‘How can we not pay it forward?’: Remarkable Woman winner Rebecca Contreras reflects on community service


AUSTIN (KXAN) – A few months ago, we asked central Texans to tell us about the remarkable women in their lives. Hundreds of you responded. From those nominations, four women were selected as finalists in our Remarkable Women of Central Texas contest.

The finalists are truly remarkable. Marie Felan, a mother of three, has raised more than $35 million for non-profits in our area. Mickie Powers is a four-time cancer survivor, who works to help people facing homelessness find shelter. Emma Lea Mayton uses her talent as an art teacher to help students and to help preservation efforts at the historic Pioneer Farms.

The award for this year’s Remarkable Woman of Central Texas goes to Rebecca Contreras. Her story tracks the path of someone who went from rock bottom to becoming a millionaire entrepreneur. Along the way, she made the commitment to serve, realizing she could not have made her journey without help from others.

“I wouldn’t be alive today. If it weren’t for those people that invested in me. I literally would be in jail or dead. Because I had put myself in such bad environments,” Contreras told us.

At 13, Rebecca started doing drugs. She said it allowed her to “escape reality.” She spiraled downward and became involved with an older man whom she said was a drug dealer in Austin at the time. Rebecca became a teenage mom and now admits she was not caring for her daughter back then. Instead, she became entrenched in a life of drugs and partying.

That is when she decided to make a change.

Rebecca earned her GED and started talking to inner-city high school students. She shared her story and advised them to stay clear of gangs and drugs. That’s how she met the love of her life, her husband David.

David also grew up with very little and wanted to give back to others. Together, the couple started a nonprofit called Launch Pad that helps troubled youth in Austin.

“We felt you know, how can we not pay it forward?” Contreras said during an interview after learning she was the winner of the Remarkable Woman contest in central Texas. Her husband joined her in the KXAN studio during the live announcement.

“I always say start with one,” Rebecca said as David stood by her side. “I was that one child. He was that one child that somebody invested in. So, we start with the one and then grow from there.”

Contreras acknowledged the other nominees at the moment when she learned that she was the winner.

“Just overwhelmed, particularly because of the amazing stories of all the women and the nominees and the top four,” she said. “I’m just glad to be in the bucket. Just glad to be in the bucket.”