Antonio Saunders

There’s a chasm between the world and being free, and Antonio provides a radical space to help others find their freedom.

Antonio A. Saunders is the Vice President of Program at Teach For America, shaping the strategy for leadership development and organizational learning for 13 regions, while also leading enterprise level diversity, inclusion and equity programming. Antonio is a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach (CPCC) from Coach Training Institute, one of the world’s largest training programs in business management and leadership development.

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There’s a chasm between the world and being free, and Antonio provides a radical space to help others find their freedom.

His story is simply riveting. At only 5 years old, Antonio knew with no uncertainty, life in the Kingston Projects was simply not right.  Whether it was waiting up past midnight just to see his mom return home from working minimum wage jobs,  holding his aunt’s crack pipe while she binged, or watching the police execute drugs from his window, Antonio was born into a system that had already predetermined his life outcomes. Antonio put his family on a brave trajectory, forcing him into a co-parenting role, helping his mom navigate the welfare system, living without healthcare, losing relatives to mass incarceration, busing to predominantly white school systems. At the age of 17, Antonio was diagnosed with rare heart disease and underwent heart surgery.

Undeterred, Antonio found his freedom.

He made history at Gardendale High School, where he spent four years as class president, changing school policies so that the 40 Black students in his class were treated as equal to the other 500 white students.  During his freshman year at the University of Alabama, Antonio successfully passed a resolution provoking the administration to bring a multicultural center to campus to combat racism and improve race relations.  Antonio never waited for permission to changed systems. Today, Antonio continues his work. He’s led households, reimaged school systems, and managed multi-million dollar organizations, inspiring change and finding new ways to ground his faith in people. His work and his life have taken him across the country, and at every stop, he’s stared down the systems that keep us all from collectively being free.

Antonio’s impact can be felt everywhere, but his work can be found at Teach For America where he serves as the VP, Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion. This year, Antonio launch his podcast, The Promised Land, a storytelling platform that produces thought-provoking original content to spur social change. With an eye to the future, he has also created “Black and Brown Futures”, his approach to designing new, equity-based data products that equip and empower young people with a clear, actionable view of their expected trajectory (socio-economically and beyond) to place them on a self-determined pathway.

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