LYNNWOOD — She left for college, graduated and came right back to help.
Karla Rios, 22, grew up in Everett. After Cascade High School, she attended Everett Community College and transferred to Washington State University, where she earned a degree in political science.
While at EvCC, she participated in the Latino Leadership Initiative, a program that encourages young people to help one another continue their education. Through that program, she learned about the Latino Educational Training Institute, a Lynnwood-based nonprofit that organizes the annual Latino Expo.
Rios volunteered at last year’s expo. This year, she helped run it. Hundreds of people attended and dozens of volunteers assisted.
The folks from the institute and its youth leadership program gave her support and mentoring that helped her grow, she said.
“When I graduated, the first thing I wanted to do was give back. I want to be a role model for the younger generations and tell them it’s okay to be afraid, it’s okay to be scared,” she said. “You have a group of people here who are willing to listen to you and willing to help you out.”
Running an event as large as the expo was a challenge for her after months of focusing on classes about “policies and laws and cases,” she said.
Now that her summer job is wrapping up, she hopes to work in schools for awhile, maybe as a counselor. After some time off from school, she eventually would like to seek another degree.
Most of the students from the Latino leadership program at EvCC have stayed in touch and pursued higher education, she said.
When she was asked to speak to another group of EvCC students in the program after she graduated, she told them, “It’s important to keep going back to your roots.”
The Latino Educational Training Institute, a nonprofit in Lynnwood, is in need of volunteers, including math tutors and office workers, especially those who are bilingual in Spanish and English. The institute oversees the Latino Leadership Initiative, a program that focuses on young people and higher education. Monetary donations also are accepted. More info: letiwa.org, 425-775-2688.