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Children Granted U.S. Citizenship in DreamWeek Ceremony / Spectrum News 2016

By | NEWS

Becoming a citizen of the United States is a dream for many around the world.

As part of a special ceremony to celebrate DreamWeek at San Antonio’s DoSeum, more than 50 children were granted U.S. citizenship.

Many have lived here for a number of years but now they and their parents wished to make it official.

Some of the children realize citizenship means opportunities to reach their own dreams.

“My parents came over here to give us, their children, a better life because America has a reputation of having good schools, a good society,” said Cris Simonabrea, a newly U.S. citizen. “So my parents knew that and they moved over here just for that. So we could have a better life and I’m proud of them for the sacrifices they made.”

The DoSeum is offering several other chances for children to learn about DreamWeek and the history behind it.

After the ceremony, the public listened to immigrant family storytelling and original work from the San Antonio poet laureate.

Boys & Girls Club Create Sidewalk Chalk Messages for MLK Day / Spectrum News 2016

By | NEWS

Martin Luther King had a dream, and so do young people with the Boys and Girls Club of San Antonio.

On the city’s Eastside, these kids are turning their dreams into chalk art. The location is on MLK Drive, and the march is just down the road. With more than 70 years of history at this spot, the staff wants this year’s march to reflect Dr. King’s message of racial equality and justice.

“What Martin Luther King said decades ago still applies today, it still applies to their lives and what they’re doing,” said Zuani Villarreal, Boys and Girls Club. “What they heard, what somebody said decades ago still applies to their lives.”

This is one of the several Dream Week events leading up to Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, Jan. 18. The Boys and Girls Club will also be part of the march. The march is 2.75 miles and starts at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Academy, travels up Martin Luther King Drive, and ends at Pittman Sullivan Park, all on the City’s historic East Side.

Children, young adults become US citizens / ABC: KSAT 12 2016

By | NEWS

SAN ANTONIO – More than 50 children and young adults became U.S. citizen Saturday morning.

The swearing in ceremony was held at the Doseum, as part of its DreamWeek Celebration.

The 52 people sworn in said they were excited to finally become citizens.

The 12-day summit was developed to promote ideas on universal issues facing our diverse communities, in the spirit set forth by Dr. Martin Luther King.

Naturalization ceremony part of DreamWeek / San Antonio Express News 2016

By | NEWS

It was a special day for Abukar Omar.

He escaped Somalia’s civil war some 15 years ago when he arrived in the United States.

Now a naturalized U.S. citizen, he watched with joy Saturday as his son, Anas, 8, and daughter, Aliya, 5, held small U.S. flags and were sworn in as U.S. citizens during a ceremony at The DoSeum. His wife, Shukri Shueb is in early stages toward her path to citizenship.

This country “gives you more opportunity, and the right to vote,” Omar said, explaining why he brought his family here. “There’s a lot of freedoms — freedom of speech of expression, of religion. In some countries, it’s very tough to say what you want.”

His children were among 52 kids or teens from 24 countries celebrated in a citizenship ceremony Saturday that featured Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff as keynote speaker. They became U.S. citizens through a process known as derivative citizenship because they have at least one U.S. citizen parent, or were adopted by a U.S. citizen parent, according to immigration officials.

The citizenship ceremony was among Saturday’s events at the children’s museum that are part of DreamWeek, a 12-day celebration that promotes tolerance, equality, and diversity. DreamWeek culminates with the Martin Luther King Jr. Day March on the East Side, reputed to be the largest in the country.

“When you think about it, attaining (U.S.) citizenship is like a dream come true,” said Mario R. Ortiz, director of the San Antonio District for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. “Citizenship is the greatest gift we can bestow.”

For the full story go to ExpressNews.com or Sunday’s edition of the San Antonio Express-News.

Local Experts Take Part in Spirited Cybersecurity Discussion / Rivard Report 2016

By | NEWS

On a not-so-typical Friday night at the Dorćol Distilling Company on South Flores Street, the sound of bartenders working cocktail shakers and pouring icy drinks punctuated an earnest panel discussion hosted by Delta Risk LLC on cybersecurity and the cyber industry. “Cybersecurity in the Social Realm“ gathered local cyber professionals during DreamWeek to discuss topics ranging from common cybersecurity threats and workforce development to diversity.

Delta Risk’s Brian Dillard moderated the panel and introduced the first major topic, cybersecurity threats. Despite taking precautions on the Internet, many people are unaware of the cybersecurity risks in using a cellphone.

“At some point in your life, you are going to get your data hacked. What’s important is how you protect yourself against these risks and how you respond to the threat,” said Debra Innocenti, Internet & technology attorney at Strasburger & Price LLP,

Of keen interest to the audience was technology workforce development and ways to help San Antonio nurture its tech talent pool.

“For local students, there’s a huge gap from college graduation to an entry-level tech position. Despite local resources like Codeup that transition, it is still rough for many,” said Marina Gavito, executive director of TechBloc.

Will Garrett, director of Cyber Security SA at the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, spoke about CyberPatriot, a National Youth Cyber Education Program. At its core is Cyber Competition, pitting teams of high school and middle school students across the nation against one another as each team manages the network of a small company. Each team’s mission is to find cybersecurity vulnerabilities while maintaining services under a series of increasingly difficult challenges.
From left: Silotech Group President and CEO Tiffany Tremont, Cyber Security SA Director Will Garrett, and Bestica President Harvinder Singh take part in a cybersecurity panel discussion. Photo by Iris Gonzalez.

From left: Silotech Group President and CEO Tiffany Tremont, Cyber Security SA Director Will Garrett, and Bestica President Harvinder Singh take part in a cybersecurity panel discussion. Photo by Iris Gonzalez.

“The best performing (CyberPatriot) teams tend to be in the poorest school districts in San Antonio,” Garrett said. “At Holmes High School, all it took was one dedicated teacher who helped a student gain some certifications. Rackspace hired him straight out of college. When that one student returned to talk to the high school students, he was a role model, someone they once knew as an upperclassman now driving a leased Audi with a great job at Rackspace. Mentoring is a long-term play, but it can and does work to help pull others along the path.”

Innocenti said Israel ranks globally as a leader in tech startups after the U.S., with much of that startup activity found in Tel Aviv. One way Israel accomplished this was with its ambitious campaign to encourage Jewish mothers to stop telling their children to go to college to become doctors and lawyers.

“It took a concerted effort to explain to Jewish mothers that the future of Israel depended on today’s youth pursuing innovative tech careers,” said Innocenti.

Educating parents on the importance of supporting STEM education and careers for their children can go a long way toward creating a local talent base, panelists agreed.

“Nontraditional education (such as certifications) is also beneficial,” said Tiffany Tremont, president and CEO of Silotech Group. “I think it will play a major role in the future, especially as an option for those who are not interested in nor cannot afford college.”

Social skills will be crucial for San Antonio’s future workforce.

“We need to think about how we can help students develop needed social skills — ones crucial for leadership, communication, team building,” said Harvinder Singh, president of Bestica. “How can we develop these skills if they are too busy playing on their cell phones watching YouTube videos?”
People packed Dorćol Distillery for the cybersecurity panel. Photo by Iris Gonzalez.
People packed Dorćol Distillery for the cybersecurity panel. Photo by Iris Gonzalez.

Building a more diverse tech workforce by encouraging more women and minorities to pursue a tech career also was the subject of discussion on what might have been the most diverse tech panel many in the audience had experienced. The STEM workforce, however, has not grown more diverse over the past decade. Women and minorities remain underrepresented in a field while older white males still are dominate both worker and management ranks. The U.S. needs to build a more educated, innovative workforce that reflects the diversity of our population, panelists agreed.

“We need to become a more pluralistic image of what people in tech look like,” Innocenti said.

“The demographic in San Antonio now is roughly what the U.S. population will look like in another 25 years,” Garrett pointed out. “If you want to help students in middle school and high school gain access to STEM opportunities to learn tech skills, join your local school board. You can help influence changes to your school district’s curriculum to expose them to those skills needed for a tech future.”

Panelists closed the discussion by offering suggestions on how San Antonio might become more tech friendly so more students not only pursue STEM careers, but stay here to help develop San Antonio into a brain hub.

Dillard thought it would take a two-pronged approach: Attracting and keeping talent here, which in turn, will help San Antonio become a tech growth city.
Moderator Brian Dillard stands amid the distillery equipment at Dorćol Distillery. Photo by Iris Gonzalez.

Moderator Brian Dillard stands amid the distillery equipment at Dorćol Distillery. Photo by Iris Gonzalez.

“We have a hard time convincing people and tech companies to move into the inner city core where public schools are not performing well,” Dillard said. “The two go hand in hand; making schools in our inner city STEM friendly not only helps educate local talent – those students we hope will stay here – but helps attract new talent to move here as well.”

“Tech entrepreneurs need to become more mainstream role models for (students),” Innocenti explained. “By visioning what our heroes look like, we can help move tech leaders from their niche to become more accessible to students, so they can see someone who looks like them working in the STEM field.”

But for many inner city students and parent, STEM education is a concern far down their list of priorities.

“Many local students are struggling to meet basic needs,” Tremont said. “When hunger and poverty are your biggest challenges, you need to approach that student and tell them, ‘This is how you are going to bring your family out of poverty,’ with a well-paying tech job. This is why I think offering opportunities for nontraditional tech career paths will be important, especially for those who just cannot afford college.”

Gavito mentioned a book that all panelists recommended, Enrico Moretti’s “The New Geography of Jobs“ in which the author describes cities that act as brain hubs, cities that attract highly educated people and the businesses hiring them. The author writes that every highly skilled job helps create five support industry jobs, jobs for carpenters, cab drivers and teachers. Creating more innovative jobs is the way a brain hub helps raise salaries and standard of living for everyone.

“Smart people are attracted to other smart people and want to be where other smart people are,” Gavito said. “We need that critical mass here in San Antonio so this city can become a brain hub also.”

San Antonio is in a position to poach companies that don’t make it in Austin, Singh said.

“San Antonio should watch closely what Austin is doing and see which companies are thinking of relocating there,” he said. “If we foster partnerships with Austin on tech, San Antonio could benefit.”

As the background music of Dorćol’s cocktail shakers played on, attendees and panelists alike agreed it will take a coordinated, multifaceted approach to create a brain hub here in San Antonio, one that can compete nationally with other top-tier cities. This panel scratched the surface of what San Antonio’s critical mass of dedicated tech leaders are doing. Attendees agreed it was an inspiring discussion for DreamWeek.
Panelists Silotech Group President and CEO Tiffany Tremont, Cyber Security SA Director Will Garrett, and Bestica President Harvinder Singh, TechBloc Executive Director Marina Gavito, and Debra Innocenti, Internet & Technology attorney at Strasburger & Price LLP, take part in a cybersecurity panel discussion. Photo by Iris Gonzalez.

Panelists Silotech Group President and CEO Tiffany Tremont, Cyber Security SA Director Will Garrett, Bestica President Harvinder Singh, TechBloc Executive Director Marina Gavito, and Debra Innocenti, Internet & Technology attorney at Strasburger & Price LLP, take part in a cybersecurity panel discussion. Photo by Iris Gonzalez.

*Top image: From left: Bestica President Harvinder Singh, TechBloc Executive Director Marina Gavito, and Debra Innocenti, Internet & Technology attorney at Strasburger & Price LLP, discuss the landscape of the local cyber industry. Photo by Iris Gonzalez.

S.A.’s world-class status is story of steps forward, steps back / San Antonio Express News 2016

By | NEWS

If there was any consensus reached at a DreamWeek panel Wednesday night on whether San Antonio is, or can become, a world-class city — a goal arrived at by an overarching vision project called SA2020, now in its fifth year — it was that San Antonio is working on it 24-7.

Molly Cox, president and CEO of the nonprofit SA2020, told the more than 200 people assembled at the Pearl Stable that as San Antonio reaches one of its goals, as it has on lowering teen pregnancy, it falls farther behind on others, as it has on college readiness, air quality and affordable housing.

“We’re making major progress in several areas,” Cox said, noting the need for systematic, sustained improvement. “The main point to drive home is that we are working toward it every day.”

The DreamWeek discussion was one of more than 150 events planned over 12 days of observations around civil-rights icon Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.

The panel raised wide-ranging issues faced by the city, driven by estimates that its population is expected to grow by 1.1 million by 2040. Panelists addressed issues from transportation and college readiness to the city’s need for a great urban park and its pursuit of a professional football team.

Sandy Morander, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater San Antonio, addressed the broad question of San Antonio’s potential as a world-class city by comparing it to her stays in Boston and Dallas.

“A world-class city starts and ends with the people,” she said. Neither of those cities have “the collaborative spirit that San Antonio does. San Antonio is an amazing city.”

World-class status “has to bestowed,” said Andrés Andújar, who’s leading Hemisfair’s redevelopment, adding that such cities have vibrant downtowns and a great urban park. “Others have to say it’s a world-class city,” he said.

District 8 Councilman Ron Nirenberg said a world-class city will require a realistic conversation about transportation needs and the controversial subject of rail, which has faced strong opposition in San Antonio.

“There’s a small minority that’s dead set against any progressive ideas like rail, which is hundreds of years old,” the councilman said, noting that the city’s 2017 bond election will offer another opportunity to San Antonians interested in improving transportation.

“The same solutions aren’t working. We need to do something different.” he said. “Civic engagement matters. So many great ideas have been derailed in San Antonio.”

DreamVoice Honors CRIT USA: ‘A Wheelchair Doesn’t Have to Stop Me’ / Rivard Report 2016

By | NEWS

Desteny Espinoza has spent almost all 13 years of her life in a wheelchair. After years of expensive, failed rehabilitation attempts, she still uses her wheelchair, but recently started walking with the help of crutches. Her breakthrough came when she was treated Children’s Rehabilitation Institute of TeletónUSA (CRIT USA) in San Antonio.

“I have dreams and CRIT has helped me work toward those dreams,” she said.

Espinoza would like to be an immigration lawyer and an actress, she told more than 100 local community leaders at the Plaza Club atop the Frost Bank Tower during lunch on Thursday.

“A wheelchair doesn’t have to stop me,” she said to the audience’s applause.

Epinoza spoke during the first annual DreamVoice Award Luncheon, which honored CRIT USA with its Advent Award, one of the largest acute pediatric rehabilitation systems in the world. Its services are essentially free, based on a “pay what you can” model.

The luncheon was hosted by DreamVoice LLC, which produces DreamWeek, a calendar of events celebrating Martin Luther King Jr., cultural diversity, and conflict resolution in San Antonio.

“The award is given to the organization or person that celebrates what DreamVoice is all about,” said DreamVoice President Shokare Nakpodia, and it’s all about “advancing the voices of tolerance, equality, and diversity.”
The audience rises for a standing ovation during the DreamVoice award luncheon. Photo by Camille Garcia.
The audience rises for a standing ovation during the DreamVoice awards luncheon. Photo by Camille Garcia.

CRIT USA provides comprehensive treatment to pediatric patients with disabilities, which means going beyond physical therapies to the psychological, social, and spiritual for patients and their families.

“Emotional support is one of the most important things in our model of care,” said CRIT USA CEO and Chief Development Officer Ricardo Guzman.

The model of care CRIT offers was first started in Mexico in 1999 when the country opened its first rehabilitation center. Soon after, patients from the U.S. began traveling to the facility in order to receive the quality of care that they could not find in the U.S. It was then that the TeletonUSA Foundation was established in order to raise funds to bring a comprehensive care facility to the United States.

Through a televised fundraising event hosted by Spanish-language broadcasting company Univision in 2012, the Foundation raised enough money to begin construction on what would become CRIT USA.

In Latin America, the CRIT fundraisers are “bigger productions than the Oscars” in terms of the audience they draw, as well as the famous guests who contribute, one CRIT spokesperson told the Rivard Report before the center opened in late October 2014.

Teams of specialized doctors have since provided treatment for patients from more than 28 states in the country. With an enrollment capacity of 600, the outpatient facility located in the city’s northeast side has a waiting list of more than 900 patients.

“Our program is superior to any other in the U.S.,” said Guzman. “It’s a great project of love.”

As far as the future of CRIT USA, Guzman said he has hopes for expansion in other cities.

“We’re hoping to achieve international accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities,” he said. “And we’re hoping to bring a lot of people here.”

Shetigho Agbuke of Redeemer’s Praise Church, led a prayer to open the luncheon in which she proclaimed her pride in the city’s abundance of passionate and giving people.

“San Antonio is a model for how other cities want to be,” said Agbuke, who is Nakpodia’s sister.

After the day’s ceremonies, Nakpodia honored a few unsung heroes of the city with Voice Awards.

Assistant City Manager Lori Houston, Hotel Emma Concierge Michele Jacob, Choice Neighborhood Programs Director Beverly Watts Davis and Musical Bridges Around the World Director of Development and Marketing Suhail Arastu, all received an award.

“San Antonio, as most big cities, tends to award the same people, and rightfully so,” Nakpodia said. “But my team and I have chosen to honor those behind the scenes.”

*Top image: CRIT USA CEO and Chief Development Officer Ricardo Guzman (left) looks on as Desteny Espinoza tells her story. Photo by Camile Garcia.

Boys and Girls Club Students Express King’s Dream / Spectrum News 2016

By | NEWS

SAN ANTONIO – Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream and so do young people with the Boys and Girls Club of San Antonio.

Now they are expressing those dreams through art – chalk art, that is.

The artistic expression is one of several Dream Week events leading up to Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 18.

The Boys and Girls Club is just down the street from where the march will take place, and members of the staff says they wanted a way for the children to reflect King’s message of racial equality and justice.

“What Martin Luther King said decades ago still applies today, it still applies to their lives and what they’re doing,” says Zuani Villarreal of the Boys and Girls Club.

Villarreal added that the Boys and Girls Club will also take part in the upcoming march.

Photo Gallery: Eastside Chalks It Up for DreamWeek / Rivard Report 2016

By | NEWS

The Eastside chapter of The Boys & Girls Club of San Antonio celebrated the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with a little inspiration from Artpace‘s annual Chalk It Up event and a giant bucket of colorful chalk on Wednesday evening at Martin Luther King Academy.

Reading all the messages from children to their community was inspiring and served as a reminder of the times in which we live. According to their temporary sketches, these children see inequality in our times, but they also see hope. And they demand action.

“Put down the guns now.”

“My dream is to change the world.”

“Colors don’t matter,” reads one, however misspelled.

A portion of the chalked sidewalks at the Boys & Girls Club San Antonio Eastside Branch. Photo by Scott Ball.A portion of the chalked sidewalks at the Boys & Girls Club San Antonio Eastside Branch. Photo by Scott Ball.
After large sidewalks had been filled with inspiring quotes and dreams, a guest speaker arrived. Walter Perry of San Antonio for Growth on the Eastside (SAGE) and a former Boys & Girls Club member gave encouraging words of friendship and community.

His words seemed to be rubbing off on the children…and the sidewalks.

SAGE associate and former member of Boys and Girls Club Walter Perry gives an inspirational speech to the children. Photo by Scott Ball.SAGE associate and former member of Boys and Girls Club Walter Perry gives an inspirational speech to the children. Photo by Scott Ball.
The elementary school at 3503 Martin Luther King Dr. is also start of the MLK March route.

The event was one of more than 100 included on the DreamWeek San Antonio calendar that culminates with the MLK March on Monday, Jan. 18. The City expects more than 150,000 participants in this year’s march, one of the largest in the nation.

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