Actor Luis Guzmán



At the Hispanicize Conference in Miami, where Latinitas co-founders Alicia Rascón and Laura Donnelly won the 2015 Positive Impact Award, they got the chance to interview the well-known actor Luis Guzmán, recipient of the Latinovator Award at Hispanicize 2015. Read below for his conversation with Laura, in which he delves into his inspirational success story and offers young Latinas advice on how to be women of integrity.

We are trying to change Hollywood. How close are we?
We’re right there. Technology has changed so much. There is easier access to the public now. We have the power of Internet and you can record or do a video on your phone or make a podcast. There are so many different outlets to pass a message. Even just doing short movies and putting them on YouTube – that has such an impact. By having this impact we outside Hollywood can do all this stuff to have an impact, and empower young girls…

To become directors themselves, or writers, or graphic designers.
Yeah, anything is possible. Especially now on a laptop. You can build anything from that. You can build fabric, clothes, design, you name it. But also you hit play and it records and you can edit it right there. Something you do in five minutes can have an incredible impact on the whole world.

 Who is a female you admire that is taking Latino voices to new spaces?
I admire people like Rosario Dawson. She does a lot of work for the whole community. Rosie Perez too. They don’t only impact the female community but also act as role models. Rosario does a lot of work with the Lower East Side Girl Club [in New York City] and Voto Latino.

Tell us a little about how you got your first start and what inspired you to go into the field?
I was a social worker on the Lower East Side and one day a few of my kids didn’t show up to the program, so I went out into the street looking for them. I happened to run into a friend of mine who I hadn’t seen in a few years, and he told me he was writing for a TV show and they were coming to NY and were going be looking for people [to cast]. He gave me a phone number, so I called up, went in, and auditioned. I had no clue what I was doing.

Next thing I know, I am costarring on the season premiere of Miami Vice. But I still maintained my job as a social worker for awhile because I didn’t know anything about acting or the entertainment industry. And I was really dedicated and committed to empowering young people and getting them off of welfare, and giving them tools to go out and succeed in society. Basically the tools that I provided were questions. “Who are you? Where are you going? How are you going to get there? Where do you want to be six months from now? A year? Five years?” And I found out nobody ever asked them these questions. They were like: “Oh wow, I never even thought about that because nobody ever asked.” So when you provide people with those kinds of mental tools they refocus themselves.

I used to tell all the young people I worked with: “Think of yourself as a camera lens. Right now you’re really out of focus. My job is to help you help yourself get better into focus.” So that’s what I do and I still go back to where I used to work and I talk to the young people. It’s an important element of my life because though I love what I do as an entertainer and getting to travel the world it’s important to come back. Sometimes the young people there put me on a pedestal. I didn’t necessarily want to be on that pedestal, but they see someone who comes from the same place as them and succeeded. I have the ability to give people faith and to give people hope.

You’d be great in Latinitas! What advice do you want to give to the girls at Latinitas?
Believe in yourself, take pride in who you are, love yourself. Respect yourself as a woman. Don’t give into male domination. Be in control and let a boy know that ‘no’ does not mean ‘yes.’ And as far as bullying goes, because that’s a big thing, bullying is not the way to go. Protect each other from that. Unfortunately there are girls out there who don’t have the love, don’t have the support, so they choose suicide over enduring violence.

DIY: Organizing your Jewelry

5502050-1Written by Priscilla Moctezuma

Accessorizing is a girl’s best friend! Organizing your cute jewelry doesn’t mean having to buy expensive containers. These DIY jewelry organizers are easy, simple, quick, and under $20.00 or less. It is fun and anyone can help you do it.

Necklace Organizer
This cute DIY  includes the use of power tools, so ask your parents or an adult for help!

Supplies:  1 Piece of wood, Acrylic Paint (choose a color) & Foam Brush, Drill, Sander, 10 hooks & 2 clips/latches

First, sand around the piece of wood with the sander — this includes the edges including the edges. Second, apply the acrylic paint with the foam brush on the wood of the desired color you’ve chosen. Next, allow the wood to dry. After the paint dries you can get creative and write a small quote on the top corner or you can always paint on a design. Third, you’ll need to drill in the 10 hooks in the middle or bottom. Just be sure you leave about ½ inch of space in between each hook to allow the necklaces to hang freely. Last, drill or hammer in the clips/latches at the back of the wood and hang it up!

Another necklace organizer — seriously, you can never have too many necklaces.

Supplies: Hammer, Curtain rod, Shower curtain hooks

This DIY is very simple and quick. First, you hammer in where you want to place your curtain rod. Second, put the shower curtain hooks on the rod and allow 1 inch of space in between each hook. Last, place necklaces on the heavier side of the hook to balance out. By the way, you could also use it as a bracelet organizer as well, just don’t add on the second step.

Earring Frame Organizer
Supplies: Picture Frame, Chicken Wire, and Picture Hanging Strips

First, buy a cheap, old picture frame and spray paint it the color you want it to be. Second, cut out the chicken wire to fit the frame. Then, put the chicken wire in first with the rest of the frame. Last, flip the picture frame over and stick on the picture hanging strips along the edges of the frame. Then,  stick it against the wall. Viola! You’ve created your very own earring organizer!

 Storage drawer Earring Organizer

Supplies: Plastic storage drawer, foam, and paint.

In this DIY, if you already own storage boxes, skip the first step. First, you will need to buy the amount of storage drawers you need to fit the amount of earrings you own. Second, cut the foam it to fit the size of the drawer and fill it in. Last, insert your earrings. Prefect way to sort your earrings.

Want VS Need

MoneyWritten by Priscilla Moctezuma

Have you ever walked into your favorite clothing store and wanted to buy every single item? I know I have, and it is extremely tempting. The real question you should ask yourself is:“Do I want it or do I need it?” Teaching yourself not to buy certain things will not be easy, but worth it. It begins with identifying the differences between want vs. need. When you want something it is because you desire it, everyone has it, so now I want one. On the other hand, when you need something it is because you cannot survive without it.In contrast, another way to look at differences is by observing how we eat. For example, needing something to eat vs. wanting to go out to a nice restaurant.

When you are of age to start working, getting a job will help create the boundaries between want vs need. In the mean time, volunteer! Volunteering looks amazing on your college application, and it will help you recognize the differences between your wants and needs.”What you want” will no longer matter because you will surround yourself with people who are less fortunate than you are and it will help you recognize that wanting the new iPhone will no longer be an importance to purchase since it’s something you don’t necessarily need at the moment. Doing so, will put everything into perspective and helps them realize “the new outfit mom bought was not a big deal anymore”.

Amelia*, a high school junior, says she loves to help her community. “It  teaches me that I can change a person’s life by a simple smile or a conversation. Volunteering helped me set aside my wants and focus on the things I already had. So, should you volunteer ? Absolutely! It really change my perspective on life.”

When you are ready to start working in high school, a job and creating a budget will help determine your wants vs needs. Balancing your money is super important.  A job can teach you the value of the dollar by working hours to get more money.  Once you have received your money, set it aside.  Cash can be very easy to spend, so I recommend storing it away. This method can allow your savings to increase and can create the opportunity to spend on something you truly need.

“One thing I have learned about getting a job is that’s it not easy, but totally worth the paycheck. Sure, you have urges to spend, but once you realize how much a meal is at Chick-fil-a that price helps you establish a budget. Especially, if you have the responsibility of paying for your cellphone bill now, like me since I am about to be considered an adult, my parents say. My advice is budget yourself. Once that is done, you can then separate what you need and want,” says Marianne, high school senior.

I know it’s hard to not buy that cute dress at the mall, but other young girls do not have that option. So, next time just think to yourself, “do I really need it? If the answer no, walk away.

*Name has been changed. 

Making Your Desk a Little Happier


Credit: CraftyAmy from

Written by Elena Barrera-Walters

Having a clean, organized, and inviting desk is the best way to get your work done, no matter the time of year. Sometimes, though, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the clutter and piles of pencils, in which case, that’s where this can help you.


  • a desk
  • a few desk organizers
  • a whiteboard
  • school supplies
  • bucket or box (if necessary)

1. If at all possible, get a desk that has a lot of room and space for organization. The more space, the better. It makes the work environment seem much less intimidating.

2. Organize and separate your supplies. Have what you use most often, usually pens and pencils, in the most available area. Put them into a desk organizer for easy access and separate them as you see fit.

3. Have a space specifically reserved for any extra school supplies, or big boxes of things. Boxes of markers or new notebooks always go in the same drawer, so it’s easier to know where to go when you need something.

4. Have an area for your electronic supplies or any other less commonly used school supplies. While it doesn’t need to be quite as well organized or accessible as the pens and pencils, it’s still very necessary to know where those items are.

5. You want to make sure that you are able to put your actual school binders and notebooks somewhere other than the exact space you’ll be working on. If you have more drawer space, keep them there, or buy a bucket or box to keep them in so they aren’t distracting or in the way.

6. For little study tools, I recommend putting them on top of your desk, as a source of inspiration to actually do that studying. Have a little organizer with post-its and paper clips, as well as some flash cards available.

7.  On a white board, set up a system to keep yourself prioritized. Making a chart with things you need to do, to study for, or prepare for really helps you with organizing how and when you’ll be doing your work.

8. While it isn’t necessary for homework, it’s really important to have some happy things on your desk that will make it feel like an inviting place to be. While candles or magazines are really good options, there are many things you could do that make your desk seem a little less intimidating.


While going to do work at a desk probably isn’t what you look forward to most in your day, that doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be a place you dread going to. Having an organized space, with a few little things to make you happy, will make the whole work process much less scary.

Career Spotlight: Assistant Instructor

booksCarolyn Rhea Drapes is an instructor in the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), she holds a PhD and imparts English and business writing classes.

What are some of your job responsibilities?

As a graduate student, I seek to use the dissertation process and time to create new knowledge and collaborate with my peers. Moreover, as an Assistant Instructor, I am tasked with gaining teaching experience as an RWS instructor of undergraduate rhetoric and writing, technical writing, and business writing courses.

Describe your educational background and how it helped you prepare for your career?

After first graduating from Loretto, I entered UTEP immediately, but then left school to help raise a family and work. Later, when my younger daughter entered high school, I re-enrolled at UTEP and completed a BA in Creative Writing. I then entered the RWS program and completed a MA in Rhetoric and Writing Studies, and am now in its doctoral program. All said whether in the workplace or traditional classroom situations, my personal and work experiences have enabled me to bring a unique perspective to the classroom. In addition, working as a corporate Webmaster, visual specialist, and social media maven from the mid-90s through today has helped me to use this eclectic skill set which is perfect for teaching. Overall, I see this as a natural progression.

How did you find your current job?

Previously, all positions with the exception my position with El Paso Natural Gas Company (which was found through an agency) was obtain with the help of friends and associates. My current job differs in that it was acquired from being accepted into the graduate program. As an Assistant Instructor, I am assigned courses to teach each semester, including summer classes when the opportunity arises.

How did you prepare for this career?

To prepare to teach in the program, I first earned the required number of graduate level course credits, which included a pedagogy course. This training also included shadowing an experienced instructor within the program. That semester I attended her class and observed others while also attending my graduate courses. Before the end of that semester, I was helping lecture. Throughout the semester, my teaching mentor and I normed grades and discussed various issues that a teacher is likely to encounter in the classroom. Currently, I attend several meetings each semester with those in the program; in these, we have the opportunity to learn and explore various teaching methods. Continuing professional education in the field ensures that our camaraderie remain vital, informed, and progressive.

What is your favorite part of the job?

Helping students gain their own set of writing and research skills is always important. However, a favorite aspect is appreciating their hard work and why they seek to remain in school and work towards a specific goal. Each goal is as different as the students I teach. This inspires me as I enjoy hearing about their lives and listening to their stories. This helps me understand their situation, which allows me to encourage them to use their current and past experiences when earning their degree. Their reasons for furthering their education help me immensely. Each day in the classroom, I learn new things, and this helps me improve my own writing and research methods.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

An important challenge is to balance my research and writing with teaching and, of course, to make time for my family. My family supports me, which is vitally important to my teaching and working towards my degree. Without them, my life would be quite empty and more difficult to navigate.

What impact does your profession have on young Latinas?

We as graduate instructors seek to help all students better understand the importance of working towards a goal, whether it is the goal of an assignment, or the goal of completing their degree. We support their aims and goals, no matter the degree. Rarely do I ever see a student that is undeclared or uncertain about what they want to do with their lives; this shows me how focused our student population is. Latinas, as are all students, whether young or returning, are valued greatly at this institution. To that end, we are given the opportunity to impart our knowledge and to positively support them.

What do you do for fun when you’re not working?

Photography, drawing, and writing have been life-long passions. I have found that I tend to capture images surrounding my life each day and then seek to manipulate and use them creatively. Even if I am unable to leave campus or home, I find I am constantly composing, whether with images or texts. I also like to read and explore social media trends.

Does living in a border city make you more aware of Hispanic issues?

Of course. My entire life has been a voyage between cultures and economic situations, even when my family and I left El Paso for life in Northern New Mexico for a time. Moreover, as a child of and partner in bicultural marriages, I find we all walk a fine line between various communities constantly. It is interesting to view how each group works with, for, and against each other. We blend and separate constantly, which makes it difficult to find and work for positive change for the whole.

What advice would you give to help girls to prepare for a job like this?

I would say that young women of all ages should think about what it is that they wish to accomplish and then, how to best attain that goal or sets of goals. While the path may shift or change, each student, each woman has a great opportunity to enrich their lives by completing their degree and stepping out into the wider world ready to make a positive impact. If they seek a graduate degree, they should understand that they would enter not only a scholarly environment for themselves, but also learning one for her and for others as well. She will need to understand that she is there to share her skills and knowledge so that the next group of young Latinas can learn and grow positively from the experiences she will share with them.

It’s Not Just a Dress



Written by Arianna Gomez


The incoming First Lady of Texas visited Coutures by Laura on a rainy Friday afternoon for one of the final fittings for the gown and dress ensemble she is to wear for the inauguration and ball. Coming off the coattails of a hard-earned victory in the governor’s election this past fall, one might expect a- rightly- proud woman. The kind of woman whose demeanor implies power and importance.
Yet there is no air of superiority. To a passerby, she appears entirely ordinary- simply one of the many influential Texan women that frequent the boutique. She speaks kindly with the seamstresses, and often consults her assistant for advice in a manner that suggests a friend seeking the opinion of another friend; she greets everybody with a handshake or a polite nod and smile. And, amidst the busyness of a fitting, Mrs. Abbott converses with me as I look on as Laura Gonzalez, my grandmother, makes those final adjustments to ensure that just right fit.
The gown. Under the light of the crystal chandelier which hangs in the showroom, it is a deep, rich red, starkly contrasting the rainy and grey weather that can be seen outside the window. Like every aspect of the gown, the color was carefully chosen by Ms. Gonzalez & Mrs. Abbott. “(We chose) the color red to represent the Republican party, but especially because the color red was really capitalized upon in the campaign,” she says, turning in the mirror at Ms. Gonzalez’s request. They are attempting to decide upon the belt of the dress; there are two styles Ms. Gonzalez has crafted. Ultimately, Mrs. Abbott selects the band adorned with a unique flower, made of the same material as the dress, as she feels it truly ties together the classic yet simple style of the dress.
Indeed, the phrase classic yet simple truly sums up the First Lady of Texas’ style. “I like the style because, to me, it doesn’t change with time. I like it simple,” she says. Ms. Gonzalez nods in agreement as she alters the gown ever so slightly. Style is not the only thing that the two women see eye to eye on, though- the handful of shared values between them is one of the many reasons that Cecilia Abbott chose Coutures by Laura to create her attire for the big day. 
Values of family, education, service, perseverance in the face of adversity, and faith were all cited by Mrs. Abbott as common principles between the two Hispanic women, along with their drive and determination. In an era when the Hispanic people are often dubbed the silent minority, they are anything but silent, each working hard to achieve their goals and succeed, to leave a legacy for future generations.
It was their common bond in heritage that served as a large component in the decision of who was to design the attire for Mrs. Abbott’s appearances at the Inauguration and Ball. And it was this common bond that gave Laura Gonzalez the desire to create the inauguration attire, and reach out to Cecilia. 
I wanted to make the clothes she would wear on such an important day because I knew her and because she’s Hispanic. I knew her already from her previous visits to the boutique – so I wanted to help her to be dressed the best way she could be, the way that best complimented her, and the best way I could serve her within my abilities and capacities… I really wanted to be of assistance to the woman that is going to be the first Hispanic First Lady of Texas,” she says. 
Over the course of the weeks Ms. Gonzalez worked on this dress,  and I came to realize that it represented what Mrs. Abbott and Ms. Gonzalez stood for. This dress was created with hard work, with careful stitches, with meticulous attention to detail. 
And this drive came, in part, from her heritage and past. Ms. Gonzalez has been in the business for over thirty years; Coutures by Laura began as a small boutique in McAllen, Texas. Ms. Gonzalez says she was taught the art of designing, creating and sewing as a very young girl. 
“I strongly believe that this passion for sewing, designing and creating is in my genes,” Ms. Gonzalez says. 
Her drive to design is much like Cecilia’s drive to better education within Texas, which has come from her parents- dedicated educators who were the children of immigrants. 
Hispanic people are hard workers; I saw this in the care and time my grandmother, Ms. Gonzalez, put into the dress and gown. Despite the hours and considerable effort that went into the gown, however, not once did she complain, or take off, or wish to be doing something else. She worked hard. She worked quietly, late into the night and early in the morning. She persevered. She did her best- a value instilled in her at a young age, from her own family as she grew up in Mexico.
“My Uncle Rafael always said to be the best at what you do. If you’re going to be a street sweeper, be the best street sweeper there is. So if I’m going to make dresses, I’m going to be the best at making dresses,” she says.
And the dress certainly was the best. As Mrs. Abbott stood in the mirror at the final fitting, it was easy to see that it fit just right, moved smoothly, and complimented Cecilia well, but yet never commanded so much attention that the eyes were not focused on the wearer. The hard work that had gone into the gown was visible. After she had inspected it closely one last time, and guaranteed that it was truly perfect, there it was: that hint of quiet pride that the Hispanic people hold, reflected in Laura Gonzalez’s eyes. 
It did not linger for long. She was already thinking about what was coming next. 

Living La Vida Healthy

Water - healthy optionHealthy chicas share their top tips to staying healthy.

1. Focus on the Whole You

-”You not only have to focus on being physically healthy or good eating habits, but also being mentally healthy, emotionally healthy and physically.” -Ariana

-”Being healthy by staying active and eating well will give you energy and it improves your emotional and physical being.”-Lesly

-”Keep your body healthy both mentally and physically.” – Elizabeth


2. Stay Active

-”Stay fit so that you can feel good about yourself.” -Victoria.

-”Exercising is healthy like volleyball, basketball, track, tennis and dancing.” – Ydaliz

-”Go outside and get active for 60 minutes or more.” – Alyssa

-”Exercise to keep your body healthy.” -Kiara

-”Be more active to keep your body healthy.” – Ashley

-”Exercise by doing zumba, yoga or even belly dancing.” – Abigail


3. Eat Healthy Foods

-”Eat healthy like veggies and fruit. Eat breakfast every day.  -Ashley

-”Eat vegetables and fruits.  It is not good to eat junk food all the time, but it is okay to eat a little bit for it sometimes.” -Alyssa

-”You should eat a lot of green vegetables and eat lots of colorful fruits to stay strong and safe.” – Natalie

-”We should eat more healthy stuff then junk food.” – Kiara

-You have to stay healthy and don’t eat a lot of junk food.” -Senorina


4. Be Confident & Take Care of Your Mental Health

-”Don’t listen to what others think or say to you.” -Elizabeth

-”You should also not compare yourself to other people and never give up on yourself.” – Victoria

-”I’ve been struggling with my self-esteem for a while, but I learned how to stay healthy mentally and physically. I know that I’ll eventually learn how to be content with me and my body.” -Ariana

-”You shouldn’t criticize yourself or compare yourself to other people.” – Senorina

-”Don’t think negative about yourself and love who you are.” -Elizabeth

5. Make Healthy Choices

-”Don’t do drugs like alcohol or smoking.” – Ydaliz

-”Smoking can cause a lot of bad stuff like it can cause cancer and it will cause a lot of problems.” – Kiara

-”Don’t smoke. It can cause lung cancer.” – Avery

-”Don’t drink alcohol. Too much beer can give you brain damage.” -Daniella

Taking the First Step

Stresses of StudyingWritten by Vanessa Aguirre

Everyone has some experience with procrastination. You may have found yourself putting aside homework—or any other projects—to do things like update your Facebook page, chat with friends, or watch Netflix. As high school sophomore Hannah Young said, “I’d rather do things that I like, like watch TV, sleep, or read a book.” Basically, pretty much anything but what you should have been spending your time on. To some, procrastination may be a minor problem, but to others it can be a major source of stress and anxiety. It is common for anyone to be furiously working on a project late into the night, wondering why in the world they started working on the project at the last minute — because a powering through homework fueled only by caffeine all night is not fun.

Why do we procrastinate?
At some point in life, everyone has put off something important in order to do other trivial activities, but procrastination is most common in students. According to the World Journal of Pharmaceutical Research, an estimated 25 to 75 percent of college students procrastinate on academic work . In 2007, a study published in Psychological Bulletin by psychologist Piers Steel found that a grand total of 80 to 95 percent of college students procrastinated on a regular basis, especially regarding school assignments. Despite stress, lack of sleep, and inefficiency, students regularly procrastinate. Why?

One reason is that people, especially students, tend to overestimate how much time they have to perform a task. “I think that I have a lot of time to do something so I can relax for an hour,” Lisa Alvarez, 15, said, “But it ends up becoming longer than that.”

Remember that time it felt like you had a week to do a project when it was really due the next day?

Another factor that leads to procrastination is the mentality that you will be more motivated in the future instead of at the present moment, which means that at moment you don’t have the motivation or the right motivation or mindset to work on anything. People mistakenly believe that in order to work on something they need to be in the right mood.

“I procrastinate because I have no motivation to get [work] done then and there,” Mackenzie Henson, 16, said. Sadly, the truth is that if you wait to get the right frame of mind to work on something, especially something you dread, the task will most likely never get completed. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to go to sleep and wake up to find the task completed– if only!

The negative effects of procrastination
Working on something you don’t want to do can be tiring and annoying, so it can be considered natural to want to delay that as much as possible. In the long-term, procrastination is harmful. Researchers, Dianne M. Tice and Roy F. Baumeister, found in a 2007 study that by the end of a school term, students who procrastinated had higher levels of stress and illness than at the beginning of the school term. Psychologists also reported that the students who procrastinated had lower grades than those who didn’t procrastinate. For example, Lisa Alvarez, 16, said that “my worst experience with procrastination was probably when I did everything I could to not do my homework. So I didn’t do any homework that day, and the next day I was completely lost in school with my classes.”

Procrastination also puts a strain on one’s social life. If you procrastinate regularly, if you constantly turn in projects late or scramble to get them done until the last minute, then friends, family, and coworkers may stop depending on you. Not only does procrastination place a burden on yourself, it places a burden on others!

How to stop procrastinating
While there’s nothing wrong with procrastinating every once in a while, procrastinating often leads to more harm than good. And the key to stop procrastinating is self-control and managing your time well. Evaluate your priorities—make a list if it helps—and focus on the more important tasks no matter how motivated you are. “I beat procrastination by prioritizing” should be your mantra! Try to reduce the amount of time you spend on things like aimlessly surfing the internet or watching too much tv. Psychology expert Kendra Cherry writes, “A couple hours sifting through junk email, several hours watching television shows that you don’t even like, a few more hours playing games on Facebook—it all adds up quite quickly.”

Remove yourself from any distractions, like electronics, books, people, etc., and work on the task step-by-step. Establishing a schedule also helps. As Hannah Young says, “Try studying in little pieces during the days leading up to the big exam.” Spreading out time dedicated to a project throughout the week will lead to being more relaxed and less stressed.  Knowing that you have most of the work done (if not all of the work) by the time the deadline comes is a huge stress reliever. Plus, the more you manage your time, the more likely you are to find time for your hobbies and much needed rest. Mackenzie Henson adds, “I basically scared myself into doing it. We shouldn’t procrastinate or else we will not be successful in life later.”

This upcoming school year turn off the TV, shut down the computer, and concentrate on finishing any projects that have deadlines quickly approaching. You’ll feel a sense of relief, and feel much better!

Leading Latina: Rosa Rios Valdez

Written by Prakriti Bhardwa

rosa_rios_valdezThe passion that Rosa Rios Valdez has for economic development is astounding. For the last 24 years, Rosa has worked tirelessly to build BCL of Texas, a statewide nonprofit, from the ground up, helping establish BCL as one of Texas’s most prominent lenders and non-profit organizations.

She was there from the beginning, when there were only two employees in a former bank building, to today when that huge office now seems a little too small for the fast growing staff. By the time Rosa Rios Valdez was asked to lead BCL of Texas and become CEO, she had already had many years of experience in economic development.

By closely shadowing her managers and mentors, Rosa was able to gain the real life experience that many young adults lack and ultimately hope for. “I realized that I liked learning about entrepreneurs, learning about their business and their stories, and about their expansions,” said Rosa. “I was very lucky that all my bosses pushed me to take every opportunity that came my way. They also provided me with many ways to show and build my leadership skills in the economic development field.”

It wasn’t Rosa’s idea to start BCL of Texas, it was just something that came her way. She had been working in the economic development branch of a Central Texas utilities company, Rosa noticed that there wasn’t much of an SBA loan presence in these small rural towns she was visiting. After making note of this, Rosa mentioned this to the administration. They listened to her observation and followed up with her.

“They called me in a meeting in the office and pushed an envelope towards me,” said Rosa. “Inside the envelope was an application to start a small CDC. They told me that I was right, they didn’t have a presence in these small towns and they wanted me to lead this new venture. I gave the envelope back; it wasn’t something I had envisioned myself doing. I thanked them for the opportunity. However, I thought about it, and well, that was 24 years ago. It’s been very good.”

Throughout the years, the job hasn’t gotten any easier, but Rosa doesn’t mind. Being available to families, communities, businesses, small towns and civic leaders are all in a day’s work. “With BCL of Texas, we were regional and now we are state-wide,” said Rosa.

“So I would say that my job is harder now. We have hundreds of communities that we are responsible for assisting and huge regions of Texas that we serve. So the job is extremely demanding and you need to know and correctly represent the priorities of each of these small towns that BCL serves.” Rosa gets her inspiration from not only the people she surrounds herself with, but mainly through her passion for helping others and her commitment to helping local businesses and families. “I want to be a leader to the people around me and I want them to see the dedication that I put into the projects and people that come to us,” said Rosa. “I want to inspire and help them see how important it is to be dedicated to a cause and to push through any difficulties they may have.”

Being CEO isn’t a job that just anyone can do. The leader and face of the company has to have many different skill sets and has to be very adaptable to their surroundings and the people that they interact with. This tractability is something Rosa feels is important for a successful company. “You have to be extremely organized and you never know what a customer will need, what kind of call is going to come in,” said Rosa. “You always have to make sure that you know everything about what’s going on with the company. You have to be very focused on deadlines. You also have to be a great listener.” Another thing that Rosa appreciates is her staff. While her job continues to become more work-load heavy, she knows that she can rely on the people around her to pick up projects and things that she may not be able to. “What makes it work and the factor that pulls everything together is having skilled staff that can perform in all lines of business,” said Rosa. “A great staff can provide quality customer service and skills to help all BCL customers. That’s what makes the job a little easier.”

Being accustomed to such a fast paced and busy lifestyle, it seems that Rosa never has time to slow down. She never envisioned being CEO would mean having a job that carried over the 8-5 time frame. Working longer hours gets tough, but it’s something that Rosa is passionate about so she doesn’t necessarily mind. “I left a big organization with wonderful benefits to join a much smaller nonprofit,” said Rosa. “But the mission and the cause fit me. I have no regrets. It’s been wonderful.”

Starting High School

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Written by Imani Calaban

Hearing or thinking about the words “growing up” can be pretty nerve wrecking. When you hear “growing up” you think about: work, bills, work, independence, and, oh yeah, did I mention work? There are different phases of growing up: elementary school, intermediate school, middle school, high school, college, your life-long career, and retirement. Each one has its ways of making you feel scared or anxious. The first “growing phase” that probably freaks us out the most is high school. You feel like you’re finally growing up. You feel like it’s going to be the time of your life. You know that this is the beginning to the rest of your life, and you know that the decisions you make in high school will impact your future–  high school sounds pretty scary.

I started high school in the Fall of 2014, and I go to a school with over 90% of the people are Caucasian. Overall, everybody was very kind and welcoming, which is usually how your peers treat incoming freshmen. High school is definitely overwhelming at some points, but, at the same time, you have a lot more freedom at home and during school.It took me a few days to find all of my classes perfectly, but I had it down by the second week. There is a lot of homework, but it’s also pretty easy. The teachers aren’t as hard on you as they used to be. Now, it’s up to you to get your work done which makes you feel very mature.  During school the teachers let you work at your own pace. There are pep rallies, the sports are more competitive, and the school itself is bigger and better! You might not get along with everybody, but you are certainly not alone. There are plenty of other people in your school that are just like you– keep in mind high schools have hundreds and sometimes thousands of students that are attending!

If you enter high school with a good attitude and maintain that good attitude the whole time, you’ll do great! There’s a lot of people in high school that are just like you, you just have to find them. You can find people  with like-minded interests through after-school clubs or sports.  Yes, it’s okay to feel stressed or overwhelmed, but just remember that it’s a big part of growing up! You have to push yourself to get everything done and done on time. Anything you do in high school can/will affect your future. The way it affects your future is all up to you.

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