Jonathan Cantres, MSc


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Jonathan Cantres is a first-generation Latinx American from the South Bronx. He holds a Master of Science degree in Global Affairs from New York University, where he specializes in Peacebuilding, International Development, and Humanitarian Assistance. He also has a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from SUNY New Paltz.

Jonathan's commitment to humanitarian service is deeply rooted in his experiences growing up in the South Bronx. His journey began in high school with Project Discovery, where he became acutely aware of the numerous inequities within New York City. This pivotal experience inspired Jonathan to go away to college to broaden his perspective. While at SUNY New Paltz, Jonathan engaged in various volunteering opportunities and was fortunate to have studied abroad in London, creating a global interest that culminated in joining the Peace Corps.

In 2019, Jonathan was deployed to Mozambique with the Peace Corps, where he served as a high school English teacher and youth development coordinator. His tenure in Mozambique, though cut short by the Covid-19 pandemic, didn't dampen his spirit. He continued to support his community by collaborating with Mozambiquans and Americans to successfully fundraise for a mask-making initiative to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, financially support high school students, and provide a scholarship to a student pursuing higher education. 

The summer of 2021 marked a significant milestone in Jonathan's career as he participated in the second domestic deployment in Peace Corps Response history. Collaborating with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), he played a crucial role in COVID-19 response efforts across Maryland and Virginia. As the lead Spanish Peace Corps Response Volunteer, Jonathan engaged with a predominantly Spanish-speaking community to help educate them about the COVID-19 vaccines and translate for the vaccinators. This experience enhanced his expertise in crisis response and solidified his passion for humanitarian work.

In the summer of 2023, Jonathan worked in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq with the non-governmental organization Youth Speak, where he co-spearheaded a comprehensive 10-week, 15-session workshop on Participatory Action Research (PAR). His project was designed to empower local stakeholders, enabling them to conduct research and implement actions within their communities. The workshop was structured in two phases: the initial phase concentrated on imparting theoretical knowledge and practical research skills. In the subsequent phase, participants actively collected field data, laying the groundwork for community-driven initiatives. This enriching experience profoundly influenced Jonathan's perspective on community building, underscoring his belief that locals should envision and realize sustainable community development.

Jonathan has taken a significant step towards his vision for community empowerment by launching a private BIPOC scholarship. This initiative reflects his deep commitment to fostering educational opportunities and equity. Having already awarded scholarships to two individuals, Jonathan is not just celebrating diversity and achievement but also paving the way for future leaders.

He is now focused on transforming this scholarship into a nonprofit organization. This venture aims to expand its reach and impact, providing more comprehensive support and resources to underserved students of color. Jonathan's journey from a student passionate about social change to a leader actively creating opportunities for others in his community underscores his dedication to making a tangible difference.