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Bloomington man encourages students to dream beyond hometown

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
Jan. 15, 2012 at 11:01 p.m.
Updated Jan. 15, 2012 at 7:16 p.m.

When Michael Gonzalez graduated with an MBA from the University of Houston - Victoria, he never thought he'd leave the Crossroads. It simply wasn't on his radar, he said.

But a trip to Washington, D.C., five years ago, unveiled a boyhood dream to live, work and study in the nation's capitol. And when he returned home, Gonzalez decided to permanently relocate.

"It's an infectious city with its history, its diversity, the politics, and the seasons. The thought of living there really excited me," Gonzalez, 30, said.

As a small-town, non-Ivy League, non-affluent Texan, he wasn't sure how his credentials would be received in D.C. - especially at the government level where he was determined to secure a job.

"I wanted to test my skills against some of the smartest people in the country. And if I failed, at least I wouldn't be asking myself the 'What if' question," he said.

Gonzalez said he prepared for the move by researching government jobs and attempting to make a profile of the applicants he thought the outfit would be looking for.

He also prepared spiritually, he said.

"God put different ideas and people in place that encouraged the thought ... so the more I explored the thought the more real it became," he said. "I felt that God didn't want me to live a safe life. He wants me to be bold and take chances, and not to settle for a comfortable lifestyle."

Gonzalez eventually applied and was hired for a finance and operations consultant position with the U.S. State Department.

And while he worked full-time, he enrolled part-time at Georgetown University, to pursue a real estate development and finance masters degree.

"It was a childhood dream (to go to Georgetown). I'd always been a fan of the Hoyas. But the thought of going to a school such as Georgetown ... was kind of hard to fathom for a kid coming from a small town," he said.

Last month, after two-and-a-half-years as a Hoya, Gonzalez completed his masters program at Georgetown and will walk in a graduation ceremony later in the year.

But even with two bachelors degrees from St. Mary's, a MBA from UHV, and a master's from Georgetown, Gonzalez said he's proud of his humble Victoria roots - and Texas will always remain home.

"In my D.C. office, I have all my degrees on the wall, but the one that gets the most attention, and the one I'm most proud of is my diploma from Bloomington," said Gonzalez, who worked as Bloomington school district's business manager for two years after completing his MBA. "I was part of an amazing community and met amazing friends there. It's as if the town always rallies together to help out one another whenever help is needed."

Gonzalez, who is in motion to be elevated to a supervisory financial management analyst post at the State Department, said his misconceptions about small-town Texans making it in D.C. have been shattered.

He realizes now he can do anything he sets his mind on, and encourages other Crossroads students to do the same.

"Some of the biggest misconceptions that I had when it came to working in D.C., especially in government, was that you had to attend an Ivy League school, you had to come from a large city, and you had to come from an affluent background. And none of those are the case," Gonzalez said.

"So my advice would be if you have an interest in changing foreign policy, or working in an embassy, why not apply to the U.S. State Department? If you have an interest in a national tax structure, why not apply to the IRS in D.C.? If you have an interest in how bills really get passed, why not attempt to work on Capitol Hill? Somebody has to fill these jobs; why can't it be students from the Crossroads area?"

Gonzalez said he is willing to offer advice and mentor via email area students with questions about living, working, or studying in the D.C. area.

"One thing I learned when I got there - you can't do it alone. Hard work alone will not get you very far. You have to have people who are guiding you," he said.

Gonzalez is pleased he decided to reach outside his comfort zone and satisfied with the direction of his life. He knows, however, his future is only beginning to take shape.

"Every night I thank God for the opportunities he's given me. I'm constantly expressing my gratitude. But at the same time, I know I'm only on chapter one of my life. There's a lot more to accomplish and I'm excited about the future, he said.

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