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#WhatStartsHere: Samuel Cervantes

image of daniel In this series of student profiles, we’re spotlighting the many Longhorns who are fulfilling their university’s mission statement: “What Starts Here Changes the World.” Meet Samuel Cervantes, a government/communications sophomore who aims to connect East Austin parents with the resources they need to help their children succeed in school. He is one of several Austin City Hall Fellows who are making a big difference in underserved communities.

Campus Activities: Austin City Hall Fellows, Longhorn Center for Community Engagement; Discover Law, Longhorn Center for Academic Engagement; Intellectual Entrepreneurship Program, Texas Blazers; Foundation Scholars Program, College of Liberal Arts; Office of Student Success and Recruitment

Internships: Public Policy Intern, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund; Legislative Intern, Texas House of Representatives

Setting the foundation…Cervantes was taught at a very young age to set his sights on college. With his mother’s best wishes in mind, he studied hard and made it into his dream school. “The idea of college was planted by my mother. She told me education is all she can leave for me—and that she would die happy knowing she gave me the best foundation for success.”

Destined to be a Longhorn…After participating in the Subiendo Academy, a summer outreach program for rising Hispanic leaders hosted by the McCombs School of Business, Cervantes fell in love with the university. “I felt very comfortable at UT and I like that it’s so big. I thrive from meeting different people who differ from my way of thinking. That’s how I grow the most.”

Gaining self-awareness…Early into his work with the Austin City Hall Fellows, Cervantes learned an important lesson that will live with him throughout his career in public service. “I have to always acknowledge my privilege as a college student—and that we can’t just swoop in like knights in shining armor and fix all their problems. It’s not what we want to change; it’s what the people want to change.”

Bridging the gap…During the spring semester, Cervantes is working on creating an academic packet for Spanish-speaking parents in the Rundberg neighborhood. The packet will include information on an array of resources—from bus schedules to applications for free or reduced lunches to extracurricular academic programming.  “Growing up in a Spanish-speaking household, I know there’s a disconnect between parents and schools. Hopefully this resource will help bridge that gap.”

Choosing the path of most resistance…”I believe that life is too easy, you’re not having fun. I’ve learned so much about myself when I’ve fallen than when I’m consistently happy. You can implement what you learned from failure into everything in life. That’s what makes you stronger.”

Life after UT…After graduation, Cervantes plans to take his passion for education to the next level by joining Teach for America. “There is some beauty in empowering people through education. Education is power. It allows you to liberate your mind, to be critical and to speak up for yourself and others.”

More about the Austin City Hall Fellows Program: Every fall semester, a group of students across all disciplines learn how to become civic leaders through service-learning. Advised by community and city leaders, as well as former fellows, they hone their skills in public service while making a positive impact on underserved communities. Go to the Longhorn Center for Community Engagement website to learn more.