Soon-to-be-sworn-in First Ward City Councilwoman Cynthia Alarcón has her southern Texas roots and family’s giving heart to thank for her generous spirit.
“Growing up I was (and continue to be) a pastor’s kid. I remember church activities, community outreach, work and witness trips, VBS, and many other events my mom and dad volunteered us for,” Alarcón recalled. “So, love and work for our church family and community was an everyday occurrence.”
Fast forward to December 2023, the wife, mom of three, and longtime educator is excited to take on a new challenge: Columbus City Council.
Alarcón earlier this month was selected by Mayor Jim Bulkley to fill the Council seat vacated in November 2023 when former Councilwoman Beth Augustine-Schulte moved out of the First Ward she represented.
Alarcón will be officially sworn in during the next Columbus City Council meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024, in the Council Chamber on the third floor of the Columbus Community Building, 2500 14th St.
“It is definitely an overwhelming feeling of excitement and motivation. I am ready to learn and work for our community,” Alarcón said. “This appointment gives me a sense of affirmation after meeting with city leadership on how I can contribute to the council.”
Alarcón brings with her a unique perspective. She was born in Oklahoma, but raised in Texas before ultimately earning her Bachelor of Science in biology from Morningside College in Iowa in 2006. Her family moved to Columbus after she graduated high school, so it seemed like a great fit once she got through college.
“After graduating, I moved to Columbus, and have lived here since,” said Alarcón, who earned a Master of Arts degree in teaching, learning and teacher education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2015.
“I am proud to call Columbus home! I enjoy the small-town feel, but at the same time the variety of a bigger town! I appreciate the ease in community involvement and getting to know other community members.”
Since moving to town in 2007, Alarcón has made a name for herself in various ways. She’s relished her work in local education, having served as an English as a Second Language paraeducator at Emerson Elementary and a bilingual adult advocate at local nonprofit Center for Survivors before becoming a grant coordinator for Educational Service Unit (ESU) 7, a role she has maintained since March 2009.
“Education is multifaceted and, while the main component is that of teaching students, there is much more that plays into a school day,” she said. “My background in education gives me the opportunity to contribute my knowledge in assessing, analyzing, and developing programs in a different capacity as a city council member.”
Beyond that, Alarcón is vice president of the Parent Advisory Council at Centennial Elementary, as well as serves on the Columbus Area Chamber Hispanic Latino Youth Summit Committee and is a member of the Columbus Youth Latino Professionals Association. Additionally, she is a volunteer and former board member for local nonprofit Centro Hispano, among other things.
Mayor Bulkley said he had great candidates for the council seat, but noted he felt Alarcón’s background in service and education through various organizations made her the best fit.
Although she’s busy with various efforts, Alarcón’s family – her husband, Gerardo; and children, 11-year-old Aryanna, 9-year-old Izael and 6-year-old Ilyssa – is what drives her.
“My family always!” she said. “I’m sure many Columbus residents have the same sentiment of wanting the very best for their families and watching younger generations flourish in a supportive community.”
That was a big reason why she decided to submit her name for council consideration. As great as Columbus is, she noted, there is room for improvement.
“I would like to improve community involvement,” Alarcón said. “I know we have a caring community, it’s just a matter of participating in the assigned spaces to join forces and contribute to change.”
It isn’t lost on her that she can hopefully inspire generations of women and Black, Indigenous, People of Color, including her children, to want to serve their respective communities.
“I grew up in a small town in south Texas where the majority of educators looked and spoke like me. So, I was reminded of the importance of representation, and how having such strong Latino teachers growing up shaped my path in education,” Alarcón said.
“I want my children to grow up knowing they can accomplish any goal if they put in the work. So, after a lot of reflecting, praying, and conversations with my family, I asked myself, ‘If not me, who? If not now, when?’”
Alarcón said it has been rewarding to watch Columbus grow in population, diversity, businesses and education throughout the years, adding her appreciation for all the agency collaboration throughout town.
A self-proclaimed lover of learning, Alarcón is undoubtedly excited to serve her community in her new role while working alongside the rest of the Columbus City Council.
“I am eager to start the work of the Council,” she said. “I enjoy learning, teaching, and dialogue and hope to represent residents of Ward 1 to the best of my ability.”
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