Howard Rogers passes the AARC leadership role to Jose Cervantes after 17 years

click to enlarge Jose Cervantes
Jose Cervantes

Looking back at the past 17 years, Howard Rogers recalls challenges at every turn in serving San Antonio’s HIV-positive community and the LGBTQ community in general. Those trials also came with great triumphs that have left the Alamo Area Resource Center poised to expand as Rogers steps down as executive director on Dec. 31 and hands the baton to his deputy Jose Cervantes.

When Rogers took the helm of AARC in 2004, the budget was $1.4 million and the 15-person staff had little money to even think of growing services beyond a client base of 900 to 1,000 people.

“We were in a tight position, constantly looking for money,” Rogers said.

The organization now has a track record of getting grants, working with insurers and has 50 employees taking care of about 3,000 unduplicated clients each year with services such as HIV treatment and counseling, social services, testing and HIV prep. The Health Equity Clinic, which celebrated its fifth year in 2021, also continues to expand.

There is a sense of satisfaction “knowing inside myself what I’ve accomplished in the last 17 years. … It has been 17 years jam-packed with challenges,” Rogers said. Overcoming those challenges is “about a lot of people who have worked alongside me and brought their passions and talents to bear. I’ve been for fortunate enough to have good people around me.”

Sister Ernestine Trujillo, a long-time AARC board member, said she first met Rogers during his time at SAMMinistries, a nonprofit organization that fights homelessness, and that she encouraged him to join the AARC board.

“He always had the trust of the board,” Trujillo said. “He had a lot of foresight. As needs were arising, he was willing to take the steps necessary. He always had a great deal of determination.”

Even when the organization hit rough patches financially, Rogers found a way to make sure the staff was paid and services continued, she said. “He kept the boat afloat, as they say, and continued to move forward.”

Rogers, she said, also was adept at using statistics and finding just the right information to attract grant money from organizations. He also kept those relationships in good standing by showing results and making it clear that the funds were used exactly as intended.

The veteran administrator said he will take some time to contemplate his next move.

“I’ve been working full time for 50 years now, so I’m looking forward to a break,” Rogers said.

click to enlarge Howard K. Rogers Health Equity Clinic
Howard K. Rogers Health Equity Clinic

While he has spent decades in nonprofit administration, Rogers said he may take up his original career as a licensed psychotherapist, an option made even more appealing by the flexibility brought about by new technology and the growing acceptance of telehealth.

“I’m not built to sit in a rocking chair with a glass of wine and a book.” A liver transplant several years ago gave him time to exercise and attend to his own mental and emotional health.

Rogers had been planning his retirement for more than a year, but the final hurdle was to find a successor. Instead of the proforma national search, the board honored his request to promote from within and train a 21-year veteran of social services for the role.

Jose Cervantes has been with AARC for five years, including a year and a half as deputy director. He also has a background of service at the San Antonio AIDS Foundation.

“I wanted to make sure there was good continuity when I left,” Rogers said. “We consult with one another every day. He has a very steady demeanor about him” and is gifted at handling personnel issues.

Rogers said the board of directors has asked him to act as a consultant and advisor to AARC through 2022.

Cervantes said he welcomes the continued involvement of his mentor.

“I’m very fortunate that I’ve been at AARC for five years, especially in my current position, in working with Howard,” Cervantes said of learning leadership skills that go beyond just management. Rogers mentored him in problem solving across every aspect of the operation, strategic thinking and much more.

One thing Rogers said he wishes he’d been able to do, even as the mission of AARC has expanded, is to make counseling services available to the broader LGBTQ community, and not just those with an HIV diagnosis. Because many of the people in that community, especially the younger ones, don’t have health insurance, it’s difficult to fund the program sustainably. That includes money to attract “culturally competent” licensed therapists.

“There’s a whole array of challenges in terms of becoming comfortable in one’s own skin,” and there aren’t many therapists who have that expertise or experience to help them, Rogers said. Older people have issues also, “but young people coming out, they need that support from community in a number of ways.”

Cervantes said he will be carrying out the mission of AARC’s past two decades, building on Rogers’ accomplishments and keeping the organization up to date with the changing time and technology.

Some funds have been set aside as seed capital for therapy services for the non-HIV LGBQT community of San Antonio, and the grant process has begun to try to make that expansion a reality, Cervantes said.

click to enlarge Alamo Area Resource Center
Alamo Area Resource Center

Investments in telehealth technology since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 allowed the Health Equity Clinic to greatly increase the number of people served. Cervantes said he believes that also will help decrease the cost of providing expanded mental health services in the future.

The organization also will continue to increase its digital footprint on social media so people are aware of the myriad of services that are available, he said.

Cervantes said his goal as a leader is to “inspire people to do amazing work. We have a very dedicated and passionate team at AARC.”

Alamo Area Resource Center is located at 303 N. Frio St., San Antonio, Texas 78207 | www.aarcsa.com
Scroll to read more Paid Content articles
Join the San Antonio Current Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.

Newsletters

Join SA Current Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.