The 39th Leadership San Antonio class tours the city on B-cycles during its Transportation Day tours. Courtesy photo.
The 39th Leadership San Antonio class tours the city on B-cycles during its Transportation Day tours. Courtesy photo.

I’ve always had an overwhelming sense of pride for my city. Being born and raised in San Antonio, we can drive around and recall all of the different memories we’ve had on each side of town. I moved to Chicago for a couple of years after college, and quickly realized how fortunate we are to call San Antonio home. As I’ve started my own family and established our home here, my love for the city has deepened, and I am constantly looking for ways to improve the already awesome city we have.

I was intrigued when my friend mentioned Leadership San Antonio (LSA) to me earlier this year.

Hosted by the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the program helps nurture leaders in our city by giving them a broader understanding of the promise and challenges of our community. It’s a great way for people from all walks of life in San Antonio to connect with fellow LSA classmates and work together to meet this city’s many challenges.

The thought of working with other city leaders who share my passion for improving our hometown attracted me. I did some research online and set up a few coffee and lunch meetings with friends who were LSA alumni to gather insights on the application and interview process, the time commitment, and the program’s payoff.

Last week, I attended LSA’s 40th class welcoming ceremony as an invited alumnus. I joined 58 fellow graduates at the Scobee Education Center at San Antonio College along with the LSA steering committee, LSA alumni, and the heads of the Chamber and the Hispanic Chamber to kick off this year.

The 40th class of Leadership San Antonio meets for the first time at Scobee Education Center at San Antonio College. Courtesy photo.
The 40th class of Leadership San Antonio meets for the first time at Scobee Education Center at San Antonio College. Courtesy photo.

Our class will be joining the ranks of highly distinguished LSA alumni, including former Texas Secretary of State Hope Andrade, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, former Congressman and VIA Vice President Charles Gonzalez, Mayor Ivy Taylor, City Council members Shirley Gonzales and Ron Nirenberg, and business leaders Pat Frost of Frost Bank, San Antonio Hispanic Chamber CEO and President Ramiro Cavazos , 2014 San Antonio Chamber Chairman David McGee of Amegy Bank, and 2011 San Antonio Chamber Chairman Sam Dawson of Pape-Dawson Engineers.

The evening was filled with networking and speeches about how LSA impacted our city leaders’ careers and personal lives. We heard presentations from Nirenberg, Cavazos, and McGee. When it was finished, I could not help but feel extremely fortunate to have been selected out of more than 150 applicants to participate in this class. 

Perks of the Program

One of the main benefits of LSA is the opportunity for networking. You are in a group with several leaders in San Antonio, and you will be able to understand more about their industries, share experience and expertise, and build relationships while working closely with them. Since each class member is coming from a different role, different company, and different perspective, participants learn from each other and use each other as thinking partners to solve San Antonio’s challenges.

The 39th Leadership San Antonio class visits local medical facilities during its Health and Biosciences Day tours. Courtesy photo.
The 39th Leadership San Antonio class visits local medical facilities during its Health and Biosciences Day tours. Courtesy photo.

Another benefit of the program is the insight gained from decision makers, industry experts, and our elected officials about challenges facing our community. During the monthly meetings, the LSA class will review current education challenges or economic development issues and come together to discuss and problem solve for some of these areas. By allowing us to focus on various aspects of the city, LSA graduates will be better prepared to lead San Antonio as they will be equipped with a broader understanding of our diverse community.

LSA Commitment

The nine-month program requires meeting one day per month, a two-day opening retreat in January, and a closing retreat in October. There will also be a project that you and your team will present to the rest of the LSA class so participants will have to plan the project work time accordingly. Since the sessions will be during the workweek, approval is needed from your employer.

The 39th Leadership San Antonio class visits Port San Antonio. Courtesy photo.
The 39th Leadership San Antonio class visits Port San Antonio. Courtesy photo.

The Application Process

LSA applicants are selected based on their leadership experience and past community involvement. The selection committee purposefully selects each candidate based off his or her experience and background, examining how the latter can help contribute to the group overall. This is why it is important for each LSA class to have people from all different backgrounds, including native San Antonians, candidates born and raised in other cities, candidates from bigger companies, and candidates from startups or nonprofits. The goal is for each of us to offer our own experience and perspective to the group’s discussion and efforts at finding solutions.

All applicants were required to fill out a detailed application listing their community service involvement, responsibilities at work, and issues they would address to influence a significant change in San Antonio.  All applicants whose inquiries were accepted advanced to an interview with the LSA steering committee. They were then notified if they were selected to be part of the upcoming LSA class. The whole process took about two months to complete.

What I hope to gain from LSA Class 40 is the opportunity to work with leaders to learn about and solve different challenges facing our city. 

During the welcome reception, I met several new friends from CPS, H-E-B, Hotel Valencia, the South Texas Energy and Economic Roundtable (STEER), and various local banks. I am looking forward to all of us putting our minds, experience, and passion together to continue San Antonio’s trajectory as a city on the rise.

*Featured/top image: The 39th Leadership San Antonio class tours the city on B-cycles during Transportation Day tours. Courtesy photo.

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Marina Alderete Gavito

Marina Alderete Gavito is a native of San Antonio and currently a strategic innovation director at a local company. Prior to that she was a Racker for seven years and founding executive director of Tech...