For 14 years a TCC campus has taken a turn at celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month by hosting the Abrazando Al Exito event. It’s packed full of food, art and music.
This year was Connect Campus’ turn, and this year’s event included a panel discussion with three special guests who. shared success stories about growing up Hispanic and Latino, as well as what it took for them to get where they are now.
Panelist Maria Mason is one of the top producing realtors in Dallas-Fort Worth and started Camino Real Estate with her husband Sam. She said she faced hardship sometimes being the only Latina in a room but was able to overcome it.
“Knowing your foundation, knowing what kind of person you are, how strong you are despite of all those things, you can persevere through the fact that you’re Latina [and] you might be one of the few – or only one there,” she said. “You know, the Latino community is a beautiful, beautiful community. Having pride in that is important.”
Mason grew up in poverty in the Las Vegas Trail area of Fort Worth with her parents, who were migrant farmworkers. She started her higher education at TCC, moving on to TCU. Because of her upbringing, she learned early to be the spokesperson for her family, and that gave her the ability to be outspoken.
She explained that every day she experiences her heritage. She found, however, that she could uplift her community in everyday life by serving them in her work.
“I think I celebrate my Latino community, my Hispanic heritage, by serving my community and helping them build generational wealth through the purchase of their homes,” Mason said.
Her determination allowed her to be in the top 1% of realtors in DFW and a successful entrepreneur.
Panelist Adrian Galvan grew up with a desire to build his life in a way that was his own. When he chose to leave his job at 48 and pursue his own financial firm, he did so because he believed he could do more.
“I am you,” Galvan told the audience. “I grew up in ESL, and I didn’t learn English properly until second grade. I am you guys, because my parents are hard-working people, and they instilled in me a hard-work ethic.”
Now he is the managing director, CFO and CCO of Tijerina, Galvan & Lawrence, LLC. His firm gives financial advice to institutions in the Fort Worth area like TCC and the City of Fort Worth.
He is the first generation in his family to be born in the U.S. His father was a welder and his mother worked in food service. Together, they taught him community, love, sacrifice and hard work.
While he considers his family and church community a major stepping stone in his life, he said his second phase of life started with his education. He said having grit made the difference, and he encourages others to learn the same.
“It’s setting yourself on a long-term goal and putting a track together to get to that goal without having to get affirmation from anybody else and not stopping until you hit that goal,” he said. “Learned that in my house. Education was a vehicle that got me there.”
Now, he is able to celebrate his heritage by striving for excellence every day at his firm.
“I get into rooms and people do a double-take like, ‘How’d this guy get in here?’” he said. “Let me tell you how I got in here, and let me tell you how we’re gonna do this financing. And next thing you know, they just saw something that they’ve never seen before. That’s how I celebrate my heritage.”
The Abrazando Al Exito hosts were excited to share this experience with TCC and uplift Hispanic heritage. Chancellor Elva LeBlanc addressed the audience, explaining the importance of the month because it’s representative of the communities in and around TCC.
“It’s for our students to see the different roles that Hispanics have in our community, and the different opportunities that each and every one of you have,” LeBlanc said. “Our community outreach is sending the message that TCC is here for everyone.”
According to TCC’s district profile for this fall semester, 37% of TCC is Hispanic/Latino, making it the highest ethnicity next to white at 26%.
“It’s just very exciting that the Hispanic heritage is celebrated,” Jaqueline Garica Munoz, Connect Campus supplemental instruction manager and event host, said. “I know a lot of our community here at TCC have Hispanic students, so It’s just a time to celebrate this heritage.”
The third panelist, Jason Abreu, is vice president of student affairs at TR Campus. Born in Miami, his parents migrated to Florida from Cuba during the war during the Bay of Pigs invasion. Abreu started working at 13 in his neighborhood, where he learned work ethic early on.
He said finding a mentor and taking the help that is offered through TCC makes a world of difference, something he experienced in his own life.
“One of the first things that really impacted me is there was someone there that believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself,” Abreu said. “So all the students that have stood up this evening, everybody that works here at TCC, everybody from the community, everybody from outside of TCC – we believe in you.”
Abreu acknowledged that life has challenges, but he affirmed that there is more that unites people than separates them. Because of that, he knows it is important to support each other in the community despite what differences people may find.
“This event is called ‘Abrazando al Exito.’ And ‘Abrazando’ can also translate to hugging. Give each other a pat on the back,” he said. “Make sure you embrace each other because as we go through these challenges, we just want to make sure that there’s two arms that can hold us and carry us forward.”