El Amistad After 50 years, Round Rock Hispanic youth leadership fund still empowers students


El Amistad Club of Round Rock, a nonprofit scholarship fund geared toward nurturing youth leadership and raising Hispanic cultural awareness, this year celebrates its 50th anniversary of service in the Round Rock community.

“The mission that was put together 50 years ago still very much applies today,” said Andy Martinez, a member of El Amistad.

The group initially formed in 1968 when its founder, Jesse Molina, returned to Round Rock after four years of service in the Air Force and found the Hispanic community was not actively included in city government.

“Round Rock was a good community, but somehow inclusiveness was not part of it,” said David Carlin, a founding member of El Amistad. “Minorities were not part of the process.”

Round Rock then was a decidedly smaller community than what it is today. According to city records, Round Rock’s 1970 population was just 2,811, and Gordon Perez, a Round Rock native and El Amistad member, recalls there was only one high school.

“If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. That was an invocation to become an integral part of the community,” Perez said.

El Amistad backed its first candidate for an elected position in Round Rock in 1968. Isaac Lopez Jr. ran for and successfully won a Round Rock ISD school board trustee seat by just nine votes. Records from Round Rock ISD show that Lopez served as a trustee until 1981.

“We wanted to develop leadership and develop students—we felt that was key to everything we wanted to do,” Carlin said.

In the 1980s, El Amistad transitioned away from its political enterprises and registered as a 501(c)(3) in order to secure grants from organizations that can only donate funds to nonprofit groups. The group awarded its first scholarship in 1970, valued at $200.

“It’s not so much the award or the amount I was given; it gave me a feeling of empowerment—the belief that I was not alone,” said Steve Gonzales, El Amistad’s first scholarship recipient. Gonzales, now retired, went on to teach in RRISD for 41 years.

“The goals have remained very much the same—we want to develop leadership through education,” Carlin said.

Perez said El Amistad awarded scholarships to more than 60 students in 2017, valued at a total of approximately $80,000.

El Amistad generates revenue through three key fundraisers: bingo nights at Creekside Charity Bingo on Chisholm Trail in Round Rock, its annual charity golf tournament and a Memorial Day festival that has run since 1969.

Carlin estimates the group’s administrative fees account for 3 percent of El Amistad’s expenses, as its members work solely on a volunteer basis.

In 2017 Round Rock recognized El Amistad as a Local Legend, a designation the city awards to groups and individuals that have had a lasting impact on the culture and development of Round Rock.

“We’ve figured out we’re very much a part of this community,” Carlin said. “We want to make sure as we move forward for the next 50 years that the momentum that is evident continues.”

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Iain Oldman
Iain Oldman joined Community Impact Newspaper after spending two years in Pittsburgh, Pa., where he covered Pittsburgh City Council. He additionally worked with an investigative news organization where he reported on environmental topics and was a featured writer for Epicast Network, a Pittsburgh podcast company. Iain has now transitioned full-time into covering Round Rock, Pflugerville and Hutto.
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