SAN ANTONIO – Rey Saldaña has gone full circle from the South San High School sophomore “struggling to see his future,” until he found a path forward through Communities in Schools, to now heading that same national nonprofit as its president and CEO.
“It’s a great honor to get to pay it forward, to support them in their work,” Saldaña said.
Now 33-years-old, Saldaña became the youngest city council member at age 24, serving District 4 on the South Side where he grew up. He served four terms.
Saldaña was also elected to chair the VIA board of trustees. Most recently, he worked with the Raise Your Hands Texas foundation, which supports public education.
In mid-March, Saldaña officially takes the helm of Communities in Schools, the nation’s largest such nonprofit that works directly with 2,500 schools and communities, including nearly 100 in San Antonio. The nonprofit helps 1.6 million students across the U.S.
Saldaña said he’ll bring his firsthand knowledge and understanding of what many of them are facing and feeling to his new position.
He said case management by CIS site coordinators, who take a holistic approach, has been the secret of the nonprofit’s success. Saldaña said he considers them “caring adults” and “superheroes” wearing polo shirts emblazoned with the CIS logo, instead of capes, for what they’re able to do for the students and their families.
Too often, Saldaña said, many students have serious problems outside the classroom from conflicts within single parent families or struggling with poverty, violence, incarceration or substance abuse.
Saldaña said that although his father worked for 30 years, it was a matter of coming from a large family living under the poverty line.
He said site coordinators must have a “Swiss Army knife” set of skills to help make sure those problems don’t disrupt their plans for the future.
Saldaña said it’s why CIS is in hard-to-serve neighborhoods and schools.
“It where the kids are that are the most vulnerable," he said.