As people across the nation are talking more and more about Chattanooga, we find them coming here to make it their home as well. Jocelyn Loza became a Chattanooga transplant when she and her husband Alex made the big leap from their home in Chicago.
Raised by her parents, Mauricio and Gladys Avendano, Jocelyn gets emotional just mentioning her father who passed away three years ago.
“He was my everything. My father was a handsome man with a beautiful heart. It is because of him that I am the independent woman I am today,” she says proudly.
Mauricio came from El Salvador in the 70s and established his own trucking company in the States. He would get parenting advice from Jocelyn’s aunt and her friends’ mothers.
“He did well as a single parent and worked hard to put us in the best schools and to care about our education,” Jocelyn says.
Like most kids, Jocelyn dreamed of being many things. “Everyone was telling me, I should be an attorney because I was always so straight forward and would stick to my guns. It was actually a dream I wanted to do, but after taking the LSAT too many times, I decided I didn’t want it anymore,” Jocelyn laughs.
Whatever Jocelyn thought of doing, it was usually an authoritative position with government and helping others and, at one point, she thought of law enforcement.
After attending two years of college in Chicago, Jocelyn then left for Andrews University in Michigan. It was only two hours away and she could still be close to her family. She obtained her master’s degree in public relations and minored in foreign languages and is fluent in three languages.
“Being multi-lingual was very important to me. It helps you to understand a different culture,” Jocelyn says.
She had taken a course in Italy and, after graduating, she moved to Milan for a year living with her aunt.
“Milan is the fashion capital of the world and, at first, I was a little intimidated wearing my flip-flops,” Jocelyn laughs. “I wanted to experience a different culture and it was a great experience. I feel everyone should live in a different country for a year just to experience a different culture and to expand your mind,” she advises.
Jocelyn moved back to Chicago and worked in commercial real estate for the next three years until the recession hit. She was then fortunate to work with an advertising and marketing agency that targeted the Hispanic market.
The next few years brought a rollercoaster of emotions as Jocelyn learned that her father was diagnosed with gastric cancer and had only a few months to live.
“When the doctor told me that, I literally felt punched in the stomach. I had just gotten engaged so I was happy, but sad and I had to balance both,” Jocelyn admits tearfully.
Emotions ran high as Jocelyn and Alex tried to plan their wedding soon enough so that her dad would be able to be there, but he died within weeks of their happy day. Gladys was proud to stand in and walk her daughter down the aisle.
The life-changing up and down events continued as Jocelyn learned she would become a new mother and she just needed to take a break for a while.
Her husband Alex was working in business and with Chicago Public Schools and is currently an art professor at Lee University. With every turn she made in the city, Jocelyn was reminded of her dad. When Alex was laid off in July of 2010, the couple decided to take a leap of faith and move to Chattanooga to start all over.
Jocelyn laughs, “It was a long drive with a four-month-old screaming. I tried to calm Emie and people thought I was talking to myself down the road. When we got here, it was a big relief. We left great jobs in Chicago and it had taken a financial toll on us, but here everything is pretty affordable.”
Alex established his own art studio with classic, realistic training. He owns Loza Studio & Atelier of Figurative Art on Chestnutt Creek Road in Apison.
Jocelyn had the opportunity to work with the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce with their “Chattanooga Can Do” campaign. “It was a temporary position but it was great exposure getting to know what Chattanooga was about and getting to know the city and community leaders,” Jocelyn says.
After a stint with CBL and getting laid off, Jocelyn returned her focus to her public relations skills.
“In January of this year, I decided to established Hoopla Public Relations and I help small businesses and not for profits,” she says. “What I do is vital for small businesses – how do people know you exist if you don’t put yourself out there? So I have been bringing awareness in that.”
Through her efforts, Jocelyn was able to get clients together and decided to create “I Heart Chatt” which was established this August.
Alex had created the logo with a picture of the Walnut Street Bridge as he and his wife have been involved with everything “Chattanooga”.
“I just asked my husband if we had something like ‘I love NY’ so we started to do our research but couldn’t find anything that showed pride for Chattanooga. He designed this amazing logo with the WSB, because it is a historical monument and it depicts strength. It demonstrates the strength and ability of the people in Chattanooga - they don’t give up. And, that is how my husband and I are. We feel at home,” Jocelyn says.
“The people here understand each other. At first it was strange when a total stranger would say "hi" but after getting to know the Southern culture, it became natural to us. Coming from a big city where everyone is too busy to say "hi" “Now when you see me, I wear my heart and I am smiling and saying hi.”
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