MITRE Austin/San Antonio iHub site leader Bobby Blount believes in the power of opportunity to transform lives. From solar race cars to mentoring to micro-lending initiatives, his longtime volunteerism in and around the city has made a lasting impact.
MITRE employees take our mission of solving problems for a safer world to heart—and to their communities. Our "In the Community" series highlights the many ways our people make a difference in neighborhoods across the country and around the globe. When he arrived in San Antonio in 1996, Bobby Blount made it his mission to help the area thrive. He did just that—and more.
Above, Blount (far right) joined by LiftFund and San Antonio Area African American Community Fund leadership (l-r) Jimmie Keenan, Michele Hoskins, Janie Barrera, and Marva Crisp. (Photo courtesy of Bobby Blount.)
I grew up traveling the world—my dad was in the Air Force for 29 years. We lived in Ohio, Mississippi, Utah, and Panama, to name a few places. Everywhere we went, there was a need in those communities, and Dad stepped up to help through his military service or on his personal time. My mom worked in a daycare, so there was definitely an early focus on helping kids.
My experience living in different communities showed me that many people all over the world are not exposed to the opportunities they need to become successful. This is why I try to provide as many opportunities as possible in my community work.
I also understood the challenges my dad faced dealing with racism and segregation when he grew up—in another time he would have had many more opportunities. I respect all that he accomplished and knew I had to take things a little further.
I'm on the San Antonio Northside Independent School District Board, a large school district with over 106,000 students, and also serve on other regional, state, and local non-profit boards. I see a lot of what's needed within education and where I can potentially have an impact.
When I started community activities in San Antonio back in 1996, we asked leaders at MITRE to mentor at a couple of schools. Nobody else was mentoring, so we established a relationship with elementary and middle schools in an underserved community. Our first project was the Texas Solar Race Car event, a program held in partnership with NASA and other organizations.
We started with 13 kids. Fast forward to last year, prior to the pandemic, we were serving 1,300 kids in 90 schools.
The reason we focus on elementary school is that idea of impact. If you support and mentor elementary school kids, or even kids as young as kindergarten, exposing them to STEM or other paths to success can have a much bigger impact.
If you’re really going to have an impact, you can't do it overnight. It's not just about helping out or volunteering one or two times. For some things, if you really want to move the needle, it takes time to understand the persistent needs in a community. That’s why I try to stay with things long term to move the needle beyond having an impact on just one or two people.
Around 2008, the San Antonio Area Foundation was providing services in the community and wanted to become more representative of San Antonio’s diverse population. They created three community outreach funds to promote philanthropy by and for underrepresented and underserved communities: the African American Community Fund, the Latino Foundation of San Antonio, and the Women & Girls Development Fund.
Think Globally, Act Locally
For the African American Community Fund, they reached out to African American leaders in San Antonio. We wrote our own charter and decided to focus on philanthropy. We promote and advocate financial philanthropy that enhances the quality of life for African Americans in the San Antonio Area. Proceeds go to nonprofits that have 70% impact in the African American community. It can be in health, education, social justice, criminal justice, the arts, etc.
The Foundation also realized that there are a lot of businesses that need help. So, we partnered with a micro-loan institution called Lift Fund and created the Dream Makers Fund for small minority-owned businesses that can't get loans from banks. We wanted to build a financial base, so business owners and organizations no longer had to operate day-to-day when it came to funding. Recently, we created the first fund focused on social justice in San Antonio.
I’ve dedicated most of my life to serving my community, but I tell people even if they have one minute a day, you can help somebody. If you just take a few minutes to really help someone it means so much. Just taking that extra step to think about how you can have a positive impact is how you build up communities and people over time.
—by Bobby Blount, as told to Aishia Caryn Freeman
Inclusion and diversity have long been key elements of our culture. MITRE is committed to leading the way to a strong future through community involvement and volunteerism, locally and nationally, and we offer 40 hours of paid time to employees to volunteer during the workday for causes they care about. Learn more about working with us.