10:28 AM

Outstanding UST Alumni Honored in HBJ’s 40 Under 40 Class of 2021

Once again, University of St. Thomas Houston alumni shine brilliantly within the Houston Business Journal’s new annual list of 40 Under 40 Class of 2021. The two honorees from UST are Deborah Mouton, M.Ed ’11, and Candelario Cervantez ’05, MBA ’08.

She Is a Poet and so Much More

Some of the works of Deborah Mouton, Houston’s first Black poet laureate (2017 to 2019), can be enjoyed in her books and albums. The artist, activist, educator and executive director of VIP Arts Houston was part of a virtual commission at the Kennedy Center and has performed with the Houston Ballet. Her first opera, “Marian’s Song,” based on the life of the opera singer and civil rights activist Marian Anderson, debuted with the Houston Grand Opera.

Mouton, also proud to be a wife and mother, said, “I’m still figuring out my role in life. As an artist, I’m here to stir the pot or start conversations about race and culture. I love sociology and studying people and want to combat stereotypes. That’s part of my service to the world.

He Is an Artist & Advocate for Equality in Education and Community

Candelario Cervantez, who uses the pronouns he/him/his/él, wears two hats. He is a professional painter of art and the national senior managing director of Latinx alliances at Teach For America. The grandson of Mexican immigrants, he is the first in his family to earn a graduate degree. Cervantez is keenly aware of education inequity and values the meaning of community. He works passionately to advocate for education and to give everyone a voice and a feeling of safety where they are.

“It is such a privilege to build a career around my values,” Cervantez said. “My work is about determining how to ensure that all of our communities reach their full potential, and I would do it as an unpaid volunteer. I get to build genuine relationships with individuals. We guide one another to think things through regarding the education topics that matter most to their communities. In addition, I build education partnerships with national organizations and work with influencers at the White House and in Congress.”

Their UST Experience

Both of these outstanding difference-makers point to “gifts” they got while studying at UST.

Cervantez said, “My first semester at UST was the hardest thing I’d ever done, because I was not prepared for the rigors of the world. However, professors like Dr. Joanne Romani and Dr. Diana Dale took me under their wings and guided me. Dr. Dale advised me to leverage the fact that I was a student—she said that everybody at UST wants to help a student. Knowing that the faculty were there to help, and really did help, made all the difference.”

Mouton reflected, “For me, St. Thomas was a very centering place and geared toward the progress of the world. It was there that I centered on my desire and love for education, so I developed there as a teacher and educator.”

Both alumni commented on the solid and lasting relationships they built at UST — a powerful network of relationships they have held onto.

What the Future Holds

There is no moss growing on these two impressive alumni.

Mouton has another book coming out in 2022 called Black Chameleon (via Henry Holt & Co.), a collection of new mythology for Black American women. Also, look for her stage production, “The World Intermission,” at Jones Hall in November 2021. For more about Mouton, go here.

Cervantez affirms his plan to “continue doing what I’m doing, fighting for educational equity and opening doors for people to reach their full potential; especially Black, Indigenous (and) People of Color (BIPOC).”  Visit the Teach For America Latinx Alliances website for resources from national partners and collaborators.