As a St. Mary’s University student, Adriana Gonzalez de Villafranca was observant. She watched others follow their dreams and pursue opportunities, carefully planning how she would do the same. An English Communications student, she was first attracted to television media and worked for a time at Telemundo. Villafranca quickly realized she would rather be in “the trenches,” helping to bring positive change in her community. She earned her undergraduate degree in 1993, and followed that with a Masters of Public Administration in 1995.

During her graduate studies, she received a fellowship with the National Hispanic Employees Association as the executive assistant to the organization’s chairman. It was an opportunity that connected her with many representatives from organizations across the country, and lead to her next position with the National Council of La Raza in Washington D.C. With La Raza, she traveled the country managing emerging community-based organizations. She helped them become better organized so that they could identify and achieve their goals. Villafranca believes these experiences gave her a better perspective and a greater appreciation for San Antonio, a city she had lived in most of her life.

Upon her return to San Antonio, she began her career in fundraising. Adriana first worked in higher education at both the University of Texas San Antonio and her alma mater. She then moved on to a nonprofit, City Year, which focuses on the education and mentorship of middle school students.

Today, Villafranca works with AVANCE, a national organization strengthening families through parent-child education for newborns to age three. As Vice President of External Relations she works with the communications department and programs staff to promote and receive funding for AVANCE’s national office. Her work is focused on connecting “people who would like to invest their money together with something they feel strongly about.” Her own journey into parenthood – she has two young children – has reinforced her passion for AVANCE’s mission and its growth and success.

From the time she was an undergraduate, Villafranca has carefully and thoughtfully planned her goals and her career. So what is she planning next? Her simple answer is that she would like to learn as much as possible from everyone around her while impacting those she serves. We are all eager to see what other changes she will make in her community and on a national level, just as she dreamed as an undergraduate at St. Mary’s.

By Rachel Grahmann, St. Mary’s Honors Program and English Communication Arts major

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