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An Ally for Awareness
Story by Stephanie Riel

For Alexandra Zavala, co-founder of the networking initiative, Hispanic Outreach Alliance, volunteering has been a lesson learned from her parents' generosity.

The 31-year-old moved to the United States from Mexico at the age of 10 with her family. Although life growing up wasn't always easy for her family of seven, Zavala's parents always expressed generosity in any way they could.

"My parents always found a way to help others," Zavala says. "So [giving] has always been a part of [my] life. It has been second nature to me."

It was from this upbringing and time spent in Washington, D.C. as a public policy fellow that Zavala decided to pursue a career with nonprofit organizations.

Once she returned to Phoenix, Zavala became the Hispanic Outreach Manager for Planned Parenthood, and then served as the executive director of Phoenix-based Girls For A Change until 2007.

It was from her role with Planned Parenthood that she was inspired to form a collaborative initiative for the Valley's Hispanic outreach professionals. And in April 2005, with the help of alliance co-founder Al Quihuis of AZ Hispanic Connection, the Hispanic Outreach Alliance was established.

For Zavala, offering a forum for Hispanic outreach coordinators in the Phoenix area to come together and exchange ideas has been a primary goal all along. The alliance, a network of nonprofit outreach managers and coordinators in the Phoenix area, meet monthly to share information and learn about new outreach approaches.

In addition to her post at the alliance, Zavala also serves as the director of community reinvestment and involvement for Magellan Health Services in Phoenix.

"I started thinking how great would it be to get all of these [community outreach] people into one room," Zavala says of her initial motivation to create the organization. "Al and I thought that getting the outreach professionals in our area together to bounce ideas off of each other would be a great resource."

In fact, Zavala feels that the professionals that comprise the alliance make all the difference.

"In 2005, we started with 10 members and now we have 160," she says. "It is really fulfilling and exciting that I have been a part of it…but the Hispanic Outreach Alliance is what it is because of the members," Zavala says.

As for the future, Zavala plans to continue learning, growing and helping the community through her position at Magellan Health Services. She also hopes for the Hispanic Outreach Alliance to gain not-for-profit status, so it can be eligible for grants and further the reach of its impact in the community.

In particular, Zavala cites her love for people and desire to help others as her driving force.

"I enjoy people; I guess it comes from having a large family," she says. "I enjoy those interactions with people and I get a lot of satisfaction being able to help others."

The Hispanic Outreach Alliance shares that goal by treating the Valley's outreach professionals and their respective organizations as family; offering advice and help in the challenging times and cheering each other on in times of triumph.