TSC trustee promotes higher education student success at local and national level

Juan Jose De Leon Jr., better known as J.J. De Leon, has served on the Texas Southmost College Board of Trustees since elected in 2018. As a TSC graduate, he understands—first-hand—how the community college represents a profound opportunity for all students to have access to high quality, affordable education.

“TSC serves a Hispanic community with strong family ties,” De Leon said, “and I believe that we, as a comprehensive community college, can and should provide a cost-effective education that offers a pathway to an even brighter future for our students and communities.”

For 24 years, De Leon has worked in building educational communities, providing the Brownsville Independent School District (BISD) and its leaders with innovative administrative support. This extensive background in successfully undertaking complex challenges prepared him well for contributing to the success of Texas Southmost College as a member of the Board of Trustees.

“It’s been a long journey and a rewarding career,” he said. “I’ve had many people believe in me, guide me and support me along the way. They played a big role in my success, and, as a TSC trustee, it’s my turn to serve them and the Lower Rio Grande Valley communities.”

De Leon is currently the Coordinator for State Compensatory Education at BISD. He previously served BISD as an administrative assistant for the Superintendent of Schools, Area Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction.

“A career in education was accidental,” said De Leon. “I had a knack for business and sales. It was my mom who recommended a paraprofessional job to me. I grabbed on to the opportunity and, with guidance from the teachers and administration I worked with, my career in education skyrocketed into what it is today.”

De Leon has focused his service on assisting students in reaching their full potential. From 2007-2011, he served in the G-Force AmeriCorps Recruiting Program, helping students prepare for college and apply for financial aid. At BISD, he continues to participate in important outreach programs to provide students with wrap-around supports, such as the Homeless Youth Project’s Gift to a Family program and the State Compensatory Education Department’s Winter Coat Drive. He participates in the district’s Walk for the Future initiative, which seeks to motivate students to return to high school to earn their high school diplomas and volunteers at the Good Neighbor Settlement home, serving warm meals to people experiencing homelessness.

De Leon understands the many challenges students face while working to earn a college degree. He attended college in the evenings while working full-time, earning an Associate of Applied Science and Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences degrees from UTB-Texas Southmost College, and a Master of Education degree from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

“I was that nontraditional student whom I now advocate for as a TSC board member,” said De Leon. “I understand the struggle, but I also know what it means to have someone behind the scenes inspiring you to do better. As a trustee, my hope is that I can be that for others.”

He also seeks to ensure TSC is a destination for regional workforce training. He has worked collaboratively with the TSC Executive Cabinet administration to introduce a multitude of new, in-demand workforce training programs.

“I want to make sure we are positioned to prepare students to fill current needs in the workforce, as well as meet future demands for jobs in emerging technology for all students.

At the same time he advocates for and supports local students, De Leon has made it his mission to ensure TSC has representation on important higher education issues at the national level. He serves on the Association of Community College’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee and the Finance and Audit Committee and has participated in national conferences.

During his time as a trustee, De Leon has earned the respect of his fellow trustees for the ideas he brings to the work. As chair of the Academic subcommittee, he has worked to build partnerships with school districts to help local high school students get ahead on their college education through dual enrollment, and as a member of the Student Services subcommittee, has championed renovations and improvements at the Oliveira Student Services Center.

“My career has been rewarding and serving as a TSC trustee has been an honor,” said De Leon. “It is through my personal experiences and the skills I’ve gained throughout my career that have allowed me to become aware of our communities’ educational needs and to better serve the students of our Lower Rio Grande Valley region, and, at the end of the day, if I can help at least one student succeed, then I’ve done my job, and that is so rewarding.”