Student Spotlight: Omar Olivarez

Omar OlivarezWhen Omar Olivarez talks about Project RISE, he can’t help but smile. “Project RISE is a non-profit founded by Ashley Chen, a BHP graduate. It’s all about promoting entrepreneurship to underserved youth in the Austin community and teaching them skills like leadership, teamwork, and good communication.”

Olivarez is currently a senior in the Business Honors Program and an MIS major. He came to UT from La Blanca, a small town just east of Edinburg in the Rio Grande Valley. Through Project RISE, he has been able to use his own experiences and knowledge to give back to the community. “We’re teaching high-school students concepts we’re learning in our classroom, and it’s really exciting to see them get into college and graduate from high-school,” he says. “One of our students comes from a single parent household with many siblings. She was absent sometimes because of her family situation, but in the end, she pitched her final business plan to the community and had the idea to develop a LinkedIn for teachers to help connect teachers to schools with needs. It’s really rewarding to see students’ plans come to fruition at the end of the program.”

Olivarez also encourages all students to pursue and build their ideas. “I’d like to give a shout-out to all students who have started something of their own, whether it’s a nonprofit, an organization, or a business. Perhaps it won’t last in the long-term, but I think that having that initiative is awesome.” He says what he’s learned from Project RISE is that people need to keep creating and innovating. “It’s what drives our market. I would applaud anyone who has ever made something in college and I think people should keep making stuff.”

In addition to working with Project RISE, Olivarez has also served as a Peer Mentor to the BHP class of 2021. His peers are his favorite part of BHP and have made his college experience unforgettable. “The students I’ve met through being a Peer Mentor are a wholesome, quirky group. They face a lot of hardships and competition, but they have a lot of resources on campus to help them. I am proud that they’re able to handle everything without feeling overwhelmed.”

After graduation, Olivarez will be working for Southwest Airlines in software engineering. He says his career path was slightly unexpected, but ultimately the perfect fit for him. “Keep your options open,” Olivarez says. “It’s more than okay if you have an idea of what you want to do, but flexibility helps. I was very into consulting a year ago and now, after competing in hackathons and building cool stuff, I’m really into software engineering.”

Olivarez has a working theory that happiness is infectious. “I think when you’re helping the community and bringing happiness to other people, all the energy you’re using to make that happen is rebounded and compounded,” he says. “For example, I volunteer with Capital Community where I work with older parents who might not speak English or know how college applications work. I work with them to understand how FAFSA and taxes work. Seeing their faces as they realize that they can make an impact on their own children’s lives is very gratifying. All the energy I spend doing that comes back to me and makes me want to do more.”

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