Davide Zavala

Tier 2 and 3 SEL Group Interventionist

Like most students who struggled in the school system, but managed to graduate, David has a powerful story. David was born in Mexico City, Mexico. He came to the U.S. and entered the school system with limited English. As a student who came from a starkly different culture, David was challenged with having to learn both the school culture—rules, norms, policies—and academic content—reading, writing and arithmetic. Though David tried to connect with the school culture, he found it difficult to become bicultural at the rate his teachers expected. Eventually, David began to dislike school, disengage from the schooling process, and connect with students who were also disengaged and disconnected. He began to surround himself with youth and young adults who used drugs and demonstrated antisocial and oppositional behaviors. David was kicked out of his high school and sent to Ombudsman, which is an alternative placement for students who are removed from school due to oppositional and defiant behaviors; it is also an alternative option for students who have dropped out of high school.

Despite many obstacles, David graduated from high school in 2007. At the young age of twenty-four, he is currently the owner of a highly successful barbershop in Aurora, IL. David explains, “My life changed in 2010 when I accepted Jesus Christ in my heart. The old, negative behaviors I used to demonstrate, no longer characterize me; I do not have the desire or passion for the things I used to do.” David has dedicated his life to helping others and mentoring youth around the city. He is a mentor to students who struggle academically and shares his story with struggling students to let them know that, if they find hope, they can chart their own future. He contracts with districts as a motivational speaker and has a heart for helping Latino students navigate through the schooling process.

David became involved in youth ministry at Calvary Church, in Naperville, Illinois, and eventually started his own ministry called Ignite. David explains, “My goal is to see change in our community. I believe impacting young people is the way to realize this goal.” David’s latter days are definitely greater than his former. His story speaks to the impact of developing social emotional learning skills and he is a key player at integrating SEL skills with contemporary youth culture.