Wilkinson College alumna Tanya Leon (’19 & ’22) recently started a new position as the program coordinator for the Orange County Justice Fund (OCJF), an organization dedicated to providing transformative and effective legal representation to traditionally under-served populations in Orange County.
Leon manages the bond fund program, coordinating distribution, posting of, and follow ups with bond recipients. In addition to that, her work involves the post-incarceration release program(s) and the legal services program.
“This is very tedious but rewarding work. When we successfully post bond [after an arrest], a community member is released back to their family [while they await trial]. Some of the post-release support program(s) I’m involved with include partnering with other OC organizations to facilitate smooth community reintegration for folks released from detention,” said Leon. “Our legal services program(s) include both legal services for formerly detained individuals and community legal education consisting of a variety of legal workshops open to the public.”
As an undergraduate in Wilkinson College, Leon double majored in Political Science and Peace Studies and minored in Latinx and Latin American Studies, all while being the MEChA club president in 2018 and 2019. She also worked with the Promising Futures Program and Chapman Democrats during all four undergraduate years, and was part of the 2019 Student Ethnic Studies Committee that lobbied successfully for Wilkinson College newly approved minor in Ethnic Studies.
“While I was at CU I was always interested in activism and organizing work. I did this through clubs and volunteering, but I also learned a lot about local nonprofits in various courses. While I didn’t know about OCJF, in particular, while I was a student, I did know about a lot of the same organizations I now partner with regularly.” After graduating in 2019, Leon continued her education in Wilkinson College’s Master of Arts in International Studies (MAIS) Program, hoping to one day have a job that would let her use the skills she learned at Chapman to give back to her community in a meaningful way.
“I’ve always enjoyed coordinating and dealing with lots of moving pieces, so this job is never boring, and I enjoy that. Nonprofit work is hard and working with complex systems can be traumatic; what keeps me going is my genuine passion for the cause I’m involved in and the community I’m a part of. It’s amazing that I get to make a living doing something I love,” she said.
“This is exactly the kind of job I wanted while I was a student. My coursework at CU gave me the space to discuss the historical background of immigration law/policy/sociology as well as criminal law/policy/sociology, which prepared me for the line of work I’m in now.”
As Leon looks back, she appreciates how her professors created a safe space for her to explore difficult, complex topics, such as immigration, criminal justice, race, and power.
“All my majors and both of my degrees came out of Wilkinson College! Wilkinson has amazing professors whose courses I credit a lot for my thought processes now. I appreciate all of my professors for challenging me and opening up avenues for professional growth.”