Dr. Juan Sanchez
Dr. Juan J. Sánchez, grew up in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Brownsville, Texas on the border of Mexico where life was full of challenges. He was fortunate to have a number of caring, supportive adults in his life that encouraged him to dream big and pursue an education and he became determined to spend his life helping as many people as he could to escape poverty through educational and other opportunities. His tenacity ultimately took him to Harvard University, where he was among the first Latinos to receive his doctorate from the School of Education.
In 1987, Dr. Sánchez founded Southwest Key Programs in a basement in San Antonio, Texas with a staff of five. Today, the non-profit serves youth and their families in six states across the U.S. Through Southwest Key's work in the juvenile justice field, hundreds of youth have been diverted from facilities and allowed to finish school. Through Southwest Key’s immigrant children’s shelters, thousands of unaccompanied minors have been reunified with their families.
In 2007, when Southwest Key Programs moved headquarters to the historically underserved neighborhood of East Austin, Dr. Sánchez got the opportunity to test his belief that, in order to help a child, you must help that child's entire community. Launching the East Austin Children's Promise initiative, the non-profit began offering programming in community empowerment, education, and professional development. Dr. Sánchez also realized a lifelong dream in 2009 when Southwest Key was able to write the charter for East Austin College Prep, an innovative, public charter school that aims to get 100 percent of its students into college. In the spring of 2016, that goal became a reality when 100 percent of the school’s inaugural graduating class was accepted to college.
Dr. Sanchez has served on the boards of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, and is an advisor to the Vera Institute of Justice and the Annie E. Casey Foundation's Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative. He was named Best Non-Profit CEO by the Austin Business Journal and is the recipient of the Ohtli Award from the Mexican Consulate, the Freddy Fender Humanitarian Award, the Rising to the Challenge Social Justice Award from LULAC, and the Leading Voices Award from American Gateways for his work on behalf of immigrant children.