Community Profiles: Redefining Leadership for Stronger Communities
During the COVID-19 pandemic, UnidosUS has compiled stories that uplift our community’s resiliency and power that bring the Latino community forward. With the help of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, UnidosUS launched the series “Community Profiles: Redefining Leadership for Stronger Communities,” as a commitment to highlight leaders’ support systems, their collective strengths, and collaborative efforts that shape a more accurate narrative of Latinos as positive contributors to the United States and vital to the nation’s health and well-being. This is the fourth blog in our series.
Meet José Luis Jiménez, our Public Relations Officer for UnidosUS’s National Institute for Latino School Leaders (NILSL) Alumni Council.
The NILSL Alumni Council is a professional learning community that strengthens the work and advocacy of the NILSL network and leaders to create meaningful change for Latino students.
In this role, José Luis focuses on how to best promote educational equity by providing valuable feedback to UnidosUS’s NILSL fellowship, and connecting UnidosUS with Latino school leaders across the country.
UnidosUS is proud to present José Luis’s story and leadership as part of our leadership series.
By Stephanie Presch, Content Specialist, UnidosUS
Roots That Shape Values
José Luis became an educator more than 13 years ago and has spent the past five years as a school principal in Queens, New York. José Luis roots his values, success, and dedication to his personal and familial experience as an immigrant.
“I believe my vision and drive to excel is in large part due to immigrating from Cuba. My father always inspired me with his work ethic and his life as a Cuban immigrant,” José Luis shared.
José Luis came to the United States from Cuba when he was nine years old. Once in the United States, he grew up and lived in Miami, Florida until he left for college to attend NYU, where he obtained his undergraduate degree in Dramatic Literature.
José Luis says his artistic aspirations and talents along with his background as a Cuban immigrant informed and inspired his role as an Educator and the School Principal that he is today.
José Luis is a principal at a school in Queens which is in the 12th percentile of the most diverse communities in the United States. His community is predominantly working class and parents often face challenges when engaging in their children’s education. Despite the challenges, this is a hard-working community that is driven by their vision and hopes for their children’s future. “Striving for excellence and having strong work ethic is also very much part of this community,” José Luis said.
Leadership That Transforms
José Luis sees himself as a community leader tasked with transforming the education system to be accessible and welcoming for students and parents. In response to building educational access and excellence for everyone, José Luis’s role and commitment extend beyond his formal role as an educator through an after-school program that it involves teachers, students, and parents alike.
“The theater enrichment program is an important step in terms of building trust and overall community through the arts and education,” Jiménez explained. Through the program, students can develop their creativity and parents are involved designing and building props and costumes.
At José Luis’s school, teachers define and center this learning environment by fostering the five C’s – Creator, Critical Thinker, Collaborator, Compassionate, and effective Communicator. These principles guide their teaching as they courage students to learn, grow, and find their own paths.
- Jose Luis supervises his students gardening.
A key component, as José Luis sees it, is students being taught by educators who bring their most authentic selves to the classroom.
“Authenticity is perhaps the most important quality and skill set to possess in order to be a successful and impactful teacher and educator,” José Luis explained.
He also notes the importance for educators to share their stories and personal narratives with students as part of what it is to be an impactful teacher who models what they teach and share.
- Jose Luis tells his story as an LGBTQ+ educator.
José Luis’s commitment to authenticity has been an important part of his work as an educator. As part of that commitment, he’s on the leadership council of The Proud Educator Network, which supports LGBTQ+ educators to be the role models for students that they wished that they had when they were in school.
José Luis also uplifts queer students through the Gender and Sexuality Alliance that he launched at his school, which is a student-led afterschool club for fourth and fifth graders encouraging them to express and explore their identities.
“Overall, I’m proud of the vision that I have led and co-developed with my team of staff to create a learning environment that emphasizes service to others, social impact and justice, and building community,” Jiménez said.
José Luis is a transformational leader who inspires and leads by modeling his personal values and sharing his personal story as a Cuban immigrant. This has inspired his team to work collectively to garner trust, support, and goodwill among students. His drive toward excellence and his personal commitment to being authentic and genuine foster an environment where students can thrive and succeed.