Adrian J. (AJ) DeLeon is the Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer, CSC Consulting Group. Read more about AJ and his work.
1 | Where did you grow up and what was it like?
I grew up in a large and diverse border city in Mexico across from El Paso, Texas: Ciudad Juarez. Growing up in the borderlands helped me understand, from a very young age, the definition of contrast. It also gave me a unique perspective on the differences between society and education in other countries and the United States. I greatly enjoyed having that bicultural, bilingual, and binational childhood, for it opened my eyes to the social construction of many of the divides we have in our world, and planted a seed in me to become a bridge builder.
2 | What do you like most about where you live now?
Now I live in Chicago, which I love. The city is multicultural, diverse, and has a strong community of ed reformers. Our EP network is also fantastic, and our EP folks are doing great things all over the city. Chicago winters are not as bad as people think, and there is always something fun to do. Go Cubbies!
3 | What is your favorite school memory?
My favorite school memory is probably the day I dressed up as a tree for “spring celebration day” in kindergarten in Mexico. Probably because it was the first time I did something on my own when I helped my mom make it.
4 | Which leader (alive or not, in any field) do you most admire?
I admire Che Guevara. There is a quote of his that I really like which says, “to be young and not be revolutionary is to be a biological contradiction,” and I completely agree with that and try to live by it. His passion for social change after realizing his own privilege is also very tied to my own life experience. I also love Frida Kahlo – her art really speaks to me.
5 | When was the first time you thought about working in education?
I am the oldest sibling in our family so in some ways I have always been a teacher, coach, or mentor for others. It started by my mentoring my own brother and tutoring him throughout our lives – he now works at Google and is an advisor to my company.
I first started working in education after realizing I had an innate ability to persuade others to improve their own lives, and that my joining the education reform movement would be helpful for the Latino population of our country.
6 | What has been your most memorable moment working in education?
I am very happy to have had the opportunity to work in education in various roles, from working directly with kids to supporting leaders of school systems, so I try to collect lots of memorable moments along the way. Usually, they are the days when I see students I worked with or people I helped succeed in their own goals or aspirations.
7 | What do love about your job?
My current role allows me to come to work as my authentic self, and I really appreciate that. I think a lot of us learn to compromise a bit of ourselves as we move up the professional ladder, and I am happy that my current job gives me the opportunity to thrive, and to lead – with who I am and what I know.
8 | If you had a magic wand, what’s one thing you would fix or change?
I think I would go back to the times when we first defined race in this country in order to separate people from one another. I think a lot of our social ills are rooted in this social construction, and hope to continue to work to dismantle it.
9 | What are you still learning to do?
I am still learning to have fun while working!
10 | What or who inspires you?
I am inspired by people all around me who continue to be optimistic about things despite precarious times. Whether it is in our education systems or society at large, we have a lot of issues to address, and it’s always good to see that people’s faith in our shared future is still alive.