Juan De Jesus

A dedicated teacher, who struggled growing up in the South Bronx.

Everything changed for Juan De Jesus when Jon Roure, a college advisor from the CollegeBound Initiative, walked into his freshman English class.

Raised by a single immigrant mother, Juan spent his early years in search of a stable home. At times, they didn’t know where they would sleep at night. Juan and his mother moved around the city and then to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, before coming back to New York.

Because he moved so much, Juan missed a lot of school and didn’t speak much English. In the South Bronx, his home was surrounded by drugs and violence. He was constantly bullied, beaten, and mugged, so he rarely left the house.

Isolated by violence and a lack of English proficiency, Juan found solace in chess. He became a highly successful player, yet he failed nearly all of his classes. He even considered dropping out just to play chess in the park.

But Jon believed in Juan and showed him a world beyond chess. With Jon’s guidance, Juan found a path to success and a passion for learning. He went on to Skidmore, becoming the first male in his family to attend college. After graduating, he started a national championship-winning chess program at a local school. Now he is a special education teacher at the same high school he attended in the South Bronx, where he gives low-income students who grew up like him an opportunity to succeed.

The CollegeBound Initiative empowers students from low-income communities to reach their full potential and head to college by placing full-time college guidance counselors in under-resourced public schools. CBI counselors work one-on-one with students as early as the sixth grade.

Last school year, CBI served more than 18,000 students in 6th through 12th grades at 36 partner schools in New York City. Students have gone on to attend Columbia, Cornell, Fordham, NYU, and other top colleges. CBI students who go to college earn their bachelor’s degrees at four times the rate of their peers.