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Hispanic Heritage Month: Highlighting Latino leaders in the Austin area

This article will be updated every morning in September as we introduce you to more Latino leaders in the Austin area.

AUSTIN, Texas — September is National Hispanic Heritage Month. Throughout the month, KVUE will highlight local leaders who are truly making an impact in their Austin-area community.

This article will be updated every morning for the rest of September as we introduce you to more Latino leaders in the Austin area.

Julie Ballesteros

Julie Ballesteros is the executive director of Manos de Cristo. This nonprofit serves over 30,000 men, women and children in the Austin area with dental care, education and basic needs. 

As a former educator, Ballesteros also works on the Manos Back to School program that serves more than 2,000 children each year. Julie believes that if you treat people with dignity and respect and lend a hand up, you set them up for a lifetime of success.

Aaron Dominguez

Aaron Dominguez is a community bank president at Bancorp South Bank. He’s also a board member of the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. With a focus in commercial lending, Dominguez and his team have assisted financing many local businesses resulting in growth. 

Aaron believes staying connected and involved in the community is the best way to achieve success together, especially through the times we are facing.

Casilda Clarich

Casilda Clarich is the interim director of financial shared services for the University of Texas System. Clarich is a first-generation college graduate. A proud Longhorn herself, she was a past president of the Texas Exes Hispanic Alumni Network.

Clarich worked for both Lockheed and Motorola and initiated the first Hispanic diversity team at a Fortune 500 company. She also worked with Con Mi Madre, an organization that empowers young Latinas to stay in school. 

Tony Pacheco

Dr. Tony Pacheco has been a local dentist for 21 years and is a leader with the Texas Dental Association. He also serves as president-elect at the Capital Area Dental Society. 

Pacheco is also a board president and volunteer in the dental clinic at "Manos De Cristo," which is a local charity that helps low-income individuals build their self-esteem by providing them with dental assistance. 

Laura Cortez

Laura Cortez is the founder and CEO of Cortez Consulting, a public engagement firm serving the Austin community. 

She started her company with the goal of involving families who are traditionally not involved in the city's public planning process. Cortez believes the greatest gift we can give to others is empowering them to believe that they too have a voice.

Christopher Rios

Christopher Rios is the vice president of Community Development at Texas Capital Bank. In this role, he oversees nonprofit partnerships and bank initiatives that focus on fostering a more prosperous community. 

Rios also held the positions of treasurer and past chair of Community Care Health Centers, Travis County's largest public health care system. He is also past chair of the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. 

Rosie Perez

Rosie Perez is an officer with the Austin Police Department. She works with the Austin Parks and Recreation Department to provide positive opportunities for youth to engage with officers. One of the events is the 4 on 44 youth basketball event. 

Her 78744 neighborhood is a part of town where a high number of essential workers live. Perez helped secure these workers' masks and PPE so everyone can remain healthy during COVID-19. 

Andrew Saldana 

Andrew Saldana is a talented local artist. He has worked as a graphic designer, illustrator and art professor. Saldana has been featured in numerous galleries throughout the U.S. and has been highlighted in Southwest Art Magazine. 

Saldana enjoys spending his time creating and teaching art. He said art has given him "the ability to think outside the box, outside the norm and to envision all kinds of possibilities in life." 

Maria Cantú Hexsel

Maria Cantú Hexsel has served as a PTA president for a Title I school. She is a board member for Advance Austin which empowers immigrant moms. Hexsel is also a long-time mentor encouraging Hispanic middle and high school students to envision themselves as college gradates and to explore careers in law. 

Cantú Hexsel is devoted to making our community more equitable and inclusive. She has been named one of our community's "best lawyers" by Austin Monthly Magazine and is currently unopposed on the ballot as the next district judge for the 53rd Judicial District Court in Travis County. 

Saul Gonzalez

Saul Gonzalez is the co-founder of "ALLGO-Informe SIDA," a bilingual, multicultural agency which provided AIDS education and services to people of color in Austin. 

Gonzalez serves on the Board of Directors for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas and the City of Austin's LGBTQ Quality of Life Commission. He also worked for The American Cancer Society for the last 21 years.  

Roxanne Saldaña Jones

Roxanne Saldaña Jones is the senior vice president for United Ways of Texas. She works to support public sector organizations with business development and growth. In addition, Saldaña Jones is also the co-owner of fashion jewelry line Via Ray Designs. 

Saldaña Jones currently serves as the chair of outreach for the UT Hispanic Alumni Network. She truly believes that engaging and supporting your community is the best way to advance together and make valuable change. 

Officer Bino Cadenas

As a district representative, Officer Bino Cadenas is a spokesperson for the Austin Police Department. He works to build a good, trusting relationship between the community and the police department. He does this by meeting with community leaders on a regular basis and shares crime trends as well as makes recommendations to help prevent crime.

Officer Cadenas is the chairman of the Austin Cops for Charities and a board member in the Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corporation, which aims to provide affordable housing to people living in East Austin.

Veronica Hinojosa Segura

Veronica Hinojosa Segura is the associate vice chancellor and controller for the University of Texas System – one of the largest public university systems in the world. She is responsible for the system-wide oversight of accounting and financial reporting for fourteen health and academic institutions with a budget of $22 billion. 

Segura mentors numerous aspiring women leaders, she is a member of the Executive Latina Leaders (ELLAS) and is the 2021 chair-elect for the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Matt Garcia

Matt Garcia is a founding member of the law firm Barnett & Garcia. As a lawyer, Garcia believes that everyone should have access to good legal advice. That's why he started a free legal clinic in conjunction with volunteer legal services. The free clinic is aimed at the Spanish speaking community in southwest Travis County. 

He also volunteered for "MAS," or Mentoring A Student, which is an organization that allows lawyers to teach a law class at Travis High School. 

It is his personal belief that "juntos," or together, we can lift each other up. 

Rosemary Banda

Rosemary Banda is the giving coordinator at Tito's Handmade Vodka. Her role includes vetting charities and helping them support the community through their philanthropy department. 

Her goal is to set an example and inspire others to let their heart lead when it comes to serving the community. 

Joseph Cajas

Joseph Cajas is the founder and CEO of The Cajas Digital Agency, Turnkey Social and Cajas Cleaners. He currently serves as the chairman of the board for the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

His mission is to help local businesses survive during this pandemic and find a way for those businesses to thrive and evolve.

Emmy Alcocer-Hil

Emmy Alcocer-Hill is the vice-chair of the Bingham Group Foundation, a nonprofit organization improving the quality of life for underserved communities in the Austin metro area.

She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and sits on the executive leadership team. Emmy believes strongly in the importance of ensuring that all voices are heard at the decision-making table. 

Geronimo Rodriguez

Geronimo Rodriguez is the Texas chief advocacy officer at Ascension Seton's Dell Children's Medical Center. He also serves as president of the Austin ISD Board of Trustees with a mission to prepare every student with the knowledge to thrive in college, their career and their life.

Geronimo grew up as a migrant farmworker and every year he travels to Oregon to help his parents harvest potatoes. He is the first in his family to graduate high school, college and law school.

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