Focus on Alumni: Diego M. Bernal (City Councilmember, San Antonio, Texas)
Apr 10, 2013
Have you ever wondered what your University of Michigan course work will prepare you for? Diego M. Bernal (Class of 1999) took several Latina/o Studies courses while he was in Ann Arbor; he particularly remembers his course on Chicana/o literature with John Morán González. He then went on to obtain graduate degrees in Social Work (MSW, 2001) and Law (JD, 2004), also at U-M, and eventually returned to his native city of San Antonio, where he now serves as a city councilmember. Visit his website, where she shares this personal narrative. And remember: good things come to those who study Latina/o Studies at U-M!
DIEGO M. BERNAL - BIOGRAPHY
NATIVE SAN ANTONIAN
I was born in South Texas to a former farmworker and an educator. My mother raised my sister Anita and I as a single parent in apartments and small houses right here in the heart of San Antonio, in District 1. Growing up, our mom always stressed the importance of a good education and believed in the promise of San Antonio's public schools, which I attended throughout grade and high school. I am a proud graduate of Arnold Elementary, Tafolla Middle School and Thomas Jefferson High School. Like my mom, I believe in San Antonio's public schools and believe we should do all we can to prepare our students for the future. When I became a first-time homeowner, I knew I wanted to return to my old neighborhood and was honored to purchase a small house essentially across the street from the first home my mother and I lived in when I was a child.
After high school I attended the University of Michigan, where I earned my undergraduate degree, my Masters of Social Work and my law degree.
As a social worker, I helped young gang members in Detroit, Michigan transition out of the gangs and into school or the workforce. I continued this work in Harlingen, Texas with Communities in Schools (CIS), working with at-risk youth to improve literacy by creating a student newspaper.
In law school, I devoted myself to civil rights advocacy. I spent a summer in New York City with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and a year at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) back in San Antonio.
After graduating from law school I returned to San Antonio permanently as a MALDEF staff attorney, where I spent the last six years advocating and litigating on behalf of working people, children, and immigrant communities. I worked for systemic changes so that Texas public schools are more equitably funded. I also fought against discrimination in schools and in the workforce, and for electoral systems that provide every citizen an equal right to vote.
I recently transitioned to a law practice that focuses on the needs of San Antonio children and families, which allows me to use my background in both the law and social work.
MEMBER OF SAN ANTONIO’S ARTS COMMUNITY
Outside of work I pursued another passion: music. I have released two successful albums and contributed to other local, national and international projects, which, along with my legal advocacy, led to San Antonio Magazine naming me one of San Antonio’s Men of the Year in 2010. As a dedicated member of the San Antonio arts community, I learned how diverse and deeply talented the pool of artists in San Antonio is. From painting, textiles and photography, the ballet and symphony, to rock, conjunto and electronic music – the art coming out of San Antonio can and should compete with the world.
DISTRICT 1 BUSINESS INVESTOR
As a result of my professional and artistic success, I earned another opportunity to give back to my community. I decided to invest in a small business located in District 1. It is a gathering place for San Antonio’s students, arts community, business community, working people and neighbors. It embodies all of San Antonio, which is what inspired me to invest there. I look forward to working with San Antonio’s business community and helping them pursue their projects, enhance San Antonio’s economic development, and foster job and long-term career opportunities.
MOVING FORWARD TOGETHER
As an adult I now share my mom's vision and optimism, and am committed to improving the quality of life in San Antonio on every level. Every voice is important; no one should be overlooked. My background and experience put me in the unique position to hear the diverse interests in the District and respond accordingly.
I love the city and people of San Antonio. I grew up here, practice law here, make music and do business here. I want nothing more than to give back to the community that has given me so much. With your help we can get there, together. We are 1.