Meet SESEC’s Incoming Executive Director, Liz Huizar

Can you share a bit about your background? Where did you grow up and what brought you to Seattle?

I am the daughter of Mexican immigrants, who sacrificed to provide opportunities for my brother and I. I grew up in Southern California. My parents bought their first home when I was 10 years old and I distinctly remember the excitement of having a yard that felt as big as a soccer field. All through my life, my parents instilled the value of hard work and demonstrated that knowledge isn’t just about what you learn in the classroom but the challenges you overcome. My parents are still the example to follow and every accomplishment I’m able to reach is just as much theirs.

When I was younger, I always dreamed of living elsewhere. Though I love my hometown, I aspired to see new places, travel and experience the excitement of new environments. I slowly moved up the West Coast. First in San Diego where I earned a B.A. from San Diego State University, next San Jose where I attend San Jose State University to earn a Master’s in Mexican American Studies and finally in Seattle! My husband was living here, completing an apprenticeship as a Union Carpenter so I can confirm love drove the move here. In the early months, I promised I would return to California, however I can now say the trees and the Puget Sound have won me over. 

Your career has been centered around education and youth development. Why has that been an important focus for you?

There are so many important educators who made a difference in my life. Educators who saw what I couldn’t see. I remember in high school, teachers supporting our college application process. As a first generation prospective student, the process seemed overwhelming, yet I remember our AVID teacher providing personalized support.

The same happened during my undergraduate career, my cherished professor, Dr. Isidro Ortiz, created a capstone class for myself and two other peers. In that class, he provided in depth exploration of education through the framework of Chican@ Studies. Dr. Ortiz invited us to his home and gave us the affirmation that we could pursue graduate studies. It was his encouragement that fueled my next step. 

In graduate school, I met other Chicanx professors who offered the same care and encouragement. It was the small things, like my professor Dr. Gregorio Mora bringing us pan dulce (Mexican sweet bread) every session, which made such huge impacts. The people in the field of education and youth development are the reason I am here today. 

Being able to offer the same support to the next generation of scholars is my area of passion. My focus is to create generational impact with the intention of positively impacting the community’s educational journey. Just like so many influenced my path, I hope to continue shaping educational structures. 

You have participated in SESEC programs. Which one(s), and what did you take from that experience?

In the Fall of 2020, I participated in SESEC’s Advocacy and Policy Cohort. I had just stepped into my position as a program manager and the cohort became a space for me to learn as my responsibilities increased. Attending the meetings always felt like being enrolled in a college course. The first goal of the cohort was to learn the ins and outs around policy in the educational context. Not only did I learn from the course content, I walked away with a greater understanding of the needs in Seattle and just how structures worked. I remember connecting my academic knowledge with the cohort content and things finally beginning to click. I also had  an opportunity to network with other professionals, parents and like minded colleagues.

In 2021, we had to organize parents of my previous programs to advocate for funding to sustain program impact. I connected with SESEC’s executive director who provided me with a presentation that allowed me to organize our families to give digital testimonies. Their collective voices were heard and part of the funding they advocated for was reinstated. Participation in the cohort not only gave me the knowledge but the resources to bring into the community to create real change. 

What excites you about working with SESEC?

SESEC has supported my career development. I firmly believe that we must pay forward the opportunities given to us and I am excited to collaborate for the purpose of continuing impact. The mission of SESEC aligns with my core values. I’m often reminded of the phrase, “love what you do, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I hope to continue growing, overcoming challenges and loving what I do at SESEC. I am also excited to continue working alongside passionate individuals. Challenging educational structure is collective work and I know with the team and the coalition members together we’re going to move mountains!

This will also be my first executive director role! As a first generation college graduate, to have reached this accomplishment is a major milestone! I am excited to bring my passion, attention to detail and above all ‘GANAS’ to SESEC.

What opportunities do you envision for SESEC and SE Seattle schools over the next two to three years?

Since accepting my new role at SESEC, I started an ideas journal. I remember one of my professors validating my pragmatic, solution-oriented outlook, thus the ideas journal is so “Liz.” It is here where I will continue to add what I hear from coalition members, my new amazing staff and the coalition members I will soon get to collaborate with. I cannot not say concretely what the next two-three years will entail BUT what I can say is I plan to give it my all. To center our young people at the forefront and strive towards creating long term change. I hope to listen and inspire collective work. To leverage culture as a tool for healing and building collectivism throughout King County. At the same time, my goal will be to hold current institutions to a higher standard and advocate for changes that center all members of our community