Opportunity in the making
Monday, May 22, 2023
Media Contact: Stephen Howard | Manager of Communications | 405-744-4363 | firstname.lastname@example.org
A good elevator pitch can be a 60-second work of art. In the time it takes to zip up a few floors, a crafty salesperson can articulate what they’re about and how their talents can elevate an organization.
Angel Freytez Jr., 20, happens to be a natural. In March, Freytez’s elevator pitch helped the Spears School of Business Center for Sales and Service Excellence (CSSE) earn a top-10 finish at the Arizona Collegiate Sales Competition in Tempe. The hardest part for Freytez is squeezing his remarkable story into just 60 seconds. His pitch goes like this:
“Hi, my name is Angel Freytez Jr. I'm a marketing and international business senior at Oklahoma State University. I'm eager to tell you how I can drive up sales at your company with my drive, discipline and leadership.
“First, my drive. At the age of 16, I graduated high school in Venezuela. Frustrated from the lack of civil liberties and opportunities, I decided to move to the United States. Working two part-time jobs while learning English taught me a lot about business, which I'd be able to translate in a role at your company.
"Second, my discipline. I spent the past two summers working for the Sewell Automotive group, a car sales company in Texas, learning their sales process. Having the ability to integrate a human touch into that process is what differentiates me from other sales associates.
"Lastly, my leadership. I currently serve as the president of Theta Chi fraternity at OSU, which allows me to oversee and manage an executive board of 16 members to achieve our goals and overcome challenges. I'm eager now to find my career, so I’d love to talk with you about opportunities at your company.”
That isn’t your average elevator pitch, but then again Freytez isn’t your average college student. He’s the type of person who is never going to let his circumstances stop him from succeeding — a lesson he learned in his home country of Venezuela, where opportunities are few.
For decades, Venezuela was one of the most developed and prosperous countries in the world, that is, until the political upheaval of the 1980s and 1990s. Two military coup attempts in 1992 went hand-in-hand with severe political corruption and an economic crisis that saw the gross domestic product of the country fall by a third. Hyperinflation caused the purchasing power of the average salary in Venezuela to drop by two-thirds in just a 20-year span.
Freytez was born in 2002, just four years after Hugo Chaves and his totalitarian regime took office, and his parents simply didn’t see a future in Venezuela for their family. They instilled Angel with a drive for success and they knew his path to prosperity would go through America.
“For young professionals, for students, there are no opportunities,” Freytez said. “You’re basically going to go to school for four or five years, and if you somehow get a job it’s going to pay you nothing. It’s not going to be enough for you to make a living. But I was fortunate that I was born in the U.S. when my dad was here training as a firefighter.”
One of the places Angel Freytez Sr. was training to be a firefighter was at OSU Fire Service Training, which is among the elite instruction centers for emergency responders. The quiet Stillwater community made an impression on Angel Sr., and he knew that OSU would be the perfect school for his son to attend someday.
After Angel’s Jr.’s sophomore year of high school, he and his father made the 2,582-mile trek from Caracas to Stillwater with a goal of finding a path forward, an eventual landing spot for the 14-year-old who didn’t speak a word of English.
After touring the town, they wandered into OSU’s Family Resource Center and happened to meet Ryan Nicklas, who was in the process of earning his master’s degree in teaching English as a second language while also working for the center. The kindhearted Tulsa native was making plans for an extended stay in the country of Colombia the following year, and he immediately saw something in Angel Jr. He decided to help by opening his home and his talents to the kid from Venezuela.
“So I said, ‘Why don't you help me with my Spanish, and I'll help you with your English,’” Nicklas said. “That's kind of how it started.”
Angel spent the next few months at the Nicklas’ apartment, where Ryan and his wife, Gabby, taught English to Angel while getting him accustomed to life in America. They also mapped out a plan for him to return in two years after he finished high school in Venezuela.
On Sept. 2, 2018, Angel came back to America to stay with the Nicklases, but this time it was for good. Angel continued to hone his English and he found a job as a waiter to save money for school. He also learned how to drive a car thanks to the patience and bravery of Gabby and Ryan, who suddenly found themselves raising a 16-year-old despite being in their 20s.
“Sometimes there were these awkward conversations,” Ryan said. “Angel would make friends and he would say, ‘Hey, I’m going out tonight.’ And we would be like, ‘Where? With who? What are you going to do? Text us when you get there.’”
Gabby, a 2014 Spears Business management and marketing alumna, chuckles when she thinks back to those uncomfortable moments where the couple had to balance their desire to keep Angel safe with the reality that he isn’t actually their son.
“You don't know until you're faced with those situations, and then you're like, oh, this is what my parents meant when they wanted to know who I was going out with,” she said.
Gabby is currently pursuing a master’s degree from OSU in global studies and Ryan is a Ph.D. student in applied linguistics, so Angel couldn’t have hand-picked a better home to begin his academic pursuits.
It took Angel a year to establish residency, earn enough money to get his own apartment and enroll at Northern Oklahoma College (NOC) in Stillwater, where he quickly showed his academic mettle. NOC honored him as the school’s outstanding marketing student in April 2021.
After transferring to OSU, Angel wasn’t content with simply taking classes. He wanted to get involved, both socially and academically. Theta Chi fraternity welcomed him with open arms, and few students have put the resources of Spears Business to work like Angel. He turned a guest-speaker in professor Dr. Maribeth Kuzmeski’s marketing class into a multi-year internship at the Sewell Automotive Group, and he put the Eastin Center for Career Readiness to work crafting his résumé and professional appearance.
He also joined the CSSE, where among other endeavors, he learned to boil his remarkable story down into a 60-second, award-winning elevator pitch.
“When I say it out loud, it sounds crazy,” said Angel, acknowledging that his journey to this point has been extraordinary. “At each step, I was just seeing what was in front of me at the time. I wasn’t looking at the bigger picture. I was just focusing on what I could do next — one step after the other. Looking back at it, it was quite a bit.”
His next steps could be just as remarkable. Slowly but surely, he’s bringing his family to the United States. Angel Sr. has relocated to San Marcos, Texas, where he is an outreach trainer for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and a senior safety specialist for Texas State University. Angel’s mother, Acelin Mezones, is in Stillwater on a visitor’s visa, and is applying for citizenship with a goal to become a nurse or a business owner in town. Angel Jr.’s nephew, 21-year-old Angelo Freytez (“we treat each other like brothers,” said Angel) will soon start school at OSU as a pre-med student.
Angel Jr. is spending his summer in Houston as a sales intern for the Sewell Automotive Group and plans to graduate from OSU with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and international business with a concentration in sales in December 2023. He could see himself working for Sewell in a full-time sales capacity in the future, but he’s also considering law school. Angel would love to help people like himself, who grew up seeking a better opportunity and don’t know how to make it happen.
“I was fortunate enough that I had people like Ryan and Gabby and that I have really good family,” Angel said. “A lot of people that immigrate to the U.S., and even some people that are already in the U.S., they understand that the opportunity is there, but they don't have the support beyond those opportunities to help them reach those goals. I want to help put that structure in place.”