South Texas Ideas

Culture, Community, Identity.

Photo of Michael Mireles
5 6

Written by

Website or social media url(s) (optional): Facebook - STXifest Instagram - @stxifest

Date Started

July / 25th / 2016

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)

1. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project? NOTE: All applications must include a 1 minute video that answers: “I am stepping up to make change because..."

I have seen far too often what it’s like to fail in an endeavor, to not know how to chase your passion, or simply giving up because it seems impossible to do what you love. Success in my dreams wasn't for me, I thought. Growing up, I have seen this in my peers, my family and my community. So if I have the opportunity to push someone to dream big, to do the unthinkable, to go beyond the negative stigmas that emanate from racial and socioeconomic factors, then I can think of no other thing to do than to provide a platform and say "here you go". All of the students on the STXi team are vivacious, enthusiastic dreamers, and we push them to help others the way they know they can. The youth in my area, our audience, are artists, orators, political activists, and more; I want to show the rest of the Rio Grande Valley that they can make a difference and that they can help others do the same.

2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Many young students in my home-area’s local high schools and colleges are led to believe that they do not have the capability to pursue their interests because our community is labeled Hispanic and poor. What results from this mindset includes more students dropping out, more youth being discontent and civically disengaged with their community, and ultimately, more youth afraid to make positive change in the Rio Grande Valley.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

We have several components. We first operate the South Texas Ideas Festival (STXi), an event where community leaders speak to high-schoolers from across the region and students organize activities for each other, yearly. This event is created and organized entirely by a team of high-school students (the students apply from local high-schools and are selected by an STXi alumni committee). This process not only allows a team of youth to work together and create something of value for the community, but also to collaborate with community leaders who see this youth team through a professional lens. This provides youth with critical exposure to issues and problem-solvers in our community, ultimately learning how to challenge existing and new problems. We have begun an STXi Curriculum for both high-school and university students, focusing on topics such as local Education, "Machismo", and Border Politics, so students could learn about their community and themselves, why things are the way things are living five minutes from the Mexican-American Border. This curriculum was designed by high school students in collaboration with local educators, entrepreneurs, historians and activists.

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

If I want to be involved, I start by attending the South Texas Ideas Festival. After listening to a lineup of local leaders talk about our National Butterfly Park or being LGBT in a minority community, I can talk to students from other high-schools about their passions. I can then decide to apply to the STXi Leadership Summit in the summer. After a week of workshops about the history of the Rio Grande Valley, meeting leaders and learning how to define my sense of purpose, I can choose to apply to either be a part of the core team of the STXi Festival or an STXi Club Leader. If I choose to be a club leader, I will gain access to a yearly designed curriculum to facilitate to my peers in my school through a club, and moreover, will have the ability to host leaders my peers want to have a dialogue with in my school. The best part? STXi makes these opportunities for me completely free.

5. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

We are completely youth-led. Our festival, curriculum, the mobilization of our team and their work, while in collaboration with adults from the community, starts and ends with youth. They decide how to organize themselves for efficiency, which people and organizations to reach out to for venues, food, speakers and activities. This dynamic allows them to design outputs that youth from the high-school and university level can truly relate to and be excited about. Moreover, because our students are working deeply with the community, our work creates new opportunities for youth in our community.

6. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

Our first festival was comprised of 15 STXi team members, 20 volunteers, and 174 student attendees. Our most recent festival was comprised of 25 STXi team members, 35 volunteers, and 342 students attendees. Our first year, we raised $10,000 both in-cash and in-kind through 15 sponsors. This year, our youth raised $15,000 through 10 sponsors. This year we have 18 students who want to start an STXi Club in their school, 40 University club students at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, and 22 students who have signed up for our upcoming summer summit. Numbers aside, our team members and attendees have gained so much more. Josue Bello, an attendee for our first festival, was inspired by the conversations he had then that for this year's event, he applied successfully to be a core member, led our organization's reach to high schools this last year, and now oversees local STXi clubs.

7. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

This summer, we have created a partnership with both Baylor University and Brown University. With Baylor, we are collaborating on the "Hunger Initiative", a research and documentation effort on food insecurity and poverty in the Rio Grande Valley. We will we sending our Club members in teams to talk to community members, take photos and collect interviews (with training to do so respectfully) so Baylor University can create policy proposals to alleviate this issue in our area. With the Swearer Center at Brown University, we will be funding our Leadership Summit to provide transportation, resources, a venue, and food, as well as connect our members to Brown University Administration to talk about college accessibility and affordability.

8. Future Support: What are the resources needed to make your vision a reality?

Our youth pull off some amazing work, but my job is to make sure they have the opportunities to continue doing so. Funding goes a long way to continue making our events completely free to student attendees, as well as gaining the materials for our diverse outputs, from community interviews to podiums for our amazing local speakers. We also fund for promotional items for everyone involved with STXi. We really want to push our members to be connected with people and organizations not just from our community but also across state lines. Just last year, one of our festival speakers was from Seattle, and we also brought in staff from TED to see their sponsorship in action! Our members need to meet new people with great passions and great ideas!

9. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Donations between $1k-$5k

10. Ripple Effect: Please share some ideas of how you could partner with other changemakers or involve other young people as leaders in making a difference.

Our approach has always been collaborative-based. Our first year, my team of high-school students and I ventured out to talk to local businesspeople, activists and leaders to not only shape our ideas but to create powerful connections to the community. Because we are a non-profit, we don't rely on our funding efforts to make our festival and other components happen; instead, our team spends more time talking to people and cultivating relationships. Many of our attendees were reached out to because of our great relationship with educators in the area. We also rely on the "mini-networks" of our members, their friends, parents and family members who are connected to things in the community. We are the youth involved in our organization. Their ideas, successes, and mistakes are proudly a part of what we strive to do. My favorite collaboration occurred in the first festival. Because of a person an educator of mine and I met in Colorado during a program three years ago, we were able to bring a portable "Portal" to our first festival, connecting our attendees to young people in Germany to have conversations about culture and identity. This was unimaginable, and still is. But it happened.

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Social media

Evaluation results

5 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 60%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 40%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. - 0%

2. Changemaker Quality

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 80%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 20%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

3. Creativity

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 0%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 60%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 40%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

4. Commitment

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 100%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 25%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

5. Connection

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 40%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 60%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Dale

My mom works at a school in Tucson that does this. She thinks that it is great that you have been able to grow and expand your idea.

Photo of Adrienne Piando

Hi, Dale. Thank you both for your interest and kind words. We hope to continue to make an impact. :)

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