Join us for a fun celebration on Thursday, June 13th from 6:30pm-8:30pm at the Law Firm Boulette Golden & Marin LLP. Invite your friends to mix and mingle with fellow El Pasoans in Austin and help us raise scholarship money for El Paso high school graduates attending Austin-area colleges. Buy your tickets here!


Since 2012, the El Paso in Austin Trailblazers Reception annually recognizes successful El Pasoans in Austin who exemplify leadership, creativity, and passion for their work and their community. Trailblazers have the famous Star on the Mountain in El Paso lit in their honor.

Michelle "Missy" Apodaca, Government/Law Trailblazer. Missy currently serves as an attorney at Katten Muchin Rosenman LL. She has a distinct blend of business, as a previous in-house counsel for a payer, and her legal experience focusing on emerging trends in health care sectors, including value based care, alternative payment arrangements and risk-based contracting. Missy's comprehensive understanding of federal and state health care laws helps clients address the challenges they face with day-to-day operations, as well as the planning needed for reaching long-term objectives. With a commitment to her community she has served on the following boards: Health Section Governing Council serving as co-chair, Washington Health Law Summit, Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy, Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce as Chair of the Government Relations and Medicaid Tax Force, Seton Fifty, Children's Advocacy Centers & Women of Courage, former member, Board of Directors, Keep Austin Beautiful, Caring Family Network and the YMCA of El Paso. She is a frequent and respected speaker at national health law and policy conferences, and from 2012-2014 she co-chaired the program planning committee for the ABA Health Law Section’s Annual Washington Health Law Summit. She is a proud graduate of Austin College and the Texas A&M University School of Law (formerly Texas Wesleyan University School of Law). She also graduated from Leadership El Paso and Leadership Texas and is a former member of the Junior League of El Paso and Austin.

Noel Candelaria, Education/Non-Profit Category Trailblazer.  Noel is the current President of the Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA), the state affiliate of the National Education Association(NEA). Prior to his election as TSTA President in 2014, Noel served three years as TSTA Vice President after a distinguished tenure as President of the Ysleta Teachers Association (YTA) where he worked as a Teacher’s Aide and Special Education Teacher in the Ysleta ISD.  As TSTA President, Noel works with members and local leaders across the state daily to create the best possible learning environment for our students and working environment for our educators. At the national level, Noel has worked with the National Teachers Hall of Fame and while acting as the chair of the Memorial to Fallen Educators, legislation was passed to designate the monument as a National Memorial site. Noel was also elected by his fellow state presidents to lead the National Council of State Education Associations as President and will begin his term in July. Noel has been appointed to be a part of multiple national committees and task forces including the NEA Human and Civil Rights Committee and the NEA Member Benefits Corporation Board. As a son of hard-working immigrants growing up in our beloved home town of El Paso, the importance of education and the opportunities that a quality public education can provide were core values instilled in him. Noel is a proud graduate of Del Valle HS and UTEP - The University of Texas at El Paso.

Cynthia C. CorralScience/Healthcare/Technology Trailblazer. After graduating from Andress High School in 2000 she move to Austin to attend UT where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Sociology and completed her Master of Science in Social Work with a clinical concentration. She serves her community as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and her individualized care aims to address patient’s psychosocial needs, helping them achieve their desired goals and outcomes. Cynthia specializes in treating chronic pain and trauma at the Dell Medical School’s Musculoskeletal Institute at UT Health Austin. As a psychotherapist, she believes in the importance of cultural connection, education, and storytelling. Cynthia also serves as an Assistant Professor of Practice at the Steve Hicks School of Social Work. She has shared her time and talents with various organizations such as Arthritis Foundation, Hope Through Health Clinic (for victims of human trafficking), Brown Santa, Peruvian Association of Austin, and Earthquake Relief Fundraiser Volunteer. She has been volunteering with the Cine de las Americas Festival since 2011 and has been on their film review committee and as a juror for the short films competition. Cynthia’s upbringing is rooted in the community values that are intrinsic to so many El Pasoans and driven by an inimitable perseverance and self-efficacy. Her example demonstrates the best qualities of humanity: despite over a decade of exposure to the often inconceivable trauma & pain of those who suffer the most.

Alex Franco, Arts/Entertainment Trailblazer. Before calling Austin home, Alex Franco established decades of great memories as a native El Pasoan. A graduate of J.M. Hanks High School, Alex began his notable representation of El Paso when he became the 1st ever male salesperson at Bath & Body Work in Texas! He moved to Austin in 1999 and landed an internship at Mix 94.7 while attending school. Since 2000, Mix 94.7 has kept Alex very busy and consequently enabled him to do a little bit of everything at the station. Alex credits years of persistence, hard work and trying to be funny as reasons he landed a lead role on the popular morning show, Booker Alex and Sara in the Morning. Alex and his co-hosts are consistently ranked #1 among morning shows and continue to be honored with numerous awards. He is the only Latino On Air Personality in Austin, TX. Almost daily you can hear him every morning giving shout outs to our hometown of El Paso. He gives back to Bikes for Kids and a number of non-profit organizations. He is an ambassador of our city day in and day out! Alex and his wife and fellow El Pasoan, Andria, delight in raising their children Jacob (4) and Alexandria (2). Despite his incredibly demanding work schedule, Alex makes time to travel with Andria and their children once a month to the beautiful Sun City to visit their family and friends. Some may find his frequency of travel a bit crazy, but Alex is steadfast about his commitment to El Paso, “My family lives there and the Mexican food is amazing!” Need he say more?

Charles Ponzio Jr., Business/Entrepreneurship El Paso in Austin Trailblazer. Charles moved to Austin in 1997, where he has been actively engaged in commercial real estate leasing and sales, restaurant consulting, community advocacy, and writing interests. Charles owns Conduit Realty Services a realty company that serves families in Austin and El Paso to find their forever home. Before moving to Austin, he served in multiple civic and professional organizations, serving as the founding chair of the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Chair of the El Paso CCIM Chapter, twice; chaired both the Sertoma Civic organization and the Hispanic Leadership Institute in El Paso, TX. His passion is evident through his ongoing dedication to his community, advocating for unsung heroes, displaced citizens and general forgotten and often unpopular issues to be placed on the agenda for local institutions to deal with mindfully. Most recently, he led the charge from behind the scenes to get the City of Austin to reverse its original "we have no money to buy out your homes" position, resulting in Austin's City Council approving over $100 million for the buyout of several hundred homes of flood victims in the 3 Onion Creek subdivisions whose residents were predominantly Mexican-Americans. Charles is a graduate of Ysleta HS. He’s a proud father of Sunday, Carlo and Audrey Ponzio and is blessed with 5 grandchildren. He has taught all of them to pursue their destinies with passion and purpose and to serve with a servant’s heart. He has led by example with his tireless advocacy, consummate community engagement and rallying the powers that be for the greatest and highest good.

Judy Cortez serves as the first woman President of the Austin Central Labor Council (ACLC). The ACLC is a professional organization comprised of 24 union affiliates in Central Texas (Bastrop, Hays, Travis, and Williamson Counties) under the mandate of the Texas AFL-CIO which represents over 235,000 members in Texas. Judy also proudly serves as President for one of the three largest public sector employee labor organizations in Austin and Travis County; AFSCME Local 1624.Judy recently completed 10-year tenure as a Commissioner of the City of Austin Human Rights Commission which she chaired for four years. Judy also serves on the KLRU Community Advisory Board. She was a Leadership Austin Alumni class of 2002 and a Hispanic Austin Leadership Inaugural Class Alumni of 2000.She's a proud Bel Air Highlander and Southwest Texas (Texas State) University graduate.

Wells Dunbar is the social media host/producer for Texas Standard. “The National Daily News Show of Texas,” Texas Standard is a one-hour news magazine broadcast on nearly two dozen public radio stations across the state. In two signature segments each show, Wells breaks news and curates reactions to trending topics by sharing what people are saying on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and other sites on the social web. He also develops the social media messaging for Texas Standard and oversees content on the show’s website, Wells has been in radio for six years; prior to the launch of Texas Standard in 2015, he was the web editor for Austin’s NPR station KUT, where he reported extensively on Austin culture and politics. Prior to that, he was the “City Hall Hustle” columnist for the Austin Chronicle, where he attempted to demystify local politics through DIY YouTube videos and hosting political debates at music venues like the Mohawk. He has lived in Austin for more than 20 years and is a graduate of St. Edward's University. During his stint at St. Edward's, Wells was part of an underground rap outfit called the Town Drunks, and collaborated with an indie group named Lovetron. Wells and his wife Pam Ross are the proud parents of Charlie and Margot. Wells is a proud graduate of Radford School and St. Edward's University.

Ana Jordan was born and raised in El Paso. She graduated from Ysleta High School and came to Austin in 1986. She earned two degrees from the University of Texas: a Bachelor of Arts and a Doctorate of Jurisprudence. Before going to law school, she was a Legislative Research Assistant in the Texas House of Representatives, and she interned for a congressional subcommittee in the United States House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. After graduating from law school, Ana practiced law for 17 years. During that time, she served as a state prosecutor and worked as a criminal defense attorney in state courts. She later joined the Attorney General’s Office where she represented the State of Texas and many of its state agencies, including the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and the Texas University System in both state and federal courts. In 2011, she represented the State of Texas during the last redistricting cycle. Ana has seen the law from all perspectives. She is a deep believer in due process and fairness, and she possesses a deep understanding of government and the law. Ana lives in Barton Creek with her husband, Sean, of 16 years and their two children Connor and Sophia.

Mando Rayo is CEO and Engagement Strategist at Mando Rayo + Collective, a multicultural advertising agency based in Austin, Texas. Mando is an award winning Texas blogger and co-author of Austin Breakfast Tacos: The Story of the Most Important Taco of the Day and the upcoming book, The Tacos of Texas to be published by University of Texas press in the Fall of 2016. Mando’s work is deep rooted in multicultural experiences and works on campaigns with such brands as Whataburger, KLRU-TV, PBS Austin, Texas Beef Council, Austin Film Society, People en Español Magazine y más. Mando’s work has been featured on Bon Appetite Magazine, The Food Network, NPR, The New York Times and SXSW As a grassroots cocinero and taco aficionado, Mando shares his Latino perspectives and canvasses Texas to explore all things tacos. While most food bloggers focus on trendy foods and fancy trailers, Mando focuses on the richness of the culture, history and traditions. From Al Pastor to Puffy, Breakfast Tacos to Discada, Mando chows down on the tastiest tacos Texas has to offer.

Trailblazers 2017

Joel Salcido is a photographer in Austin Texas healing from El Paso. He has been published in so many magazines Texas Monthly, Texas Highways and the Austin American Statesman. His works have been in galleries national and internationally. He graduated from El Paso High and the University of Texas-El Paso with a Bachelor of Arts. Joel began working professionally in photography as an intern for the El Paso Times in 1979. As a staff photographer for the newspaper he documented the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico, covered the 1985 Mexico earthquake and traveled extensively in Latin America for USA Today. He received multiple awards, amongst them several for his coverage of life in Cuba and inhalant abuse on the U.S.-Mexican border. In 1991 Salcido left as photo editor of The El Paso Times to pursue commercial and editorial photography. Eight years later he moved his family to Spain for a year to work on his fine art photography. His fine art photographs are now in the permanent collections of the Witliff Gallery of Southwestern and Mexican Photography at Texas State University-San Marcos, The El Paso Museum of Art, the Harry Ransom Humanities Center at UT Austin and other institutions. Joel Salcido continues to work as an editorial and fine art photographer in Austin and produces work for galleries and publications like USA Today and Texas Highways. In 2004 he was one of three Fulbright scholarship finalists for a Bolivian photography project and was nominated for the 2005 Arthouse Texas Prize.Visit his website for a view of his artwork -

Pictured left to right: Laura Bosworth-Bucher, Albert Almanza, Jessica Reeves, and Ross Ramsey at the 2017 Trailblazers Reception (not pictured Dr. Raymund Paredes)

Laura Bosworth-Bucher is CEO and co-founder of TeVido BioDevices, an early stage life sciences/biotech start-up using 3D bio-printing to develop tissue-engineered products for reconstructive surgery, wound-healing, and burns.  With a B.S. in Metallurgical Engineering from the University of Texas at El Paso, she started her career in manufacturing process development for IBM Austin.  At Dell, she built strategic business partnerships, led software product marketing, and created multiple technical sales support functions: enabling over $500 million in sales.  She then launched a professional services business unit and has expertise in customer support services, developing corporate wide strategies that reduced operating costs by about $120 million and improved customer satisfaction by 40-50%. In her spare time, she mentors start-ups and is co-founder of a Women's Entrepreneurship Accelerator,  Ms. Bosworth serves on the UTEP College of Engineering Advisory Board, SafePlace, Texas Alliance for Minorities in Engineering (TAME), and she volunteers with other STEM-focused organizations such as GirlStart, GENAustin, and the UT Women in Engineering Program and as a Spanish interpreter at a Healthcare Clinic that serves low-income individuals who could not otherwise afford medical care.

Albert Almanza retired in 2011 after 35 years of service for the New York Life insurance company in Austin, Texas.  Born in Chihuahua, Almanza attended Jefferson and Austin High Schools, graduating an Austin Panther in 1957.  He was well known in El Paso as a rising basketball star.  When a former University of Texas player and assistant basketball coach named Leon Black watched him play in a recreational league, he was convinced he should play for the Longhorns.  Despite not speaking English, he moved to Austin and became one of the best players of his era, setting many UT records.  In the spring of 1960, successfully tried out for the Mexican Olympic team, and was named Mexico’s captain for the 1960 and 1964 teams. He returned to El Paso to teach at Jefferson and later at Jourdanton High before moving back to Austin in 1968.  Albert Served on the board of directors for the Rivercity Youth Foundation for 25 years and is a member of the Hispanic Hall of Fame in Laredo, the San Antonio Hispanic Hall of Fame and the UT Longhorn Hall of Honor.  Almanza and his wife Helen have two children (Boone and Katherine Elizabeth) and five grandchildren.

Raymund Paredes (center) with El Paso in Austin co-founder Yvonne Loya (left) and 2016 Trailblazer Caroline Enriquez at the 2017 Trailblazers Reception

Texas Commissioner of Higher Education Raymund A. Paredes, Ph.D, spent most of his academic career at UCLA, where for 30 years he taught as an English professor and served for ten years as vice chancellor for Academic Development.  He also served as special assistant to the president of the University of California System in outreach efforts to improve access to higher education for students from educationally disadvantaged communities. In 2007, he was named one of Hispanic Business Magazine’s 100 Most Influential Hispanics. Dr. Paredes is on the national board of directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters, served as a trustee of The College Board and Mercy College of New York, and was a member of the Board of Directors of the Texas Cultural Trust.  He attended The University of Texas at Austin, receiving a B.A. in English.  He served in the U.S. Army for two years.  After separation from military service, he resumed his education, receiving a master’s degree in American Studies from the University of Southern California and his Ph.D. in American Civilization, from The University of Texas at Austin. 

Jessica Reeves is Chief Operations Officer of Voto Latino, the leading civic media organization empowering American Latino millennials. Jessica has worked closely with team members to develop and manage strategic programs for media, corporate, and nonprofit partners, including the first ever National Voter Registration Day, as well as the first All Latino Resist Concert Showcase during the 2017 SXSW Conference and Festival. Previously, Jessica worked in marketing and advertising at both general and Hispanic market agencies.  She has helped build award-winning digital and social media campaigns for Kraft, Twix, Domino's, and other multinational corporations.  Jessica received her Master of Arts in Latin American Studies from Georgetown University and holds a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology & Communications from Boston College.

Ross Ramsey is executive editor and co-founder of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit media organization headquartered in Austin , that aims to promote civic engagement through original, explanatory journalism and public events.  Before founding the Tribune, Ross served as editor and co-owner for 15 years of Texas Weekly, the premier newsletter on government and politics in the Lone Star State.  As Texas Weekly's primary writer for 11 years, he turned out roughly 2 million words in more than 500 editions, added an online library of resources and documents and items of interest to insiders, and a daily news clipping service that links to stories from papers across Texas. Ross got his start in journalism in broadcasting, covering news for radio stations in Denton and Dallas.

Trailblazers 2016

Pictured left to right: Leslie Wingo, Antonio Gamboa, M.D., Veronica (Ronnye) Vargas Stidvent, Rene Lara, and Caroline Enriquez at the 2016Trailblazers Reception

Leslie Wingo, President & CEO of Sanders \ Wingo, is 20-year advertising veteran leading an agency of 90 people across offices in Austin, El Paso, and New York. She stewarded campaigns for State Farm, United States Postal Service, and Burger King, among others. In 2012 and 2016, Black Enterprise Magazine named her one of the nation’s Top Women in Advertising and Marketing. In 2011, she was awarded the Silver Medal by the Austin Advertising Federation and has been recognized as a finalist for the Austin Business Journal’s 2014 Profiles in Power. She also serves as the board chair for AIDS Services of Austin.

Dr. Antonio Gamboa, a graduate of El Paso High, UTEP, the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, and the McComb’s School of Business, is board certified in Internal Medicine, Hospice, and Palliative Care.  Dr. Gamboa is CEO of Elite Patient Care, a company he co-founded that specializes in the care of elderly patients.  Dr. Gamboa is also a board member for Afoundria, a local technology company where he serves as a physician advisor. He sits on the physician advisory board for Senior Care Centers, the largest regional provider of nursing home care in Texas. He is also proudly engaged as a board member for the non-profit organization called Soccer Assist.

Veronica “Ronnye” Vargas Stidvent is the Chancellor of WGU Texas.  She was President of CEA Consulting, LLC and a lecturer at The University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business, and also served as Program Director for UT's Hispanic Leadership Initiative, and was the inaugural Director of the Center for Politics and Governance at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. She was Assistant Secretary for Policy at the U.S. Department of Labor, and previously served as White House Special Assistant to the President for Policy.  She received her B.A. from UT and a J.D. from Yale.

Trailblazers with the El Paso in Austin planning committee at the Trailblazer Reception 2016

René Lara, Legislative & Political Director at the Texas AFL-CIO, grew up in a colonia in El Paso County. After attending public schools, he graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, the LBJ School of Public Affairs, and the University of Texas School of Law.  He worked as a legislative aide for Texas State Senator Gonzalo Barrientos, and represented the Texas Federation of Teachers (now Texas AFT) before joining Texas AFL-CIO, serving on its Board of Texans for a Secure Retirement (TSR) and Board of the Workers Assistance Program.  Rene Lara is the author of the book 140 Capitol Tips.

Caroline Enriquez, Associate Director of Admissions for The University of Texas Austin, oversees undergraduate recruitment and daily operations of the Undergraduate Admissions Center. Caroline has been at the Office of Admissions for the past 18 years, beginning her career as an admissions counselor assigned to the San Antonio, RGV, and El Paso areas. In 2003 she became the director for UT's Houston admissions center, but returned to Austin in 2005, taking over undergraduate recruitment in 2012.  She was recently appointed Associate Director for Special Programs, and was recently elected to serve on the executive board of the Hispanic Faculty Staff Association.  Caroline graduated from Coronado High School in 1994 and received her bachelor's from UT.

Trailblazers 2015

Pictured left to right: Jacob Fraire, President & CEO of the Texas Association of Community Colleges (TACC), accepting on behalf of his wife Dr. Virginia Fraire; Cynthia Rubio; and Michael Marin

Cynthia Rubio is co-founder and President of Radiant RFID, a technology company that enables customers with complex organizational challenges to efficiently track their most dynamic, high-value assets. With over $4 billion in assets tracked every day, Radiant's customers include Fortune 500 companies, and large government and education institutions.  Cynthia earned her master's degree from Wayne State University,  and her bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering from California State University.  Born in El Paso, Cynthia currently lives in Austin, with her husband of 26 years and their four children.

Dr. Virginia Fraire, as Vice President for Student Success at Austin Community College, oversees compliance with government regulations while ensuring ACC programs remain responsive to student’s needs and align with the college’s strategic plan and core values.  Dr. Fraire is well-attuned to the needs and challenges students face today, and proactively engages ACC's leadership to promote and foster a more inclusive, results-driven culture of excellence.  Dr. Fraire attended UT Austin for all her degrees and graduated from Andress High School in El Paso.

Michael Marin is a graduate of UTEP, Harvard, and Golden Gate University. Listed in The Best Lawyers in America in Commercial Litigation, Michael is a former Vinson & Elkins litigation partner in his 20th year of practice. He represents clients in various matters relating to business and employment law, and litigation.  His numerous recognitions include being named a Texas Super Lawyer by Law & Politics Magazine, and being rated AV® Preeminent™ by the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Ratings system.  He has held prominent positions in local, state, and national bar associations, and has lectured and authored numerous law articles.

Trailblazers 2014

Laurie Gallardo is a host on KUTX 98.9FM, Austin’s all- music NPR affiliate. Laurie is one of the station’s first personalities, having been present when it spun off from the current all-news and talk KUT 90.5FM. She has been at the station for more than 10 years, developing a loyal following of Austin listeners. Several nights a week, Laurie hosts a three-hour block of indie and classic rock. She also produces Austin Music Minute, which profiles local music acts. Laurie is a UTEP graduate.-

JJ Plasencio is an Emmy and Dove Award-winning and Grammy-nominated bassist, cellist, guitarist, and singer-songwriter, formerly of Sixpence None the Richer and Plumb, as well as other national acts. He is the owner of Hot Pepper Studios, a full production studio in Austin. He also serves as music director of First Evangelical Free Church, where he oversees the worship ministry. He has two very hip kids, Joel and Jasmine.

JJ Plasencio performing at the
2014 Trailblazers Reception

Dr. Pauline Dow is currently Associate Superintendent for Instruction at North East Independent School District in San Antonio.   She previously served as Chief Academic Officer for Austin ISD, as well as served as Associate Superintendent for Academics and Chief Academic Officer for Ysleta ISD in El Paso. Dr. Dow has worked in public education for nearly 30 years in various capacities, including bilingual education program director, math and science programs specialist, and bilingual teacher. She is a recipient of the University of Texas at El Paso Gold Nugget Award for the College of Education. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history, and an M.Ed. and Ed.D., all from UTEP.

Trailblazers 2013

Conrad Bejarano 
Sara Canaday
Rick Cantu
Celia Israel
Cristina Valdes

Trailblazers 2012

Federico Archuleta
Marta Cotera
Marcos Canchola
Christopher Kennedy
Pilar Sanchez


  • Black Facebook Icon
  • Black Twitter Icon