Anita Fernandez wins 40 Under 40 honors in San Antonio
Anita Fernandez, Co-Project Administrator of NHI at San Antonio and one of the founders of the San Antonio-based OCI Group, was recently named to the San Antonio Business Journal’s 40 Under 40. It’s an impressive accolade not just for Fernandez, but for the social purpose consulting firm created by six friends who met through the National Hispanic Institute and apply its principles to their work.
In fact, she notes that OCI’s work is grounded in the ideas of community equity building they first found in NHI. “That’s not only how we started our company, but also how we do business, in our city, in our state, and in our country. We really work and strive to bridge individuals, organizations, businesses and policies together.”
But what’s perhaps more impressive in looking at Fernandez’s work is the combination of what she does for the community with OCI, combined with what she does as a volunteer in addition to that.
The SABJ article on her included a substantial list of volunteer membership roles with a number of boards, including University Health’s board of managers, Community First Health Plans’ board of directors, Marianist Urban Students Program’s board of directors, and the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Institute of Texan Cultures’ advisory board.
But those who have been around NHI at San Antonio know her as a longtime volunteer, dating back to her high school years. She’s currently transitioning from being a Co-Project Administrator to an advisory role, but is still very much involved in cultivating the next generation of leaders from San Antonio.
“We are all still involved in some capacity, all six of us,” Fernandez said. “It’s very much a team effort. And I’ve always said this, I’ve had the opportunity to be recognized by NHI directly, and the family here and the history that we have, it wouldn’t be possible without all of the people who keep it going and keep that commitment.”
That history includes Hector and Mary Helen Gonzalez, who founded the NHI alliance in San Antonio, their three children, Ixchell, Analco and Luis, who are now OCI partners, and the other members of this Latino and majority women-owned business.
One of the biggest challenges for Fernandez and other NHI volunteers in San Antonio is “to make sure we’re reaching as many students and families as possible, understanding that we live in what is now the seventh-largest city in the country.”
“We try our hardest to reach as many as possible with what we have,” she observed of their ongoing efforts to bring in students and develop them throughout their high school careers, “and I think that that has grown and changed in a positive way.”
One of the most exciting developments for her, thinking about NHI’s recent evolution, is the expansion the organization’s taken into the digital realm. When asked by the Business Journal, “What have you learned during the pandemic about yourself and your business?” she responded with an NHI fundamental, “Adapt and execute,” and elaborated on the idea that ‘the way it was’ or the ‘normal’ we were used to will likely not be back, and that is not a bad thing.”
“We were affected by COVID,” Fernandez acknowledged. “At the same time, I think NHI did a phenomenal job of being able to adapt and execute, which is an idea I’ve always loved, I mean, that’s what we had to do. We had to adapt, we had to execute, and we had to get it done.”
“For us at NHI headquarters, Anita is a stalwart,” stated Nicole Nieto, Executive Vice President. “She has been one of the principal reasons for NHI’s growth and success in the San Antonio area, serving thousands of students, alumni, and schools. She is our mission, in action.”
She noted in the Business Journal write-up, when asked where she saw herself in five years, that NHI will still be part of the equation for her.
She started her answer by saying she sees herself “continuing to live out my mantra — ‘Dream, Create, Innovate and Lead’ — personally and professionally as a Latina business owner.”
“I will continue striving to be a leader who is not fearful of the unknown, takes risks, and constantly examines how to strengthen and amplify the work of others, which in turn enhances my own in the social purpose-driven work that I do,” she added. “Without a doubt, I will still be working to grow the footprint of the National Hispanic Institute, a leadership organization I have volunteered with since I was 16 years old, across the globe, which will bring increased opportunities and access within my community.”
This article is one in a series appearing in NHIMagazine.com during National Volunteer Month this April, celebrating NHI’s outstanding volunteers.