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Greater Tulsa Reporter


Moises Echeverria Uses Background to Benefit Tulsa

By EMILY RAMSEY
Contributing Editor

2018 TYPROS CHAIR: Moises Echeverria, 2018 chairman of Tulsa’s Young Professionals and executive director of the Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice (OCCJ), stands in OCCJ’s offices in downtown Tulsa.


EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers


Moises Echeverria’s path to the Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice began 15 years ago when he experienced firsthand the nonprofit organization’s mission to spread respect and understanding.

A Mexico native, Echeverria attended OCCJ’s Anytown Leadership Institute as a high school student in 2002. The one-week program, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, involves high school students from across the state with a focus on social justice, leadership and embracing differences, says Echeveria.

The idea is to build inclusive communities built on mutual respect and understanding, according to OCCJ’s website.

Students engage in workshops and activities that raise their awareness of other cultures and ideas, and then they go home and recreate that same feeling in their communities, Echeverria says. “Hopefully, they become ambassadors in their own communities.”

When Echeverria attended Anytown in the aftereffects of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the country was experiencing a heightened level of anti-immigrant rhetoric, he says. “I had begun to internalize that rhetoric and started to believe that I was not wanted in the U.S. and that it would be better if I leave.

“That event (Anytown) was the first time that I felt proud to be who I was since I had moved to the U.S.”

The leadership program had the intended effect on Echeverria: to empower him to bring about change in his community and to celebrate his strengths, he continues.
After high school, Echeverria earned his bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma State University in business administration.

His professional connection to OCCJ began one year after college graduation. He spent two years working as program coordinator and one year as director of programs and operations before being named interim CEO in early 2016.

In November 2016, Echeverria was named OCCJ’s president and CEO.

OCCJ is dedicated to achieving respect and understanding for all people through education, advocacy and dialogue, with the goal to eliminate bias, bigotry and racism in Oklahoma, says its website.

“With the current polarizing nature of our politics, our work is critical now, but it’s always been critical,” says Echeveria.

OCCJ originates various programs, initiatives and partnerships, with one of its most important being its large board of directors that is made up of business, community and religious leaders, he says.

“After attending our meetings, those individuals then go back to their communities and live the OCCJ mission.”

OCCJ’s program “Different and the Same” starts with children in the second grade, educating them about prejudice. It is based on videos developed by the company affiliated with “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” that teaches lessons about differences, respect and getting along with others.

Another program involves interfaith study groups, many individuals who have been involved nearly 30 years, he says. “It’s about building meaningful relationships, learning to live together with our differences and respecting them.”

This year, Echeverria has remained especially busy with his additional responsibilities as 2018 Chairman of Tulsa’s Young Professionals (TYPros). Echeverria joined the organization in 2013.

His efforts as Chairman have been multi-focused, with his goals revolving around increasing TYPros’ inclusiveness, a greater focus on state and local policy creation, and growing leaders.

Regarding state and local government, TYPros hosts its annual Day at the Capitol, which offers members a learning opportunity and to be a voice, he says.

In addition to that, “TYPros is working more with the Tulsa Regional Chamber to educate ourselves in order to provide a stronger voice on the city and state levels.”

The organization is also improving its political communication with its members, endeavoring to engage its many thousands-large membership.

Another area of focus has been on the attraction and retention of next generation of leaders, which is already one of TYPros’ greatest strengths, Echeverria says. TYPros grooms individuals for two years in leadership roles in its eight crews. “Those individuals then go out into their communities and get more involved in nonprofits, local government.”

With all of Echeverria’s areas of focus this year, one element is missing: Streetcred, the organization’s highly-anticipated annual event that targets in-need areas of town, was put on hold for 2018.

The reason?

The seven-year event has a history of impacting the areas that it targets, but its original intention has changed, says Echeveria.

We want Streetcred to transition as Tulsa transitions, Echeverria says. But as the city changes, so must the mission of the event.

While Echeverria promises that Streetcred will be back next year, what it will look like is yet to be determined.

In the meantime, Echeverria’s and TYPros’ missions remain clear: helping Tulsa and Tulsans be the best that they can be.

Editor’s Note: Moises Echeverria, 2018 chairman of Tulsa’s Young Professionals and executive director of the Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice, is one of Greater Tulsa Reporter’s “10 to Watch in Greater Tulsa 2018,” as announced in its January 2018 issue. GTR was the first news group in Greater Tulsa to introduce “10 People to Watch,” which launched in January 2009.
Throughout the year, GTR is publishing a series of articles, featuring each of its “10 to Watch,” with next month’s issue to feature Susan Neal, executive director of Gilcrease Museum and vice president for public affairs for the University of Tulsa.

Updated 06-18-2018

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