Leslie Preston, a member of the Class of 1988, has devoted her career to social justice and healthcare for underserved populations.
For her efforts, which began as a high school student and continue to this day, Preston has been selected by the Bowdoin College Board of Trustees to receive a 2016 Common Good Award.
Preston is the Director of Behavioral Health at La Clinica de La Raza, a Community Health Center headquartered in Oakland, California, that provides services at 32 locations and serves more than 100,000 clients annually.
Having joined the organization in 1999, Preston oversees programs that have provided both prevention and treatment services to thousands of children, adolescents, adults, seniors and families dealing with mental illness, addiction and other behavioral health challenges.
Preston, of Berkeley, Calif., began her decades-long commitment to serving those in need in high school as a volunteer, when she taught people with cerebral palsy to swim and trained disabled athletes for the Special Olympics.
A math major at Bowdoin, Preston also studied studio art, earning Sarah and James Bowdoin Scholar honors, and graduating magna cum laude.
She began exploring the possibility of a career designing facilities for those with special needs, but learned that her passion lay less in design and more in working directly with disadvantaged and underserved populations.
After graduating from Bowdoin, Preston worked in the foster care system in New York City in an effort to reunify families. She returned to school years later to earn her master’s degree at Smith College School for Social Work.
After graduating with an MSW, Preston spent a year in Ecuador learning Spanish and then returned to work in Phoenix, Arizona leading a Spanish speaking mobile crisis team and then coordinating the mobile crisis program and a suicide prevention hotline.
Established in 1994 on the occasion of the Bowdoin College Bicentennial, the Common Good Award honors those alumni who have demonstrated an extraordinary, profound and sustained commitment to the common good, in the interest of society, with conspicuous disregard for personal gain in wealth or status.
Common Good Award recipients personify the idea of the common good as set forth by Bowdoin’s first president, Joseph McKeen. In his inaugural address on September 2, 1802, McKeen reminded his audience, “It ought always to be remembered that literary institutions are founded and endowed for the common good and not for the private advantage of those who resort to them for education. It is not that they may be able to pass through life in an easy and reputable manner, but that their mental powers may be cultivated and improved for the benefit of society.”
The Common Good Awards will be presented, along with other awards, Saturday, June 4, 2016, during Reunion Convocation.