2024 National Voices Fellow
Leslie Colwell
Partner, Policy at Transcend

Leslie believes deeply that community-driven policy change is a critical lever for education transformation. She currently serves as the first Director of Policy at Transcend, where she leads the organization’s efforts to elevate the voices and insights of school communities directly to policy leaders so that policy can better support effective and enduring innovation in schools.

Before joining Transcend in 2023, Leslie spent almost a decade leading policy and advocacy work to improve K-12 education and youth outcomes as the Vice President for Youth Success Initiatives at the Colorado Children’s Campaign. In that role, she built and led diverse coalitions that passed successful legislative initiatives to overhaul the state’s inequitable property tax system that funds education, invest more state dollars in student learning needs and fund full-day kindergarten, improve policies and data collection related to school climate and student discipline, and improve access to school lunches.

Leslie began her career teaching sixth-grade math and earth science at Bethune Middle School in Los Angeles, where she also worked on Teach For America’s national alumni team. She returned to her home state of Colorado to work in the state legislature, where she managed coalition work for legislation such as Colorado’s READ Act and developed and directed the first three years of the Urban Leaders Fellowship, a policy fellowship that has since expanded to 10 cities with more than 600 alumni. Leslie also worked at the Keystone Policy Center, where she initiated and facilitated the first education-focused stakeholder engagement work that Keystone had ever done.

Leslie holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from American University and a teaching credential from the University of California – Los Angeles. An active community member, she serves or has served on the boards of several Colorado-based non-profits including the Colorado Latino Leadership, Advocacy & Research Organization (CLLARO) and The Civic Canopy. Leslie lives in Denver with her partner, their daughters Maya and Lucia, and pup Pepper.

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