FROM BOYS TO MEN

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By Sam Allen | Photography Hemali Zaveri

The youngest of five siblings, Dwayne Jones learned the value of a good education early on. One of
the first examples was set for him when his mother moved the family from San Bernardino to
Redlands, California so that he could attend top-performing public schools. What’s more, his family
carries a storied tradition of public service. His mother fed the homeless, his father became a
preacher after his career as a Marine, and his older sisters hold prominent positions in the public
sector. It stands to reason that Jones would follow this pattern of
humanitarianism.

Having been a self-described “terror” as a little boy, Jones once jumped
off of his roof when he was eight, with predictably painful results. Perhaps this is why he strives
to help slightly impulsive boys who, in their enthusiasm to explore the world, sometimes get into
trouble. His goal is to help them take their own giant leaps, safely and successfully. “There’s
nothing like seeing a reflection of yourself in them when you were that age,” Jones recalls. “It’s
like, yeah, that’s exactly who I was.”

Harboring that same impulsiveness as a young boy, Jones yearned to understand the world around him.
Football allowed him to manifest his energy in a positive way while forming relationships with male
role models. Appropriately, those first chapters in his adult life include a football scholarship
and a transitory career in the NFL. Fifteen years of public service in politics and the business
world followed, including the formation of his consulting firm, RDJ Enterprises.

Ultimately, Jones’ background and understanding of children inspired a new avenue for public
service. In 2010, Jones founded Urban Ed Academy, where he oversees the mentoring of boys of color
in the third, fourth, and fifth grade.

The adventure really began in 2009 when Jones’ co-workers and friends began asking him to mentor
their sons. He communicated so well with the children that teachers started asking him to take on
their students who were having trouble in school. Soon he had “a small
army” of boys under his wing.

Observing a need within his community, Jones made several phone calls and leveraged his personal
connections, from fraternity brothers to fellow football players, to bring Urban Ed Academy into
being.

These days, Urban Ed Academy assists boys of color in five key focus areas: Academic Enrichment,
Character Development, Health and Recreation, Cultural Awareness, and Community Service. The
Academy serves as a Saturday school in San Francisco for boys, who, as a population, are diagnosed
with ADHD three times more frequently than girls. The program provides the boys with opportunities
that they might otherwise not have.

Jones credits NaVorro Bowman, linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers, as one of his greatest
supporters. Bowman has volunteered as the Celebrity Sponsor for Urban Ed and underwrites the Summer
Smart Saturday program. He also throws sizeable fundraisers for the school each summer, which
carries the organization’s funding through the fall. He even organized a Christmas toy giveaway for
Urban Ed in 2013 that garnered over 1,000 toys for the school’s 500 students.

Urban Ed Academy is also infused with the spirit of friendship between Jones and California
Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom. “Gavin is a fantastic supporter of Urban Ed Academy,” says Jones.
“He’s amazing with the kids and the program, actually coming to meet with them often and hosting
personal fundraisers to support Urban Ed.”

Jones is enthusiastic about his appreciation for his friendship with Newsom, citing his wedding at
Newsom’s winery, Cade Estate Winery on Howell Mountain in Napa Valley. Newsom officiated the
wedding, which was featured in Modern Luxury Brides California magazine. “Dwayne is remarkably
gifted and passionate about solving the veritable issues of our time: poverty and social mobility,”
says Newsom. “He’s intensely devoted to systemically reforming the educational system. Urban Ed is
an example of that. Dwayne is the real deal.”

Despite his accomplishments, Jones is surprisingly humble and claims that “None of my professional
life was ever intentional.” Perhaps that’s the point. Movers and shakers are often molded by
circumstance and
intuition.

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