Introducing Dr. Jonathan Leon—Educator, Organizer, Advocate

Get to know the new Project Director of Forward Promise, Dr. Jonathan Leon! He holds a master’s degree in teaching from Georgia State University, a master’s degree in Public Administration from Syracuse University, and a doctorate in Education Policy and Leadership from American University. In this Q&A, Dr. Leon shares his heart for service and passion for love, equity, and justice.

Say hello to Jonathan at

Tell us about yourself.

I am a father and husband who works toward building equitable and thriving communities every day. I was born in Rochester, New York, but Atlanta, Georgia, is home. Watching my parents and family jump through hoops to ensure I received an excellent education fueled my desire to ensure that all young people have an equal opportunity for a quality education. I began my career in service to young people as a teacher in Atlanta Public Schools through Teach for America. I was also a youth sports coach and community organizer.

I was able to become an even more effective advocate for young people through my more recent work in policy and equity. I believe deeply in community and service, so I actively immerse myself in both. I was a New Leaders Council–Atlanta 2018 Fellow and a 2019 GeorgiaForward Young GameChanger recipient. I am currently a member of LEAD Atlanta for 2023. I also serve as the Founding Board Chair with Atlanta Thrive, a parent advocacy organization. When I am not organizing or engaging in community service, I enjoy traveling, working out, and family time.

Describe some of the previous experiences that bring you to this work.

My orientation is toward shifting the structures which have and continue to deny poor people and people of color access to opportunity. In addition to teaching, these interests have led me to teacher leadership coaching and steering systems-level change with state agencies and districts. I have worked across the social impact landscape and partnered with elected officials, policy practitioners, and community organizers. My commitment and experience are rooted in a desire to walk alongside communities and support the improvements they want to see. As a community organizer, I have pushed for solutions through people-powered initiatives. And as a public scholar, I have focused on connecting policy, people, and practice in order to promote equitable systems. 

What are you passionate about?

Love, justice, and equity! My core values drive my work as a leader. They are rooted in my own experiences, a vision for the world as it should be, and my focus on liberation for oppressed people. These values continue to serve as my foundation and are deeply connected to my purpose.

What inspires you about Forward Promise?

Forward Promise is an amazing national program that is doing critical work in the youth development space. Working with such a diverse array of grantee organizations represents an amazing opportunity to bet on leaders of color and empower them with the resources they need to direct social change in their communities. This work is so central to all people being able to live in their full humanity. I am excited to continue to build on such a strong foundation, while visioning and supporting innovations in this work.

What does thriving mean to you?

To me, thriving is best illustrated by a plant that has all the things it needs to grow and bloom. The conditions around the plant are so integral to its future. The sun, the right soil, and water all combine to help nurture that plant as it grows and prospers. Our communities are no different. They need the right conditions to grow and thrive!