CLEO, Inc.

CLEO Announces New CEO for Preeminent Diversity Pipeline Organization

Alexandria, VA —July 11, 2022—The Council on Legal Education Opportunity, Inc. (CLEO), a leading national diversity pipeline organization for the legal profession, proudly announces that Juan Carlos Polanco, Esq., MBA has been named its new Chief Executive Officer. With both a professional and volunteer background steeped in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) across different sectors, especially in higher education, Polanco’s passion for diversifying the legal profession aligns perfectly with the vision and mission of CLEO.

“I could not be prouder of the work of our Search Committee in identifying Juan Carlos as our top candidate and securing him to become CLEO’s new CEO,” said Darryl Franklin, CLEO Board member and Chair of the CEO Search Committee. “We conducted an exhaustive search in a competitive field of highly-qualified candidates, and we are confident that he has the right combination of leadership experience and mission-driven inspiration to expand the reach and effectiveness of CLEO.”

An attorney licensed in New York and New Jersey, Polanco has spent the past 20 years as an executive at the New York State legislature, and an educator at the secondary and higher education levels. Polanco has taught thousands of students as a former New York City (NYC) Public High School teacher in the Bronx and, since 2007, at the Borough of Manhattan Community College where he serves as an adjunct professor for the Department of Ethnic and Race Studies. He has been a public policy commentator on various media outlets and is a former Bronx Commissioner and President of the NYC Board of Elections.

Polanco earned his law degree from Fordham University School of Law, his MBA from Fordham’s Gabelli School of Business, and his undergraduate degree from the University at Albany. Most recently, he completed the Diversity and Inclusion Certificate Program at Cornell University. To learn more about CLEO’s new CEO, visit:

“Leading CLEO is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I am honored to earn the support of the CLEO Board and Advisory Council to serve as the CEO and to lead an incredible team of change agents. Together we are going to be laser focused on diversifying the legal profession and profoundly changing the legal landscape in our country. I am so excited about this opportunity to make a difference,” said Polanco. “CLEO has long stood at the forefront of changing lives by contributing to the law in a meaningful way and I look forward to helping students who participate in our programs achieve their dream of joining the legal profession.”

As CLEO begins its next chapter, we thank Cassandra Sneed Ogden, who retired at the end of 2020 after 25 years of dedicated service to CLEO.  Ogden led CLEO through its transformation to become the venerable organization that it is today.  We also acknowledge and thank Leigh Allen II, who served as Interim CEO and guided the CLEO team through most of the pandemic.  Leigh will continue to serve as Vice President of Marketing and Development.

About the Council on Legal Education Opportunity, Inc.

CLEO, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization committed to diversifying the legal profession by expanding legal education opportunities for persons from traditionally under-represented racial and ethnic groups, low-income, and disadvantaged communities. Founded in 1968, when the number of lawyers of color was less than one percent, CLEO has since had more than 28,000 high school, college, prelaw, and law students participate in its programs. CLEO alumni have excelled in every area of the legal profession to include judges, corporate attorneys, law school deans and professors, practitioners, and politicians. More information about CLEO, its 50+ year history, and its programs can be found at and

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