an action research center that redefines what it means to be a student-ready college with a national movement centering #RealCollege students’ basic needs. She supported the Policy and Advocacy team by completing a national scan of the student rules in public benefit programs to explore ways states can reduce eligibility restrictions to support student success. The findings of the research highlight significant barriers for students and draw attention to necessary policy changes in SNAP, TANF, and the CCDF.

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