- Cherry Creek School District No. 5
Cherry Creek Heroes Profile: Leslie Navarro-Walker
The past two months have offered a startling sense of perspective for Leslie Navarro-Walker, the Cherry Creek School District’s Homeless, Title I and Community Engagement Liaison.
Like the rest of the CCSD community, Navarro-Walker has seen profound changes to her own daily routine as a result of the restrictions and quarantines stemming from the COVID crisis. But her own personal experience has come along with in-depth, daily views of those in the district who have been impacted in profound and dramatic ways. Navarro-Walker has been on the front lines of the crisis in CCSD, working with students, parents and families as they face trials ranging from food insecurity to domestic violence to homelessness.
On a recent Wednesday afternoon, Navarro-Walker was en route to buying food for a family facing hard times – the mother was pregnant, and she felt uncomfortable leaving the shelter of her home to buy essentials. Before heading out to secure food for the family, Navarro-Walker insisted that her work in recent weeks has made her see the Cherry Creek School District in an entirely new light.
“This whole experience has opened our eyes to what our families’ needs are,” Navarro-Walker said. “In CCSD, there’s a huge population that’s all over the board socio-economically speaking. It makes me love the district even more; I’ve been able to work with all of these wonderful people of all these backgrounds, cultures and economic situations. It truly takes a village, especially right now, and it’s important that our community’s eyes are open to all of these needs.”
Navarro-Walker isn’t wont to take credit for her recent work in the community – she points instead to the larger, varied district team that includes Assistant Superintendent for Performance Improvement Michael Giles, Director of Food Nutrition Services Kim Kilgore, Chief of Staff Chris Smith, Counseling Coordinator Joi Green, Cherry Creek Schools Foundation Executive Director Jill Henden and countless others who’ve worked hard to ensure that those hit hardest by the crisis have the resources they need to persevere.
Navarro-Walker’s humility aside, her hard work, personal investment and extraordinary kindness haven’t gone unnoticed by her peers. Last week, Navarro-Walker received the Cherry Creek Heroes award, a recognition designed to celebrate those who perform extraordinary actions on behalf of the entire community.
During a virtual meeting with her team members, CCSD Superintendent Dr. Scott Siegfried dropped in to read excerpts from Navarro-Walker’s nomination forms and offer a firsthand note of gratitude for her commitment to the community.
“Leslie has filled countless grocery carts, only to turn around and deliver the food to families who have lost jobs or who do not have the means to go shopping. She has taken trip after trip to homes, hotels, motels and shelters to deliver food, computers and clothes,” Siegfried noted. “She has worked weekends to secure funding to move families, and to ensure that some families did not have to move.”
Navarro-Walker isn’t focused on her own plaudits when she talks about her work. She mentions all the individuals she’s met in the past weeks – the mother and twin boys who had to leave their home due to domestic violence, the family who was living out of their car, the parents and kids who needed assistance to keep their shelter in a hotel room and find food.
“There was a district employee who donated $300 of their stimulus money. With $100 of it, I paid a family’s storage bill,” Navarro-Walker said. “If they lost their storage, that was everything. I made it current so they could start anew.”
As the fallout of the COVID crisis continues, so do these families’ struggles, and Navarro-Walker isn’t interested in taking breaks. She’s been a tireless, mobile presence across the district, working with individuals and families to secure resources from whatever source, whether it be donations from the Cherry Creek Foundation’s Emergency Fund or assistance from the state.
For her, it’s what any good neighbor should do. The Cherry Creek School District community is vast and varied, and Navarro-Walker said she’s inspired by the sense of solidarity that’s emerged from all corners over the past several months. Her recent Cherry Creek Heroes recognition is an afterthought; the community is the priority.
“I want to make sure our families know they can identify their issues with us in a dignified, caring way. These are hard conversations. We are here to help. This is not fun or easy to talk about. I make sure they know they can call or text; whatever is most comfortable,” Navarro-Walker said. “I have a really hard time accepting recognition. There are so many other people who have helped. It’s not just me; it’s a collaborative effort.”
Even so, Leslie Navarro-Walker’s commitment has inspired many to be a part of that collaboration on behalf of the entire Cherry Creek Schools community.
Posted 5/1/20 at 1 PM