I often find myself deep in thought, contemplating “what-if” scenarios. What if I won the lottery? What if my parents never emigrated from Mexico? What if I became a teacher and not an accountant? These hypothetical scenarios allow me to think outside the box and not limit my options or ideas to my current circumstances. After a long day’s commute home, I thought to myself, “What if I could turn back time and go back to September 1, 2008?” You see, for many, this date is insignificant. But for me, September 2008 threw my world off its axis. Lives were lost. Some lives were greatly disrupted. When the third costliest storm in United States history hit hard, unparalleled potential financial devastation loomed.
Shortly after college, I joined the HORNE team as a compliance reviewer. My first projects were challenging for many technical reasons, among others. But for me, the hardest part was my personal connection to the subrecipient—a small beachside city, just south of my hometown. This was my former stomping grounds. Compliance reviews come after the fact, after costs are incurred, and unfortunately, often without the necessary dotting of “i’s” and crossing of the “t’s” that come with federal grants. In an effort to return normalcy to their daily operation, many subrecipients overlook the fine print that comes along with federal grants. But for me, this place mattered. Helping this community was much more than just my day job—it was a part of me and something I had to do.
Let’s fast forward a couple years: I now lead a team of superhero sidekicks, Texans that are passionate about regulations, compliance, and “paying subrecipients the money they deserve, on time and with the least chance of deobligation.” Our HORNE team is chock full of avid learners, as we know our subrecipients trust us to stay current on regulation updates so they can continue with daily operations. In an era of increased transparency and budget cut backs, we are able to provide timely feedback in an effort to reduce future deobligations. Grading someone’s homework when the financial ramifications can be devastating to a public organization is difficult, but I have learned that when it is done with empathy, compassion, and genuine love for your community, it can be incredibly rewarding. I have learned to look back on that urgency I felt for my first subrecipient and let it translate to others.
If I could turn back time to September 1, 2008, I would tell myself that the passion and urgency I was feeling was more valuable than I could have imagined. I would encourage myself to continue to dive deep and fully understand the regulations and principles I was studying. Because little did I know, tapping into that true love for a community, would come in quite handy nine years later when I could use that spark to help other people, families, and communities. Trusting your gut and leaning in pays off.
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