Leslie Benavides



Leslie Benavides was born in Houston, TX to two immigrant parents from Mexico and attended high school at Eastwood Academy. She has a passion for empowering others and she founded the Women’s Empowerment Club at her high school in order to create safe spaces of growth and reflection. Next fall, Leslie will be attending Brown University, where she hopes to continue advocating for the Latinx community and women of color.



Joseph Ruiz




Joseph Ruiz loves helping people. Whether it be physically, mentally, or spiritually, he always offers his aid. Joseph knows that Emerging Latino Leaders can help him with his leadership and allow him to help others as much as possible.



Liliana Martinez


Liliana Martinez is a junior at Smith College in Northampton, MA. Before venturing off to college so far away from her home in Houston, TX, she received a lot of help through mentoring organizations such as the EMERGE Fellowship that helped her apply to college as a first generation student. Her parents are from San Luis Potosi, Mexico, and they immigrated to the United States 28 years ago to raise her and her three siblings.

She has continuously been involved in college access programs and mentoring programs that help students learn about the importance of higher education, including the Young Owls Leadership Program (YOLP) at Rice University that was cofounded by one of the cofounders of Emerging Latino Leaders. She is passionate about improving college access because she understands what it means to come from a family where discussions about college are not exactly topics touched around the dinner table. She plans on graduating in 2018 with her Bachelor’s degree in Government and Latin American Studies and will then hopefully continue to pursue a master’s degree in Public Policy or potentially attend Law School. She is interested in pursuing a career that helps the Latino community she is so proudly from. She is also interested in specifically helping the women in the Latino community as she attends a women’s college and has been exposed and educated about women’s issues and therefore holds a unique feminist perspective.


Angela Barbosa


Angela Barbosa was born in Monterrey, Mexico, but was raised in Houston Texas. She came to the U.S. when she was only 4 years old and has been living in Houston for the past 12 years. She is a rising Junior at Yes Prep Southeast. Her goal is to attend and graduate from college. She will be the second person in her family to attend college. Even though she has lived in the U.S. for most of her life, Angela still practices her culture and its traditions because she finds it important to not completely assimilate to the American culture. Angela as well still uses her native language of Spanish, the language that both of her parents speak. Angela is sporty and plays basketball for 2 teams, volleyball for 1 team, and participates in cross country. She love photography as well as DJing. She as well loves to explore and make new friends.



Felipe  Guillen


Felipe Guillén is currently a rising junior majoring in Iberian & Latin American Cultures and minoring in Education at Stanford University. He immigrated from Zacatecas, Mexico, at the age of five to Houston, Texas. He lived in the southeast side of Houston, and graduated as Valedictorian from César E. Chávez. In his time at Chávez, he was part of Spanish, English, and Honor Societies, Chavez Prep, and Emerge. He is first in his family to attend college and will be the first to graduate in 2018.

At Stanford he’s been an active member within the Casa Zapata Dorm community for two years. He is also involved in Comunidad by being part of La Fe and La Familia de Stanford. He recently joined FLIP(First Generation and/or Low-Income Partnership) Core at the end of his sophomore year. In his free time, he enjoys reading, watching movies and TV shows, and going out with friends. Oh and he loves food. He hopes to go into the field of education after graduation and coming back to Houston.


Ana Crisitina Regalado


Ana Cristina Regalado is a student at St. Edward’s University majoring in Bilingual Education. Ana is an active member in campus organizations such as the Latino Student Leadership Organization, S.E.R.V.E. Austin, Hilltop Hospitality, Alpha Lambda Delta, Social Justice Living Learning Community and Campus Ministry. Starting this fall, Ana Cristina will be a Resident Assistant (RA) with Residence Life.

Ana Cristina is a Mexican-American from Houston, Texas, where she was exposed to many issues that face the Hispanic and Latino community. She graduated from John H. Reagan High School, attended  Burbank Middle School and Lyons Elementary. She always had a passion for helping others, so she has been tutoring and mentoring students since she was in the 6th grade. Ana Cristina was a participant of Big Brothers Big Sisters. With her 6 years of experience tutoring and mentoring, she knew that a future as a bilingual educator was perfect for her.

Ana was an advisor at the Young Owls Leadership Program this past June. She participated in Young Owls Leadership Program (YOLP) in 2013, and wanted to give back to an organization that helped her get where she is right now. She  will set an example for Latino youth and empower them to take action in their own community. SI SE PUEDE!


Lesly Vargas

Lesly vLesly Vargas is 17 and was born on September 19, 1998 in Houston, Texas. She comes from a Mexican family of 5 – three daughters, a mother and a father. Lesly has lived her life going through the Houston Public education system and then attended YES Prep Charter Schools in 6th grade. After 6 years in the academically challenging YES Prep program, Lesly will be a Senior this upcoming fall.

She has worked very hard throughout her years and is more than ecstatic to graduate and go out into the real world.Lesly wants to make a change because she is a fighter by heart and she knows there is a lot that there is to change in the world for the better.


Bryan Arevalo




Bryan Arevalo is a young man filled with ambition and curiosity. He is not afraid to work hard. With faith and logic, he knows that he will succeed.



Andrea Trevino


Andrea Selena Trevino is an undergraduate student at Williams College majoring in Anthropology with a concentration in Latina/o Studies. Andrea is a Mexican-American from Houston, Texas. She strongly believes that a community that is informed of their rights and potential is a strong community, and she hopes to keep the Latinx community informed and advancing. She also firmly believes that a degree can never replace first-hand knowledge on issues, and knows that in order to grow as a community, everyone must listen and learn from each other, and never forget their roots in order to grow. Andrea wants to make sure that Latinx communities receive the political/legal changes (especially relating to education policy and medical resources) they need to continue thriving.


Carlos Mendiola


Carlos Mendiola is a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill majoring in Public Policy. In addition to serving as the Co-President of the Carolina Hispanic Association, he is the Director of Programing for the Student Civic Engagement Alliance, and the South Regional Leader for the EMERGE Fellowship. This summer Carlos is working alongside Project GRAD to help their graduating Scholars matriculate to college through an online software that allows him to contact and offer guidance to over 400 students. Carlos is as well interning for BridgeYear to co-create a curriculum that could increase student attainment and persistence at Houston Community College. Carlos was born and raised in Houston, Texas where he hopes to lead the next generation of Latino leaders.


Mariana Grijalva


Mariana Grijalva is a U.S. Citizen from Houston, TX. that, proudly, comes from a Mexican family. Her parents have been living in the U.S. for over 20 years now. Her mother has been working in different restaurants, babysitting, and cleaning houses for a living. Her father has been a chef throughout the time he’s been in the U.S., but started off as a field worker. At age 17, Mariana was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and had to leave school for awhile. During her birthday, she had to be isolated as she was treated with radiation to become cured. But she was able to graduate with distinction. She is now in her sophomore year of college at the University of Houston-Downtown pursuing her degree in Accounting. Her future goals consist of becoming an FBI agent and, later, being part of congress. Throughout college she has participated in many organizations and become more involved with the community and reality. As she grew her interest in law enforcement, she decided to be in The Professional Society of Criminal Justice Students as one of the officers. She has also been able to participate in different activities with local law enforcement officials. Mariana also feels strongly about doing something in regards to immigration policies, climate change, and much more. She was able to join the Emerging Latino Leaders, where she was presented many opportunities to fight against hate. Volunteering and engaging in the community has been a great ride for Mariana. Even though she is an introvert, she will talk when it’s time to speak.


Fernando Santiago


Fernando Santiago, is an undergraduate at the University of Houston majoring in accounting with a focus in internal auditing. Along with being very involved in organizations at school such as Youth Empowerment Alliance(YEA), Finance Association (FA), Collegiate Entrepreneurship Organization (CEO) and other organizations. He is an organizer for United We Dream Houston which focuses on fighting against injustices and inequalities that immigrant youth and their parents face, living in the United States. Fernando was born in Mexico City and grew up in Cypress, Texas. Since the age of 12 he has been working in his family’s construction business as translator, project manager, team leader, and general laborer where he has been able to pick up very important skills. Currently he is a project manager for the family’s business along with being a real estate agent and property investor. As a United We Dream Houston organizer, he works with others to help lead the campaign against 287g here in Houston, the capital of deportation in the United States, which allows Harris county sheriffs to act as ICE agents and criminalize the Latino community and separate families. He hopes to keep growing as a businessman but most importantly as a community organizer for the oppressed communities of Houston.


Ximena Magana

10409010_10205877580035751_5024149797395604151_n (1)

Ximena Magana was born as an only child in Mexico City, raised by her single mother. At a young age Magana understood the struggles her mother faced every day. Both made a decision to migrate to the United States when she was only 9 years old. They crossed the border between the Mexico and the United States, just like many other do, through the desert and river. They found their way to Houston, the city they now call home. Magana attended Jane Long Middle School and graduated from Bellaire High School, while there she was Battalion Commander of the JROTC program during her senior year. It was thanks to her Mentor CSM Brian Briggs who sponsor her fist DACA that allowed her to attend and apply for college.

Magana attended her first two years of college at Houston Community College, there she found herself a job working in The Public Relations Department managing the college social media pages. Magana worked her way up and is now a writer for the college’s website and does on camera interviews for HCC TV. In the Fall of 2016 Magana was accepted to the University of Houston and is now majoring in Communications- Public Relations and wants to minor in Mexican American Studies.

During the summer of 2015, Magana interned with Council Member Robert Gallegos. Toward the end of her internship she interned for the City of Houston Controller’s Campaign and volunteered for Sylvester Turner for Mayor Campaign. Magana has made it her responsibility to become civically engaged in her community and has co-hosted two events known as “Tacos and Vote”, where they encourage people in the community to come out and vote, during the election day. She also works with Houston Beyond ICE in the campaign to #End287(g). A program that affects her family and her community base on their legal status.

In the month of April Magana was asked by the Mayor of Houston to join the Mayor’s Hispanic Advisory Board, making her the youngest and first DACA to have ever served on the Board. She hopes to help create better communities by becoming an adviser for elected officials and community leaders in Houston and across the country.


Nestor H. Vazquez Cruz

Nestor H. Vazquez (1)

Nestor H. Vazquez Cruz was born in Guanajuato, Mexico. He is a newcomer to the U.S. Cruz still treasures his Hispanic background, values, food, and traditions. He is pursuing a career in a STEM field and wants to study physics with a focus on aerospace. His goal is to one day build rockets. With new sources of energy through research, rockets will be able to perform vital functions for space and atmospheric studies. Cruz believes that there are mathematical equations that hold the secrets of the universe that will solve Earth’s energy needs in a way that does not pollute. He also wants to expose people to the power they have, the power that can change how we live our lives. For the betterment of our community, Cruz is committed to informing and educating people to make them realize that their voices count and that the only way to achieve a true change is through collective effort by the means of our actions.

Cruz would like to get as educated as possible, expand his comfort zone and horizons by meeting new people, and make new, supportive connections. He loves to help others and be as active as possible, from a run to a session of studying and learning. Cruz thanks the leaders who stood up for Latinos and their rights, and believes that now it is our turn to take the torch and keep fighting for what we care about, the well-being of our communities and families through civic engagement.
Cruz’s mission is to gain experience from school and extracurricular activities in school and everywhere I go. He expects to graduate from a university and find a job that will allow him to grow as a person while also helping others. He is committed to making his mark on the world as an innovator in the scientific community, as well as a leader. He believes in helping others. “Together we shall find a way” is his motto.