Mexico honors Southwest Key founder
By Juan Castillo
Friday, September 12, 2008
The Mexican government is honoring Juan Sánchez, who heads one of the country's largest care providers for unaccompanied immigrant children and at-risk juveniles from his nonprofit's headquarters in Austin.
Sánchez, 60, president and founder of Southwest Key Programs, will receive Mexico's Ohtli Award tonight at a reception to commemorate Dieciséis de Septiembre, the Sept. 16 Mexican Independence Day. Rosalba Ojeda, the consul general of Mexico in Austin, and her husband, Francisco Alba, will host the event.
The Ohtli honors individuals who work to improve the lives of people of Mexican heritage living abroad. Named for the Aztec Nahuatl word meaning "camino," or path, the Ohtli is given annually by the country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior, an agency that promotes ties between Mexico and Mexican communities in the United States.
A native of Brownsville, the Harvard-educated Sánchez created the nonprofit in 1987 when it was known as Texas Key Program. Today, Southwest Key runs 55 programs in seven states for families and juveniles, including alternatives to incarceration and schools for students who have been expelled or are on probation. In addition, Southwest Key runs federally-contracted shelters for unaccompanied immigrant minors in Texas, California and Arizona.
Last October, Southwest Key opened the East Austin Community Development Center at 6002 Jain Lane, an $8 million, 31,000-square-foot complex that doubles as its national headquarters.