Joe is a founding member and former chair of the Dream Forward Foundation. He is now an honorary board member.

He grew up in Corpus Christi where he attended W.B. Ray high school. Afterwards he went on to attend Texas A&M in College Station. In his freshman year he knew that the military part of A&M was not for him. He returned home and attended Del Mar College. One year later he enrolled at the University of Houston and graduated with a degree in math and philosophy.

After college, Joe worked at Baylor College of Medicine. There he helped create, manage and install software to do statistical analysis on medical research. He went on to work with the Harris County Treasurer to establish an electronic funds transfer system. 

The emerging computer industry in Silicon Valley perked his interests. As did the the rise of alternative health methods used in China and India happening in the Valley. He made the decision to move to the California Bay Area, he settled in Palo Alto where he continues to live.

Before this move in the earlier 1970’s he ran for the Houston City Council promoting a progress agenda, which included: neighborhood police stations, using of space under elevated freeways for pubic parking, dedicate freeway lanes during peak hours, signal member districts, citizens review board, televised council meetings. He received nearly 50,000 votes which at the time was among the highest latino voter getting in the country.

He lead the effort to form the Barrier Free Living Coalition which lobbied to create curb cuts at street intersection to make them accessed to wheelchairs, and to lower elevator buttons in public buildings. These are now part of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ACA).

Joe has provided database and computer services to a number of firms and start ups in Silicon Valley. He was at the forefront of the initiative which was key to the City of Palo Alto to create and own a fiber optic ring.

He partnered with Joaquin Avila, former MALDEF region director, to develop software tools to

assemble and present data in gerrymandering court cases.

Joe established JustVoters, a campaign data service provider of voter and donor information

to campaigns.

Joe is now retired.


Joe A. Villareal


Palo Alto, California

Copyright © 2018 Dream Forward Foundation. All rights reserved.

Since the mid 1990s Gilberto has built a network of political and business relationships. His coalition-building savvy have produced strategies that benefit his domestic and international clients.

He is a veteran of four presidential campaigns. In 2000 he led the National Latino Presidential Campaign for the Democratic National Committee (DNC). He also directed the DNC’s Office of Voter Participation.

He served as the Director of Communications for the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, working along side WIllie Velasquez.

In 1992 Gilberto turned a start-up business into a successful security printing business. This plus his commitment for a strong civic presence, was recognized as the "Hispanic Businessman of the Year" and as "Volunteer of the Year" by the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Hispanic magazine recognized Gilberto as a "Rising Entrepreneur."

Gilberto has served on the National Advisory Boards of the Resolution Trust Corporation, the US Small Business  Administration, the US Secretary of Energy, and the Smithsonian Task Force on Latino Affairs.


Armando was born and raised in Corpus Christi, Texas. While a student at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, he studied at the Universidad Veracurzana in Xalapa, México. His area of study were US and Latin American literature, communications and astronomy.

He worked throughout the Southwest alongside the famed Voting Rights leader, Willie Velasquez.

In the early 1980’s, while living in Palo Alto, California, he and his brother began to connect technology to campaigns. On his return to Texas he opened the Computer Place in Victoria—which at the time is considered to be the first latino owned personal computer retailers in Texas.

Over several months he worked with the Marielito community in Miami on voting. Armando was invited to be among the first to visit Cuba directly from the United States.

Over a four-year period, in the 90’s, Armando worked in El Salvador during their political struggle. Later on he helped prepare voters in 1994 in South Africa on Nelson Mandela’s release from prison.

He participated on election missions in Central America—In Peru he assisted the renown writer Mario Vargas Lllosa’s presidential campaign.

He served as deputy political director at the Democratic National Committee in D.C. There he organized the Office of Voter Participation. Armando organized the latino vote across five key electoral states.

He assisted the Texas United Farmworkers, the SEIU, immigrant legislative campaigns, the Kerry Presidential Campaign in New Mexico and in Colorado, among others efforts.

In 2005 then Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack appointed Armando to head the state’s Division of Latino Affairs. There he organized the Iowa Youth Congress, and other initiatives.

He returned to Texas and soon after organized the South Texas Youth Congress.

Gilberto S. Ocañas
Senior Advisor 
Dentons—Global Law Firm

Board Chair and STYC Executive Director

Armando Villarreal
STYC Executive Director

The South Texas Youth Congress is the flagship initiative of the Dream Forward Foundation.

IRS 501c3 tax exempt organization operating in Texas.

Honorary Board Members

The STYC initiative is modeled after the Iowa Youth Congress which Armando Villarreal began as head of the Iowa Division of Latino Affairs. He was appointed to that position, in 2005, by then Governor Tom Vilsack.

The Iowa Youth Congress has met in the Iowa House Chamber since 2007.

We believe that among the most endearing gifts one generation gives the next is the gift of heritage and an opportunity to advance in life.

To this goal the Foundation’s premier initiative is the South Texas Youth Congress.

The purpose of the South Texas Youth Congress is to evoke a sense of place and community—to inspire the coming generation with hope and possibilities.

Newsletter 2007 Session


The Dream Forward Foundation (DF) is a IRS 501c3 tax exempt organization operating in Texas. The purpose of DF is to support initiatives that promote nonpartisan efforts which encourage civic participation

in South Texas.

STYC consist of up to 33 members per school year.

New members apply to represent their high school. Students with completed applications enter a selection process.


STYC members are selected from a region which includes fourteen counties from Webb to Nueces to the Valley. There are 154 high schools in the region with an enrollment of 134,289, as of October 2013.

75 high schools have enrollment greater than 500. These schools represent 91% of enrollment in the region.  (graph)


They met in their session and worked through the proposals before them and voted three for legislative action.

The three proposal merged into one. Known as iSol. It’s aim is to connected high school with fiber optics.

This first group of members sank in the core root giving growth to the South Texas Youth Congress.

In 2015 they had House Bill 3467 in the 84th Texas Session. STYC members met at the State Capitol, and over two days they visited 40 offices, promoting their bill. The bill passed the house by 144 votes. In the Senate the bill did not get a hearing in committee before sine die.

STYC members had a new bill proposal in the 85th General Session, 2017. Which was filed in the House and Senate. The bill was heard in the House Public Education Committee and left pending. HERE is a video clip.

Enrollment Source: Texas Education Agency

Bill Proposal

On February 2014 eighteen students from across south Texas gathered in Corpus Christi at Del Mar College. They brought with them public policy proposals. They presented, questioned, debated, and at the end of the day they voted on proposals to forward to their STYC Session.

Students Online



Recommends procedures, assists with public communications, reviews and comments on updates. Speaks on behalf of STYC.

Laura Villarreal

Counselor Weslaco HS

Board Members

Op-Ed By Armando

New York Times photo 1976 Democratic Convention.

Paul Moreno (Lt.) former Texas Legislator from El Paso

and Joe Villareal delegate from Houston

on the convention floor.