TEXAS LEADERSHIP FORUM CLASS OF 2011
I remember being inducted into the Texas Leadership Program. I was a sixteen-year-old girl who was interested in being a mover and shaker in my community but was unaware of how to do so effectively. Through the guidance and networking of movers and shakers I met through TLF, I was able to see what an invaluable skill it is to engage with the people around you.
I graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a dual Bachelor’s degree in International Studies and Mandarin Chinese in December 2016. While there, my coursework focused on research of the development within the African continent and US-China relations. I dedicated most of my time on programming and strengthening the responsiveness of our department as it related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. The work I did for the College of International Studies focused primarily on making sure students, like myself, could have a platform to discuss international issues that plague not only our nation but also the world. This was done primarily through disseminating information and sharing it with people within our college. The Student Committee I was a part of held monthly film screenings and weekly meetups with deans to discuss various topics. We also held ourselves accountable for being culturally aware and being the university’s first responders for social justice campaigns. While at OU, I had the amazing opportunity to study abroad in both Shanghai University and East China Normal University in China. I was selected as a Confucius Scholar which provided me with a Chinese Government Scholarship. My first semester focused on full Mandarin immersion, the second on various topics including globalization and urbanization in a transformative China and social issues that affect the country. My experience changed how I view the world and made me reflect deeply about how others view me. It was important for me to utilize this global engagement experience to positively represent African-American womanhood and break down stereotypes that were deeply rooted in a nation whose international doors opened 50 years prior.
Upon graduating, I immediately left for Berlin. While in Berlin, my time was spent learning the German language and volunteering for various organizations whose primary focus is community building and inclusion for refugees from different walks of life. The decision to come to Berlin was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my twenty-two years of life. I had the opportunity to hear stories from refugees—their struggles, their hopes, their pain, and yes, even their happiness. I met individuals who care deeply about the world and have dedicated their entire lives on making things better. I read the news through the lens of Europeans especially important during a time when so many political questions affect us. I discussed foreign policy and saw the effects of it. That time period also provided me with a much needed break from the university setting to ponder deeply on what changes that I would like to make to this world when given the opportunity.
In the summer, I will leave for China for the second time. I will be working for a small company and in the fall, I will begin the Hopkins-Nanjing program with John Hopkins University. Following that, I will be attending the D.C campus to finish my master’s degree. There are a few uncertainties about my life but through my experiences, I know that, I am embarking on a journey that will focus on diplomacy. The Texas Leadership Forum gave me tools to embark, and I have been using them. Thank you Texas Leadership Forum for the support you have provided to me during my journey. I look forward to giving back to TLF as a mentor and career member in the future.
FORMER STUDENT SPOTLIGHTS
My experience in TLF was amazing. It was the first year of the program and I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, I learned a lot during my time with TLF. It taught me about how government works at a local and national level but more importantly, it taught me leadership skills, which I continue to use to this day. I saw that leadership isn’t just for people on Capitol Hill. Leadership is everywhere if you just know where to look and being a leader can make an impact on the community around you. It also made me interested in learning more about the leaders in my community and to stay more informed.
I used my leadership skills by becoming an editor on the student newspaper at Tyler Junior College and helped lead a staff of about 15 writers. After graduating with my associates degree, I transferred to the University of North Texas where I picked up another leadership role as the sports editor for the student TV station running segments on two different shows. I was also a producer, editor, and director with a team of seven people and we put out quality shows.
But perhaps I have implemented those leadership skills the most in my line of work. I am a sportswriter. It is a male-dominated industry and most of the time I’m the only female in the press box or locker room. Because of that, I’ve had to deal with things like being accused of sleeping with players, not knowing anything about sports, and only working sports for the men. It’s hard to handle but I try to lead by example, work hard, and let my writing speak for itself.
Through all of these experiences, I’ve become stronger and I credit TLF for instilling those leadership skills in me when I could have been very vulnerable to those types of comments. I’ve also been contacted by other female sportswriters who are in college and are trying to start out in the business. I’ve been lucky enough to help and mentor them when I can just like other female sportswriters have mentored me. I know those instincts to give back and be an industry leader are a result of being a member of TLF.
I’ve worked in minor league baseball for three years now and it’s been an amazing experience. With the leadership skills and lessons learned through TLF, I know that many more TLF members will be able to chase their dreams too.
MEET YANELA MONTOYA
TEXAS LEADERSHIP FORUM CLASS OF 2009
I graduated from Austin College May of 2013 with a Bachelors degree in Environmental Studies and Political Science. I am now a 2013 Dallas/Fort Worth Teach for America corps member. I teach kindergarten bilingual at Clara Oliver Elementary School in South Oak Cliff, Texas.
During my four years of college, I maintained myself occupied by getting involved with the Austin College Student Health Services Department. For three years I served as the department’s Peer Educator. As a peer educator my role was to organize programs for incoming freshman on topics related to homesickness, stress management, relationships, etc. As a Peer Educator, I was able to discover my artistic ability and able to develop my leadership skills by spearheading health related activities on campus. I was also a member of a service based fraternity – Alpha Phi Omega. The organization required that each member fulfill 30 hours of community service per semester. Alpha Phi Omega ignited my passion for service. The summer of 2010 I became a member of AmeriCorps. That summer I volunteered for an organization named the Trinity River Mission. For eight weeks a corps member and I organized activities for 3rd and 4th graders. The following summer I received a grant to serve abroad in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. I spent six weeks working with an organization called Asociación CREAR. I worked alongside the organization’s directors to enlighten the local community on environmental awareness. My final year at Austin College, I was given the opportunity to work as the Interim Coordinator for the Environmental Studies Department. My roles as Interim Coordinator included organizing the department’s field trips for local schools districts, managing budgets, and supervising student employees. These opportunities would not have been possible without my participation in the Texas Leadership Forum.
The Texas Leadership Forum began my quest to explore the world. TLF set the foundation for my academic curiosity as well as helping develop my professionalism. As I look back and reflect on my experience, I realize that I became prepared to tackle the academic and leadership experiences in college thanks to TLF.
I would like to thank Texas Leadership Forum for laying out the foundation for the rest of my professional career.
TEXAS LEADERSHIP FORUM CLASS OF 2008
I am currently a Studio Art Major at DePauw University and I have one semester left to complete my degree for my undergrad. These past few years have taught me a lot about myself, friends, and life overall. I found my passion for art during my first year in college when I took my first studio art class. From there I made sure to secure a spot as a worker in the darkroom and digital lab. This school year I was promoted as the manager of the darkroom. So I oversaw all of the other work study students and made sure to keep all equipment, procedures, and inventory running smoothly. I am also in the Women’s DePauw Rugby team, and a few other organizations and clubs that I enjoy.
TLF was one of the most amazing opportunities given to me for which I will always be thankful. I was one of four senior students from Molina High School to be granted the chance to travel to Washington D.C. to get hands on experience concerning politics and leadership. My mind was opened to all the possibilities that I have in life and that if I really want to accomplish something that I should pursue my goals. Ever since then I’ve made sure to take full advantage of all the opportunities I am given in order to succeed and achieve my dreams. After undergrad it is my dream to move to the East coast and work toward my MFA and dedicate my art in social justice pieces and raising awareness to multiple issues. I look forward to what I will achieve in my future and it’s all thanks to TLF.
DOMINIC HILARIO TEXAS LEADERSHIP FORUM CLASS OF 2007
The lessons I learned while a part of the Texas Leadership Forum are still very much a part of who I am today. I am a recent graduate of the University of Dallas receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry. Although most science is done in a dark tucked away lab or on an old desk at three in the morning I can honestly say that without a fair amount of leadership skills and the ability to take initiative in situations I would not have made it through my college years.
Two instances in which the ability to lead played a major part in my college career is during my research opportunities. The first research project involved synthetic organic chemistry, and my second project involved measuring the gait or walking patterns of various individuals to prevent fall prevention in the elderly. The first thing I noticed about research was how unstructured it was. Compared to the classroom setting, where the labs are laid out in a coherent and cook book manner, I had nothing to go on but notes of past students. The success or failure of the project rested entirely on my shoulders. Fortunately, I had the experience and ability to take what I was given and make it work. Even though I was working alone in my organic research I still had to display all of the qualities of a leader: initiative, creativity, and most importantly the ability to endure and overcome various problems that arose, and there were a lot of them!
In my biomechanics research I got to work with a very brilliant team of my peers. It was in this project that I believe I learned one of the most important lessons about leadership. All of us on the research team were smart, but I noticed that we weren’t getting much done until our advisor gave each of us individual tasks that played to our strengths. I then realized that the most valuable person in the science field is the one who can consolidate the knowledge of many different people and direct their efforts into making a finished product. This person does not necessarily have to be the smartest or most inventive, but a leader can always take what they are given and utilize it most effectively.
The greatest thing that I have gained from the Texas Leadership Forum is the realization that leadership is a skill, and it is a thing to be perfected. One is not born a leader but rather leadership is learned from the great people around us. When I think back on the students who were in the TLF with me, and the prominent members of society who were apart of the TLF program I realize that I was in an environment which greatly prompted my growth as a leader, and for this I will forever be grateful. I recently acquired a job as a medical lab consultant working with state of the art spectrometric methods. Lab work in the medical field is my dream job and there is no doubt I would not be where I am today if I did not have the leadership qualities I gained in the TLF.
TEXAS LEADERSHIP FORUM CLASS OF 2007
I recently graduated from Texas Christian University in May 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in middle school mathematics. During my last semester at TCU I student taught 8th grade Algebra and Geometry at Stripling Middle School and also 5th grade math at Mary Harris Intermediate. The time I spent teaching at these schools was a great learning experience. It reinforced the fact that teaching is what I would love to do throughout my life. While in college I worked for Group Excellence where I tutored students in various Fort Worth ISD schools. I also worked as a private tutor for Frog Tutoring and Knowledge Guides and taught a few SAT classes during summer. This year I also worked as an election clerk and loved it! It was so exciting to see how citizens participated during the Election Day. Today I am currently working for State Farm with an agent who used to be a teacher at Thomas Jefferson and at a YMCA in Fort Worth. I am working on my teacher certification so hopefully next school year I will be working as a math teacher!
TLF was one of my greatest learning experiences and one which I will always remember. It taught me much more than politics. It also taught me that by having determination, leadership and support many things are possible. TLF showed me the importance of helping and educating others. Everyone needs to know how politics truly work and the value of becoming well-informed. Learning how the political system functions encourages one to become more involved. This is one of the reasons I decided to become a teacher. Education can take someone so far; it allows for many meaningful opportunities. I am very glad that as a senior in high school I was one of the students chosen to take part in something that made such a difference for me. This experience helped me grow, better analyze decisions and become much more conscious and aware about issues happening in society. I am entirely thankful!
I want to return what TLF did for me by motivating students to become leaders in today’s society. I want to encourage them to become educated and help them realize they are all capable of accomplishing any goal they set. Education is the key to many significant and remarkable opportunities. It will be my purpose not only to teach math, but also to give support and encouragement to each and every student that comes through my classroom.
TEXAS LEADERSHIP FORUM CLASS OF 2007
My experience in TLF was amazing. It was the first year of the program and I wasn’t sure what to expect but I learned so much about leadership and how government works. Going through the program was eye-opening for me. Sitting in on a Congressional hearing at a table with political journalists showed me what I could possibly do with my future career. The program also sparked an interest in politics and as a result I want to be informed about what’s going on in the world.
I have decided to minor in social science. I took an American foreign policy class and an international relations class last year. It’s interesting to see why politicians do what they do and why the process to get things done can be slow.
When I graduated from high school, I decided to go to a junior college first instead of heading off to a university. It was the best decision I ever made. It was easier for me to transition to the college atmosphere instead of jumping off into new territory. At Tyler Junior College, I was in the band and an editor on the newspaper staff and have won many awards for my sports reporting and photography.
I graduated with my associate’s degree in journalism in May 2011. In August 2011, I transferred to the University of North Texas and was awarded the Frank Tinsley journalism scholarship. I was in the marching band and historian of the sports marketing association my first semester there. In October, I was hired by the Frisco RoughRiders baseball team to be one of their media relations interns. The RoughRiders are the Double-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers. Through this internship I’ve been able to merge my two passions: writing and baseball. During the summer I did all kinds of things for the team. I’ve done everything from setting up press conferences for Roy Oswalt and Neftali Feliz to talking to all of the players for the team blog to putting together a media campaign for a foundation event. I’ve loved every minute of it and know that working in the media department for a professional team is what I want to do after I graduate from UNT in May.
In September, I was hired as a freelance high school football reporter for The Dallas Morning News. So far it’s been a lot of fun and after three years of being a sportswriter, I’ve gotten used to being the only female in the press box.
I’ve worked hard and it has definitely been worthwhile. I was awarded the Barbara Colegrove scholarship from the UNT Mayborn School of Journalism for this year. Looking back it’s hard to believe how much has happened over the past three years but I think it’s proof that with hard work, determination, motivation from mentors, and perseverance, anyone can achieve their dreams and get to where they want to go in life.
TEXAS LEADERSHIP FORUM CLASS OF 2007
I graduated from the University of North Texas in December 2011 with a bachelors degree in business administration in marketing. I am now working for Forex Capital Markets as an operations associate.
Throughout my tenure as a college student at UNT, I maintained my busy lifestyle by getting involved with Talons, the spirit and service organization of UNT. Within this organization, I not only grew as an individual, but also as a leader. In Talons, I participated as a flag runner at the UNT football games for one year, and then became a leader on the cannon crew and shot off the cannon at the UNT football games for two years (the cannon is a major school tradition). I also became the Bonfire Director my junior year of college and directed the building of the bonfire (another major tradition held each year at homecoming). My sophomore and junior years of college, I became a Resident Assistant at Crumley Hall. With this position, I became a role model to many incoming freshman and helped them with their transition into college, assisted them on any questions or problems they may have had, and planned programs within the dorm in order to build excitement and friendships. During my final semester at UNT, I interned with FXCM as an Operations Associate Intern. With this intern position I learned about FXCM (an online currency trading company), the operations that went into processing client requests, and understanding more about trading. Upon my graduation in December 2011, I was able to land a job as an Operations Associate with Forex Capital Markets (FXCM).
TLF not only introduced me to the business world, but also taught me more about professionalism. I was able to take the things I learned through TLF and apply them to my many experiences I encountered in college. Because of the leadership skills reinforced by TLF, I was ready to tackle leadership roles in college such as my Resident Assistant position and being a role model to younger students. These skills were integral in my leadership roles with Talons and helped me to effectively lead the organization. TLF also influenced my interviewing experiences after college by giving me an understanding of the professionalism that plays a major role with corporate companies and understanding the importance of professionalism in the corporate and business world.
I would like to thank Texas Leadership Forum for introducing me to an opportunity that was available to me at a young stage in my life. The experience that I had with TLF gave me tools to use that led me into the successful leadership roles I held at UNT. Through these leadership roles, I have furthered my professional career by obtaining a job in a rapidly growing currency trading company. TLF provided me with experiences, connections, and friendships which gave me the drive, ambition, and skills to get to where I am today.