Luis Islas. Photo credit: Ri Mason Photography


Director of Philanthropy

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Luis Islas embodies a profound legacy rooted in resilience and tenacity. Born in Morgan Hill, California, Luis draws strength from his proud Wixárika and Mexican-American heritage, plus the enduring spirit of his undocumented parents, who hail from the vibrant states of Nayarit and Michoacan, Mexico.

As a trailblazer in his family, Luis set a transformative precedent by becoming the first to pursue higher education. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science, Pre-Law, and History from William Penn University, carving a path of intellectual curiosity. Fueling his thirst for knowledge, Luis further distinguished himself as a graduate assistant, receiving his Master's degree in Business Leadership at William Penn, breaking barriers with tenacity and foresight.

His journey took an altruistic turn when he embarked on life-changing work as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Tsiombe, Madagascar. This poignant experience in humanitarian aid and his own experience as a direct recipient of programs and services growing up homeless became the cornerstone of Luis's unwavering dedication to serving diverse communities through the nonprofit sector. This dedication has led him to our family here at the ACLU of Montana, where the intersections of all of Luis’ work and passions become apparent. Having experienced firsthand the generational trauma that accompanies the criminalization of poverty and communities of color, Luis joins ACLU-MT with a shared belief in the necessity of a long-term restructuring of our criminal legal system. Additionally, Luis was immediately drawn to another one of the ACLU of Montana’s Four Strategic Priorities, Indigenous Justice, inspired by his native people in central Mexico who struggle for rights or recognition - the Wixárika.

Luis's impact has been felt by respective communities across various roles, including his tenure as the Regional Philanthropy Officer of the American Red Cross of Idaho and Montana. His leadership extended to his position as the Director of Philanthropy for One Valley Community Foundation, where he channeled his passion for societal betterment. This passion has led Luis to engage in other leadership capacities outside of the traditional workplace, notably as the State Vice Chair for the Idaho Latino Caucus and as the LatinX Community Liaison for the City of Bozeman; there, he actively facilitated community involvement, channeling voices for Bozeman's Parks, Recreation, and Transportation (PRAT) Plan.

Luis’ contributions have been recognized by many groups. He was heralded as one of Idaho’s Rising Leaders by the Idaho Nonprofit Center in 2020 and honored as an Idaho Accomplished 40 under 40 recipient in 2022, a distinction celebrating forward-thinking individuals shaping the landscape of industry, government, and the nonprofit sphere. In 2023, Luis was lauded as one of Southwest Montana's 20 Under 40, a testament to his relentless dedication to enhancing community well-being. His commitment to civic leadership is further exemplified through his participation in Park County's Leadership 49 program and his integral roles as a board member at the Park County Environmental Council (PCEC), a Fundraising Committee Member at Bienvenidos, and the Vice President of the board of Aiding Opportunities in Madagascar (AOM).

Distinguished as one of TEDxMSU's inaugural speakers in 2022, Luis captivated audiences with his compelling narrative on "A Story of Perseverance and the Power of Opportunity," amplifying his message of resilience and empowerment to a global stage. His narrative prowess further shone as the keynote speaker at "Salsa, Soul, and Leadership: A Tribute to Hispanic Heritage," celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month at Montana State University.

Luis’ work bridging cultures and fostering positive connections within communities through storytelling and connecting people who care to causes that matter has him excited to connect with supporters of the ACLU of Montana. He is excited to hear their “why” and how our work aimed at protecting the civil liberties of Montanans has impacted the communities they are closest to. Luis believes that resounding impact can only occur when we aim to shape a future where opportunity, compassion, justice, equity, and empowerment intersect for the betterment of society.