Nancy Flores ’03 believes that her awareness of social justice began at St. Edward’s in many ways. “But,” she says, “My commitment to it has continued long after leaving the Hilltop.” She is the perfect recipient of the 2018 Alumni Service Award. Flores says, “I hope that my service to others – from leading in the community, to mentoring the next generation – reminds people to pay it forward themselves.”

Nancy works as a community affairs reporter for the Austin American-Statesman, a job through which she is able to spotlight stories of underrepresented persons and communities. For example, she recently profiled a low-income, widowed father of four. Her work inspired Austin citizens to donate enough money to move the family into safe housing.

She developed deep proficiency in storytelling, and an uncanny ability to connect with others, as a Hilltopper.  “I served as Editor-in-Chief of the Hilltop Views, President of the Communication Society, member of the University Programming Board, Rotaract Club, MECha, and I served in AmeriCorps Community Mentor Program, among other student organizations,” she says.

Nancy first came to St. Edward’s through the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), which provides educational opportunity to students who come from migrant farmworking backgrounds. Her connection to CAMPers is a direct result of her own coming-of-age in a border town. “I’m the daughter of Mexican

immigrants, and everything about my identity is marked by the fact that I grew up in a Texas border town,” she says. “My life has been braided with cultural strands that are impossible to untangle, something that gives me a unique vision and approach to everything that I do. Every day I’m inspired by the sacrifices my parents made to leave their home country to create a better future for me and my sisters.”

The inspiration Nancy describes is clearly a driving force in her own volunteerism and advocacy. Since 2012, she has served as President of the CAMP Alumni Association, an affinity group that began after CAMP alumni united to ensure that St. Edward’s CAMPers would continue to receive social, professional, and personal support long after graduation. The CAMP Alumni Association represents more than 2,500 CAMP alumni across the country. Under Nancy’s leadership, it hosts networking, social and community service events. Through events like CAMP Career Day, it is also dedicated to serving current CAMPers.

While Nancy’s life work seeks to end long-standing issues of prejudice and inequity, it is still accurate to call her a pioneer in her own right. She recalls a victory in her fight for Latinx visibility while at St. Edward’s: as a member of the University Programming Board (UPB), she recommended hiring a social justice activist to speak on campus.

Raul Salinas was not a household name for many of her classmates, but Nancy knew that his positions on prisoner-rights -- along with his contributions to Chicano literature -- would bring an undeniable, transformative perspective to the Hilltop campus. “I knew that if I could just get students in the same room with him, they’d be blown away,” she says. “I managed to convince the UPB that he’d not only be a big draw, but one of our biggest author draws of the semester.”

Nancy’s work with faculty and peers created the momentum needed to turn his appearance into a huge success. She says, “This is an important memory. It taught me many lessons that I’d apply later in my professional life – pitching ideas that are important, even if others are dubious. I learned about tenacity, encouraging diversity, and asking for help.” Most importantly, Nancy learned, “to not be afraid of being a trailblazer, no matter how exhausting it may seem.”

And so the 2018 Alumni Service Award will go to a true trailblazer, Nancy Flores ’03. Forever in the university’s record, her legacy will stand as a beacon to others. She hopes future Hilltoppers will remember some key words of advice that she herself received: “Think with the end in mind. Think about what you are striving for, and make an early plan on how to make it happen.” Nancy hopes others will be inspired, as she was, to be bold.