Before the El Paso Chamber board meeting started, Aliana Apodaca was stopped as she got up to get a cup of coffee. “Get me some coffee,” a man told her.
Some women might have gotten upset.
Apodaca, president of Positive Directions, instead got the man the coffee and told him, “Next time, you get MY cup.”
“He realized what he'd done,” Apodaca said. “Later he told me, ‘I have never forgotten what you did. I learned a very valuable lesson that day.’”
That was 1991, but Apodaca’s tactics haven’t changed. She might have ideas she wants to get across, but she’s still a lady while doing so.
“(Apodaca) gets up every morning thinking, ‘How can I improve the city? How can I help someone take a step forward in meeting their destiny?’” said friend Dan Olivas, owner of Dan Olivas and Associates real estate.
Her destiny came when she was asked to speak at a presentation in Las Cruces and got a check in the mail. Until then, she hadn’t realized one could get paid for speaking.
That led to her founding Positive Directions, which helps people, organizations and communities inspire change. She started two major conferences in El Paso – the Southwest Administrative Professionals and Southwest Women’s Leadership Institute.
“Every year she gets people to buy a table, which she gives to young women,” Olivas said. “She gives these young ladies a ray of hope. Sí se puede.”
She has also taken her mission to Bolivia. The message she received from women there, she said, was humbling.
“They said to me, ‘Please tell the women in America, how goes the American women, so goes the rest of the women in the world.’ They look to us to raise the bar. Our everyday actions not only affect our community, but the world.”
Growing up poor in Ysleta, Apodaca said that her desire to help came from her mother.
“Mother taught me everybody was the same. If people need something, you always do what you can.”
That likely led of one of her favorite projects, providing Christmas Cheer for Headstart children for the past 15 years. What started as 20 children – each being taken by a volunteer to the store to pick out a gift and then have pizza – has grown to 150.
“She does this not matter what is going on, no matter the economy,” Olivas said. “What is so contagious is her passion. She believes in giving and does it in a huge way.”