Joél-Léhi Organista believes in the power of community. He identifies as a member of multiple communities. He says, "I'm Mexican-American. I'm an immigrant. I'm an English language learner. I'm Latino. I grew up low income." He was born and raised in Mexico, and when he immigrated to Utah he didn't speak English. His background aligns with many of the factors that put students "at-risk" in education. Joél-Léhi knows that these identities ground him, all of them carrying equal weight, defining who he is, and motivating him to improve the world we live in.
He is heavily influenced by his family, and shares his gratitude for their support. But, he also recognizes the importance of "the family you choose." He has been a part of the Education for Liberation Network for over 10 years, as is now the board president. You can feel the impact this organization had on him as he states that the accomplished group that makes up the network "raised him" from the time that he joined at age 16.
Another identity that influences him is "millenial." He shares that during his lifetime, he has seen the rapid growth of technology. He's always been interested in tech and this growth that he's seen. He also has a background in teaching. Combining these interests with his other identities allowed him to see specific needs in EdTech. He makes the observation that "There are problems that we see in our field because of our background that no one else solves." Organista's background helped him to see the lack of equity in education, especially in STEM.
Joél-Léhi had the background and knowledge needed to make valuable contributions in Ed-Tech, but initially he lacked confidence. He, like many others, struggled with imposter syndrome. He shares his feelings of inadequacy surrounding not knowing how to code, but shows that working in technology is about more than just programming. His own insecurities were compounded by the words of others telling him that he wasn't capable. When asked what helped him overcome these obstacles, he shared that validation from others played a key role, showing again the value he places on relationships and community.
Organista tried working in more traditional roles, but soon discovered that he was passionate about working to help “those that are minoritized.” His experiences serving on the board of organizations like the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the largest and oldest Latino civil rights organization, pushed him to create more diversity in the workplace and especially in tech.
He realized that he had a duty to share his skills and knowledge, saying "You can only lead in the communities you belong to. You have a responsibility to lead in those communities." And while Joél-Léhi belongs to many communities, his main focus when it comes to increasing equity in technology is Latinx. He wants Latinx students to understand that working in tech opens a path to impacting your community, and that no matter where your interests and abilities lie, there is a place for you in the tech workforce if you want it.
He talks about the preconceived notions we have of what a scientist or developer looks like and he invites us to shift that narrative, allowing students of all genders and ethnic backgrounds to see themselves in these roles. Joél-Léhi dealt with self-doubt about his ability to have a meaningful role in tech, but he pushed through and found success. Ultimately, he wants everyone, especially those from his communities, to know that this is a possibility for them too.