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Meet Ben Leal of Jubilee Park & Community Center

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ben Leal.

Ben, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
My degree is in Political Science, and after college I worked in the government sector in Austin. I found my true passion working in the nonprofit field and have been doing it ever since. I started at Jubilee in 2010 as the Program Director and am now the Chief Executive Officer. I really do attribute my role of Program Director as a factor to my success. It has allowed me to gain the working knowledge needed to better understand our programs, who we serve, and what works.

My key responsibilities are to work with Jubilee’s outstanding Board and volunteer leadership, develop partnerships with other great agencies, and work alongside members of the Jubilee community to create and evaluate program. The best part of my job is that I get to work with a team that cares as much as I do about the people we serve. I get to learn every day from the residents of Jubilee Park and from my dedicated Board of Directors.

Since I’ve joined the staff, Jubilee has made significant growth in all its programs and increased its corps of partner organizations. Jubilee is now a data-driven organization and has increased retention in all programs. The Affordable Housing Initiative began in 2013 and has since built 14 homes and is in the process of building 12 more. I also oversaw the fundraising for capital campaigns to build a housing complex for low-income seniors, an Early Head Start Center to serve children ages newborn to three and the completion of the 3-acre park. We also recently began offering mental health services on campus through a partnership with Jewish Family Service of Greater Dallas.

This is an exciting year for us as we celebrate our 20th anniversary with a gala on November 4th at the Omni Hotel. This gala will be a one-time celebration and will raise funds to add a new program called the Specialized Student Support (S3) Program. The S3 program will be an addition to our already award-winning Out of School Time Program and will serve students with special learning needs such as dyslexia, ADHD, autism, reading disorders or language impairments.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Jubilee is unique in that we provide many services and programs to our community. One challenge that we were able to overcome by working together was a complete review of our programs. We wanted to see what our organization was doing well, and what other agencies did similar work. I am proud to say that by doing this we were able to better allocate funds, and better partner with other agencies to make great impact in the community we serve.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Jubilee Park & Community Center is a nonprofit in Southeast Dallas with a mission to be a catalyst for community revitalization and enrichment in the southeast Dallas/Fair Park neighborhood, with special emphasis on education of children and adults. The neighborhood is a 62 block area bordered by I-30, East Grand and Fair Park. Jubilee takes a comprehensive approach to revitalization through education, health, safety, economic development and housing.

Jubilee’s programs have been regionally and nationally recognized by Commit, DISD, United Way, and the national Cradle to Career conference. In March of 2017, Jubilee was the recipient of SMU’s Luminary Award for commitment to education. Recently, HUD Secretary Dr. Ben Carson visited Jubilee to note best practices and scalable components for replication across the country.

What were you like growing up?
I grew up in San Antonio, TX and would say I was an active kid. You could always find me riding my bike around the neighborhood, hanging in the pool or on the tennis courts. My parents instilled in me the importance of volunteerism and education. I was a very social kid that progressed in to adulthood. I have never met someone I don’t like!

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