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Like many youngsters, Cynthia Horton was afraid to swim. But encouraged by a helpful swim teacher and propelled by her own drive, she opened her eyes during one session and found herself swimming in the middle of the pool. The memory carries a lesson Horton has remembered to this day: confront your fears, trust yourself and take opportunities to learn. Bolstered by these maxims, she set out on a career that has included many joys, challenges and learning moments.

She was just 19 when she was started working as a file clerk for GECU more than 30 years ago, making about $6 an hour and handling lots and lots of paper. Today Crystal Long is GECU’s president and chief executive officer, leading El Paso’s largest locally owned financial institution as it grows and transforms itself into a 21st-century credit union.

In the span of a year, Irene Pistella ran a half-marathon, a full marathon and walked 60 miles. All this and Pistella had never been a serious runner. Completing the races not only left her with a sense of accomplishment – they were for charity – but also gave her time to bond with the family and close friends training alongside her. Her ability to successfully undertake new challenges reflects her drive and commitment to her community.

After years as a top executive with international staffing firms, suddenly Rosa Santana was facing an employment crisis of her own. She’d been downsized in a corporate restructuring. Santana responded by launching her own staffing company, Integrated Human Capital, the first of five business solutions companies she now owns and operates under the Santana Group. But as she stepped into the unknown, she was surprised by how willing people were to help her, mentor her and see her succeed.

Mica Short was an introvert in high school. She didn’t even like ordering pizzas because she would have to talk to someone she didn’t know. A high school guidance counselor once suggested she become a zookeeper so that she could work with animals instead of people. However, her parents and school stressed the value of community service, and Short’s desire to positively impact El Paso helped her push past her shyness and into positions where she has worked with – and helped – a lot of people from all walks of life.

Monica Vargas-Mahar’s direction in life was in part shaped by her grandmother’s wrenching struggle with dementia. While she was deeply saddened by her grandmother’s vulnerable state, she was also moved by the care her grandmother received. Vargas-Mahar felt everyone needed the kind of care her grandmother got, and she knew she wanted to be involved in providing it. With this in mind, friends and mentors steered her toward health care administration, and after 15 years in the field, she is now CEO of The Hospitals of Providence Sierra Campus, a 350-bed hospital.

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