Lesly Gonzalez-Barragan, a junior at the College of Saint Benedict, is a student leader who has used her deep passion for authentic social engagement in Latinx Ministry and Catholic social justice work. In internships for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, she thoughtfully worked to make systemic change in the ways society and the Catholic Church engage with Latinx youth. In this way, she seeks to address root causes of inequity disadvantaging Latinx populations in America. Lesly also works to inspire and engage others in civic engagement. As the Academic Coordinator in the Office of Experiential Learning and Community Engagement, she has facilitated a connection between 75 student volunteers and various community organizations. Through this work, she contributed to a network of committed students making a difference at sites throughout the local and regional community.
Recognizing myself as a changemaker is hard to do when I feel as though there is still so much work to be done. I have been searching for ways to make a systematic change on how we engage as a society and through the Catholic church with Latino youth. As a young Latina member of the Catholic church in the United States, I know that Latino youth have been overlooked both in society and in the church. I found that providing ministry to Latino youth opened doors of opportunity that went well beyond the pews and had the possibility to break through societies stereotypes, and the stereotypes that we Latino youth hold of ourselves. As I get older, and learn more about my reach and restrains, I know that I can in fact make the world a better place. My world consists of my faith, young people, and the marginalized communities of underrepresented people. I know that I can make that world a better place. For the future generations of Americans that also embrace the Latino culture.