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Helping Kids Like Himself 'Combines Passion And Purpose,' Says Big Thought's New CEO

Rick Holter
Byron Sanders says filling the "opportunity gap" is what drives him as the new CEO of the education nonprofit Big Thought.

One of the most influential education nonprofits in North Texas has a new leader. Byron Sanders, who's 34 and grew up in southern Dallas, got the CEO job this week at Big Thought, a nonprofit focused on merging education and the arts to create a creative path for kids.

Interview Highlights

On early life in southern Dallas: "Growing up, there were some things at home that weren't always ideal. I grew up in a home where I witnessed abuse. My outlet was in out-of-school-time activities, was in being able to go to theater and live that life, to be in track and field and Odyssey of the Mind — all these different experiences that my mother chose to give me."

How he got to the prestigious Greenhill private school: "I met a mentor in middle school who told me about this place called Greenhill. So I went up and I visited and I'm taking a tour. There's this nice kid who's leading me down this sidewalk. Then a peacock walks by. I'm like, 'What kind of magical land [is this] where they have peacocks meandering about?'"

How getting kicked out of SMU after a fraternity hazing disaster changed his life: "You don't always do the right thing. You don't always make the right choices or the right decisions in life. People fall. People make mistakes. But for me, because there was someone to listen to my story, and hear the full depth and the nuance ... they didn't write me off.... That's absolutely where our kids are. They have a lot more left to give. We just have to give them that opportunity."

Rick Holter was KERA's vice president of news. He oversaw news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.
Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.