Several San Antonians past and present are scheduled to take part in Austin’s annual South by Southwest Conference & Festivals during the first half of March, discussing topics such as workforce development, public education and socioeconomics.

The background

SXSW EDU, a festival centered on education and related issues, will have a handful of panel discussions involving San Antonians.
  • Kimberly LeBlanc, the city of San Antonio’s film commissioner, will be part of the March 4 panel, “Who’s Tracking the Creative Workforce?” Event organizers said this SXSW EDU panel will explore how creative workforce data can help government and business leaders fill workforce gaps, improve talent pools, and raise the odds of success for individuals and groups that work in the arts.
  • Dashiell Young-Saver, co-founder of the San Antonio-based organization Skew the Script, will be part of the March 4 SXSW EDU panel, “Teaching Students to Tell Stories with Data.” This panel will cover ways high school students can use unique data sets to create and tell stories that are fun, engaging and relevant to them and their community, according to event organizers.
  • Rey Saldaña, former San Antonio City Council member, and current president and CEO of Communities In Schools, will be part of the March 5 panel, “30 Years and Beyond: AmeriCorps’ Impact on Education.” Event organizers said more than 1.25 million people have joined AmeriCorps since the agency’s inception, with members working with nonprofit organizations to address issues such as food insecurity, school attendance, environmental stewardship, affordable housing, disaster recovery and veterans’ challenges in various communities.
  • Maribel Gonzalez, a native San Antonian and educator, will be part of the March 5 panel, “Using Stories to Heal.” Gonzalez works with South End Stories, an arts education program that uses a play-based approach to help positively change racial narratives in kindergarten through 12th grade classrooms.
  • Josie Gutierrez, San Antonio regional coordinator with the organization Latino Outdoors, will serve with the March 5 panel, “The Nature Gap: Why Outdoors for All Matters.” She will be joined by Thurman Hogan III, a Trinity University graduate and operations manager with Black Outside, a San Antonio nonprofit. This panel will examine how organizations and public agencies are working to get youngsters, especially people of color, interested in going outside, and enjoying and learning from nature and outdoor recreational activities, event organizers said.
  • Stephanie Garcia, educational associate with San Antonio-based Intercultural Development Research Association, will sit on the March 6 panel, “Conversando: Building an Ecosystem for Latina Prosperity." The panelists here will discuss the development of an educational ecosystem to boost Latina youths interested in pursuing science, technology, engineering and mathematics education; digital equity; and college readiness.
Regarding "The Nature Gap" panel, Gutierrez said many kids and teenagers today are either preoccupied with their digital devices or feel too saddled with challenges, such as anxiety, depression or family struggles, to play and learn in the outdoors.

Gutierrez said groups such as Latino Outdoors aim to inspire youngsters to engage outdoors with their loved ones or peers, and voiced appreciation for an event like SXSW to be able to promote that message.

"We want kids to know what’s available out there,” she said.

Dig deeper

The main SXSW festival will have the following participation from San Antonio’s mayor and from a local technology advocacy organization.
  • San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg will join his Austin counterpart, Kirk Watson, in the March 10 panel, “Building Careers, Not Just Jobs: Workforce Development in Growing Cities.” The panelists here will share the best practices and priorities they apply toward advancing career development in large cities.
  • San Antonio tech advocacy group Tech Bloc and local investment company Alamo Angels will co-present a Latino Tech Mixer on March 11. Event organizers said the mixer will be a chance for Latino business founders, venture capitalists, investors and aspiring entrepreneurs to network, collaborate and/or promote their successes.
Tech Bloc CEO Ileana Gonzalez said co-presenting the Latino Tech Mixer comes from her organization’s recognition of talent and potential within the Latino entrepreneurial community.

“As a San Antonio tech entity, it was crucial for us to lead the way, as our city serves as a microcosm of what the broader U.S. landscape will resemble,” Gonzalez said.

According to Gonzalez, it is vital that local groups such Tech Bloc work with San Antonio-area business leaders and other stakeholders toward fostering diversity, inclusion and innovation in the local tech industry, and create a more cohesive narrative and vision for the city’s future. She added events such as SXSW provide an opportunity to promote San Antonio's tech ecosystem to a broader audience.

“Tech Bloc is the heartbeat of our tech community, the voice that unites us, and the catalyst for action. We're committed to reuniting our ecosystem, fostering collaboration and amplifying our collective story,” she said.

Take action

Anyone interested in attending SXSW EDU and/or the main SXSW festival may purchase a badge to access numerous activities, with fees varying depending on each attendee’s registration level.