Chloe Bruno has beat the odds. A junior at Texas A&M University-San Antonio, Bruno was raised in the foster care system from age 4 to 7. Her grandmother then adopted her and her four siblings, as her mother struggled with addiction issues and her father had been deported.
Despite a rocky start to her young life, Bruno excelled, graduating from Brackenridge High School a year early and earning a scholarship from Bexar County Republican Women to attend A&M-San Antonio. It was while she was at a BCRW meeting that she first heard about the Alamo Fellows program, which has put her one step closer to achieving her goals.
“Life is amazing right now,” said Chloe Bruno, one of six A&M-San Antonio students participating in the first Alamo Fellows cohort.
Launched last year by greater:SATX, Alamo Fellows is a workforce development initiative aimed at first-generation college students. With a focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, the program provides internship opportunities as well as networking and professional development support, with workshops, tours, keynote presentations and mixers. The program is supported in part by grants from USAA and Bank of America.
Twenty-one students from regional universities participated in the first Alamo Fellows cohort, including six students from A&M-San Antonio, said Paul Rodriguez, director of talent development at greater:SATX, an economic development nonprofit. About the same number of Jaguars have been accepted into the second cohort, which kicks off in the fall of 2023 and lasts two years.
“First and foremost, it’s a talent retention initiative,” said Rodriguez. “It’s way to harness the talent at our four-year institutions and provide opportunities for students to stay in San Antonio and build their careers.”
The future of San Antonio’s economy depends on a sustainable workforce pipeline, Rodriguez said, and Alamo Fellows helps to fill that pipeline. Students who go through the program develop their social and professional networks and engage with community leaders and organizations. Moreover, they get a chance to compete for highly sought after internships.
“We can provide students with access, connections and coaching, but they have to go through the application and interview process and be responsive and responsible,” Rodriguez said.
Alamo Fellows focuses on STEM-related careers because they align with the region’s main industry sectors, including advanced manufacturing, financial services, health care, biosciences and cybersecurity. Some of San Antonio’s most prominent businesses participate in the program, including CPS Energy, Brooks, Valero, HEB and USAA.
Carlos Navarro Reyna, Class of 2024, is part of the first Alamo Fellows cohort. A computer science major, he’s doing a 10-week summer internship at HEB as a software engineer, working with the company’s digital web team and developing tools to test new website features and designs. Over the past year he’s also attended Alamo Fellows mixers and events, which has helped him with his networking skills.
“It’s been a really great experience. I feel like I’m a better job candidate now,” said Reyna, who added that once he graduates from A&M-San Antonio, he wants to use his computer skills to “build products that help people.”
Bruno also has ambitions to help people. Like Reyna, she’s part of the first Alamo Fellows cohort. She’s studying computer science and since November has been working part time at San Antonio Independent School District’s IT help desk, doing everything from fixing computer and printer issues to updating software.
“I’ve learned so much,” said Bruno, who recently moved out of her grandmother’s house and into her own apartment. After college, she has her sights set on landing a job in cybersecurity with the FBI to help combat human trafficking and other threats to the community.
“Life is amazing right now,” she said. “While a lot of it was unpleasant, I’m really grateful for my past. It’s provided me with a lot of opportunities and made me who I am today.”