David Castro is a Latino Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Haverford College, which he attended through a minority (Reid) scholarship. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1986, Castro worked as a civil litigation attorney at the law firm of Pepper, Hamilton, & Scheetz, where he specialized in complex litigation and civil racketeering cases. In 1991, he joined the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, where he assisted District Attorney Lynne Abraham in creating the Public Nuisance Task Force, the first inter-agency enforcement program of its kind targeting crack houses and nuisance liquor establishments. Castro served as the first Chief of the Task Force under District Attorney Abraham. During this time frame, Castro also served as President of the 5,000-member Young Lawyer’s Division of the Philadelphia Bar Association, where he coordinated the implementation of more than fifty volunteer programs serving the public and the bar. In 1995, he joined the Ridge Administration as the Director of the State’s Weed and Seed Program helping challenged communities combat crime and poverty by combining law enforcement and community development strategies in targeted, high crime communities.
Castro has special expertise in the field of leadership education and program development and evaluation. In 1993, he was awarded a Fellowship in the Kellogg National Leadership Program; a three-year leadership program awarded each year to a group of young leaders working across the country to make a difference in their respective communities. Castro devoted his Fellowship to the study of community leadership development and its relation to improving community quality of life. Based upon his work in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and through the Kellogg Fellowship, Castro and District Attorney Abraham founded I-LEAD, Inc. in 1995. In January 1999, Castro left the Weed and Seed Program to develop the I-LEAD organization on a full-time basis while serving as the General Counsel and National Litigation Director for the Center for Community Interest (CCI).
Castro is the architect of I-LEAD’s leadership development curriculum synthesizing leadership skills and theories on the interpersonal and system levels with instruction regarding the public (government) and private (marketplace) sectors to equip community members as savvy and effective change agents. In 2002, in recognition of his work on behalf Pennsylvania communities, he was awarded an Eisenhower Fellowship. In 2005, at the behest of trainees and in partnership with Harcum College, Castro translated the leadership development curriculum into a full Associate’s Degree program accredited by Middle States and initiated the community-based delivery of higher education for working adults through what is now the ACE (Achieving College Education) Program. Beginning with an initial cohort of twenty students at one community based organization, now 350 working adults are earning Associate’s Degrees at twelve community partner locations across southeastern Pennsylvania. In 2009, Castro was named an Ashoka Fellow by the Ashoka Global Funds for Social Change, a global association of the world’s leading and effective social entrepreneurs, for the development, successful implementation, and scalability of the ACE College program’s sustainable business model to address the educational and leadership deficit in challenged communities. A teacher at heart, Castro is frequently consulted as a speaker, serving on several panel discussions and contributing regularly to blogs via the Ashoka network and the Philadelphia Social Innovations Journal.