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NHI Gen X and Gen Y Men: Profiles of 10 Leaders

Posted: November 13, 2015 at 9:04 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Last year, we highlighted 10 women from the ranks of Generation X and Generation Y NHIers, who, by gaining leadership skills and a Third Reality perspective via NHI programs, emerged as leaders in diverse professional settings and communities. This year, we’re highlighting 10 men from those generations, who also have emerged as leaders and respected professionals engaged in their communities. Here are their stories:

Alex Diaz
Independent Film and TV Producer
Age: 41
Lives in: Los Angeles, California

Higher Education: BA, Government, Harvard University, 1996; MFA, Film/TV Directing, UCLA, 2009

First NHI Program: 1998 Young Leaders Conference, St. Mary’s University, San Antonio, Texas

Three words that describe him best: “guapo, brilliantest, humble”

How he’s making a difference: “I’m a television writer-director. As a writer, I’m attracted to science fiction and stories about politics. In a way, I’m trying to figure out for myself (and anyone who’s willing to listen) a way forward and out of the fascinating mess into which late-stage capitalism has dropped us all . . . Only using my imagination! The future is a blank slate, but someone’s got to write the first draft. As a producer, one of my primary goals is to create opportunities for Latinos to see ourselves reflected honestly, and complexly, in the art form of our age.”

What he is proudest of in his career: “It’s still too early to tell.”

One valuable lesson he learned at NHI that he didn’t learn at school: “NHIers are usually pretty intellectual; their world of ideas is so impressive – but I noticed that the students who knew how to inspire people were the most successful. I’m such a loner nerd, I still struggle with that lesson.”

What advice he’d give to today’s high school students: “Find a career, or invent one, that can’t possibly be accomplished by machine intelligence.”

Larry Gonzales
Texas State Representative and Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman, Texas State House of Representatives
Age: 45 (Generation X)
Lives in: Round Rock, Texas

Higher Education: B.A., Government, University of Texas at Austin, 1993; M.P.A., Public Administration, Texas State University, 2014

First NHI Program: 1986 Texas LDZ, Southwestern University, Georgetown, Texas

Three words that describe him best: Determined, Mindful, Reasonable

How he’s making a difference: As the Legislature’s Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman, he appropriates the budget for 42 state agencies; as a budget conferee, he is one of ten legislators responsible for writing the final version of the entire $209.4 billion two-year budget; and as a state legislator, he’s responsible for creating policy to address myriad issues facing Texas. He notes, “Our work on the use of technology in state government has saved Texas millions of dollars, perhaps tens of millions or more. Additionally, our work on education issues, specifically as a conferee on House Bill 5 (the most significant overhaul of public education in 30 years), has impacted every current and future Texas public high school student planning for, and working toward, their future.”

What he is proudest of in his career: “I am most proud of our work on behalf of those students with special needs and our work on behalf of at-risk students in Texas. These groups often get overlooked or fall through the cracks, but they are a large part of my efforts in the legislature. My office has passed bills addressing autism insurance reforms and have appropriated for the Challenge Academy High School for at-risk youths. I want to make certain every child in Texas has the opportunity to be the best they can be.”

One valuable lesson he learned at NHI that he didn’t learn at school: “I learned the social skills of interpersonal relationships and communication. I learned how to talk with people and to look them in the eye and speak clearly. I also learned how to use each spoken word and physical mannerism to deliver my message to my advantage. Additionally, I learned how to listen and how to dissect an argument.”

What advice he’d give to today’s high school students: “Work hard. There are many variables you can and cannot control which may direct and effect your life, but nothing — and no one — can take away your effort. Effort is all you. Focus in and work. Just get it done. Don’t fall into the blame game blaming someone else for your situation or circumstance. Overcome, succeed, and conquer.”

H. Analco Gonzalez
Managing Partner, Co-Founder, Our Community Inc., LLC (OCI Group)
Age: 35 (Generation X)
Lives in: San Antonio, Texas

Higher Education: B.A., Policy Studies and Health Science, Rice University, 2001; M.B.A., Health Care Management, Our Lady of the Lake University, 2006; J.D., University of Texas School of Law, 2009

First NHI Program: 1995 Texas LDZ, Southwestern University, Georgetown, Texas

Three words that describe him best: Familia, Innovative, Collaborative

How he’s making a difference: OCI Group, which Analco co-founded. is a social purpose consulting firm that focuses on economic and leadership development, which clients ranging from large and small corporations to nonprofits and individuals at the local, national and international level, looking to align with OCI Group’s “paradigm of social purpose and positive impact.”

Analco said, “Our work is premised upon the belief that having positive social impact on one’s community is better for business. What we do goes beyond the traditional Corporate Social Responsibility campaigns and looks at building genuine long-term social impact, whether it be representing large-scale companies trying to improve the environment, start-ups trying to increase civic engagement, or non-profits trying to create sustainability for their mission.”

What he is proudest of in his career: “Launching a business and ‘proceeding only on faith’ can be a daunting task. This is especially true when one develops a concept that isn’t ‘traditional’ in its approach, such as social purpose driven consulting. Working with our non-profit clients is a no-brainer because social purpose is engrained in their work. But when you talk about engaging larger companies or working in policy and government affairs, it can be very challenging, yet immensely rewarding to know that you are passionate and proud of who and what you represent. What makes it more special is the ability to do this with family and friends that keep our values and mission at the forefront of the work. We have the opportunity to merge our consulting, policy, and education backgrounds, with our overall nonprofit volunteerism and commitment to youth, leadership and education. That makes me proud, happy and fulfilled.”

One valuable lesson he learned at NHI that he didn’t learn at school: “Taking risks, while knowing that whether I experience success or failure is entirely reliant upon myself. I had the fortune of having amazing parents, and going to great schools with great teachers. NHI not only enhanced what I learned, but allowed me to do it in a way where I was able to meet and connect with a group of people that understood me and had immense passion for leadership and community life.”

What advice he’d give to today’s high school students: “Dream. Create. Innovate. Lead. Do not be afraid to dream big and act on your dreams. Create avenues for yourself to achieve your dreams/goals–take those potential risks now! Develop innovative approaches to accomplishing your dreams/goals–don’t just do things the way others do because that’s how they are “supposed” to be done. Finally don’t be afraid to stand up and lead your community to achieving your dreams/goals together. You are already the leaders of today who will craft what tomorrow looks like.”

Luis Guillermo Gonzalez
Senior Partner, Co-Founder, OCI Group; Founder, Luis Guillermo Gonzalez Law
Age: 32 (Generation Y)
Lives in: San Antonio, Texas

Higher Education: B.A., Political Science, Stanford University, 2005; J.D., University of Texas at Austin, 2009

First NHI Program: 1998 Young Leaders Conference, Texas Lutheran University, Seguin, Tex.

Three words that describe him best: Innovative, Passionate, Family

How he’s making a difference: Luis focuses on the relationships between business and government for OCI Group, including his work as a registered lobbyist working to “influence policy that is beneficial for the future of our communities,” and focuses on international property and business law for clients of the law firm he’s founded. He notes, “OCI Group and LGG Law have a great synergy in the services we offer clients. Both my firms are based on altering the way business is conducted by showing that social good is good for business and communities. By working with companies, organizations, educational institutions to support building genuine social purpose businesses, we have started to show them that being concerned with the greater good in the community will help them achieve their goals and improve their bottom lines.”

What he’s proudest of in his career: “We are closing in on our six year anniversary at OCI Group. As I look back on the life of our firm, one of the proudest moments I had, was looking around the table in our conference room, and seeing that everyone single one of my partners, were NHIers. It is with that bond, and hunger for creating new ideas that our company continues to thrive.”

One valuable lesson he learned at NHI that he didn’t learn at school: “NHI enhanced lessons I learned from my parents and family. School does a great job of dispensing information, and when you are fortunate, you get the special teachers/professors (as I have). At NHI, we did not chase after answers, but rather we crafted what the questions were. We created what the agenda was going to be, and how we were going to define ourselves not relative to college, but on how we were going to impact the world.

What advice he’d give to today’s high school students: “You have ideas that are worth exploring now! Don’t wait or limit yourself because of your age. Some of the best ideas in recent generations have come from youth, so go out and change the world today.”

Nicholas Gonzalez
Age: 39 (Generation X)
Lives in: Los Angeles, California

Higher Education: B.A., English, Stanford University, 1998

First NHI Program: 1993 Colorado LDZ, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colo.

Three words that describe him best: Passionate, Thoughtful, Articulate

How he’s making a difference: As an actor, producer and occasional activist, Nicholas said, “I feel like the work I do is making a difference as I have dedicated myself to changing the representation of Latinos in media/entertainment. Whether it is the choices I make in how a role is expressed or the work I accept/refuse to do, I feel my work ultimately contributes to a positive representation of Latinos.”

What he’s proudest of in his career: “I am probably most proud of the fact that I have been a working actor for 18 years in a very unforgiving atmosphere and occupation. I am proud that my career success allows me to make a difference in the lives of others — especially through my work with several charities and motivated individuals dedicated to improving the lives of those around them.”

One valuable lesson he learned at NHI that he didn’t learn at school: “I learned to fight for what I believe in whether it is a popular belief or not. I learned to listen to others with a thoughtful ear and be open to the ideas of others.”

What advice he’d give to today’s high school students: “Life is short, but so full of opportunities to love those around you and invest in your own happiness through the love you put out into the world. The world we have left behind for you is fraught with what seems like insurmountable issues. Your own open mind is perhaps the greatest tool you possess. Exercise with it often!”

Hector Lopez
President & CEO, NeXT | New eXponential Thought Organization
Age: 35 (Generation X)
Lives in: El Paso, Texas

Higher Education: B.S., Foreign Service, Certificate in Latin American Studies, Georgetown University, 2002; M.A., Communication, Graduate Certificate in Strategic Communication, Villanova University, 2008

First NHI Program: 1995 Texas Great Debate, Austin College, Sherman, Texas

Three words that describe him best: Passionate, Loyal, Idealist

How he’s making a difference: Lopez founded NeXT into order to move communities forward through collaborative projects, which a focus on arts, education, nonprofit and business projects that “generate exponential community impact, solve complex challenges and are self sustaining.” The four projects currently underway include:

Futuro Las Americas, to develop a leadership pipeline for Latin America through student scholarships for students to attend college in the United States and return to serve in their home country, in collaboration with U.S. colleges and universities, Latin American governments and Latin American high schools;

NeXT Arts Fest, to showcase and promote Latino influenced telvision, film, music, performance and fine art via series of festivals and popup events, in collaboration with Latino artists, corporate sponsors, galleries and nonprofits;

NHI’s What’s NeXT?, to develop a three-part young professional training series in partnership with NHI to incubate young professional NHIers entrepreneurial and community endeavors, in collaboration with corporate sponsors; and

Project eX, to incubate select Latino business projects through funding and launch, in collaboration with a startup company aiming to disrupt the way healthcare is delivered to underserved communities.

What he is proudest of in his career: “I am the most proud of taking leaps of faith; whether it was turning down Washington, D.C., to work for my hometown government, dropping everything to open up NHI’s northeast US office at Villanova, recruiting in Latin America for NHI, producing and hosting my own radio and TV program, running for Mayor of El Paso, or founding my own organization.”

One valuable lesson he learned at NHI that he didn’t learn at school: “Proceed only on faith. I distinctly recall the questions in my mind as I ventured into Panama on behalf on NHI for the first time, in 2008. “How could I possibly succeed at this? How was I going to seem credible in an environment I did not know?” had analyzed every angle of international recruitment and perhaps it was that very analysis that scared me. In the end, none of the fears mattered. The possibilities outweighed all else and I had nothing to lose. At minimum, if I failed the first time, I could at least learn how to be successful at a later date. I also had the faith that this would bring a new dimension to NHI and our work. Years later, international participants make up nearly 15% to 20% of NHI participants annually and the Institute is now present in Panama, Puerto Rico, Mexico and the Dominican Republic!”

What advice he’d give to today’s high school students: “I would simply advise what was advised to me by my great friend and mentor Ernesto Nieto: When fueled by imagination, faith, and the will to act, there are no barriers strong enough to discourage the human spirit to succeed. Failure is never the end-result of not meeting a goal or mission. Failure is the decision to no longer act when one is confronted by the obstacles that emerge in attempting to attain imagined outcomes.”

Marc Nieto
President and CEO, Small Importing Company
Age: 41 (Generation X)
Lives in: Houston, Texas

Higher Education: B.A., Business, University of St. Thomas, Houston, TX, 2004; M.B.A, Universidad Torquato di Tella, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2009

First NHI Program: 1990 Texas LDZ, Southwestern University, Georgetown, Texas

Three words that describe him best: “Do something different”

How he’s making a difference: “I import wine and spirits, primarily from Latin America and Spain. In my opinion, I can make a difference by educating consumers on healthier eating habits, enhancing their quality of life through shared experience brought together with wine and food, and open people’s minds about discovering the world outside of the U.S.”

What he is proudest of in his career: “The ability to work in global markets, conduct business in Spanish, and travel and learn.”

One valuable lesson he learned at NHI that he didn’t learn at school: “You have to understand the way systems work and then go create your own opportunities.”

What advice he’d give to today’s high school students: “Have one objective in life you are working for and challenge yourself to get there. When you think you have challenged yourself enough, challenge yourself more. And when you are successful, take your family and community with you through your experiences.”

Michael Padilla
Senator and Majority Whip, New Mexico Senate; President and CEO, Altivus CRM Solutions
Age: 43 (Generation X)
Lives in: Albuquerque, New Mexico

Higher Education: University of New Mexico, University of Phoenix (1990-1995)

First NHI Program: 1998 New Mexico LDZ, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, N.M.

Three words that describe him best: Energy, Passion, Sticktoitovness (Padilla calls this “a word I created a long time ago”)

How he’s making a difference: Of his work as a legislator, he said, “My primary focuses as a legislator are early childhood education and intervention, jobs and economic growth, water management and conservation, and child safety and protective services. I also serve as the Number Two Senator in the New Mexico Senate, which requires me to engineer passage of the Democratic legislative package. It is my belief that these legislative initiatives and leadership responsibility will help me turn around the economy of New Mexico, and improve the child wellbeing outlook for New Mexico, which is currently ranked 49th in the county.” He also notes that because New Mexico has a citizen legislature, “I built a business before I entered politics that has created over 3,000 jobs in New Mexico in the call center operations and consulting space.”

What he is proudest of in his career: “I was elected Senate Majority Whip by my colleagues in my second year in the New Mexico State Senate, something that hasn’t happened for a freshman senator in 90 years in New Mexico. I was the first freshman senator in my class to move a bill through the entire legislature in my first year as a senator, and was the first senator in my second year as a senator to move a bill all the way through the Senate. In 2014, I was appointed chairman of the science, technology, and telecommunications interim committee.”

One valuable lesson he learned at NHI that he didn’t learn at school: “I’d call it human interaction: Network, shake everyone’s hand, speak clearly, and look people directly in the eye.”

What advice he’d give to today’s high school students: “The key advice I give my sons: 1) Show up, and if you are going to show up, be on time; and, 2) Be the hardest working person in the room, always.”

Joseph P. A. Villescas
CEO, Boys & Girls Clubs of El Paso
Age: 37 (Generation X)
Lives in: El Paso, Texas

Higher Education: B.A., American Studies and English, Wesleyan University, 2000; M.A., Mass Communication Theory & Research, University of Texas at Austin, 2002; Ph.D., Ethnic/Minority Issues & Media Studies, University of Texas at Austin, 2005

First NHI Program: 1993 Texas Great Debate, Austin College, Sherman, Texas

Three words that describe him best: Passionate, Inquisitive, Purposeful

How he’s making a difference: Joseph returned to El Paso (first in 2007, and then for the long term in 2011) in several different community-building capacities – first as an independent consultant, then as an instructor, and now as the CEO of a major non-profit organization. He observed, “I believe that the most abundant and powerful resources in our unique borderland community are based within our young people, and the work that we should all be doing must be tied to cultivating their talents and capabilities. Our investment in these young people will impact the future of all of our communities, and each day I work to serve this next generation by growing opportunities and building partnerships that will benefit a significant sector of this population of over 200,000 El Pasoans. In retrospect, each step of my professional career has influenced my role with regional decision-makers, systems of education, and networks of families so that I may be able to engage a greater proportion of students.”

What he is proudest of in his career: “The proudest moment of my career was leaving NHI and opening Villescas Research, Media & Instruction, LLC in downtown El Paso in 2007. From that strategic location I was able to interface with a full spectrum of clients, colleagues, and friends, and it was also where I was able to conduct business at a larger scale than ever before as an independent consultant. That VRMI office was also the place where I was able to write proposals, platforms, speeches, reports, and articles while being part of a community of downtown creatives and politicos.”

One valuable lesson he learned at NHI that he didn’t learn at school: “I was a graduate student when I started working with the Institute in 2003 as a research consultant, and that is when I was exposed to the theory of reality formation. I learned that we could shape the ideological, social, and economic landscapes of our communities through the longitudinal cultivation of the talents of young people. I had to reconcile our theoretical framework with the scale of outcomes that were evident among the 20,000 NHI at that time, and then I had to test that theory by applying it to my professional journey.”

What advice he’d give to today’s high school students: “Learn as much as you can from your family members because once you leave for college you will not have the same amount of time to engage your relatives. Ask them about their lives and what they remember about different eras during the twentieth century. Discover why they shaped your first reality in the way that they did, and determine what they truly want you to achieve with all of your many gifts and talents.”

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