— Thanks to a Houston-based foundation, 34 emerging young leaders have completed a course aimed at bolstering their skills and giving them the confidence to help mold the Texas city's future.
Most of the graduates of the Houston Emerging Leaders program are Hispanic, but non-Hispanics, like Huyen Do, also participated.
"I just want to own something or be the president or CEO of a company," she said.
The program is not solely for business executives and entrepreneurs, it also takes civil engineers, biologists, bankers and politicians.
Laura Murillo, CEO of the Greater Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation
, said the idea is to advance a city that is changing ethnically and economically.
"Houston is diverse, in terms of the people who are here, and it is diverse in terms of the careers that are available," Murillo said. "So we want to get and identify all those great people out there, put them in this program and prepare them to lead Houston."
People like Mercedes Sanchez, who said she benefited from interacting with others in the class.
"I think that one of the many benefits of having such a diverse group is that you really get to learn from each other, and it enriches the experience that you have," Sanchez said.
She has also been helped by her mentor at work, Houston City Council Member Ed Gonzalez.
Jo Anna Castilleja, who participated in the program and works for Shell Oil, said she needed guidance about the business world because she was the first in her family to graduate from college.
"My parents came from elementary and secondary education, and I needed to ask for help from someone who had that kind of experience," said Castilleja.
One of Castilleja's mentors, Leticia Watts, helped her make an important presentation.
"I was the middle manager between her and the boss," Watts said.
Her other mentor, Sonia Gonzalez, said the training has produced better workers and citizens.
"By taking her work experience and giving her a broader look at what is happening in the city of Houston, it makes her that much more valuable to us," Gonzalez said.
And graduates of the program may one day serve as mentors themselves.