Michelle Villarreal, 30, was born the middle child of three siblings and Jose Lugo and Arelis Albert. Her father, a soldier, worked in field artillery, posted to Fort Stewart, Georgia.
Shortly after her birth, the family moved to the U.S. Army Garrison Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, New York. By the time she was 4 years old, they would make a third and final move.
“When I was 4 years old, we packed into our van with my beloved chihuahua, Lucky,” she said. “And we drove all the way from New York to Central Texas. And it’s been home ever since.”
After graduating from Temple High School in 2007, Villarreal completed one year at Texas A&M University in College Station and returned home, attending both Central Texas College and Temple College before transferring to Texas A&M University-Central Texas in Killeen.
By 2012, she had earned a degree in psychology, and by 2015, she had graduated with her master’s degree in counseling psychology, becoming a licensed professional counselor. Today, Villarreal is a mental health therapist with Presbyterian Children’s Home Services.
“I love Central Texas,” she says. “I wanted to do more to give back to this community because it’s supported me and encouraged me for literally my entire life up to now.”
And so, this accomplished woman, by now married six years to Ruben, 32, and mother to three of her own children, daughters, Cora, 5, Ellie, 2, and Honor, 3 months — who all but certainly had enough to do, moving through both undergraduate and graduate programs, entering the working world, marriage and motherhood – reached beyond all of that and found the Junior League. Beginning as a member, Villarreal was placed as co-chair for new members, then became finance vice president, and president-elect in 2018-2019. She had been, she said, president of the Bell County Junior League a total of five days at that point.
But it is not the number of days in office that matter to her. In fact, that probably matters the least. To Villarreal, what she cherishes the most is the opportunity to change the perceptions of exclusivity often associated with Junior League activities. The fact that she is the first woman of color — and the first Hispanic — to be president of Bell County Junior League registers with her, of course, but only because she wants others who may have presumed they weren’t welcome to know that that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Villarreal reports that the current Bell County Junior League has close to 40 members and plans to grow significantly over the next two years.
“When people hear the words, ‘Junior League,’ they might not be thinking of the Junior League that exists in 2019. We are broadening our scope to be even more open and inclusive. Our members and volunteers are professional women — physicians, lawyers, educators, and businesswomen — all with careers who are committed to volunteerism as a way of giving back to the community.”