San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro encourages youth to work hard to achieve their dreams
by Chuck Hoven
(Plain Press, November 2013) Speaking to a large crowd at the at the Convención Hispana 2013 at St. Ignatius High School on October 19th, Keynote Speaker Julian Castro, the mayor of San Antonio, Texas, took the opportunity to speak directly to young people in the audience. Mayor Castro encouraged young people, saying, “Always believe in yourself. Have confidence in yourself. Work hard to achieve your dreams. Throughout your lives always make sure you reach for more than you think you can get.”
Mayor Castro reminded young Latinos, “You stand on the shoulders of people who made beds, picked-crops, and fought on picket lines so you could have the opportunities you have in 2013.”
“The American Dream is not a sprint or a marathon, but it is a relay, where one generation hands off to the next,” said Mayor Castro using his own family history to demonstrate his point. He said his grandmother, lived in a barrio, dropped out of school in the fourth grade and worked as a maid, cook and baby sitter while raising his mother as a single parent. Through the efforts of his grandmother, Castro said his mother attended Catholic school from pre-k through grade 12, then went on to attend a Catholic College.
He then talked of his mother’s struggles to raise himself and his brother as a working single parent. Castro described his mother’s involvement in the Chicano movement and with Young Democrats. He noted she ran for City Council at age 23 at a time when Latinos were not able to get elected to public office in San Antonio. Castro remembers attending rallies and meetings with his mother, handing out leaflets at the polls.
Castro says that, as a youth, he thought the political meetings his mother dragged him and his brother to were boring. He described his political awakening occurring when he went with his twin brother to attend Stanford University in the San Francisco area. He said he saw in San Francisco a population that was “well educated, had higher incomes and was better prepared to get involved in the 21st Century.”
In his own San Antonio, he said he valued the culturally rich environment and strong sense of community. As he went on to law school, passed the bar and decided he wanted to pursue a career in public service, Castro says he sought a way to “create the best of both worlds” in San Antonio – maintaining the city’s rich culture and sense of community while increasing the educational attainment of the population so as to empower people to aspire to fulfill their dreams for themselves, their families, and their community.
Castro said that, in 2010, the San Antonio community came together in a planning process for San Antonio 2020. They set goals for increasing graduation rates, and reducing obstacles to graduation such as teen pregnancy. He said the community was able to build on efforts that started in the late 1980 through an educational partnership involving 19 different high schools in San Antonio that worked to improve attendance and provide resources in the schools.
In a press conference prior to the keynote address, Castro mentioned some of the efforts underway in San Antonio to improve educational attainment. He noted the passage of a 1/8¢ sales tax to assure universal preschool to all fourth graders in San Antonio. Citing the State of Texas unwillingness to invest more dollars in public education, Castro called the San Antonio community’s decision to pass the tax “proactive. “ In the first eight years of the program, it is expected to serve 22,400 four year olds. He promised that San Antonio would have “the best educated four year olds in the State of Texas.”
On other fronts, Mayor Castro said Big Brothers/ Big Sisters is involved in a mentorship program in the schools, especially at the middle school level. The San Antonio community created Café College, a one-stop center that offers free admissions advice to students wishing to attend college or community college. With a ratio of 420 students to one counselor in the community’s high schools, Castro said an extra resource was needed to help students to pursue their post secondary school dreams.
Castro urged young people not to give up on going to college because of the cost. He said when he and his brother Joaquin were accepted at Stanford, his mother and grandmother faced the task of helping them figure out how to pay tuition of $27,000 each per year. He said with a combination of Pell grants, Stanford grants, work-study and other resources they were able to find a way.
Castro noted both he and his brother (a member of Congress) went on to be elected to public office, something that wasn’t possible for a Latino or Latina when his mother ran for office in 1971. He said, “America is a land of wonderful opportunities. The changes we have seen in our lifetimes have made a difference for all Americans, particularly Latinos.”
After the keynote address, AT&T announced the awarding of a $34,000 grant to Esperanza for its mentoring program. Esperanza Executive Director Victor Ruiz accepted the check and then introduced the top three winners of Esperanza’s essay contest answering the question: “What does it means to be a Latino or Latina in America?” The top three essay winners Juan Caminero, Ana Medina Fetterman and Fafaela Coelha — each read their essay to an approving crowd.
An estimated 3,000 people visited Convención Hispana 2013 on Saturday, October 19th at St. Ignatius High School. Over a thousand attended the keynote address. The all day event, hosted by the Hispanic Roundtable, featured workshops, an exhibit and health fair, a job fair, a debate about immigration, a high school and college forum, community awards, and essay contest winners.
Hispanic Roundtable Community Programs award recipients honored at the Convención Hispana were: Veronica Dahlberg, Community Leadership Award; Andres Gonzalez, Servant Leadership Award; Mary Jo Tadsen, Health Community Advocate Award; Dr. Jorge Gatica, Education Community Advocate Award; Ron Berger, Empowerment Community Advocate Award and Maria Bozoklian, Workforce/Economic Development Community Advocate Award.