The Hispanic Alliance Trailblazer Award honors pioneers and dedicated leaders who are doing extraordinary work and addressing critical issues in the Central Texas area.




Gary Valdez is the President of Focus Strategies Investment Banking, a Texas-based investment banking firm focused on serving the unique needs of privately help businesses seeking capital or ownership transition solutions. Mr. Valdez is an active member of the community and serves on the Board of Directors for Berry Aviation, Inc., American Bank and St. Edward's University. He is a member of the Austin Area Research Organization and plays an active role with the Hill Country Conservancy. Gary has been recognizes by Texas Lutheran University and the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce for his achievements and involvement in the Austin Community. 

  The 2016 Trailblazer Awardee: Senator Judith Zaffirini, PHD. 

The 2016 Trailblazer Awardee: Senator Judith Zaffirini, PHD. 

Senator Zaffirini is the first Mexican American woman elected to the Texas Senate, the second highest-ranking senator, the highest-ranking woman and Hispanic senator, and the highest-ranking senator representing Austin and Central Texas. She has received more than 900 awards and honors for her legislative, public service, and professional work, including more than 260 in communication. Texas Monthly has named Senator Zaffirini one of Texas  "10 Best Legislators" four times, and Hispanic Business magazine named her among the "100 Most Influential Hispanics.

  The 2015 Trailblazer Awardee: First Lady Cecilia Abbott

The 2015 Trailblazer Awardee: First Lady Cecilia Abbott

Cecilia Abbott is the first Hispanic woman to be the first-lady of Texas, and believes strongly in giving back to our communities. She serves on the board of several organizations and educational institutions and is a member of numerous philanthropic groups. The granddaughter of immigrants from Mexico, Cecilia was raised in San Antonio by parents who were both educators, and who instilled in Cecilia a love of learning and helping others. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, a Master’s degree in Education and a Master’s degree in Theology from University of St. Thomas in Houston, TX. She was a teacher, vice-principal and principal at several Catholic schools across Texas. 

  The 2014 Trailblazer Awardee: Eugene Sepulveda

The 2014 Trailblazer Awardee: Eugene Sepulveda

Eugene Sepulveda is the CEO of the Entrepreneurs Foundation, helping entrepreneurs build corporate cultures and promoting entrepreneurship in schools and universities. Mr. Sepulveda’s volunteer leadership roles include serving as President Obama's LGBT Leadership Council co-chair, as co-chair of the DNC's LGBT Council, as treasurer and finance co-chair for Mayor Steve Adler's Election Campaign. He has been recognized as the Best Austin Booster (Austin Chronicle), Best Professor (Alpha Kappa Psi), as a nominee for Outstanding Elective Professor (UT MBA), the Human Rights Campaign’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and was an Austin Under Forty award winner.

  The 2013 Trailblazer Awardee:   Amalia Rodriguez-Mendoza

The 2013 Trailblazer Awardee: Amalia Rodriguez-Mendoza

Amalia Rodriguez-Mendoza served as Travis County District Clerk for 24 years and is now a consultant with INTRESYS, a software company which provides e-government solutions in 19 states. Ms. Rodriguez-Mendoza is one of the founders of the Hispanic Women’s Network of Texas (HWNT) organization, and was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. She received the “Community Leadership Circle Award” from the University of Texas at Austin and was featured in the “Backwards in High Heels, Getting Women Elected: 1842-1990” exhibit at the Austin History Center. 

  The 2012 Trailblazer Awardee: Jesus Garza  

The 2012 Trailblazer Awardee: Jesus Garza  

Jesús Garza is President and Chief Executive Officer at Seton Healthcare Family, and Senior Vice President, Ascension’s Texas Ministry.  Jesus is an experienced manager of complex organizations and is known for implementing strong community partnerships. He was recognized as Public Administrator of the Year by the American Society for Public Administration/Centex Chapter and Public Official of the Year by Governing magazine. 


Nominees must have made a significant impact on Central Texas through demonstrable contributions to its advancement.

      Candidates may not be current members of The Hispanic Alliance Board

      They must have contributed to solving critical issues in our community

      They must have played leadership roles in influencing change or bringing leaders together to resolve challenges.

      They must be recognized leaders in their professions and/or in public service.