David Baptista

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David Baptista

Funded with support from the Jerome L. Greene Foundation
2018 Global Fellow
Founder of Latin American Leadership Academy with Diego Ontaneda Benavides

David Baptista 2018 Global Fellow

Bold Idea 

Promote sustainable economic development and strengthen democratic governance in Latin America by training and connecting a new generation of principled and socially innovative leaders.


David Baptista with LALA students at Comuna 13, once the most dangerous neighborhood and today an exemplar of transformational urban planning and community leadership. Credit: Photo courtesy of Claudia Olcese.

Latin American Leadership Academy (LALA) seeks to promote sustainable economic development and strengthen democratic governance in Latin America by developing a new generation of leaders. LALA creates international and socioeconomically diverse cohorts of the most promising graduating high school students who have demonstrated an unshakeable commitment to social change. These students then attend LALA's eighteen-month program blending entrepreneurial leadership, a liberal arts education, and social and emotional learning. The program also connects them to mentors, resources, and opportunities. LALA envisions a diverse continental ecosystem that collaborates across differences to bring shared prosperity to Latin America.


David Baptista is co-founder and learning leader of Latin American Leadership Academy (LALA). David's passion is helping students develop the essential dispositions, skills, habits, and values that support lifelong learning and wellness. Over the past fifteen years, he has taught STEAM, philosophy, history, and theater at the International School of Curitiba; trained teachers and consulted for schools across Brazil; led retreats for the Posse Foundation; developed innovative social and emotional learning (SEL) curricula; and helped build assessment tools at Lectica. When he met Diego Ontaneda Benavides and heard about LALA, he saw the potential this institution held to transform educational practice for an entire continent. After two pilot programs in 2017, they founded LALA together in 2018. David triple-majored in philosophy, physics, and history from Tufts University, with honors in each major.

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