Forty Acres prepared legislator’s career

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Longhorns in the Lege

Standing at the top of the South Mall, he leans forward as momentum builds and he glides down the sidewalk of the hill.

Suddenly, he’s going faster and can see the cars, bicycles and buses passing at 21st Street in front of him.

He panics. “I don’t know how to brake!” There’s only one thing he thinks of doing — the grass to his right cushions his fall as he tumbles to a stop.

Ten years ago, Jose Manuel Lozano was a government student when he found himself laughing hysterically, facedown in the grass.

Looking ahead, he could see the Littlefield Fountain. Between classes he’d sit at the top of the wall overlooking the fountain and stare at the skyline, the Capitol dome straight ahead. That caught his eye.

“I’d like to be there one day,” he thought.

Now, the clumsy rollerblader sits in the Capitol he admired every day. Last year the Democrat was voted into the Texas House of Representatives for District 43 of Kingsville to serve his first term in the Legislature.

“Now I’m here,” Rep. Lozano said. “I can see the dorm I lived in from one of the Capitol windows. It’s kind of odd thinking, ‘Well, now I’m inside,’ when I use to look over here and dream of being here.”

During the current legislative session, he said he is working to ensure Texas remains a leader in oil and gas production, as well as reducing the amount of cuts to higher education.

Lozano first became interested in the Legislature as a freshman in high school during a University Interscholastic League speaking and debate competition when he toured UT and the Capitol.

“At that moment I chose — this is the school I want to come to,” he said. “So I worked hard academically to get into UT and majored in government.”

The Legislative Internship Program caught his attention. He wanted to do anything that would get him back inside the Capitol. As an intern, he got to be there a guaranteed four hours every other day. But that wasn’t enough. Soon enough, he was staying at the Capitol until 10 at night. Walking up the granite steps every day, meeting lawmakers — the hustle and bustle of Capitol life where “time flies” soon took over. His studies began to get left behind.

“The hardest thing I had to overcome was trying to walk before I could learn how to crawl,” Lozano said. “Sometimes I found I would neglect my studies.”

The course he enjoyed the most while at UT was a policy studies in redistricting course in 2001. The professor he learned from that year had helped draw the boundaries of House District 43, the very same area Lozano would represent years later.

“He was one of my students and was very inquisitive,” said Ramiro Canales, assistant executive director of the Texas Association of School Administrators and former UT professor.

Lozano approached Canales for advice on whether he should pursue state office in the future. Even at that age, Lozano told his classmates about wanting to serve one day.

“I encouraged him to do so,” Canales said. “I just never imagined that it would be 10 years later and he is actually going to be participating in redistricting after I actually taught him that information in a class.”

Looking back, Lozano said many people helped him get to where he is now, including Canales. He wants to do the same for other students.

“If any UT student wants to come to my office, even if they’re not my constituents, we’re brothers and sisters,” Lozano said. “So, I’m here for them to help in any way they need, anything they need — advice or letters of recommendation, help finding a scholarship or help in getting into a program — I’m here to help.”