When Raul Bustillos ’19 was a child, his days included crossing the border in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, to attend private school in El Paso. He says he wasn’t the stereotype one might have in mind. His family enjoyed a membership at the country club, a beautiful home, and an abundance of food, clothes, and toys. His parents wanted him to have the best education, and they were giving him an ideal life.
As the years went on, he began learning English and more about American culture. However, around age 13, he began noticing a major shift in his city. Growing up in a place where drug cartels and violence were becoming rampant, Bustillos experienced the paralyzing fear and horror that came with living in Juarez— a place where at one time people were being killed daily.
“The things I saw were horrific, and sometimes people I knew were the ones being killed,” he said. “And then my father disappeared. I have not seen or spoken to him since 2008. Suddenly, my family went from having it all to having nothing. Since he was our only source of income, we were evicted from our home and had our cars repossessed. My mother sold all her heirloom jewelry and her wedding ring to put food on the table.”
Bustillos is very candid about sharing his experience, saying he knows everything he and his family went through led him to where he is today. The Master of Accountancy major is now a digital financial crimes fighter and account executive at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in Katy, Texas. Despite his harrowing journey, he never gave up.
“When I was 13, we moved to El Paso, Texas, permanently,” he said. “It was a rough neighborhood where we were crammed into a small two-bedroom apartment. My brother, who was 24 at the time, became our new head of household. He sacrificed his medical aspirations to work at a call center from home to help get us through as best he could. He was then, and is still today, my hero. He laid his life down for us so we could live.”
Eventually, the family moved to Dallas, where Bustillos worked multiple jobs throughout high school while also becoming involved with his high school wrestling and football teams.
“I remember thinking as a junior in high school that I could never go to college,” he said. “My hard work eventually paid off and I was recruited to play football at TLU.” “If I could go back in time, I would tell my younger self that God’s hand has always been on my life, and that there is a confidence and peace that surpasses understanding in all circumstances.”
At the beginning of his second semester, his brother called to let him know their mother had been struggling with some mental health issues while he had been away.
“She could no longer take care of herself and maintain a job,” he said. “I knew I needed a job to pay my way through college and help my family financially I convinced a friend with a car to get a job with me at a restaurant so I could get a ride to work. Then, I recruited four other friends to work at this restaurant so I could get coverage on all the transportation to my multiple shifts until I could afford my own car. I worked 55+ hours a week, took 15 hours of classes, and kept up with football. I ended up quitting football after that off season because it just became too much.”
He began working 80-hour weeks in the summer to make as much money as he could, so he could focus on school during the academic year. Although his college years were not easy, Bustillos heard the Gospel in early 2018 and his life has never been the same. In 2019, he launched Christian Fellowship, the largest faith-based organization on campus.
He began serving as vice president for TLU’s chapter of Water to Thrive, a nonprofit that raises money to build wells in Ethiopia, where he secured the largest donation to aid clean water efforts in the chapter’s history. Bustillos says other pivotal experiences he had at TLU were the relationships he formed with professors.
"I found a mentor in Business Administration and Accounting Professor Melanie Thompson,” he said. “She spoke life into me by believing in me and teaching me to never give up. She emphasized that pressure develops great leaders and nothing in life that is good is going to come easy. At TLU, you are surrounded by people that want to see you succeed, and accountability really is a beautiful thing. Professor Sally Cook, Dr. Fern Garza, and Professor Thompson really guided me along the way.”
Now at PwC, Bustillos works in the financial crime unit where his team oversees projects ranging from anti-money laundering efforts to annual assessments.
“With our technology, we can help businesses automate many services so they can have a more robust system. We are helping our clients be more proactive rather than reactive, and more efficient and informative. We are at the forefront of mitigating risk and fraud, and protecting the brand of the customers we serve.”
In addition to his success at PwC, he was featured as an Outstanding Hispanic Executive in 2022 and recently became an ordained minister. He also currently serves as the young adult pastor at Powerhouse Church in Katy.
“My advice to younger people and students is that I think you will only go as far as your visions will allow you to see,” he said. “We must take care of one another. I am still very close to all my friends from college. I love TLU and I’m so proud to have attended. As someone who was once considered an at-risk kid himself, I encourage anyone who feels stuck, cornered, or paralyzed by their circumstances to seek out support from their community. There is always light at the end of the tunnel. Don’t give up. Keep fighting.”