Eight Years of Impact: Araceli Lopez-Andrade’s Commitment to Advancing Race, Equity, and Inclusion

LIFT-LA Deputy Director Araceli Lopez-Andrade reflects on her eight years at LIFT-LA and her leadership of LIFT’s Race, Equity and Inclusion Committee as it strives to making a profound impact on the lives of LIFT families.

As an immigrant from Mexico City, I know firsthand what living in poverty feels like. I was raised to hope and dream, to be grateful to those that have supported us, to pay it forward, and to do all I can to make it better for others. These family and cultural values are no different from those our families we support at LIFT live by too. What attracted me and has kept me at LIFT for the past eight years is the innate belief that given a helping hand, local resources and education, parents can make the best-informed decision for their children. Something I wish my parents had when I was a child.  

After 25 years of social work practice and eight years of working with families and young children at LIFT, I am still inspired by our mission and values that resonate with my own. When I think of the most rewarding aspects of our work it is our cash + coaching model. Our investment in families that come to us because they want the same things all parents want -a better life. I am motivated by their desire to provide a safe environment where their children can sleep, live, play and thrive. My proudest moments are witnessing children running through our office demonstrating their safety and comfort, and mothers sharing with me how thankful they were for the support and kindness our coaches provided them.  Even today, I am amazed by how we listen to members and adjust our service delivery to meet their needs. 

One of the most rewarding aspects of my work at LIFT is as the Race, Equity & Inclusion (REI) Advisor where I help develop, guide, monitor and implement activities that will meet the organization’s REI goals. Over the last three years, I’ve had the privilege of leading LIFT’s REI Advisory Committee. At the start of our REI journey, a group of LIFT staff members and two National Board Members were accepted into the Kresge Foundation’s Fostering Urban Equitable Leadership (FUEL) Program, marking a pivotal moment where LIFT made a commitment to centering race, equity, and inclusion in all areas of our work.  Called Accountability with Love,  this commitment acknowledges that our goal to break the cycle of generational poverty can only happen if we address the root causes of structural racism. This evolution was over a decade in the making and the formation of the REI committee was a key component in ensuring we implemented our learnings and continued to grow.  

Today, the REI committee has nine members that represent all our regions and departmental teams. We work together as an advisory role to ensure that our organizational actions, policies, and decisions fully align with LIFT values, and we remain steadfast in examining all the places where we are missing the mark.  In 2023, we were awarded the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Healthy Children & Families Deep Dive TA grant with The Hub Strategists. This 18-month technical assistance support has helped us narrow our priority areas, create strategic and realistic goals that will be measurable. In our efforts, we remain committed to engage with our boards while simultaneously learning more about how to identify the white dominant cultural practices that are entrenched in today’s work environment, practices that prevent us from advancing our work to root out systematic racism and inequity.  We aim to create an environment where inclusion and a sense of belonging become the norm, where diversity is embraced, and equity is the result of all we do. 

Going forward, I am excited for the ways in which we are moving the needle in the areas of coaching services, policy & advocacy, member voice and how all this work will continually be   centered in race, equity, and inclusion. I am looking forward to how we will continue to disrupt broken systems, how we interrogate the methods in which we serve people of color and how we can train other industries with our proven cash + coaching model. To date, my passion is fueled by my deep commitment to the families we serve and ensuring that my daughters’ children do not experience poverty or live in fear simply because of their gender, last name, or color of their skin. I LIFT because I must.