FEATURE: JOHN PORRAS, VALENTINE NATIVE, GETS A CHANCE TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

By Deanna Lucas Proctor —

When first asked to write about John Porras I thought no problem. I'll
meet with this young man, talk with him a bit and then write a few words
about how a local small town boy makes good. As we spoke however, I
became captivated by his passion for community, his true love for his
neighbor and country and his sincere desire to be of service.

Throughout
the discussion, he subtly made clear that all credit for his
accomplishments went elsewhere. He did not negate his hard work and
determination though even those he credited to his parents and
community. He said, “I had a unique experience growing up in Valentine.”
He did not come from the big city where amenities exist on every corner
or even from a town that had “things to do.”

Rather, he had
different opportunities growing up in such a small town. Activities were
based on what was happening within the community itself. The people
would come together in celebration when things were good and they would
come together to mourn in times of grief, a characteristic
representative of many of the communities in West Texas.

John
credits living in Valentine for his active imagination and his sense of
community. Not allowed to watch much television or play video games,
John focused his activities on school. He was a state qualifier in UIL
academics. He went to regional in tennis. He received Best Actor in One
Act Play competition. “We had to do everything,” John stated, “and so
even if you're scared to get out in public, you had to work it out and
take that jump.” John continued, “so a lot of what I do in life is based
on what I had to do then, which was taking that leap.

“If
you're afraid, that's good because that means you're moving forward.”
John took on a summer job at The High Frontier in Ft. Davis, a
non-profit educational and social learning environment for adolescents.
He said this job changed his life. “Being able to connect and help and
interact with the youth there– to try and make a difference – being
able to hear their stories and try to offer guidance and be a positive
influence. To say to them, you can be anything. You can make a
difference in your life. To just be a positive influence, that's what I
felt I could do.”

The Porras family has resided in Valentine for
well over one hundred years. His grandparents owned a small grocery
store. His grandfather also worked for the railroad and was mayor for a
time. Both his parents attended Sul Ross State University. His father
went to work as a Special Agent for the railroad and his mother became a
teacher. His two older sisters also became teachers. Education was very
important. John continued the tradition and attended Texas Tech
University. He graduated in 2006 with a degree in Political Science and a
minor in Spanish.

While there, he became involved in the
Hispanic Student Society serving as the Fund-raising Chair and
Treasurer.. He was also active in a Pre-Law fraternity as well as other
community service endeavors. He continued his education, acquiring a
Master's Degree in Public Administration in 2009.

After
graduating, John got involved in community development. Eventually, he
gained acquisitions and regulations experience and from there he jumped
to campaigning. He was hired by a company called Organize For America
and went to work in Ohio for President Obama during the 2012
pre-election efforts. He was in charge of developing volunteer groups
with the local interns and he led an outreach to the public focusing on
the needs of the communities that were in his work area.

John
helped build grassroots teams to connect neighbor to neighbor efforts
and to talk about the platform the campaign represented and to “really
get out the vote.” He talked one on one with this representative
community in Ohio about the issues and assist in the development of
public forums so that the issues could be made clear. He worked to
“fight fires where they needed to be fought and target an audience and
establish a good relationship and to really have people understand what
this election meant for the future and their personal lives.”

John was sent to an area made up of small communities, much like the one in which he was raised.

John
stated, “The democratic platform is universal and what it meant to me
was that childhood idea that I could make a difference in the world.
There are groups of people who need a bigger voice. To push for
continuous civil rights movements or provide education for youth or to
make sure that veterans are very well provided for.

To see that
farmers groups are very well represented. To make sure that teachers are
being able to get the proper tools to allow our students a good
education. To fight for our environment because our future is completely
dead if you don't do something about it. To fight for our middle-class.
My parents are middle-class. Our group is so underrepresented. A group
that we need to fight for. That's something I will give my heart for.
That my parents worked extremely hard to provide opportunities for me
and that's something I think all our youth need. An opportunity to at
least have a fighting shot at a brighter future.”

John identified
the candidates who seemed to hold up to his own personal ideals. Early
on, he identified President Bill Clinton and former governor Ann
Richards. Pete Gallego, U.S. Congressman from Texas, was also one that
he felt would fight for the same ideals he held so close to his heart.
John had been watching Representative Gallego since John was a child.
“Pete Gallego, to me, represents what a true West Texas Democrat should
be,” John stated. When Gallego won the election, the opportunity came
that would allow John to work for the Congressman.

John is now
employed as the Field Organizer for Congressman Gallego, working out of
the newly established office located at 860 Rio Vista North in Socorro.
John's area encompasses Culberson, Hudspeth and eastern El Paso
Counties. John will serve as a liaison for the public between
Representative Gallego's office and governmental agencies.

The
office is designed to help provide resources to the public or direct the
public to needed resources elsewhere whether it be veteran's affairs,
agriculture, social security, medical or educational information. “I get
out there. I outreach to the public. My privilege, my honor to really
serve as the eyes and ears for the congressman and to help relay a
message and to provide a voice.” That voice is one of many that will
report to Pete Gallego so the voice of the people can be heard in
Washington DC.

John's personal vision is to continue to help
Congressman Gallego reach out to the public through his platform and
ideas. “Working for him is the highlight of my career and something I
appreciate. The thought of growing up in Valentine, wanting to make a
difference in the world and just the idea that I could do anything that I
set my mind to work on. That was kind of a neat deal, by my parents and
other positive influences in my little pueblito.” John hopes to be able
to acquire the tools to create projects such as educational projects
and GED outreach.

He intends to find resources to aid in
workforce development. He has aspirations of helping communities build
parks where there are none. John would like to assist in organizing food
banks and promoting historical areas and any other areas where help is
needed. His goal is to continue to work as Gallego's representative “as
long as he will have me. What I try to put out to the public is really
about that man.”

John concluded with a message to our
youth.”Don't be afraid to dream and avoid living with regret. Focus on
what you can control. “Dream.”