By Intern Abigail Gomez


As part of the Ascender Program, Austin Community College hosted a motivational conference February 7. The conference was structured with a panel of three motivational speakers who have been successful despite diversity and struggles.

The first speaker was Sonia Dominguez who said she was a Head Start graduate and that she attended public school her whole life. She is now the Chief Program Officer at AVANCE, Inc. Next was Dr. Richard Reddick who is currently a part of the University of Texas faculty and was an elementary school teacher in Houston. He has also taught Black academics and serves on a committee board for two charter schools in Austin. He is the father of two children.

The last speaker, Stephanie Bergara, is an accomplished musician and the front-women of the tribute group to Mexican singer Selena Quintanilla, “Bidi Bidi Banda,” a popular band that has toured nationally and is well known in Texas. Stephanie started her college education at ACC ten to fifteen years ago with dual credit classes she took at Del Valle High School. She is now “living her dream” at night and is a government employee during the day.

After their brief introduction, ACC faculty member, Lydia Cdebaca asked more questions and thus proceeded to make the panel extend their stories.  Sonia Dominguez started with how she grew up in El Paso, and identified herself as a “cholita.” She explained how as she grew up, she always felt judged based on her looks. She stated, “How people judged me was a real struggle, they would say things like, ‘Is she really smart?’ ‘Does she really deserve this job?’” Fortunately, she has proven them wrong. In addition, she has struggled in many ways during her career to be where she is now, and considers herself successful.

Doctor Richard Reddick also gave motivational advice and inspired many with his story. He was a military child and moved twelve times before reaching high school and despite his family being low income, he was a first-generation college student. He also felt excluded for being African American. “I’ve done a lot of things, but I’m sometimes the only African American,” he said. Reddick further explained that although he always had his family’s support, it was still a struggle to get to where he is, “Think of the difficult choices because those choices are so important. Think long-term because the benefits outweigh the difficulties.”

Stephanie Bergara said she related much to Dominguez’s story. “I don’t follow rules, and they didn’t like that,” she explained.  She continued her story by explaining how difficult it was starting her band, but she ended her speech with a powerful quote, “I learned that you don’t have to fight for a table, you can buy your own table.”



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