2016 Texas Star Heritage Award Gala

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Texas Star Heritage Awards Honor Exemplary Citizens

Community, regional leaders honored for dedication to heritage and diversity


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SAN ANTONIO – At its inaugural Texas Star Heritage Gala, January 19, 2017, the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures will recognize individuals and organizations whose work champions diversity, preserving heritage and educating the community. They are the winners of the inaugural Texas Star Heritage Awards.

The museum has named a local honoree, a regional honoree, and a business or organization honoree, selected in a competitive process by a panel of civic and business leaders. The nominees have demonstrated their contributions to the advancement of cultural identity, heritage and diversity throughout the state of Texas and beyond.

"The three recipients of the Texas Star Heritage Award are being recognized for embodying the mission of ITC and promoting the diverse cultures of our great state," said ITC Executive Director Angelica Docog. "Our Texas Stars reach beyond Texas. Each community leader understands the importance for transforming San Antonio into an international city. They enable us to become a leading partner in a global platform. Our museum is proud to recognize their contributions to society and our world."

For local contributions to cultural preservation and honoring of heritage, the judging panel selected G.P. Singh of the San Antonio Sikh community. The entrepreneur with master’s and doctoral degrees in mechanical engineering went from

working in his garage to building Karta Technologies, one of San Antonio’s largest defense contractors.

Singh has worked diligently after the events of 9/11 to spread the word on Sikhism and Sikh Americans, since their religious articles – men’s turbans and unshorn beards – are often associated with images of terrorists seen through news media. Singh worked to bring the Smithsonian exhibit "Sikhs: Legacy of the Punjab" to San Antonio and personally led dozens of tours to educate municipal, business and community leaders on the Sikh religion and the local Sikh community. His guests included San Antonio Police Chief William McManus, members of the World Affairs Council, representatives from the Department of Justice, the State Department, various law enforcement organizations such as the FBI, plus local media, religious organizations and more.

For regional work, the panel named Janie Barrera, founding president and CEO of LiftFund, a 22-year-old nonprofit small business lender. The organization began in San Antonio with one office and now operates 13 offices in 13 states. As a small business advocate and lender, LiftFund keeps small business alive and enables new generations to take charge of family-owned businesses.

Barrera grew up working in her parents’ small Mexican restaurant in Corpus Christi, a business that struggled without support from lending services. After 20 years of hard work, her parents retired with no pension. She realized entrepreneurs across the country struggled with the same dilemma, and she became determined to empower

other small businesses through access to lending and financial education.

LiftFund enabled Melinda Garcés of Garcés Metal Specialties to become a third-generation business owner. Melinda’s grandfather established the artistic metal design

and fabrication firm in San Antonio. Her father kept the business going in the 1990s with help from LiftFund, and now Melinda receives guidance from LiftFund as she continues to operate and expand the business.

Janie Barrera’s lifelong work helps entrepreneurs preserve Texas traditions. Her success with small businesses has garnered the attention of President Obama, who

appointed her to the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability, and the Federal Reserve, which named her to the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, San Antonio Branch.

For organization or business advocate, the panel chose OCI Group (Our Community, Inc.), a consulting firm whose business mentality equates economic and leadership development with social responsibility. The company acts as a capacity and bridge builder between education, nonprofits, startups, technology, government and other channels that contribute to the growth and welfare of the community.

OCI Group founding members include Managing Partner, H. Analco González; Senior Partner, Luis G. González; Partner, Ixchell González; Partner, Olivia Travieso; Partner, Anita Fernández; and Junior Partner, José Vidal. The group met through the youth leadership nonprofit, the National Hispanic Institute, and continue to volunteer with its San Antonio affiliate. Locally, they are known for facilitating the Lyft rideshare company’s entry into San Antonio, launching The Voting App with Think Voting to increase civic engagement and voter turnout, providing translation services for Bexar County’s Bibliotech, and facilitating local-level work for People en Español and Time, Inc. Nationally and internationally, they are known for representing companies that want to build a presence in emerging markets in Texas and the United States.

The OCI Group channels a passion for community building, know-how from advanced education, and experiences from lives around the globe into teaching new generations. Members regularly volunteer in youth education and community engagement projects or for board service with nonprofit organizations and educational institutions. From those posts, they continue to advocate for positively impacting the community and keeping citizens connected to culture and education.

"Our community has put forward some awesome citizens to be recognized for their service to our state and our Texas heritage," said Docog. "Their work has helped preserve our Texas identity for another generation. They’ve helped us remember who we are and they have helped Texans remember where we all came from."

The inaugural Texas Star Heritage Gala takes place January 19, 2017. Gala information, silent auction donor forms, table sales and other resources are available at TexanCultures.com/TexasStarHeritage.



©2014 Institute of Texan Cultures. University of Texas at San Antonio. All Rights Reserved.


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