Welcome To Our Hispanic Community
Meet Our McKinney Area Leaders
Born and raised in McKinney, Jason Hernandez has a unique story. After being incarcerated for life in prison at the age of 21 for a nonviolent drug offense, Mr. Hernandez decided he would take charge of his own destiny. He became a model prisoner, educated himself on legal matters, and petitioned the Obama Administration for a reduced sentence. President Obama granted him clemency in 2013, and Mr. Hernandez was released in 2015. Since then, he's become a leading voice on criminal justice reform and has personally assisted other nonviolent prisoners through the clemency process. He's spoken nationwide on criminal justice, published his own book, "Get Clemency Now", and is in the final stages of publishing his memoirs through a major publishing house.
After his release, Mr. Hernandez moved back to his home town of McKinney, determined to make a difference in his community. He's an active, well-known force for change throughout the city and was named McKinney's "Volunteer of the Year" for his local work. He spearheaded the cleanup and upkeep of "The Mexican Cemetery", honoring the final resting place of many local Latinos. He also served on the board of directors for GraceToChange, a local nonprofit substance abuse treatment center.
Mr. Hernandez is currently the Executive Director of the nonprofit AtLast (Aspire Texas Latinos Achieving Success Together), a local leadership-building program for Latino students in high school. AtLast recently renovated a small convenience store on McKinney's East Side. "La Tiendita" (the little store) will help with food insecurity in the neighborhood, offering positive and healthy grocery choices at reduced prices. In addition, Mr. Hernandez envisions using the store to teach students how to own, operate, and manage a small business.
AtLast is partnering with local organizations such as The Seed Project Foundation, Whole Foods, and The Jelly Queens. Other local vendors volunteered to work at cost, helping with electrical work, heating and air conditioning, landscaping, a sprinkler system, and building a gazebo in the back for area families to enjoy.
A lifelong educator, Harvey Oaxaca started his 40-year career in the athletics department, before deciding to focus on school administration. Along with his wife, Rebecca (a school counselor, now retired), and their two sons, Harvey, Jr., and Richard, Mr. Oaxaca moved to McKinney at an exciting time for the community, when population growth was accelerating and the need for educators was paramount.
He started at Faubion Middle School, where he served for 10 years. He then moved to Central Office until circumstances dictated his return to a school campus. After weathering the "cheerleader scandal" at McKinney North High School, the school district needed a steady, encouraging hand to serve as interim head principal at the school. The administration chose Mr. Oaxaca. When asked about his time at North, Mr. Oaxaca said, "It was a challenge, especially when the school was so hurt by the scandal. However, I saw a real opportunity to create healing and relationships with staff, parents, and students. We had a great, positive year." He remembers it as one of the best experiences of his career.
Mr. Oaxaca retired from McKinney ISD in 2017, but it wasn't long before he returned to substituting full time. Realizing he still had more to offer the district and after the urging of many in the community, Mr. Oaxaca ran for the school district board of trustees at-large position in 2021. Even though the Hispanic student population hovers around 30%, his successful election marked the first time a Hispanic resident had won an at-large seat on the McKinney school board.
Mr. Oaxaca says, "My goal is to be the best citizen I can be here in McKinney. I feel strongly about staying on school board in these challenging times. We're facing not only political complications, but our students, parents, educators, and district are still learning how to grow and thrive after the pandemic. We need to reestablish norms and learn how to navigate together."
This last year, Mr. Oaxaca was appointed to the Texas School Board Legislative Advisory Council for Region 10, where he and his colleagues focus on developing legislative agenda proposals for the state government.
Jessica Diaz Thibodeaux
Jessica Thibodeaux, along with her husband, Mark, is the owner of Fresh-Mex, a popular food truck and caterer well known in McKinney and Collin County. Ms. Thibodeaux first conceived of her small business when her husband's prior place of employment experienced financial uncertainty. To supplement the family income, she began preparing and selling her ceviche in prepackaged containers at the McKinney Farmer's Market. The recipe was such a hit that she purchased a mobile grill and added tacos to her menu.
By this time, the Thibodeaux's young son, Oliver, had been born, so Ms. Thibodeaux cooked and sold her food while carrying Oliver on her back and while her husband worked full time. She believes the reason her business grew in popularity was she took the simplicity of the Mexican food culture, where so many of the neighborhood families sell specialties out of their homes, and brought that simplicity into her business; her salsa has only four ingredients.
Finally, the sheer number of regular customers convinced the family they should become a mobile restaurant. They purchased an old truck from a friend's farm, and with Ms. Thibodeaux researching financing and how to do the repairs and Mr. Thibodeaux putting in the hours working on the engine and the exterior, the food truck launched. Ms. Thibodeaux says owning her own business can be tricky sometimes, especially since a mobile restaurant requires four hours of prep before she even arrives at her spot to sell for the day ... not to mention staying current with all the city/county licensing requirements. However, she still loves it. What she finds most rewarding is having her whole family involved, including her parents when they come visit, and her two children, Oliver and Daisy, along with her husband Mark, who now also works full-time with Fresh-Mex.
Fresh-Mex serves customers year round Thursday through Sunday during the lunch and dinner hours. They are always at the Farmer's Market on Saturdays. They book private parties and are at several different vending locations that can be found on their website.
As a community thank you, Fresh-Mex offers a free meal, no questions asked, to those in need. Those who need the service can text the number on the Fresh-Mex truck, and the order will be called out just like any other order.
Dr. Alex Camacho & Edelweiss Camacho
This father-daughter duo is the backbone of the Baptist Immigration Center just off College Street in McKinney. This community-based nonprofit organization assists immigrants with the difficult hurdles required to become legal United States citizens, over 85% of whom are Spanish-speaking.
Dr. Camacho, who received his PhD in Theology, and Ms. Camacho help clients from all over the world, from Texas to Macedonia. The organization charges nominal fees for those who can't afford attorneys. Baptist Immigration Center is accredited through the Department of Justice. As part of the accreditation process, they have to keep up with the complex, ever-changing immigration laws for legalization, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and citizenship.
The Camacho family and the organization are well known in the community, especially for advocating for education. They are donors to Caldwell Elementary, which houses McKinney Independent School District's only dual-language program, and they recently welcomed a college-bound intern from the AtLast nonprofit.
When asked what they'd consider the most surprising thing about their work, they answered ,"Everyone would be so surprised to learn how difficult, expensive, and time-consuming it is to qualify for entry into the United States. For example, if a citizen wanted her sibling from Mexico to get a green card, there would be a 20-year wait after the application is made. With different countries, there are different rules, but all are complex and time-consuming."
Ms. Camacho added, "Despite the difficulties, we do see such great joy here also, such as when one of our clients became a citizen. She then filed for her parents to become residents and then finally citizens so they could be together as a family in their new home country."
The Camachos love what they do. They recognize that immigration work will always be here, and they will be a resource in this community for those who need their help.
Gilda Garcia Garza
A lifelong resident of McKinney who passed away in 2019, Gilda Garza made an indelible impression on the City of McKinney. She was elected to the McKinney City Council's District 1, the only Hispanic woman ever to serve on Council, and was re-elected twice. She used her influence to serve her district, focusing specifically on infrastructure needs. When Ms. Garza ran the first time, her daughter, Andrea Nichols, helped design an ad that showed Andrea's son walking District 1 streets – the same La Loma streets that Ms. Garza herself walked as a child – that still had no curbs or sidewalks years later. Ms. Garza prided herself on speaking up for District 1, even on issues she knew she would be outvoted on. She felt it was important to be seen standing up and fighting for what her constituents needed.
Ms. Garza served as a local and national member of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) for many years and was a lifetime member of St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church.
In 2022, the McKinney City Council approved a new name for the city's Aquatic Center, renaming it the Gilda Garcia Garza Aquatic Center, in honor of this McKinney native who was so instrumental in making sure District 1 would become the home of the proposed pool. The official dedication took place on September 17, 2022, at 1201 East Louisiana Street in McKinney.
City of McKinney El Día De Los Muertos
El Día de los Muertos is a Latin American custom that celebrates the lives of deceased loved ones with food, drink, parties, and activities the dead enjoyed in life. Altars or "ofrendas" (offerings) are commonly made by family members.
2021 marked the City's first community event recognizing this Latin American custom, and it was a huge success! The second year was even larger, with more vendors and attendees. The events feature music, a costume contest, music, face painters, a Memory Tree, and other arts & crafts. Stay tuned for information on 2023.