Student Member of the Month: Jessica Bolaños

Jessica BolanosHow long have you been a member of HAHMP?

I first became a member in 2009. My husband Nelson Vanegas, who I was dating at the time, heard about HAHMP from his coworkers at Univision Radio and invited me to attend one of the monthly meetings at United Way. We’ve both been involved ever since.

What have you gained from being part of this organization?

I have definitely been able to build quality relationships with other HAHMP members who are now a great influence in my life both personally and professionally. Frida Villalobos, the Manager of Communications at the Houston Area Women’s Center is one amazing person I have met through the organization. I look up to Frida, her amazing work in the community as well as her incredible support in my own projects. I was also able to meet Ray Ruiz, Director of El Gato Media Network, in one of the HAHMP board meetings. Last year Ray published a newspaper article where he featured me in an interview about young Latina entrepreneurs. There are also plenty of opportunities to volunteer for various events co-sponsored by HAHMP like the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) Conference and a Town Hall Meeting at Rice University. There are so many great people and organizations that are a part of HAHMP. It really has been a great experience.

What is your major? And what do you aspire to do in the future?

I’m studying Business Entrepreneurship at the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship (WCE) in the Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston. The WCE program faculty and mentors have been an amazing blessing in my life as well. It’s pretty ironic because when I started the program in my junior year I was planning to expand the for-profit multi-media marketing company I co-founded with my husband as a freshman in college. But the WCE Personal Purpose steps that the program walked us through made me realize I actually wanted to be a non-profit social tech entrepreneur. My passion is to use social media for social good by crowdfunding educational opportunities for youth in developing countries. Crowdfunding is a fairly new funding model that uses the power of social media and the Internet to bring a crowd of people together to fund a cause they believe in; in our case that’s
access to education. We plan to launch our organization and our first crowdfunding campaign this summer, and I’ll be working on that full time after I graduate in May. The name of our org is called The Good CrowdFund, a non-profit crowdfunding organization that helps facilitate the recycling of books and educational resources to youth in developing countries. So I guess it’s safe to say my future will be full of
crowdfunding campaigns, documentary film productions and ebook publications to spread viral awareness through social media about the need for access to basic educational resources that children in developing countries simply don’t have.

What are three things most people would be surprised to know about you?

1. I’m a hip-hop freestyle dancer at heart.
2. I don’t watch TV.
3. And I’m a symmetrical perfectionist. Meaning, I like the labels on the drinks in my fridge to face perfectly forward and the pens lying on my notebooks to align with the lines on the pad.

Where do you see yourself in 5 yrs?

In 5 years I see myself somewhere in Africa or India getting to know the culture and interests of the youth there, and working to crowdfund the books and resources they need to educate themselves in their respective interests so that they can help uplift communities as I’ve been able to do with the education I’ve been blessed to received here in America.

What has been the best advice given to you?

Several wise and experienced professionals have told me repeatedly that I should never do anything for the money. To just follow my heart and pursue my passion(s) and the money will come.

What’s one place you would like to travel in the world and why?

I’d like to travel to Machu Picchu, a 15th century Inca site built on a mountain in Peru. It looks like an amazing and humbling place to visit. I’ve heard the view, people and just about everything else about Machu Picchu is amazing.

What would your advice be to any high school senior wanting to go to College?

I would say to research different universities and the programs available that match their personal interests. I chose the University of Houston specifically for the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship because I knew I wanted to start my own business and the curriculum in the WCE is based around each individual student’s business idea. But whichever college you choose I would highly advise every student to be active on campus. What I mean by that is to join student organizations that are involved with things you are interested in, attend guest speaker presentations around campus and apply for the various opportunities to travel with student groups to local community gatherings or international study abroad programs. Spend less time partying with other freshman and more time networking with upperclassmen.

What has been one of your biggest accomplishments?

One of my biggest accomplishments was going to South America last summer as a pre-launch project for The Good CrowdFund. My husband and I raised enough funds for our cause at our wedding in August. This allowed us to go to Colombia and donate books to kids living in an underserved village called Ararca. After working for 7 months (cost-free via social media and the internet) with a local non-profit called Arriba Las Manos, in a nearby town, we were able to deliver books alongside their organization who delivered school uniforms handmade by a local mother, as well as shoes, socks, paper and other educational materials. I feel like my parents provided me with the opportunity to be educated here in the U.S. and I’ve always wanted to give back to others who aren’t as fortunate as I am, or at least don’t have the same opportunities that we have here in America. Getting to finally give back to others after all this hard work is an amazing feeling and I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life helping others achieve great things through the simple power of education.

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