Sometimes, we connect with people, and they end up helping us grow in the most unimaginable ways possible. For me, Eric DeSobe, the former Chapter Director of the Los Angeles Chapter of the New Leaders Council is one such person. Eric DeSobe currently works Director of Talent at Great Public Schools Now. In his current role, he creates and manages initiatives that improve LA schools’ ability to recruit talented, diverse teachers and leaders as well as projects that retain them. Prior to this role, he worked at KIPP LA Schools and taught 4th grade in Compton.

Eric was a 2010 New Leaders Council Fellow in the Los Angeles Chapter. He was attracted to NLC because of its diversity of approaches to progressive issues. Through his NLC Institute experience and beyond, he learned about progressive thought and reform in housing issues, mobility issues, food justice issues, prison abolition issues and more. After he became an alumnus following his fellowship experience, DeSobe served as the NLC LA Chapter Director since 2011, including four stints as the co-director of the NLC Institute. Originally from Houston, Eric has a deep passion for progressive rock music, Smoothie King, and being the host of The Zag,  an NLC LA podcast featuring alums locally and beyond.

Eric DeSobe is how I made my foray into the podcasting world as something more than a curious listener. He had opened up his well-established podcast, The Zag, to new NLC Alumni members, and especially to presenters at the National Convention. By this point, I had wanted to do my own podcast for years, but I had not made any plans to manifest it. Everything I had read about it told me it was a massive beast to tackle. So, when Eric sent out an open invitation, I jumped on it, partly to promote my then upcoming Spark! Talk, but also to see what this podcast beast is all about, from the production and participation end of things.

Long story short, three short months after I recorded my episode with Eric, and just over a month after I met him in person at the National Convention, I launched my podcast, LEGupward Inclusion Spotlight: Making the Invisible Visible, under his guidance and unofficial mentorship. He helped me with all the “whats and hows” that I needed to figure out. And, he gave me the incredible gift of being my first official guest speaker.

The reason I reached out to Eric and really wanted to highlight him is that he is a progressive leader who follows up on his words with his actions. In my experience, there are so many people who do a brilliant job of saying all the right things, yet, aren’t able to manage their time and consideration well when it comes to taking actions toward these thoughts. But, when Eric says he is willing to help someone out, you can rest assured that he is going to help you in the ways that you need help. And, he is as discerning and analytical as he is helpful.

From Eric’s vantage point, he sees the dominance of the White culture and White privilege to be an ongoing barrier toward inclusion. He believes that we can do better with making the invisible visible by making school success data more relevant and meaningful to students and families so that they have more power to make better decisions towards their futures. To him, the idea of inclusion is, “that all people, regardless of their abilities, disabilities, or health care needs, have the right to: be respected and appreciated as valuable members of their communities.”

In our podcast episode, Eric and I had a great conversation about progressive reform in education among other things. One of the most insightful parts of that conversation was the regional and geographical quirks and restrictions that exert unique pressures on educational institutions. Eric’s nuanced analysis of the disparities in education in California, because of the impact of current rhetoric of immigration and the current population demographics of Southern California was a unique point that I don’t hear too often outside of my progressive networks. It brought to stark clarity, the contrast between the actual interconnectedness of all of our social institutions, and the way they have all been operationalized to become disconnected silos. But this is not the only gem in the episode. You can find the full episode and conversation here.

I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did having it!