SRL Senior Director Departs for PBS Digital Studios; Writes Farewell Message

On May 10, 2022—and after 5 years at SRL—senior director Elis Estrada departed the organization and will head operations at PBS Digital Studios. Read her farewell message below.
***
Dear friends,

This is  probably my last note to you, the amazing SRL educator community. It still doesn’t feel quite real. I remember when Leah asked me to write my very first note to you all in 2017. It was exciting but also terrifying being the new kid. And wow, we’ve gone through SO much together since then. Learning, thriving and navigating the endless challenges we face as educators, students and journalists with all of you for the last five years has been extraordinary.

To me, there’s no better place to be than at the helm of an organization that connects education with the most fundamental pillars of our democracy – journalism and storytelling. Working with teenagers has shown me what it truly means to create content that engages, inspires, and informs, and I’m taking those insights and lessons with me to PBS Digital Studios. Even though my journey as senior director at SRL is ending, I’ll never stop championing this essential work. Thank you for pushing me to understand why it really matters to help students make real-world connections and showing me grace as I learned the myriad of differences, inequities, and struggles we need to consider when students’ lives are at the center of everything we do.

There are thousands of moments I’ve been reflecting on the past few weeks, and it’d be impossible to share them all here and mention every single person who has profoundly made a difference in my life. Please know that you really have (as tears swell in my eyes). One of the greatest privileges I had at SRL was the opportunity to travel and visit so many of your schools (pre-pandemic!) to learn about the differences that highlight why we need to tell your students’ stories and embrace the commonalities that make it easy to feel like we’re one big family. It’s true, this community is special. 

To the SRL Team, you have no idea how much you’ve taught me. Every day, I am humbled to work with incredibly talented individuals who reaffirm what a healthy and successful organization can look like when diverse ideas are valued, and passionate individuals are given a voice and space to be their authentic selves. I feel an immense sense of gratitude for your total commitment to SRL’s mission and the hard work you put in every single day.

To Leah, I don’t know what you saw in me, but thank you for giving me a shot. We wouldn’t be here without you, and your vision, courage and determination that makes SRL a reality is awe-inspiring. I joked with Leah once that she’s the [insert any huge tech or media founder] of public media. Seriously though, the innovation and disruption you’ve spearheaded in the last 12 years is just the beginning.

I’m a visual person, so I have to end by showing my thanks and appreciation through a few photo memories from over the years with all of you. These are just a tiny fraction of the hundreds of photos I have! Yes, I probably spent too much time scrolling through my iPhone camera roll, but it was totally worth it. I’m so lucky to have been a part of this tribe and I can’t wait to see the amazing things you’re going to do in the future.

Love,

Your #1 cheerleader <3

September 2021 in Washington, D.C. The first in-person retreat the SRL team had since 2020.

The SRL team after our Dem debate watch party at LMU in CA with our Southern California Labs in 2019

The last in-person academy in Washington DC in 2019

My first teacher workshop in 2017 at WETA.

Either resting or in the middle of production during an activity at the 2019 teacher workshop

Conference fun with PBS Wisconsin and amazing Wisconsin SRL Connected Educators in 2017

Hanging out at WNET with SRL Gwen Ifill Fellow Sophie Sabin in 2017

Hanging out with teachers and students at Montana PBS in 2018

Representing SRL with Austin-area schools at SXSWEDU in 2019

Having a blast with students and teachers in Michigan

Celebrating with students after being on the main stage at the NETA conference in 2020