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Meet the Subiendo Program’s Next Generation of Leaders

Subiendo group photo by Gabriela Estrada

Spread out around the third and fourth floors of the Texas Union, small groups of students dressed in their best business attire are in deep discussion; some are bent over notebooks jotting down ideas while others are putting together presentations or shooting ideas back and forth as they collaborate on projects.

These weren't college students cramming for a test, but 75 high schools students from all over Texas visiting The University of Texas at Austin for Subiendo's annual Academy for Rising Leaders from June 11 to 15.  

Open to juniors, Subiendo is a joint initiative between the McCombs School of Business, the Texas Exes alumni organization, and the university. It serves as a developmental incubator where the state's top performing first-generation college students or those from low-income backgrounds can learn key leadership qualities, including business etiquette, financial literacy, crisis management, and effective communication. They also learn about things that will serve them once they enroll in a university, like registering for classes, time management, and studying abroad.

David Mejia, Homer Hanna Early College High School

Ben Mejia

"My English teacher really pushed me, telling me, 'You have to do this 'cause this is going to lead you to do bigger and better things,'" says David Mejia from Homer Hanna Early College High School in Brownsville.

Eric Muthondu, Foster High School

Eric Muthondu

For many other students, like Eric Muthondu from Foster High School in the Houston area, this opportunity may be one of their few chances to visit and experience a university environment.

"It's a really good opportunity because I never get the chance to visit college campuses like UT," says Muthondu. "Subiendo lets you explore the options a college has to offer and see what life will actually be like going to college. The experiences here really impact and shape how you see the world, and you get to interact with other people and leaders."

Students were also placed in groups to come up with solutions to pressing issues affecting the Austin community such as health care, energy, the environment, and education.

Malanie Gardea, Ysleta High School

Malanie Gardea

"When you come here, it feels very much like home," says Malanie Gardea from Ysleta High School in El Paso, whose group worked on a solution for recruiting and getting students interested in health industry careers. "The effort they’ve put into this is really amazing."

This year the students met with distinguished leaders, including former U.S. Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, BBA '62, Vice President of Sales for Shell Lubricants U.S. Clarissa Clark, BBA '92, Director of UT's Engineering Career Assistance Center Michael Powell, Sarver Strategies founder Jennifer Sarver, and U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Javier Palomarez.

The highlight of the event for many students was hearing from TCU football player Caylin Moore. Overcoming an impoverished upbringing in California, Moore began his collegiate career at Marist College as a quarterback before a back injury sidelined him. In need of cash, Moore worked as a janitor while he shopped his workout tape to various colleges, ultimately transferring to TCU. Moore will graduate with a degree in economics before heading to study public policy and business administration as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford.

Leslie Arrazolo, Homer Hanna Early College High School

Leslie Arrazolo

"The way he handled his situation is very inspiring, and I think we can learn a lot from that," says Leslie Arrazolo, a student from Homer Hanna Early College High School in Brownsville.

Brandy Pena, BBA '17, who was part of Subiendo all four years of college and served as the executive team member at the 2017 Academy, explained that it’s not only the speakers and workshops that shape the event.

"Every year students come through the program and they are just amazing. They are doing so much at such young ages and it's really inspiring to be around them," says Pena. "They look up to us and think we can teach them so much, but honestly they teach us so much too."

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