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Genny Castillo at a shower
January 16, 2024

Living Berry's Purpose: Alum Improves Communities Where She Lives, Works and Serves

In 2023, Genny Castillo was listed in Georgia Trend’s 40 under 40 — recognized as a leader with experience in policy, community outreach and administration. Currently, she’s the regional director of the Southern Economic Advancement Project, facilitating its local programming to improve economic security and access to health care. Previously the senior advisor to Stacey Abrams’ gubernatorial campaign, Castillo led one of the most engaged Latinx constituency programs nationwide, earning recognition as one of the top five Latinas reshaping U.S. politics in 2020.

Genny was a sociology and anthropology major, with a core in sociology. Here she shares Berry’s significant influence on her life choices while touting the value of Berry’s vast network: "I tell people Berry has a small student body, but that student body becomes an alum network with generous reach.”

Castillo adds, “From day one, Berry gave me the space to be an advocate. I was in the minority and felt different, but there was always space to be myself. People call Berry a bubble, but that does not mean there isn't room for different voices.”

At Berry, Castillo made it her mission to make all students feel welcome, creating the student organization Orgullo Club – Pride in Hispanic Culture, joining the SGA, acting as the head student orientation leader, accepting a service-based scholarship and working in the dean of students’ office. Heading to the University of Chicago after graduation, she found herself well prepared academically but more prepared culturally and socially than her peers.

“Berry taught me to build community, instilling in us the head, heart and hands idea that we have the knowledge and passion to improve the communities where we live, work and serve,” Castillo says.

This motto led her to create an internship program when she served on the staff of the Georgia House Democratic Caucus. Recalling a need for connection in her internship experiences, she structured it as a cohort model, eventually attracting applicants from all over the world.

This mindset also led to significant policy work. Coordinating with then House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, she translated bill HB87 into Spanish. At the time, it included provisions allowing uniformed officers to request citizenship papers, detain individuals and facilitate deportation. She also spent four years identifying services needed for grandparents and other caregivers in the community who assume responsibility for raising another relative’s child. Her effort led to Abrams authoring and passing the Kinship Navigator Program.

Castillo says, “As I translated HB87, I realized how much readers needed to trust a translator. A similar trust was required to foster connections with grandparents and other kin in the community. Moments like these fueled my desire to work in policy and impact systematic change.”

Reflecting on what Berry means to her, Castillo says, “Every time I gave a tour of the state capitol, I proudly stopped groups outside the house chamber at Martha Berry’s portrait and shared her legacy — one that has greatly affected my life. I’m proud of Berry, the community it’s creating today and the Orgullo legacy."

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