Our speakers represent the Culture, the Community, and the Identity of our Rio Grande Valley (RGV).They are all different, but united on one central belief: Our Youth needs to be engaged in conversations about our RGV.
Basically, they were selected because they possess magic powers… No Joke.
You can tell these people NO and they find a way to make it a YES. They are the luchadores of change, the Walter Mercados of community development, and the cuentos of our current generation.
Music of the border.
Martin Cantu is a Valley grown Musician. As a violinist, he has played mariachi music in some of the most presitgious venues in the United States.
Martin shares his passion for our regions cultural music with students in the RGV. He is currently the Head Mariachi Director for La Joya High School.
Raised by his Great Grandparents, Mark Hanna brings an “Old School” mentality to a new generation.
With a background in Banking, Real Estate, & Business overall, he focuses on growing people and promoting a positive world.
Serving the community that has given Mark so much is very important to him.
AMERICAN NINJA WARRIOR
We are all Abel
Abel Gonzalez breeze through the tough obstacles of American and Team Ninja Warrior - one might think Abel’s always been the picture of health and determination. But that’s not the case. Abel has overcome his own personal obstacle course to get to where he is today.
Seeing his family disintegrate around him when he was only ten years old, Abel voluntarily took on the role of primary caregiver to his younger brothers when he was just twenty. Three years later, he received a devastating diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis, commonly considered a life-long debilitating disease. Through dedicated work and study Abel, overcame an understandably negative outlook on life and at the same time shed the mantle of disability.
Vicente con la gente.
After re-enrolling in high school as an 18-year-old, nothing could stand in his way. At least, that’s how it seemed for Vicente Gonzalez.
His humble beginnings taught him that ganas were all he needed to make a success of himself. After returning to school, he let his ambition pave the way and eventually graduated with a Juris Doctorate degree.
From standing up for working families to recovering millions of dollars for local schools, Gonzalez has defied all expectations. Now, as the United States Representative of Texas's 15th congressional district, Gonzalez is working towards bringing a new light to education reform, unemployment rate, and healthcare.
AUTHOR & POET
Victoria Lopez is an author, poet, founder of the non-profit organization Creative Call to Action, and owner of Hand & Knee Event Planning.
Victoria is exceptionally involved in the local art scene and began by holding Poetry on Demand sessions at local venues. After having undergone a tremendous change of heart, she shifted her outlook on life and now strives to demonstrate the importance of exercising faith, hope, and love in all that she does while sharing her message “You Are Worthy.” Having considered herself a writer for the majority of her life, she began sharing her work via Instagram through her account @victoria.l.lopez.
Fire in May is her first novel, and is available through Barnes & Noble and Amazon. You can visit her website to learn more about her Event Planning business or read inspirational or opinion pieces.
Juan "Rob" Barrera III
Juan recently graduated from Harvard University with his Master's in Mathematics for Teaching and was selected as Class Marshal for his outstanding academic performance.
Many do not know, but Juan hated mathematics growing up. High school mathematics was not a walk in the park. Juan, like many of his current students, struggled through mathematics. Today, Juan shares his thoughts, personal stories, and life experiences with his own students in hopes of changing their perspective on education.
Uriel “Conquista” Landeros
Uriel “Conquista” Landeros is an American artist, muralist, photographer, sculptor, performance artist, vandal, activist for the segregated colonias, whose work is associated with the graffiti counter-culture, and a crucial figure in challenging the boundaries of conventional contemporary art. Uriel Landeros was born to Father Jose Maria Landeros originally from Monterrey and mother Andrea Hernandez Landeros originally from Veracruz Mexico. Uriel Landeros was born in Edinburg, Texas, a small southern border town in the Rio Grande Valley known for its infamous narco drug cartel culture. Landeros maintained a modest life with humble upbringings. He received his secondary education at IDEA Public Schools as a pioneer student. During his early adolescent years, Landeros was appalled by the socioeconomic inequality in colonias which were maintained by enforcement agencies. His observations of the local corruption will slowly determent his aspiring hope of becoming an art teacher.
Cancer will not stop me from being a princess.
In February 2016 Andrea, who works part time as a model, found a lump on her neck. Soon after she was diagnosed with stage 2 lymphoma. She lost her hair as a result of chemotherapy, and although she got to model in a bunch of fab wigs, she said her self-esteem was suffering.
Understanding that her beauty came from with in, Andrea lost the wig and had a photoshoot that has now gone viral. Featured in: TeenVogue, People Magazine, BuzzFeed, Etc.
CEO BOYS & GIRLS CLUB OF MCALLEN
That's so Mexican.
CEO of recently acquired eJumcomm a mobile application that brings families together in a learning space. Dalinda a former educator is specializing in impacting communities through technology. While eJumcomm is working on empowering student leaders and families within the education system, her latest startup Border Kids Code acts as an enrichment program to empower student for the high tech world of tomorrow teaching them to code with afterschool and summer programs.
Michelle is the Southern Policy Director at Young Invincibles, where she is currently responsible for developing the Southern office’s legislative and policy advocacy strategy to improve higher education, healthcare, and economic opportunity for young Texans.
Michelle first learned the power of community led research coupled with strategic community organizing at the Workers Defense Project where she researched workplace safety and compensation laws in Texas. In 2009, Michelle interned at the White House’s Office of Public Engagement where her work focused on increasing accessibility to the Executive Branch through constituency outreach and relationship building with community leaders across the country.
Do Something Mentors
Dayrlin Jade Sosa is an 8th grade GT student at Valley View Early College Campus in Hidalgo, Texas. She is an advocate for social good and a young leader in her community. Jade was selected to be Valley View Junior High’s school ambassador when Valley View ISD was nominated for the HEB Excellence in Education Award.
In addition, Jade attended People to People Leadership Ambassador Program at Harvard University where she had the opportunity to meet people from all over the world and expose herself to different leadership strategies. This year she was nominated to attend the Lone Star Leadership Academy.
She is now spearheading Do Something Mentors. This program connects youth from the City of Hidalgo to established community leaders who will mentor them throughout a year.
SISTER NORMA PIMENTEL
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF CC
Norma Pimentel is a Sister with the Missionaries of Jesus. As Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley for over 12 years, she oversees the charitable arm of the Diocese of Brownsville, providing oversight of the different ministries & services in the areas of the Rio Grande Valley through emergency assistance, homelessness prevention, disaster relief, clinical counseling, pregnancy care, food program(s), and the Humanitarian Respite Center.
In addition, Sister Norma leads efforts in the community that respond to emergency needs and provide relief in times of disaster and crisis in the Valley. She was instrumental in quickly organizing community resources to respond to the surge of Central Americans seeking asylum in the United States and setting up the Humanitarian Respite Center at the Sacred Heart Church in McAllen, Texas.
Aaron Barreiro is the Founder and CEO of Standing Together: Ambassadors for Regional Transformation (START). He was raised in the Rio Grande Valley and is a graduate of The University of Texas-Pan American, where he earned a Bachelor's degree in biology and originally studied to to be a doctor. However, it was in helping students realize their own abilities that he found his purpose.
Aaron believes that leadership is the key to turning big dreams into reality. Unafraid of a challenge, he is looking to transform communities, just like his own, across the nation as a motivational speaker and leadership coach. Aaron values community and is often discovering local restaurants and events to enjoy and share with others. These experiences have allowed him to connect people and build relationships, helping others understand that change happens together.
Founder of Code RGV
As an entrepreneur, Mr. Lentz has built a successful technology consulting firm, expanded to manufacturing products to enhance the wireless industry, and lead teams to success in the industry. As a community advocate for technology, he is the Interim President and Co-Founder of the largest Tech Non-Profit in South Texas focused on teaching essentials of computer science and computer programming to residents of all backgrounds and ages. Combined with his role as the Executive Director of the South Texas Community Arts Foundation, responsible for the TEDx events in the South Texas market, and Homeroom Dad at his daughter's school, he is elated to show off ways to integrate tech into working, learning, and playing on a daily basis.
Ethny Fantich is a University of Texas alum with a Bachelor's Degree in Architectural Engineering. She's helped design some of the most influential buildings in the Rio Grande Valley and throughout Texas. In 2013, Ethny began working for Intelligent Engineering Services, an elite structural design firm in San Antonio; having always felt committed to serving her hometown, she returned to the RGV to establish a branch for IES. Now that she's back, she’s doing more than just engineering great projects, she’s blazing a trail for women engineers everywhere! When she isn't on the job site or meeting with clients, you can find Ethny volunteering, leading or fundraising for one of the seven local organizations she serves.