What would you say is the most interesting fact about yourself?
I have to think everything in Spanish before I can speak or write in English.
How long have you been in the Greenville area?
Since January 2008
What is your story? Your background?
I was born in Humacao, Puerto Rico, moved with my family to Washington State, spent a year there where my family thought it was too cold and too far away from the island, then we transitioned to South Carolina.
I completed a B.A. in Communications at USC Upstate, with a minor in translation and interpreting. At first, I went into interpretation and translation work for local schools in Spartanburg, translating documents for law and medical offices, and saw a lot of need for parents in the Hispanic community to be able to speak with teachers on behalf of their kids. Each of these experiences underscored my desire to be a voice for the community.
I love sports. So in the future I may go into broadcasting either here in Greenville or in Atlanta, so hopefully the communications major will help.
After college, I served as a U.S. Soccer Federation certified coach and referee with Carolina Elite Soccer Academy where we developed discipline, courage and self-esteem in children athletes. I feel like sports can keep kids out of trouble. It helped me stay out of trouble. It is a way to show and learn respect and responsibility. That’s one of the reasons I’m still around helping the kids.
I am actively involved in the Greenville Chamber’s Young Professionals, and Hispanic Business Council, and am a graduate of Opportunity Greenville. I’m a member of AHAM (Hispanic-American Women’s Association) dedicated to funding competitive scholarships for aspiring college student of Hispanic descent heritage.
If you are currently reading and/or watching something, what would that be?
“Inward” by Yung Pueblo I’m usually watching baseball and soccer, otherwise, I’m not watching tv. I prefer to watch soccer in person.
I love baseball. To me it is a beautiful sport. I can sit for hours watching baseball. I’m a New York Yankees fan.
What are your hobby(s)?
I work out at Knight Performance Factory, which is a combination of cross fit and circuit training.
If I’m not working out, I love cooking. People joke around that I should open a restaurant. People say I’m really good at making Puerto Rican Rice, which you have to make the base from scratch.
What is the phrase that you live by?
Givers Gain. I work with the underserved community, so I am gaining by helping them, hoping that I can open doors for them and they can come out of that cycle.
If you work, who do you work for?
The Hispanic Alliance
What is your day-to-day at work? If unemployed or retired, what is your day-to-day throughout Greenville?
I love working with people.
One day I can be in the office, working in operations, and financials and taking care of the staff. And another day, like today, I can go from meeting to meeting, or in a community event, go into a school to talk with students, go to a resource fair, or go to City Council to sit in on a meeting to be a voice for the community.
I’m starting to see a lot of people coming to our office or joining me at the affordable housing meetings who want to purchase a home in City View where they have rented for ten years. Owners are putting houses up for sale. Renters want to buy their home, but developers are willing to pay outrageous prices. Renters have to move to Easley, Anderson, or behind the Donaldson Center.
I am becoming more passionate about affordable housing because I’m looking for a house, too. I am trying to live in one of the communities I work with like City View or Nicholtown.
At The Hispanic Alliance, I oversee the operations of our Board of Directors, our four Community Teams, the Student DREAMers Alliance, community outreach activities, as well as integrating the capacity of the AmeriCorps VISTA and Furman Fellows.
How would you describe Greenville?
We have two Greenvilles: beautiful and desperate. Desperate for growth, wanting to become an Atlanta or Charlotte, we’re trying to grow way too fast. We are forgetting about our people.
How would Greenville describe Debbra?
Courageous and dedicated. I am someone who is trying to build bridges. I am committed to seeing Greenville grow. And by our community, I am talking about those who live in San Souci, City View and in the White Horse Road corridor. I’m trying to be someone who can open doors for those who don’t feel like they have an opportunity. Make others feel empowered so they can be business owners and professionals. We need to develop our people.
Besides your residence or place of work, where is your favorite Greenville morning hangout?
How about your evening hangout?
UP On the Roof - they have a nice view of sunsets.
What about Greenville makes you proud, likely the reasons you are still here?
The diversity we are starting to see, how we choose to embrace and welcome it. I hope that after a few years, we will see more equity.
What is your happiest Greenville moment?
When I graduated from USC Upstate in 2016, my entire family was together in the States. And I felt like I was going to open doors and do my best to achieve and start a real life. That’s when I saw Greenville as my home.
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