LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Adan Gonzalez

Position: Third Grade Teacher
School: James Bowie Elementary School
School District: Dallas Independent School District
City, State: Dallas, TX

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Adan Gonzalez was nominated  by Maria Teresa Pedroche, a member of the community.

Mr. Gonzalez is inspiring third grade students at James Bowie Elementary School to become future leaders. His classroom pillars say to "be bold, be confident and be disruptive." He believes that someone who is disruptive is fearless and therefore think for themselves in a favorable way.

Mr. Gonzalez is Founder and Executive Director of the Puede Network – a youth education and leadership development program inspired and mentored many students before he started teaching. He shares with his children the philosophy that education is freedom.

Since summer 2012, Mr. Gonzalez has organized and lead conferences with C-Suite executives to provide comprehensive college services, volunteer opportunities, and mentorship to underprivileged students in Dallas Public Schools. He has engaged 200,000 students and parents in 15 states though presentations, blog and radio shows advocating the importance of higher education, parental support, and community involvement. He led the National Youth Against Domestic Violence campaign, involving students from 89 universities and 43 high schools. Mr. Gonzalez successfully managed two citywide luggage drives through which 300 college-bound freshmen obtained toiletries and sets of luggage. He led many events; most recently, he organized the second annual drive to collect enough, coats, balls & toys for over 500 kids from Oak Cliff! These gifts brought the biggest smiles to children.

"Adan is a LifeChanger! He may have started teaching this year, but the wisdom and inspiration he has given many students from pre-school at AVANCE-Dallas to Universities is priceless!" Pedroche said.

Mr. Gonzalez has always questioned what the system told him to do. He grew up in South Oak Cliff, one of the toughest, poorest neighborhoods in Dallas, Texas. He is the son of two immigrants of Leon Guanajuato, Mexico and one of four children.

Mr. Gonzalez graduated from Harvard Graduate School of Education with his M.Ed. in Education Policy and Management. In 2015, he graduated from Georgetown University, majoring in government and with a minor in Education, Inquiry and Justice, while working for the U.S Department of Education and the White House.

Mr. Gonzalez served as the captain of the Georgetown University Boxing team, and won the US National Collegiate Championship. He is a US Congressional Gold Medalist, Jefferson National Public Service Awardee, Coors Light National Latino Leader of the Year, Gates Millennium Scholar, and National Coca Cola Scholar. He was featured in the AVANCE-Dallas annual report, where he and his mother discussed how an early learning program guided him to excel. 

"Adan aspires to make his family proud – to make a difference in the community," Pedroche said. "He has been featured in the news for all of his amazing work in the City of Dallas. Seeing is believing. He is changing future generations."

Comments (55)

Sharon Snowton Posted over a year ago

Mr. Gonzalez, you do not know me. I also am an educator. I enjoy reading the stories of the Life Changer of the Year nominees. Sometimes, I am moved to leave a message. Your testimonies require I leave you a message-First, thank you for having such a giving heart and helping those who need help. Too many times in my career I have seen people just turn their backs. Second, people don't realize that an act soo simple as giving a "mochila" makes a big difference to a child who did not have one. Third, My motto is "We come to school to learn, and leave school to serve", and you live my motto daily in your life and actions. Keep up the good work! You are a Life Changer! Congratulations on your nomination!

Fabian Gonzalez Posted over a year ago

Guadalupe Chavez and her three daughters stepped up to Adan Gonzalez and his silver golf cart loaded with backpacks, story books and yellow No. 2 pencils. Like Santa Claus, Gonzalez was ready to please, and pass out the freebies. The hopeful teacher at James Bowie Elementary set out to deliver school supplies to kids in his class of third-graders, but he wanted to share his personal story, too. He grew up in a crowded apartment in the Oak Cliff neighborhood. Gonzalez went to Bowie, was the son of a Mexicano immigrant janitor — and just graduated from Harvard. He came home to teach and show his people what’s possible. But Chavez stunned him with her own drama. “I am a single mother and the father of my daughters is being deported,” she said in Spanish. “You are a blessing.” Gonzalez’s dark eyes widened. He loosened his red-cream-and-blue tie. He gave the two youngest girls mochilas, backpacks. Violet for 5-year-old Lluvia and turquoise for 10-year-old Allison. The eldest, 15-year-old Carolyn, told him Harvard Law School is part of her dreams. She got a pep talk and walked away with the teacher’s office number. Immigrant mothers like Chavez dominated Gonzalez’s day as he passed out supplies in this working-class barrio in Dallas, the U.S. city with the highest child poverty rate for a big metropolis. The mothers spilled stories about their fears, hopes and their children’s needs. Gonzalez began giving his carefully gathered supplies to any child with a need. And the need in this mostly immigrant neighborhood may be bigger than one man can meet. Some say Adan Gonzalez will be burned out before the end of his first year as a teacher. Many of the kids in the neighborhood are the children of unauthorized immigrants, their families living with a new kind of fear in the face of President Donald Trump’s anti-immigration crackdowns. Most go to school in the district with the third-lowest property tax rates in North Texas, where school board members recently turned down an opportunity to ask taxpayers for more. For the second year in a row. How far will Adan's idealism carry him? Erika Perez, a dimpled Mexican immigrant from Monterrey, heard about the new Bowie teacher passing out free supplies. She didn’t know the idealistic 24-year-old had collected donations and paid for a lot of them himself, maxing out his credit card limit of $13,000 and then getting another card. She walked to Bowie on Marsalis Street. She walks a lot. Driving a car might invite trouble from police for even a minor infraction. She had papeles, her immigration papers, though her old green card is expired, she said in Spanish. Meantime, her 10-year-old daughter, Melanie, and her 7-year-old son, Nathan, picked out new backpacks. After a half-hour, Gonzalez and three volunteers headed away from the plain, brown brick school, their rented, silver golf cart stuffed with supplies to be delivered out in the streets. “I’m crying inside,” Gonzalez said. “People don’t know what it’s like to be from here.” 'Standing up for others' Soon, he drove past the peach-colored Ponderosa Apartments on Eighth Street with their smattering of sun-beaten palm trees out front. "Good memories," he says. But, of course, there's a tough side to his story, too. When Gonzalez was 6 years old, his father, Raul, tried to break up a fight near the Ponderosa. His dad was beaten, shot and bedridden for 18 months. His two oldest boys, Adan and 9-year-old Julio, went to work as their own bosses at a flea market, selling snacks to help their immigrant mother. She was cleaning apartments. After work, she made and sold tortas, Mexican sandwiches. In middle school, Adan faced off with bullies often to protect other kids. His boxing skills were put to use, his father says. "Nothing he does now seems strange," he says. "He was always standing up for others." When his golf cart rolled up to La Jolla apartments, another immigrant mother came forward with her daughter. "What's your name, mija?" he asked. The little girl with a doll-like face answered with a whisper. She was about to start middle school. Gonzalez sympathizes with the misery of sixth grade for a shy child. He took the girl aside, told her to be strong, to have no fear in speaking out if there are problems. He sent her on her way with a loud orange backpack. Then, a truck whizzed by. Someone swore at Gonzalez, who looked out of place in his sharp, blue suit. Adults bullying adults. Gonzalez threw some side-eye, but quickly returned to his mission. “In our community, we embrace and love education. But,” he emphasizes, “we trust the system to fulfill its obligation.” Too often, that system fails children, he says. Around the golf cart, boys eyeballed a stack of slim books about a horse, donations from other schools. His volunteers passed them out. “A person who learns to read eventually learns to think for themselves,” Gonzalez says. At another stop, a thin immigrant mother from the Mexican border state of Tamaulipas took books and backpacks for her children. “The book is the tool, the weapon, that allows us to get our freedom,” Gonzalez said. Soon, he zoomed down another street, looking for more moms. At a street corner in the August heat, he spotted four shirtless boys. “English or Spanish?” “English,” one said. “Is your mom here?” “We have a dad. Our mom died.” The teacher’s eyes widened again.The boy ran a few houses down the block to a gray home and slipped inside. Then he returned. His father can’t talk, the boy said. Gonzalez persisted, and soon the young father appeared on the porch, excusing himself because he was eating. He insisted that his kids need nothing. Gonzalez left a backpack. Peril and promise Gonzalez has big plans. But this is not the beginning. Five years ago with family and friends, he started a nonprofit called Puede Network. It takes its name from the "Yes, you can" phrase made popular by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, labor leaders of the United Farm Workers. The Puede network’s aim is to motivate children to succeed in school. In March, Puede and Gonzalez caused a stir when a city employee told his soccer players in Lake Cliff Park they needed a permit to play where they’d been playing for five years. Gonzalez countered that there was no actual soccer field, just grass. He launched a social media offensive about the importance of challenging injustice. He ended up with apologies from city officials. He was at Georgetown during that internship, thanks to a Gates Millennium scholarship that also covered his Harvard tuition for his master’s degree. He graduated from Adamson High School, where he was senior class president. He was also president of Dallas ISD’s teen board in 2011. Years ago, he said he wanted to be the mayor of Dallas someday. More recently, he boldly asserted that he’d like to one day become the superintendent of Dallas ISD. By Day 5 of what he calls his “empowerment” tour, he’d distributed more than 1,200 backpacks. That’s more than double the size of Bowie’s student body. Some anonymous donors stepped in to help, but Gonzalez says he could use more help. He wants to buy new uniforms for all of Bowie students. In addition to teaching the third grade, Gonzalez is the elementary school’s director of family engagement. He wants to build up a PTA-like parent club. Back on the school grounds, Rivera, the mother of the teen who wants to study at Harvard, said she will volunteer. She didn’t need to be asked. But immigration issues concern her. “I know what country I’m in,” she said. Gonzalez, who was born in the U.S., scowled at the subject of the immigration crackdown. “When you grow up in the barrio, you know what it is to be second class,” he said. In what’s a mantra, he punctuates it with “but education freed me.” As he continued his golf cart journey, he explained his drive. “I want the community, the 'hood, to be able to believe in themselves, que si se puede,” he said. Within the hour, a woman tapped her truck horn. She stuck her head out the window, yelling, “Si se puede.” Gonzalez flashed a toothy grin. via Dallas Morning News.

Missy Foy Posted over a year ago

Congrats, Adan, on this honor -- of which you are so deserving!! Georgetown is a better place because of you - as is the world. You've never forgotten your roots or your values. Continue to speak up and advocate for students; it inspires the rest of us!

Scott S. Fleming Posted over a year ago

I have known Adan Gonzalez since the day he arrived as a freshman at Georgetown University. He is an exceptional young man whose dedication has and continues to be giving back to the community from which he came. Adan could have taken many other paths with a Georgetown undergraduate and Harvard graduate degree. But he was intent on never losing touch with his home community as a student, and I was not the least surprised that he decided to take the knowledge and experience he has gained at Georgetown and Harvard and go home to roll up his sleeves and make a difference in Dallas schools and in the Oak Cliff community in particular. This is a young man who, while working hard on his academics at Georgetown, undertook luggage drives each year, raising funds to provide luggage for first generation students in Dallas like him. He raised enough to every year provide going to college luggage for hundreds of Dallas students. Furthermore, he is truly inspirational. He connects with young people -- and some of us who aren't so young -- in ways that inspires everyone to work harder, give more to others, and make a difference. I can't think of any better investment than helping Adan continue and expand his tremendous work to make lives better for young people and their families. What he is doing can truly create opportunity for large numbers of students and their families.

Emmanuel Posted over a year ago

Meet his parents and they gave me a different perspective. Glad he continues to help the underserved community of oak Cliff

Sílvia Jasso Posted over a year ago

He deserves the grant and the win. Because he has not forgotten where he came from and is giving back to the community that gave him his desire to excel. Thank you Adan for being such an exemplary community leader.

mia de la garza Posted over a year ago

He inspires meee to be someone

Alfonso Gomez Posted over a year ago

Over five years of coaching, he has never charged a dime to the over 200 Dallas families that he serves. His teams learn how to play soccer and box, but for a greater purpose. His atlethic teams are a focal point for teaching civic engagement, promoting the dream of higher education, and giving players confidence to speak out against injustice. His responsibility is unmatched by any of our 50+ volunteers, he has never missed a game, or practice, to many this might be a simple act, to our kids…it means the world. His competitiveness is a virtue that creates a positive environment that allows our kids to learn to set goals, and work towards them. Adan Gonzalez is a Community MVP. He has given everything to his players because he knows that it can create hope for a community stifled by social exclusion and inequality. Recognizing Coach Gonzalez would not simply be honoring a single extraordinary man, but lifting up an entire community that has found its dreams through soccer.

Lance Sillings Posted over a year ago

Adan is a great and outstanding young leader. He can change lives in the blink of an eye. The luggage program comes to be very important when you see the grin accross a first time generation college student getting the final pieces they need to go off to college. His work in the community goes beyond any public figure, pastor, or other educators. We need more people like Adan to help change this world.

Mary Robles Posted over a year ago

Adán Gonzalez,se merece el premio por qué dedica su tiempo a nuestros niños , les dice la importancia de la lectura , les enseña hacer los líderes del mañana, les enseña la importancia de estar unidos como comunidad , los entrena en box y fútbol , y siempre está ahí para quien lo necesite, si se puede!

Elena manriquez Posted over a year ago

Thank to Adan for being a great leader for our community and for helping us to guide our children so that they have a great future and to support us as parents. have also taught us to believe in community, education, leadership # si se puede

Elena manriquez Posted over a year ago

grasias a Adan por ser un gran líder para nuestra comunidad y por ayudarnos a guiar a nuestros hijos para que tengan un gran futuro y a apollarnos a nosotros como padres también nos a enseñado a creer en comunidad,educación,y liderazgo # SI SE PUEDE.;) Posted over a year ago

Adan Gonzalez is a leader in our community and he help to our kids to never give up and follow in the school si se puede thank you Adan

johana Rodríguez Posted over a year ago

felicidades Adán ojala que ubiera mas personas cómo usted qué lo entrega todo, tiempo,esfuerzo mente y alma, sin condición alguna asta lograr sus propósitos para toda nuestra comunidad, siendo un buen ejemplo para nuestros hijos usted es nuestra motivación de qué si se puede superar en la vida, felicidades,, ojalá se gane el premio selo merese!

Valde Martinez Posted over a year ago

Adan is a real life changer. His positive influence has shaped the lives of many in Dallas, including my own. Thank you Adan for all that you do.

Marisela Posted over a year ago

Adán gonsalez ferviente servidor ala comunidad con su motivación y nueva iniciativa a ayudado alos niños el futuro de este país forjando día a día, puliendo sus talentos y su necesidad de superación con todos los puede scholars a inculcando el amor por la lectura,disciplina y liderazgo llevando no sólo la educación a otro nivel si no también el servicio ala comunidad involucrando alos niños en labores de servicio dando un buen ejemplo a todos haciendo consciencia de todo lo que se puede lograr con Unión y respeto por el prójimo en un oakclif que nadie creía gracias por impulsar la educación,servicio, valores,y ejemplo diario

Nelly Cuenca Posted over a year ago

Adan Gonzalez is an important part of his community. As a community leader he is someone who represents the community’s interests and plays the role of protecting them. voluntarily gives his time; goes above and beyond his daily responsibilities. A Dallas Hero, he has a vast range of roles that range from mobilizing communities for a common cause to designing courses of action to overcome common challenges. He gives “public education” HOPE. Leads by example.

Mayra Olvera Posted over a year ago

Adan’s service goes beyond the walls of Bowie elementary. He has started a movement that will have a lasting positive impact across many communities. He is a testament of the American dream, of putting others before self and an inspiration to everyone he comes in to contact with.

Yolanda Lopez Posted over a year ago

Adan el hecho de ser nominado para este premio habla de su esfuerzo y apoyo a nuestra comunidad. Y estoy segura que ya tiene en mente como ayudar a su comunidad por que primero Diosito gana este reto.

Kevin Sullivan Posted over a year ago

Adan is one of those rare leaders who can both devote himself to his own specific community and the children and families of his school, and simultaneously keep in mind and effect change at a national scale. He has magnanimity, a true "greatness of soul" that is humble and honest. His own struggle to overcome great challenges and obstacles has not left him bitter or disenchanted, but instead more hopeful and committed than ever to change and being a true "man for others." What a "lifechanger" in all senses of the word - si se puede and Hoya Saxa!

Denise Tucker Posted over a year ago

Adan is doing absolute amazing things in the community where I work. I have seen the students become more and more committed to education based on his work. Students are seeing their dreams and it truly starts at a young age.

Antonia Gomez Posted over a year ago

Thank for things you do for the community , and kids.

Alex band Posted over a year ago

Adan Gonzales is a really big inspiration for me and many others in our community. He is a great role model for us as parents and our children.He always helps our community no matter what. ”Si se puede”

Claudia Contreras Posted over a year ago

Adan Gonzales Es una gran persona que ayuda a la comunidad y a nuestros hijos a ser gran lideres que cuando te propones algo siempre se logra que nunca abra obstaculos en el camino.Que la nueva jeneracion de nuestros hijos si pueden cambiar el mundo y la educación es lo más importante.

Araceli Banda Posted over a year ago

Adan Gonzalez is a great leader for our community he has help lots of parents and children on how to be great leader for our community and the most important thing on how important education it is for our children and our new generation my doughter is part of puede scholars program and she loves it specially because she has a great role model that is gidding her on how to be a great person in life we love his passion for everything that he does! 100%

Diana Cardenas Posted over a year ago

Adan not only works in his community but helps out in other areas of Dallas as well. I am a parent sponsor and asked him to come speak to our seniors. He came over in his break to speak to our seniors and his words of wisdom are still a reminder of how education is our freedom. I remind my girls of it everyday as well. His words were powerful and our students related to his background.

Fabiola sanchez Posted over a year ago

Adan is a servant leader. Always encourages Puede scholars to pursue a higher education and perform at highest potential no matter what you do. He is always looking out for his community. Goes above and beyond to help his community in times of need. Always sharing his knowledge and being a positive individual. His positive repor has encouraged and motivated friends and collaborators to pursue a higher education which is a plus in our community.

emisael Lopez Posted over a year ago

Adan motivates me with college, to never give up even when the odds are against us. He is an inspirational person I look up to.

M.Amalia Garcia Posted over a year ago

Felizidades Adan Gonzales telo mereses por el apollo que sienpre nos das

Irene arechar Posted over a year ago

Felicidadez adan gonzalez, bien merecido por todo tu trabajo esfuerzo y dedicacion para con la cominidad y para con nuestros hijos por ayudarnos a guiarlos por y para un mejor futuro para q sean unas mejores personas, gracias por ser ese gran lider q la comunidad necesitamos.

Sue Davis Posted over a year ago

Adan Gonzalez has dedicated his life to making a difference in the lives of his community. He has and is leading a path for others to follow by setting high standards of excellence for himself and his Si Si Puede « Yes We Can organization. Adan has not only change the life and path of his students, but the parents and community. He has instilled hope and dreams in an area where there are crime and drugs present. We are so proud of him.

Caleb Loud Posted over a year ago

Adam's inspiration is not exclusive to his students, and Puede Scholars... he is an icon is community, unites people to pursue common goals, and gives people hope when they are low on fuel. His leadership skills and initiative motivates parents, business owners, children, and everyone in between, to chase their dreams; he deserves this award.

Dante Alvarado Posted over a year ago

Adan is a really big inspiration for me and many others in our community. He has a really big heart and a bigger plan and vision to empower and inspire the next generation of leaders. What Adan has accomplished to this day is impressive, and with this grant he will be able to exponentially scale his impact to continue providing educational opportunities for students to be passionate about studying, doing community service, and being leaders inside and outside the classroom. An investment in Adan is an investment in or future, in our community, and in opportunities for many many many students in our nation. I highly recommend and support Adan and the work that he is doing, and it would mean the world if we continue to support Adan and the community with this grant. Si se puede, yes we can! Together we can make this world a better place for future generations, and Adan is a testament to that every single day!

Yadira Castro Posted over a year ago

Mr. Gonzalez was an incredible influence in my son's education. His passion and love for the kids and our community is unspeakable. He build leaderships in our community with his program Puede Network (estoy muy orgullosa de formar parte de la familia Puede Network). Thank you Adán for all you do for our students and our community. SI SE PUEDE

Giselle Cubilla Posted over a year ago

Mr. Gonzales deserves the award he is nominated for, he has accomplished so much prior to his position at James Bowie Elementary School. Adan is very unselfish person, he is willing to help children from all backgrounds obtain access to a higher education in terms of providing supplies, uniforms, guidance and much more in order for these children in the near future generation to prevail.

saul lendechy Posted over a year ago

te lo mereces adan gonzalez por todo lo que haces dia a dia para que nuestra comunidad sea mejor ******SI SE PUEDE***********

Isaura Solis Posted over a year ago

El se merece el premio por todo lo que hace por nuestra comunidad hispana .

Maria Gonzalez Posted over a year ago

Puede Network is a great program in which offers children opportunity to grow and also gives back to the community.

Ana Munoz Posted over a year ago

Adan Gonzalez is a leader here in our community. Not knowing us, he allowed us to be part of his family. He focuses on our childrens education, and teaches them leadership. Since we became part of the Puede Network organization, our children have become more confident of themselves. Not only does he inspired our children, he inspired the community. I myself have learn so much from this young leader. I decided to go back to school, I've learned it is never to late to be some one in life. Education is freedom, and Si Se Puede.

Yola Gobellan Posted over a year ago

100 % Un exelente líder comunitario k ah motivado a nuestros hijos ala lectura diaria , diciplina y liderasgo.??

Cintia Alonso Posted over a year ago

Felicidades Adan Gonzalez te lo mereces por todo tu esfuerzo en ayudar a la comunidad especialmente por guiar a nuestros niños a tener una mejor educación. Gracias y Si Se Puede

Andres Bello Posted over a year ago

Adan is agrate teacher,good coach and exelent person.

Dr. Michele Bobadilla Posted over a year ago

Adan is the catalyst for change in an under-served, under-represented community that is undergoing transformational change as a result if his belief in each of them; his grit; his perseverance; and his willingness to break down barriers - perceived and real. As a result of the Puede Network, families’ trajectories will be changed for generations.

Oscar Mojica Posted over a year ago

Adan welcomed me to the Puede scholars program about five years ago and I can honestly say it's been the biggest impact in my life. The way he gives back to our community is a true inspiration. Always putting others before himself truly describes his character. Adan not only gives back to our youth but to everyone he sees struggling in our community. There is no one more deserving of this award than Adan and no one who wants to continue to help see our community grow like he does.

Patrick Hernandez-Cigaruista Posted over a year ago

I’m so impressed with this you man! He is the epitome of a grassroots leader who cares so much about his community and using the power of education improve that community. He has so much fire and zeal to move his community forward. Adan has expressed charity as it is described here; "Charity is the form, mover, mother, and root of all virtues." -St. Thomas Aquinas

Samuel Posted over a year ago

Gracias adan por toda tu dedicación y apoyó que brindas a nuestros niños para ser líderes como tu y continúen apoyando a nuestra comunidad para un mañana mejor!

Magali Chavez Posted over a year ago

Puede network is a great program for the kids in the oak cliff community. Adan takes the time to teach puede scholars about the importance of education and how it can help them reach their dreams no matter where they come from.

Rene martinez Posted over a year ago

I have known Adan since 2012 when he left for GW as a freshman. Since then I have mentored him and found him to be one of the most dynamic and passionate young people in our community. I envision that someday he will be a school superintendent or Mayor of our city. Adan is grounded and committed to his community.

Austin Halbert Posted over a year ago

Congratulations on your nomination from a fellow Coca-Cola Scholar! Always inspired by how much energy you put forward into lifting up your community.

Adelina Hernández Posted over a year ago

He’s such amazing leader, is a well deserved nomination, I know he has more to do for his community and his organization. because is something that he really loves.

Elvia Posted over a year ago

Adan González merece ganar este premio por el apoyo y el esfuerzo que da a su comunidad.

Maria Quintana Posted over a year ago

Gracias Adan por pensar en los niños y formar líderes como usted

Brenda Allen Posted over a year ago

Keep up the hard work Adan! Doing great things for the Dallas community!

Sandra Paredes Posted over a year ago

Many people in Oak Cliff schools were never big into encouraging students to go to college! Adan is spreading the word about education is freedom! Adan himself was told he would not go to college by his teachers & even his parents! His movement has made a great impact on the Oak Cliff community! I am so happy that my little cousin is in his class! Adan had many options for careers after college but he chose his community because he truly cares for his kids & wants to see them all succeed!

Huber Posted over a year ago

God bless you ......