Since 2003, I have called San Antonio my home. I moved from Rockport, a small Texas Gulf Coast town two and a half hours south, to attend UTSA. The prospect of attending an institution that has a student population larger than the entire population of my hometown was exciting – there were more students in my freshman psychology class than in my high school graduating class.
I hardly knew anyone when I moved to San Antonio and it was tough adjusting to a new city and new people. Luckily, UTSA gave me so many opportunities to get involved and enhance my interactions with my new home.
I soon joined the Kappa Sigma fraternity which came with a great social life, but our work in the community – especially our work with St. Jude’s Children's Hospital – left a lasting impression on me.
I majored in business administration and minored in economics so it was a natural decision to become involved in student government. The first campaign I worked on was for a good friend of mine, Tommy Thompson. He become student body president. It was during his tenure that UTSA students voted to increase the athletic fees to have a football team, something I think about every time I attend Roadrunner games at the Alamodome.
UTSA gave me an excellent education – both in and out of the classroom – and it helped prepare me to make tough decisions about my professional future.
In the summer of 2008, most business graduates (including myself) could feel that timing wasn't on our side. The Lehman Brothers collapsed in September and the job market dried up faster than Medina Lake.
However, the recession made me think about what kind of life I really wanted to pursue. I decided I wanted to focus on public service, so I cold-called the office of U.S. Congressman Ciro Rodriguez and asked if they needed anyone.
I told them I would work for free, that I was just interested in gaining some sort of experience. They soon brought me on board as an intern. During this time I participated in senior citizen outreach which called for me to go to nutrition centers on the Southside and speak to senior citizens about government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. I also handled casework, helping citizens navigate the paperwork and headache that often come with federal bureaucracies.
After five months as an intern, I was asked to join the staff as a full-time employee. I accepted and my journey into community outreach truly began. Most of my work was focused on West Texas but I took pride in finding opportunities for the communities we represented and I learned more about myself in those two years than I had in the previous 23.
I consistently put myself in situations that were out of my comfort zone and required me to educate myself on a variety of issues. For example: In the morning I would discuss the effects of drought with region farmers, in the afternoon I would deliver books to the public library in Presidio, and by the evening I would meet with U.S. military veterans struggling to find employment.
After a hard-fought campaign in 2010, Congressman Rodriguez narrowly lost the election. It was my first major defeat – at least it felt like it.
Luckily, I was able to quickly land back on my feet. I became a legislative director for Texas House Representative Joe Farias.
I did a stint at the Texas Capitol in Austin and I feel we truly did some great work – especially on behalf of Texas veterans.
Although the fruits of my labor were rewarding, I found that tedious legislative work was not for me.
I came back to San Antonio.
Upon my return, my girlfriend and I decided we wanted to live in an area with character. For us – and for many Millennials like us – that meant finding a place in or around the city center. We soon set up shop in Southtown, in the Lavaca neighborhood.
Like UTSA and politics, simply living downtown served as a conduit for me to get involved. I was excited at the amount of activity and engagement in the city's urban core. The mayor famously declared it the “Decade of Downtown” and it truly feels like it. People are starting their own businesses, more and more housing is becoming available, art and culture is thriving, and participating in the public discussion is a normal part of being a resident.
My girlfriend and I also became members of LOOP, an organization of ambitious young professionals who are working hard to transform San Antonio into a world-class city for creative and talented people.
Read More:"LOOPers and the Decade of Downtown."
While interacting with LOOP members at community meetings, luncheons and cultural events, you quickly realize you are in a room filled with some of San Antonio’s future leaders. The next Graham Weston, the next Julián Castro, or the future Leticia Van De Putte could emerge from this group.
Personal and professional connections made during my journey from Rockport to San Antonio, paired with my passion for wanting to participate in conversations that strengthen local community, have led me to where I am today. Last week, I became the newest member of The Rivard Report team as the director of marketing and development.
In under two years, The Rivard Report has grown from its humble beginnings as Director and Founder Robert Rivard's blog to an online magazine. Our audience includes newcomers to San Antonio, natives, business and political leaders, parents, young professionals, and really anyone that's interested in finding out more about – or being a part of – this city's urban transformation.
The Rivard Report cultivates stories from journalists, freelance writers, and community members to be a catalyst for progressive economic and cultural development. We've published more than 200 unique voices that push and pull public conversations around the center city's arts, culture, city planning, technology, education, lifestyle, energy, local government, business, and more. It is my responsibility to help grow and sustain this magazine so it may continue to deliver to our engaged readers.
The future of this city and The Rivard Report is exciting and I look forward to hearing from the many voices that are working hard to make San Antonio a better place to live, work, and play.
Jaime Solis is the Director of Marketing and Development for the Rivard Report, he previously served as a congressional aide to Congressman Ciro Rodriguez and a Legislative Director for State Representative Joe Farias. You can follow him on Twitter at @_JaimeSolis and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.