Simone Sanders’ resume is quite impressive. And while her professional accomplishments are vast, the amount of time she’s spent giving back to this community her entire life truly stands out. She’s served in various board positions within the local and state chapters of Texas Association of Black Personnel in Higher Education (TABPHE), she’s spearheaded efforts to continue and expand the only Juneteenth festival in the area and so much more — none of which she gets paid to do, and all of which she does in her “free time.”
When learning about Sanders’ background, you’ll find every step has contributed to the work she does now. “That’s just always been the mindset,” she said. “We help people.” Her grandmother helped lead a neighborhood group focused on fulfilling needs of their community, and her mother, Tina Butler, co-founded TABPHE’s Corpus Christi chapter in 1991. For this family, lending a helping hand is a part of the generational cycle.
If you’re at all familiar with TABPHE-CC, you’re familiar with Sanders’ work. Having grown up attending chapter meetings with her mother, she began her involvement long before she realized the impact she’d later make on her community. From sharing ideas on how to streamline processes to implementing social media strategies, she not only always had a voice in the room, but it was valued and respected. Sanders served five years as president before serving as the vice president of public relations on the state level and then eventually returning to the local chapter’s president role, which she still holds.
Filling gaps and blazing new trails in the community, the non-profit’s motto is simple: It exists to assist. Originally founded with a vision to ensure the higher education system in Texas provides equitable opportunities and advancement for Black personnel while fostering a positive environment for minority students to successfully matriculate, the local chapter has extended its scope to cover so much more. “I think the community at large looks to us because for the last 10 to 15 years, we’ve been one of the only African American organizations [in Corpus Christi] trying to do the work,” Sanders said. “So, people in our community come to us with issues that aren’t really in our realm, but because we’re one of the only resources representing the African American community, we fill those gaps and provide for the people in whatever ways we can.”
Just a handful of these efforts through the years include mentorship and leadership programs for students of all ages, putting books in barbershops and helping students maintain their reading skills throughout the summer, putting together food boxes and delivering them to different neighborhoods and, more recently, absorbing the responsibilities of planning and executing the annual Juneteenth Festival and 10 Days of Jubilee programming.
The legacy of Dr. Gloria Scott, Hannah Carter and the Juneteenth Coalition was officially passed down to TABPHE-CC in 2019. With Sanders at the helm, the goal was to continue the legacy, and build upon it for future generations. This year’s Juneteenth Festival was the largest one yet, and Sanders is already brainstorming ways to make it bigger and better next year.
Her visionary nature is paired with a unique sense of selflessness and an unwavering commitment to the people. “I really believe that everything I do, I do for the people and because I want to see them excel. I feel so much happiness when I look at photos from our events and see smiling faces. In a place where African Americans and African American culture is scarce or rarely celebrated, that’s so important.”
A goal-oriented, get-it-done-at-all-costs type of person who always has a plan, Sanders is known as someone you can always count on. Beyond the philanthropic-related titles Sanders holds, she can also be found helping a friend with their resume, building a website for someone starting a new project or giving a tablet to a neighbor kid so they can do an assignment.
When not busy bettering the welfare and life of individuals in our community, she serves as the community outreach coordinator for the Texas General Land Office. Sanders conducts outreach initiatives to inform, educate and maintain maximum transparency for all disaster recovery programs; serves as the community relations liaison for the Coastal Bend Council of Governments; provides briefings on recovery programs to elected officials and key stakeholders; and aids in the implementation of said programs. On top of that, she also owns and operates her own recently opened business, CC Bin Steals & Deals.
Sanders is turning 42 later this year, and is looking at the next five to 10 years as a second act, filled with endless ideas already running through her mind. And you wouldn’t be wrong to suspect that whatever this second act for Sanders looks like, it will surely entail lending a helping hand to the community that built her.