Mike Sierra
Founding Member, Hispanic Youth Foundation of Northern Virginia, 1997

Round Hill, VA

Michael Sierra

Country of origin (or family’s country or origin):

Mexico

Education

  • University of Arizona
  • B.A. Political Science
  • M.A. International Relations

Career

President and CEO
The Ventura Group, Inc www.TheVenturaGroup.com

One retires very young even after 32 years of military service. It was clear that I had to continue working in order to maintain family and life style. I started my own company with one employee—me. Initially I was doing work in the private sector assisting US Companies in marketing their services and products overseas and in helping foreign companies enter into and prosper in the US market. The need to diversify from the demands of international exposure and travel caused me to shift focus into the federal contacting world. I now have over 200 employees doing work in 22 States with offices in Texas, Arizona and Hawaii. Primary focus of our work is in with the complexity of the information technology industry. My focus has never been in the IT sector—it is in the people sector. The key for me has been identifying the right skilled person to fill key positions, establishing a work environment that can be stimulating, enhancing, beneficial and profitable for each and every employee. I learned how to best to do all that from educators, teachers, mentors and role models from my first job as a 14 year-old to now.

Who inspired me?

I have been inspired by so many teachers, so many mentors, so many role models that it is hard to segregate other than to state that each supported me in all my efforts to succeed. It is important to stress one life changing event. I had joined the Army out of a high school in Texas thinking that college was not possible. In a few years of service my enlistment led to my Commission as an Officer in the US Army. I completed 2 years of college courses at night and on weekends so the Army selected me to attend college to complete my degree on a two year fully funded and salary paid sabbatical. I applied to the University of Texas-my home State. My military record-distinction in 2 combat tours in Viet Nam-and my 3.8 GPA would surely have me accepted. I was rejected by the Registrar with a hand written note written on the side of my application as it was rejected. Not known to me was that at that point less than 1% of the University of Texas students were Hispanic. I sent the same application to the University of Arizona and was accepted the next day. I completed a 2 year BA program in one year and was allowed to remain to complete a 2 year MA program in one year of study that included a thesis. I finished with a 3.9 academic average not because I was smart but because I knew that only hard work can achieve results. I went on to serve in military portions that included the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and in positions around the world. I retired from the Army as a Colonel and then started my own company. The unknown person at the University of Arizona changed my life. I will be forever indebted. It is good to be indebted to people that want to help.

Community Involvement

Each of us has a responsibility, indeed, an obligation, to help our respective community. What I miss most of military service was a feeling of providing a public service, filling a public need and in my own conscience, doing a public good. Sometimes the profit motives of our society causes folks to digress from the need for public support. I try to support as many agencies and causes as possible: police and fire fighting groups and associations. homeless families, disabled military, food for the hungry, and so forth.

My critical focus has to be education. Just simply the one element that has been the cause for success and the largest contributing factor for failure in our society, but especially in the over all Hispanic community. The highest high school dropout rate in the country. The data is overwhelming. The focus on the Hispanic Youth Foundation has been and will be to enhance education for everyone. I have supported programs across the United States. In Texas for recognition of teachers and their role, in the DC area for a program called “Computers for Learning Dollars” that focused on bringing computer’s into Hispanic homes. In Oregon for an ambitious scholarship program at Portland State University that identified college students in their Junior and Senior year that need the push to help them complete their studies. I provide funds for selected applicants that support their Junior and Senior years at Portland State University. Every student that was selected not only completed their degree, but finished graduate school. Each testimony of their success only motivates one to do more. What surprised me most of the applicants for this generous program was the number of females that applied contrary to the number of males. Eight of ten applicants were female. Why? I asked some male students. And after much effort, I learned that the fear of failure was causing fewer males to apply.

Why am I involved with the HYF of Northern Virginia?

I have been involved for the outset of the HYF of Northern Virginia program, motivated to join by the dedicated members that share a similar perspective. Education is the key! Everyone on the board seeks out how best to support education. Each in our own way, and through this foundation, provides service and support. I will continue to support as best as I possibly can.