For 30 years, high school students from across Texas and beyond have been coming to Southwestern in the summer for the annual Lorenzo de Zavala Youth Legislative Session (LDZ) sponsored by the National Hispanic Institute.
It’s a program designed to develop future leaders for the Latino community.
Two graduates of that program – who also are graduates of Southwestern University – exemplify the outcome the program’s founders hope to achieve.
2006 graduate Anita Fernandez and 2007 graduate Olivia Travieso are among the co-founders of a company in San Antonio called Our Community Inc. (OCI). The two started the company in 2009 along with four other friends, all of whom have connections to the National Hispanic Institute.
“All of us had different areas of expertise, but we all had a shared purpose, which was to contribute to our community,” Fernandez said. “So we decided to come together and use each other as resources to increase the impact for our clients.”
OCI provides consulting services in the areas of business development, leadership development and education. Fernandez has recently taken a position at a K-12 charter school in San Antonio called the Brooks Academy of Science and Engineering where she will be responsible for preparing students for college.”
“Education and culture have always been very important to me,” said Fernandez, who was raised in a traditional Mexican-American family. Before Southwestern offered a major in Latin American studies, Fernandez created her own independent major in the subject and went on to earn a master’s degree in Latin American Studies from UT-Austin.
Travieso helps companies with the things necessary to establish a presence in the community such as logo design, branding and web site development. She also helps businesses learn how to work with cities such as San Antonio.
“Especially with the influx of companies from Latin America, they want to come to someone who knows the city well,” said Travieso, who, like Fernandez, has lifelong family ties to San Antonio. Travieso was one of the first students to earn a degree in Latin American Studies from Southwestern and recently completed a master’s degree in public affairs from UT’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs.
Although OCI was started in the middle of a recession, it has already gained companies of all sizes as clients and has been featured in the San Antonio Express-News. OCI rents office space in a building in San Antonio called the Finesilver Building, which used to be a Levi Strauss factory, but now serves as a hub for creative people and entrepreneurs.
In addition to providing consulting services, OCI has a few of its own lines of business. One is a line of clothing that is designed to look trendy but at the same time convey a social message. For example, the Aztec glyph for community which is featured in the OCI logo also features prominently on some of their t-shirts. Travieso, who has a talent for art, has co-designed the t-shirts.
Down the road they hope to expand into other ventures such as a publishing house that will focus on works by and for members of the Latino community.