By Isidra Mencos
If Elizabeth Parrott had a magic wand, she would send all Latino youth to live abroad for a little while, because this experience changed the way she saw herself and what she thought she could achieve. Born and raised in California, the daughter of Mexican immigrant parents from humble beginnings—her dad was a gardener and her mom cleaned houses—she grew up understanding how access to great jobs and educational opportunity can impact your future.
With her oldest sister and parents’ support, the income from two jobs, and a few grants along the way, she was able to enroll in undergraduate studies at UCLA, majoring in International Relations and Economics. She decided to make a bold move and packed her bags for London to attend the London School of Economics and Political Science. It was in London that for first time in her life, when she mentioned her Mexican background, people were genuinely interested. “They were very interested in our food, our culture, and were wowed that I spoke another language and excited to learn more,” explains Elizabeth. “I realized that perhaps I had set limits on myself, based on the way society saw me in California. Now I knew that it was my right to be treated like all other young people with big ambitions.”
Elizabeth went on to have a successful career in London, where she also got married and had two kids. After 16 years living in England, she returned home to California as Director of Evalueserve, a global firm specialized in research and data analytics for financial services clients that has offices in London and San Francisco. “Going to the UK allowed me to leave some negative experiences behind, but I also left my community behind,” says Elizabeth. “I had a big hole that I needed to fill. I wanted to speak Spanish, eat our food, talk with other people who shared my experience of having immigrant parents. I wanted to raise my children in this society.”
Back in the US, Elizabeth felt a need to give back to the Latino community immediately. That’s why she joined the Latino Community Foundation’s (LCF) Latina Giving Circle of San Francisco, a philanthropic community that inspires Latino donors to get involved and then connects them to Latino non-profits and to the broader political arena. This year, Elizabeth was part of LCF’s Latino Equity Summit in the state’s capitol, where she participated in meetings with Latino legislative leaders and their staff. These experiences helped to open Elizabeth’s eyes to how important local issues and local leadership really are. “When I was much younger I was a political news junkie, but I tended to think at a high level: foreign policy, the direction of the Supreme Court, the national elections,” explains Elizabeth. “Today it’s more about the local issues that affect our schools, parks and the economic progress of our communities. It’s also about leadership, how can we get more Latinos at the decision-making table?”
The Latino Community Foundation campaign Yo Voy a Votar ¿Y Tú?, which aims to register 10,000 new Latino voters, resonates very deeply with Elizabeth. “Regardless of who wins or loses, what I hope comes out from the voter registration drives is that the Latino vote will be measured and will be recognized so that politicians will walk away with the sense that this is a community that needs to be consulted and supported, and that they need to work for us,” she states. “There’s going to be a lot of value coming out of registering Latino voters.”