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Much like a gifted athlete who dominates in three key aspects of his sport, Antonio Reyna, III – an Austin resident with deep roots in South Texas – is a rare triple threat in the fiercely competitive world of art: he excels with oil paints, sculpture, and photography. On Friday, December 11, through Sunday, December 20, Reyna will be the featured artist for a major exhibition being hosted by the Produce Gallery, located at 415 Peoples Street, in Corpus Christi – including a special reception in his honor on Saturday, December 12, from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. In a fitting tribute to his talent, Reyna’s exhibition also marks the grand opening of the Produce Gallery, a trailblazing effort of its own which promises to showcase the best talent and artwork in the Shining City by the Sea. Reyna’s mastery of his chosen profession is such that his accomplishments have attracted the attention and praise of Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, who views the Mission, Texas hometown product as representative of the scores of American success stories who hail from deep South Texas. “Antonio not only demonstrates tremendous talent and skills, but this outstanding man symbolizes a great new generation of Texans who will help lead our state now and in the future through their ingenuity, entrepreneurship, hard work, and determination,” said Hinojosa, whose constituents include all residents of Mission and Corpus Christi. “I am very proud of Antonio, who brings great credit to my senatorial district and even greater honor to his family.” Reyna encourages persons interested in his work or who wish to communicate with him to contact him online through his website, http://www.AGrainofUniverse.com, or at MySpace/AGrainofUniverse, via e-mail at Laidbackpa@hotmail.com, or at Twitter/ReynaIII. See lead story later in this posting.

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Sergio Muñoz, Jr. – a successful attorney, area municipal court judge, and South Texas native son – on Thursday, December 3, filed for state representative, House District 36, vowing to think big, fight hard, and help people from all walks of life. “I am running because I believe that my years in professional and community services, and my experience as a defender of the people, combined with my vision and commitment for all of us to have a better life, are positive qualifications to serve the good people of District 36,” said Muñoz. Dolly Elizondo, chair of the Hidalgo County Democratic Party, congratulates Muñoz after he finalized the campaign filing paperwork.

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Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, featured center, on Friday, December 4, signed up for his party’s nomination for a fifth two-year term for the House District 40 legislative district, which includes most of Edinburg. “It’s official. I filed. My hat’s in the ring,” said Peña. The Edinburg attorney said he decided to highlight an area business – The Boxing Gym, located in the downtown square – while promoting his own candidacy as well. Dolly Elizonda, chair of the Hidalgo County Democratic Party, accepted Peña’s legal papers for his reelection bid at the local business. Featured with Peña are two of his staff members – Maricela De León and Orlando Salinas.

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Diana Delgado graduated from South Texas College with an Associates of Science in Paralegal in May 2008. But it wasn’t her intended career path. “I attended another college and started out in criminal justice, but I made the switch to STC and decided to try something else,” she explained. “I took some classes in office management and got interested in paralegal studies because I really wanted to work in the legal field.” Now she is putting her degree to use as a paralegal assistant for Pharr family law lawyer Damian Orozco. Delgado isn’t finished with higher education. “My dream is to go on and earn my bachelors and then attend law school,” she concluded. “I am looking into the requirements now and look forward to opening up that next chapter in my life.” See story later in this posting.

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Leadership Edinburg Class XXI, along with the City of Edinburg and the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, will host the Reflections of Edinburg photography contest for non-professional photographers. Top pictures will be published in Edinburg’s Annual Reflections of Edinburg magazine. Deadline to register is December 15 by 5 p.m. Fees are $50 for adults and $25 for youths. Awards and prizes will be given to the top five entries in each category and division: People, Places, Culture and Nature. Photographers must reside in the Rio Grande Valley, and photos must be taken within the Edinburg city limits. For a complete list of rules/regulations and to register please visit http://www.edinburg.com or call 956/383-4974. Promoting Reflections of Edinburg photo contest are some of the current participants of Leadership Edinburg Class XXI. Seated, from left: Maris Aguirre; Lisa Chávez; Emilio Santos; and Myra L. Ayala Garza.  Standing, from left: Rita Flores; Juan Aguirre; Abel Vaquera; María Medina; and Sal Martínez.

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Members of the National Honor Society at South Junior High in Edinburg, featured here, secured the first place award in the school division during the 2009 Night of Light Parades held on Saturday, December 5.  Kenya Rose Clothing Store secured the top spot in the business category, followed by the City of McAllen and Vicky Roy Home Health Care. More than 50 entries were featured in the light parade, coordinated by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce.

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South Texan Antonio Reyna, III, artist extraordinaire, launches major exhibition Dec. 11 – 20 in Corpus Christi

Stop, look, and listen, baby
That’s my philosophy
I like what I see, I see what I like

It gives me such a glow

First thing in the morning,
Last thing at night

I look, stare, everywhere,
And see everything in sight

Rubberneckin’
by Elvis Presley

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Much like a gifted athlete who dominates in three key aspects of his sport, Antonio Reyna, III – an Austin resident with deep roots in South Texas – is a rare triple threat in the fiercely competitive world of art: he excels with oil paints, sculpture, and photography.

But he also has an intangible that is incapable of being perceived by the senses.

He is a self-made man who early in his young life reached deep into his soul, took a leap of faith in his God-given talents, and has transformed his dreams into reality.

On Friday, December 11, through Sunday, December 20, Reyna will be the featured artist for a major exhibition being hosted by the Produce Gallery, located at 415 Peoples Street, in Corpus Christi – including a special reception in his honor on Saturday, December 12, from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.

All events, including the gathering to recognize Reyna, are free and open to the public.

His exhibition, entitled “The Light That Bends Around Me,” will provide the public with the opportunity to meet with the Texas rising star, marvel at his body of work, and have the chance to purchase his investment-quality pieces at reasonable prices.

In a fitting tribute to his talent, Reyna’s exhibition also marks the grand opening of the Produce Gallery, a trailblazing effort of its own which promises to showcase the best talent and artwork in the Shining City by the Sea.

Reyna’s mastery of his chosen profession is such that his accomplishments have attracted the attention and praise of Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, who views the Mission, Texas hometown product as representative of the scores of American success stories who hail from deep South Texas.

“Antonio not only demonstrates tremendous talent and skills, but this outstanding man symbolizes a great new generation of Texans who will help lead our state now and in the future through their ingenuity, entrepreneurship, hard work, and determination,” said Hinojosa, whose constituents include all residents of Mission and Corpus Christi. “I am very proud of Antonio, who brings great credit to my senatorial district and even greater honor to his family.”

Reyna encourages persons interested in his work or who wish to communicate with him to contact him online through his website, http://www.AGrainofUniverse.com, or at MySpace/AGrainofUniverse, via e-mail at Laidbackpa@hotmail.com, or at Twitter/ReynaIII.

Persons planning to attend are being asked to let exhibit organizers know by contacting them at RSVP@ProduceCulture.com

In advance of his exhibition, which comes even before reaching his milestone 30th birthday, Reyna shared some of his perspectives on what it takes to pursue a vision, the importance of family and friends, and the need to encourage others to not be discouraged by challenges.

Question

Where were you born and raised?

Antonio Reyna, III

I was born in McAllen in 1980, and I am 29 years of age. I was raised in Mission, Texas – which I consider my hometown – as well as having lived in El Paso, Texas, and in Hawaii. I have lived in Austin for about eight years, and then moved to San Antonio for two years, where I had a working studio downtown.  I am now back in Austin.

Question

After graduating from Mission High School, did you immediately look for work in your chosen profession, did you look at a military career, or did you go to college?

Antonio Reyna, III

I attended Concordia University in Austin for one year, then continued at Austin Community College the following year. I learned a lot but I was focusing on my professional development. When I first moved to Austin, I was involved in all kinds of great work, including being a bartender, audio-visual technician, musician, and DJ. I also worked for several Travis County departments in order to make ends meet. I do have to acknowledge the fact that the people who I worked with at Travis County were very supportive of my art, and encouraged me to focus on my craft full time. Then, I opened a company that dealt in different kinds of media, video and photography. My company served as a crucial foundation, and it just stemmed from there to my focus on a paintings.

Question

How did you wind up pursuing a career as an artist and a photographer?

Antonio Reyna, III

When you are surrounded by people who love and appreciate art, music and photography, you absorb its energy. When you have family members like my mom, grandmother, brother and sister who are not afraid to try something different, it is inspirational.

Since I was a child, I was always working on art and photography projects. Whether it was with oil paints, ceramics, old black-and-white movie cameras, or my mom’s Canon, my focus was always on the creation of “art”.

My mother (business/political consultant Petra Reyna of Mission) was a photographer and was always experimenting with lighting, screens, taking pictures of my cousin’s shoes.  On the other hand, my maternal grandmother, Trinidad García, who lives in La Joya (Texas), was into ceramics. She had her own kiln and was always testing her ceramic creations.

My sister, Marissa Treviño, has always been on the forefront of what I think is cool.  She facilitates an avenue for me to get to where I want to go, whether it is to a physical location or to develop ideas that I have.

My brother, Gabriel Reyna, is tremendously creative.  We’ll bounce ideas back and forth until we get something cool going on, whether it involves music, art, writings – whatever. That gets the wheels turning until we get results. Then, we’ll analyze the results, delete them, or move forward with them.

I studied art in high school, but I have never had any formal training in art, photography or music. It has all been self-taught.

Question

Who are some of the other influential persons who have helped you in your professional life, and what did they do?

Antonio Reyna, III

It starts with my family and friends believing in me. If one person believes in you, that’s all you really need to gain the confidence in yourself to begin a career. Mixed into that, I have begun visiting and exploring Europe to study the works of master artists, which has been of considerable help.

Question

How many paintings, sculptures and photographic renditions have you developed, and what are they about?

Antonio Reyna, III

I have hundreds of creations, from subjects ranging from women, abstract relationships, family, friends, and my surroundings, mostly. I have participated in group shows in San Antonio and Austin to learn more about these gatherings. I have learned that there is a lot of planning and production involved in order to make sure everything is ready. But the exhibition at Produce Gallery will be my first solo formal exhibition.

Question

You have entitled your upcoming exhibition as “The Light That Bends Around Me”.  Please explain what that means.

Antonio Reyna, III

“The Light That Bends Around Me” refers to the tremendous sensations one would experience traveling extremely fast. It is as if I were a shooting star speeding through the heavens at thousands of miles an hour – the light would bend around me. That’s how I feel.

Question

What will people see at your exhibition?

Antonio Reyna, III

I have several collections, but the focus will be one one particular series: giant line paintings on canvas.

All the paintings are one size – 60″ by 60″.  People will see silhouettes of images that I have painted during important periods of my life. The inspiration varies, but I hope that people will enjoy it.

Question

What do you like about being an artist, sculptor, and photographer?

Antonio Reyna, III

I see the art as the taming of the two-headed monster. One head is the creativity and the other head is realizing my artistic goals – the reality. Traveling! Getting the opportunity to visit art meccas such as New York City, San Francisco, Rome, Spain, France.  And just growing in my own little universe.

Question:

What advice do you have for other people who are interested in a career such as yours?

Antonio Reyna, III

Contact me. We’ll talk.

ABOUT PRODUCE GALLERY

According the Produce, the chain of three shops in downtown Corpus Christi which are set to open in the coming months:

PRODUCE is a chain of three shops in downtown Corpus Christi, which are set to open in the months to come.

ProduceGoods will bring you the dopest apparel in town from shoes to shirts and beyond.

ProduceMusic will be bringing you the dopest music in town and offer time to record in a world class studio with world class talent, and will also offer a Turntable Academy for all you aspiring DJ’s.

ProduceGallery will be displaying and selling the dopest art in town, no doubt. They have shirts, shoes, paintings, studio time, beats, skateboard decks and more!

Come on, if you’re like me you’re tired of the mall scene. This is something new.

The Produce crew is on the frontlines of making Corpus a much cooler place. Let’s bring downtown back!

The PRODUCE shops are on Peoples Street. If you’re in the downtown area go down and pass by. Check it out before it opens.

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Bill Summers, who embodied the genius of democracy, passes away after courageous battle with lung cancer

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Bill Summers, 71, the president and chief executive officer of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership, who is credited with many contributions on behalf of his beloved South Texas, was “a perfect example of the genius of American democracy,” says Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco.

Summers passed away on Monday, November 30, at M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston after a short, but courageous battle with lung cancer, according to an announcement by the economic development alliance that was led by him for two decades.

Summers was diagnosed with lung cancer in the summer.

Martínez, who last spring sponsored legislation that renamed a key portion of FM 1015 in Weslaco after the South Texas native son, extended his profound condolences to the Summers’ family, but also expressed his deep admiration for the legacy that will live on.

“Here was a gentle giant who stood for the the very foundation of our country – that everyone is created equal, that we have the God-given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and that government shall act only with the consent of the people,” said Martínez. “He understood the power of the citizen, and as a result, he shaped major laws and government policies which will benefit the people of South Texas for generations to come.”

Hidalgo County Judge René  A. Ramírez, who as longtime chief-of-staff for Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, worked on numerous major legislative projects with Summers.

The county judge reflected on Summers’ professional accomplishments, but also focused on the Valleyite’s personal code of honor.

“Despite his very impressive credentials, he wanted everyone to address him on a first-name basis to let people know he wanted to have a personal bond with you, he wanted to be your friend, he didn’t care about your politics or station in life,” said Ramírez. “I will never forget how honored I was that, despite his battle with his illness, he showed up on November 3 to see me sworn into office prior to my first meeting of the county commissioners court.”

Hinojosa said he, too, was saddened by news of the passing.

“I have said it before and I will say it again: Bill has always been a very effective advocate for South Texas and the border region every time he came to visit us at the Texas Capitol,” said Hinojosa, an author Senate Bill 1997, which renamed FM 1015 International Boulevard into the Bill Summers International Boulevard. “I know the prayers of Texas are with him and his family.”

For Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, the lead author of SB 1997, Summers’ passing was a personal blow to the veteran South Texas lawmaker.

“Bill was a mentor and role model for me in a couple of ways: he never wavered from his convictions and he always demonstrated a tireless work ethic. His sense of humor enriched our lives and brought joy to people’s hearts,” Lucio said. “I’ve been blessed to have been able to call Bill Summers my friend, and I feel strongly that I am a better person for having known him. The Rio Grande Valley has lost a true hero, and I ask everyone to continue praying for his family in this time of sorrow.”

Summers’ influence was directly felt in major state legislation dealing with economic development, transportation improvements, and international trade.

On Wednesday, September 9, Summers received his due from a grateful Texas when he, along with the Valley’s state legislative delegation, participated in the formal renaming of FM 1015 in his honor.

During that public event, Lucio said the newly-minted Bill Summers International Boulevard was created to “commemorate the lifetime achievements of one of my dearest friends, and a champion of economic development for the Rio Grande Valley.

“Mr. Bill Summers has paved the way for progress, from mobility improvements to rural empowerment, not just in his own community, but as far away as Mexico,” Lucio continued. “He has been the greatest ambassador between the Valley and the Texas Senate, and between our two neighboring countries. This long overdue honor is well-deserved, and is a small token to Bill of our deepest appreciation and admiration.”

Summers also played a key role in literally bringing the Texas Legislature closer to the people of the Valley with his high-profile mission in coordinating visits, through the RGV Partnership, of large groups of state lawmakers to the Valley every two years, added Martínez.

“It really makes a difference during the legislative session when lawmakers from other parts of Texas have seen first-hand, through these crucial fact-finding tours organized by Mr. Summers, the successes and challenges facing us in higher education, transportation, job-creation, and health care” Martínez explained. “Those visits make it so much easier for other lawmakers to understand the importance of these South Texas issues, making it easier to pass legislation that helps our region.”

Summers is also well-known for his advocacy as a founding member of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, a grassroots organization he created in the Valley in 1990.  It’s mission, according to its website, is “to making the public better aware of the costs and consequences of lawsuit abuse.”

According to the Rio Grande Guardian, one of the top Internet-based political news sources in Texas, Summers’ wife, Jo, sent out an e-mail alert to family and friends from the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston late Monday afternoon.

“The journey is almost over. Bill’s lungs have given up and there’s no hope for his lungs to recover. Randy and Mike (Bill and Jo’s sons) are here with me and we know we will all soon be coming home.

Bill will be flying home on wings of glory to be with our Lord in Heaven; free of pain and whole again. I have no doubt that when he arrives that he will be promoting the Rio Grande Valley and singing with the angels, ‘For We Love Our Valley Home.’ Please continue to pray for us during this most difficult time,” Jo Summers said.

At 6:41 p.m., Jo Summers sent out a further e-mail alert to say that “the journey had ended. Bill passed away at 4:56 p.m.” the Rio Grande Guardian continued.

Jo Summers’ comments came via the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center e-mail journal entry, the Rio Grande Guardian reported.

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Obituary: William “Bill” Summers

William “Bill” Summers beloved husband, father, grandfather, chief executive officer, good Christian and great family man to many passed away at the age of 71 on Monday, November 30, 2009 at M.D Anderson Hospital in Houston.

Bill fought a short, but courageous battle with lung, adrenal and brain cancer after being diagnosed in August. He lived a wonderful and full life, most of it with his high school sweetheart and wife of almost 52 years, Jo, and his two sons and four grandsons.

Bill was born September 1, 1938 to William A. Summers and Bonnie Fulcher in Wharton, Texas. Most of his early childhood was spent in the Valley in Harlingen, La Feria and Donna.

He graduated from Donna High School, where he was a fullback for the Donna Redskins football team, and was a long distance track runner. He won numerous track awards in high school, and after graduating in 1956, he attended Pan American College on a track scholarship. While at the local college, he broke the state two-mile record with a time of 10 minutes and 10 seconds.

Bill was drafted into the U.S Army in February 1958 only three days after marrying his high school sweetheart, Jo Jeannette Gray.

While serving in the Army he continued to run track and was a tank commander, naming his tank “Jo Jo”, for his loving wife. After being honorably discharged from the Army he enlisted in the National Guard and in November 1962 he was honorably discharged with a rank of Staff Sgt E-6.

Following the military, Bill was hired by Sherwin Williams Paint Co. as credit manager and worked in Texas-based stores in Brownsville, Wharton and Midland.  In 1966, he was named store manager for the North Star Mall store in San Antonio.

Always longing to move back to his beloved Valley, in 1969 he accepted a position with KRGV Radio/TV. He then worked for Central TV and Magic Valley Electric and then became Public Relations Director for First National Bank in Weslaco.

In 1987 he assumed the position of President and CEO of the Rio Grande Partnership. A true advocate of the Rio Grande Valley, he was instrumental in developing programs and cultivating relationships that improved the quality of life in the Rio Grande Valley. Under his leadership the partnership established the only office of any Texas Chamber of Commerce in Tamaulipas, Mexico.

He coordinated the Rio Grande Valley Mobility Task Force. which has resulted in increased funding of more than $500 million dollars for improvement projects. Bill also founded and administered Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA), which is now nationwide.

He also facilitated one of three Rural Empowerment Zones, which resulted in a $40 million award from the U.S Department of Agriculture. B

Bill has been recognized repeatedly at the national, state and local levels. Honors bestowed upon him include:

  • The Civil Justice League Award in 2003;
  • The Russell H. Perry Award in 2001;
  • The Legal Watchdog Award in 2001;
  • The Roadhand Award in 1994;
  • The Outstanding Citizen Award in 1980; and
  • The Man of the Year Award from the City of Weslaco in 1974.

In addition, he was honored by his congressional appointment as a director of the Good Neighbor Environmental Board and by Presidential invite as a delegate to the White House Conference on Travel and Tourism.

Bill was also a past president of the Weslaco School Board, past president of Weslaco Lions Club, and past president of the Weslaco Chamber of Commerce

Most recently he was honored with the naming of what was Farm-to-Market Road 1015 in Weslaco to the Bill Summers International Boulevard for his undying commitment to the Valley and Texas.

Bill was a wonderful, kind and generous man always willing to go the extra mile. He served as Elder at the Bridge Avenue Church of Christ and truly walked the Christian walk.

He is survived by his wife, Jo Jeanette Gray Summers, sons Randall “Randy ” Summers and wife Alma, their sons Scott and Kevin of Weslaco, and by Michael “Mike” Summers and his sons William and Jacob of Harlingen.

He is also survived by one sister, Marjorie Patterson of Granbury, Texas. He was preceded in death by his parents and brother, Charles Summers.

Visitation was held Friday December 4, 2009 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., with the family receiving friends from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at McCaleb Funeral Home, 900 West 4th Street in Weslaco.

A funeral service was held on Saturday, December 5, 2009 at 2 p.m. at the Bridge Avenue Church of Christ, with Cary Gillis, Minister, officiating.

Serving as pallbearers were Bob Boggus, Larry Dittburner, Trainor Evans, Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, Bud Payne, and Charlie Plank.

Honorary pallbearers were ,Robert Lozano, Col. Tom Pearlman, Glen Roney, Alan Shields, Sam Sparks and the sitting board of directors of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership.

Interment followed at Highland Memorial Park in Weslaco.

For those desiring,memorials may be made to the Bill Summers Foundation in care of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership, P.O. Box 1499, Weslaco, 78599, which has been established to provide  educational scholarships.

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Rep. Gonzáles files for reelection to fourth term; district includes southwest Edinburg

By RICARDO LÓPEZ-GUERRA

Rep. Verónica  Gonzáles, D-McAllen, on Thursday, November 3, filed to seek a fourth term representing District 41 in the Texas House.

District 41 includes southwest Edinburg, north, central, and southeast McAllen, northeast Mission, Palmhurst and Alton.

“Texas faces some critical decisions in the next two years that will have a serious impact on the Rio Grande Valley. I am committed to fight to ensure our region receives adequate funding, legislative representation and has a voice in our state’s decision making,” Gonzáles said. “Over the past five years, I have had the honor and privilege of working for and with people from all different backgrounds, occupations and political perspectives and I am looking forward to another term of serving District 41 in Austin.”

Gonzáles has received the support of McAllen Mayor Richard Cortéz, Edinburg Mayor Richard García, Mission Mayor Beto Salinas, and Alton Mayor Salvador Vela. She has also been endorsed by the Texas Medical Association as well as numerous local business, medical and civic leaders.

Gonzáles, who was first elected in 2004, is the first female to represent District 41 and has earned many accomplishments during her legislative career.  In the 81st Legislative Session, Speaker Joe Straus named Gonzáles as Chair of the House Committee on Border & Intergovernmental Affairs. She is also serving a second term on the Public Health Committee and serves as General Counsel for the Mexican American Legislative Caucus.

Gonzáles has passed numerous pieces of legislation to address the diverse needs of her district including: increasing regulations of the towing industry; attracting physicians to medically underserved areas by increasing their medical school loan forgiveness; improvements for colonia residents; protecting victims of abuse and helping students finish college sooner and pay their tuition in payments, among many other measures.

Gonzáles, who was raised in San Marcos, has lived in the McAllen area since 1991. The first in her family to go to college, she graduated cum laude from Southwest Texas State University and earned her Doctorate of Jurisprudence from the University of Texas Law School. She is a name partner in the law firm of Kittleman, Thomas & Gonzáles, L.L.P., and has earned many awards for legal career and her civic involvement.

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Sen. Hutchison makes intentions official, files for Republican nomination for Texas governor

By JEFF BECHDEL

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, on Monday, December 7, officially filed to be a candidate for governor. The Republican primary is March 2, 2010.

Hutchison said as governor she will implement commonsense solutions to secure our borders and deal with illegal immigration, improve education, fix the transportation system which has been grossly mismanaged, make health care more affordable, and implement ethics reform to end the current cronyism and mismanagement of state government.

With her filing, Hutchison released the following statement:

“I am running for governor because I know that the real challenges facing our state cannot be fixed from Washington. And I believe now more than ever that we need a serious leader who will always put Texas first and fight everyday to improve the lives of all Texans by:

  • Fixing our transportation system;
  • Addressing the problem of illegal immigration with commonsense solutions that get results;
  • Making health care more affordable;
  • Improving education;
  • Protecting private property rights; and
  • Addressing ethics reform to end the cronyism and mismanagement of our state government.

“As governor, you can trust that I will work to keep taxes low, just as I have in my entire career. When I’m elected, one of my first actions will be to create a Taxpayers Bill of Rights to ensure that every Texan has an open, fair and simple way to dispute property appraisals.

“As governor, I will work with Texas law enforcement agencies to get them the training they need so they have the authority to deport illegal aliens who are arrested for committing crimes.

“As governor, you can trust that I will lead the effort to improve our education system to meet the needs of Texas in 2025 not 1995. A strong education system is key to our long-term economic viability and basic education should include community college trade training with a high school diploma. I believe in incentives to recruit and retain teachers, charter schools, magnet schools and accountability, to prepare our students for college.

“As governor, you can trust that I will improve our transportation system. To start, I will reorganize the leadership of the Texas Department of Transportation. We will end the cronyism and mismanagement. Today, TXDOT is the most arrogant state agency in Texas history. It’s time we return to our tradition of free, quality highways and roads.

“As governor, you can trust that I will officially kill the Trans-Texas Corridor once and for all.

“As governor, you can trust that I will fight to protect private property rights. I will never allow the government to take your land, underpay you for it, ruin its value to you and give it to a foreign-owned company.

“As governor, you can trust that I will protect our children. Decisions affecting you and your family should be made by you and not the governor. I will never mandate from Austin that sixth-graders should receive vaccinations without the consent of their parents. That’s not conservative. And it’s not the kind of policy a Republican should be pushing.

“I will lead a Republican Party worthy of governing Texas. Texas is the greatest state in America, and I am running for governor to keep it that way. It is time for new leadership and a governor who wakes up every day and puts the best interest of Texas first.

“Today I am officially putting my name on the ballot and asking Texans to allow me the opportunity to lead our state.”

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Bill White drops bid for U.S. Senate, to seek Democratic nomination for Texas governor

By KATY BACON

On Friday, December 4, after listening to thousands of Texans from all backgrounds, Bill White filed to run for governor, pledging to fight for Texas’ future.

“I am proud of the people of Texas, and as governor I will move us forward as America’s great state of opportunity,” White said. “I’ll be a governor who challenges Texans to lead, not leave, the United States.”

White highlighted ways of creating new jobs with businesses small and large across the state. He emphasized that Texas could not be its best with skyrocketing insurance and electric rates and college tuition that increases faster than the incomes of Texans.

The son of San Antonio school teachers, White vowed to focus on improving educational achievement in K-12 grade levels, improving high school graduation rates, and reducing the costs of college.

White, a successful businessman, was first elected as Houston Mayor in 2003 and was twice re-elected with margins averaging 88 percent. He has been hailed as a strong leader and a problem-solver, with the Houston Chronicle noting that he’s “deftly steered Houston through fiscal and tropical storms.”

During White’s administration, Houston led the nation’s cities in job growth, adding more jobs than 16 states combined. At the same time, he cut property tax rates five years in a row. After Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Ike, White mobilized an effective disaster response including first responders, businesses and churches.

“I don’t have the polish of career politicians. But as a businessman and Mayor I know how to be accountable for results, not just rhetoric. I have a track record of bringing people together to get things done,” White said. “That’s what Texas needs now.”

Last December, White launched a U.S. Senate campaign that in 11 months attracted more than 1500 volunteers, more than 5500 contributors, and more than $6.5 million. He has visited 70 Texas counties to date.

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George Hernández, longtime Donna ISD board member, pleads guilty in PSJA bribery scandal

By ANGELA DODGE

Long-time Donna Independent School District (DISD) trustee George Hernández on Friday, December 4, pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to a federal agent, United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today.

The false statement was made by Hernández, 52, of Donna, to agents then-investigating bribes related school district contracts at the Pharr Alamo San Juan Independent School District (PSJA). Hernández was originally indicted in June 2007 along with then-PSJA trustees Rogelio “Roy” Rodríguez, Raúl “Roy” Navarro and Evangelina “Vangie” De  León, former superintendent Arturo Guajardo and others. Donna ISD and PSJA-ISD are both large school districts.

On December 4, Hernández appeared before Chief United States District Judge Ricardo Hinojosa and admitted that on May 21, 2007, he falsely answered federal agents when asked if he had contact with a certain PSJA-ISD contractor at any time following the search of the contractor’s home and business by FBI agents in June 2006. Hernández lied to agents when he denied having any such contact. However, the evidence presented today detailed three meetings observed by FBI agents between Hernández and the contractor between June 2006 and May 21, 2007.

Hernández faces a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 at sentencing. Hinojosa, who accepted Hernández’ guilty plea and convicted him of the federal felony offense, has set sentencing for March 10, 2010. Hernández has been permitted to remain on bond pending his sentencing hearing.

The other defendants charged along with Hernández – Rodríguez, Navarro, De León, Guarjardo and Arnulfo Olivarez – have also been convicted after pleading guilty to offenses charged in an indictment and are pending sentencing.

The case was investigated by agents with the McAllen Office of the FBI, the McAllen office of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division and the Dallas office of the Department of Education – Office of the Inspector General. Assistant United States Attorney Larry Eastepp of the Public Corruption Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office is prosecuting the case.

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Rodney Mesquias, former owner of Harlingen health care clinic, arrested for Medicaid fraud

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit officers on Wednesday, December 3, arrested the former owner of the Well Care Medical Clinic in Harlingen.

Rodney Y. Mesquias, 39, was charged with two counts of Medicaid fraud over $200,000, a first-degree felony. Mesquias, who is not a licensed physician, reportedly relied on a physician assistant to provide health care to patients. Under state law, physician assistants can only practice medicine if they are supervised by a licensed physician. According to the attorney general’s investigators, the on-premise physician who served at Well Care, Dr. Tin Aung, has not worked as a provider at the site since March 2005.

From March 2005 until May 2006, Mesquias reportedly received Medicaid reimbursements of more than $387,000 for the physician assistant’s unsupervised services. A Cameron County grand jury indicted Mesquias on November 12 in Brownsville. He was released December 4 on $25,000 bond.

Abbott’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit has established field offices in Corpus Christi, Dallas, El Paso, Houston, Lubbock, McAllen, San Antonio and Tyler through authorization and funding from the 78th Legislature. It works with federal, state and local agencies across the state to identify and prosecute those who defraud the Medicaid program.

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Hidalgo County providing free Swine Flu vaccinations through Friday, December 11, says Hidalgo County Judge Ramírez

By CARI LAMBRECHT

Hidalgo County Health and Human Services will be providing H1N1 vaccines for the vast majority of the general public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at various locations through Friday, December 11, according to Hidalgo County Judge René A. Ramírez.

Until now, only high-risk populations such as pregnant women, children, those with chronic health conditions and health care givers were able to qualify to receive the vaccine. However, due to a received shipment, Hidalgo County HHS has opened up vaccinations to anyone from the age 6 month old to 65 years of age.

A vaccine is a preventative measure. If a resident is currently exhibiting influenza-like symptoms, he or she should see a doctor.

“If you fall within this demographic, you are encouraged to take the vaccine,” advised Hidalgo County HHS Chief Administrative Officer Eduardo Olivarez. “Residents are also still encouraged to follow the 3 C’s: clean your hands, cover your coughs and contain yourself and see your doctor if you feel ill.”

All Hidalgo County health department clinics are offering the vaccine during normal business hours.

The vaccine is FREE, and parents are encouraged to bring in their children’s immunization cards.

“We’re coming into that time of year when viruses are prevalent, and H1N1 has circulating in our communities. Be proactive. Protect yourself and your children,” said Ramírez. “The Texas Department of State Health Services continues to do an admirable job in keeping Texas healthy.

Visit http://www.texasflu.org for the latest flu information, he added.

Hidalgo County Clinic Locations (Open Monday through Friday 8 am to 5 pm):

  • Edinburg Clinic

    3105 E. Richardson

    Phone: 318-2040

  • Elsa Clinic

    708 Edinburg Street

    Phone: 262-1141

  • City of Hidalgo Clinic

    702 E. Texano

    Phone: 843-7463

  • McAllen Clinic

    300 E. Hackberry

    Phone: 682-6155

  • Mission Clinic

    211 S. Schuerbach Road

    Phone: 585-2461

  • Pharr Clinic

    1903 N. Fir

    Phone: 787-1531

  • Weslaco Clinic

    1901 N. Bridge

    Phone: 969-8332

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AVANCE, Inc. and South Texas College to host job fair in McAllen on December 11, 12

By JANET DE LEÓN

AVANCE, Inc., in collaboration with South Texas College, will be hosting a job fair on Friday, December 11 and Saturday, December 12, from 10 a.m. through 3 p.m. at the STC Technology Campus.

AVANCE will deliver a Home-based Early Head Start Program to 320 at-risk families that reside in colonias in two of the most-in-need counties bordering with Mexico. Services will be provided to 220 families in Hidalgo County and to 100 families in Val Verde County.

To run this program, AVANCE seeks to fill many positions, which include cooks, custodians, bus drivers, teachers, social workers, nutrition staff, project directors, accounting staff, disabilities specialists, and more.

Early Head Start is family-focused, early childhood development program for parents and children 0-3 years of age (including expectant mothers).

Under the leadership of its executive director, Mónica Peña, and with the collaboration of other community agencies, the AVANCE McAllen Chapter strives to successfully run this program with the goal of providing a nurturing and sensitive environment, providing optimal health, growth, and development for infants and toddlers.

“We believe that parents are their child’s first and most important educators and we want to provide families with the opportunity to better their lives and to reach their maximum potential through the program” said Peña. “We are looking forward to meeting face to face with qualified individuals to fill these positions in order to provide top quality services to our families. “ she added.

In addition to AVANCE, other agencies have been invited to participate in this fair. Supporters and elected officials have also been invited.

Rick Noriega, AVANCE President/CEO,  will also be in attendance.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to work with South Texas  College on this important project, as both AVANCE and STC strive to improve the quality of life through education”  said Noriega.

AVANCE (A-vahn-ceh), from the Spanish word meaning “advance,” has served at-risk, primarily minority parents and children since its founding in San  Antonio in 1973.

AVANCE’s mission is to unlock America’s potential by strengthening families in at risk communities through the most effective parenting education and support programs.

South Texas College is a world-class comprehensive institution of higher learning providing premier educational and workforce programs and services in response to the needs of the region.

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South Texans encouraged to carefully review  options during Medicare Open Enrollment

By SEN. EDDIE LUCIO, JR.

As Chair of the Joint House and Senate Legislative Committee on Aging, I am concerned with issues affecting our senior population, including Medicare.

The federal government is currently in the middle of the Medicare Open Enrollment period that started November 15 and ends December 31, 2009.

I urge all of our South Texas seniors who have not yet enrolled to carefully review the Medicare paperwork that arrived in the mail to help them make better-informed decisions regarding their healthcare services and providers.

To their loved ones who assist in these matters, I also urge them to review the information carefully.

If people are going to choose less costly plans, they should look for those with benefits similar to what they’re receiving. For example, while some plans may cost less, they may not cover the prescription drugs the patient requires or other costs.

It is also important to understand the difference between co-payments for prescription drugs, which pay a specific amount for a drug, and co-insurance, in which the insured person shares the cost with the insurance company. A typical split for co-insurance is 80/20, which means the insurer covers 80 percent and the insured 20 percent.

I know it’s not a lot of fun going through stacks of paperwork and health insurance forms, but although tedious, the time spent will be well worth the result.

As costs for medical care continue to soar, some health insurance companies are starting to determine the amount of medication they think a patient should be taking. Most of us feel that this decision is strictly the doctor’s role, so it is critical that people be fully aware if the health insurance company selected will make dosage decisions for the insured.

Now is the time for people to review their own personal paperwork, talk to their family members and physicians, and carefully decide what plan works best for them individually.

Mr. Jonathan Blum, director of the Center for Medicare Management and acting director of the Center for Drug and Health Plan Choice, has said, “Medicare beneficiaries will continue to have a wide range of health and drug plan options in 2010…”

This is good news. We just want to make sure that our South Texas seniors pick the best plans through careful examination of their options.

And these tips aren’t just good for seniors on Medicare and their caregivers, but they are excellent guides for all of us as we make health insurance decisions during times of change and increasing costs.

For questions, please contact (1-800-MEDICARE or 1-800-633-4227) in English or Spanish. TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048 or talk with their employer or physician. On the web, information can be obtained at:

http://www.cms.hhs.gov/center/openenrollment.asp.

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MPC Studios of Harlingen selected to promote Valley as part of regional marketing campaign

By SOFÍA HERNÁNDEZ

The newly formed Rio South Texas Economic Council announced, after an exhaustive search, that it has selected the marketing firm of MPC Studios Inc. of Harlingen to launch a massive national and international marketing campaign designed to increase public awareness of the Rio South Texas region’s collective assets and impressive economic success.

The Rio South Texas Economic Council is a nonprofit organization that brings together the economic interests of cities, counties, chambers, education institutions, workforce, business and other associations within the four southernmost Texas counties—Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr and Willacy— working together toward regional prosperity.

“This is an extremely viable region that is well positioned to compete globally as one of the largest metros in Texas,” said Hidalgo County Judge René  A. Ramírez, a member of the Rio South Texas Economic Council. “We are working with MPC Studios to tell the Fortune 500 firms that we are serious about doing business with them.”

The council is promoting the extensive growth in the region, its abundant workforce, and friendly business associations with Mexico as some of its main strengths.

“This is an honor for us,” said David Watkins, CEO of MPC Studios. “Our company is symbolic of the success of the Rio South Texas region. The Rio South Texas region has an amazing story to tell. The marketing campaign seeks to raise awareness of the strengths of the Rio South Texas region and the benefits it offers companies looking for access to markets in Mexico and the South and Midwest regions of the U.S. ”

MPC Studios Inc. has provided custom marketing solutions for more than 300 companies and organizations since 1998.

Contrary to popular belief, South Texas does not begin and end in San Antonio.

In fact, Rio South Texas is the largest border region in the country, the third-largest metropolitan area in the state, and the 23rd largest metro in the country.  In a recent economic report by the State Comptroller, Texas in Focus: South Texas, the economic outlook of the region was rated as excellent with job creation expected to outpace that of the state through 2012.

These positive statistics along with the dynamic business landscape in the Rio South Texas region will help attract jobs and investment for years to come.

The Anzalduas International Bridge is set to open by year’s end, and will be the ninth border crossing connecting Rio South Texas with the major manufacturing centers of Northeastern Mexico.  Gulf ports, rail lines, new multi-lane expressways and multiple major carrier airports have primed the region to be a suitor for major business ventures.

Add beautiful weather year round, affordable land, housing and labor force, plus business friendly decision makers and it is easy to see why the region continues to prosper.

This partnership between the area’s economic leaders and one of the area’s top marketing firms will help promote and develop the collective assets of the region in a manner that will attract private sector investment, economic diversification, business expansion, and — most importantly for our communities – quality of place.

When asked about the campaign’s future Watkins replied, “The Rio South Texas region is on its way to becoming a top global competitor and we are glad to help make this possible.”

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House passes bill by Congressman Cuellar to assess, improve Homeland Security responses since 2002

By ASHLEY PATTERSON

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday, December 3, passed H.R. 3980, a homeland security bill authored by Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo/McAllen, requiring the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assess how homeland security grants have made the nation safer and better prepared since the terror acts of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.

FEMA has invested $29 billion in preparedness grants to state and local entities since 2002. This fall, the agency reported its system for measuring those investments is seriously flawed.

“In the past 18 months, FEMA spent $5 million measuring how effectively it spent $29 billion over the past seven years,” said Cuellar. “Yet FEMA is unable to accurately gauge how this money has made us any safer. Our nation faces both an economic crisis and a constant security threat. The American people deserve to know how their money is being used to make our nation safer.”

In October, Cuellar, chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Communications, Preparedness and Response, held a hearing to investigate how FEMA was spending its preparedness funds.

FEMA Deputy Administrator Timothy Manning revealed that despite a 2006 congressional mandate, FEMA had yet to fully measure the effectiveness of the grant program on our national security.

“FEMA called its assessment a work in progress,” said Cuellar. “But their work in progress wasn’t working and that’s why I immediately drafted this bill. This legislation will make sure that FEMA gets its program back on track, and will ensure FEMA fulfills its promise to prepare the nation against acts of terrorism and other unforeseeable events.”

The House passed Cuellar’s bill on December 2 by a vote of 414-0.

If passed by the Senate and signed into law by the President, theRedundancy Elimination andEnhanced Performance for Preparedness Grants Act would require FEMA to streamline its preparedness funding program, making it more transparent and accountable.

FEMA would be required to take an inventory of its homeland security grants and devise metrics to determine how effective those grants are. The bill would also direct FEMA to eliminate unnecessary reporting requirements, rules and regulations that confuse and discourage local entities from participating in the program.

Pending final passage, FEMA would have to submit to Congress a plan to achieve these objectives 120 days after the act becomes law.

Cuellar believes his legislation could help identify inefficiencies within other grant programs overseen by the Department of Homeland Security.

“This is performance-based budgeting at its core,” said Cuellar. “We need to be able to review how effectively federal dollars are used in order to make informed funding allocation decisions in the future.”

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Love They Neighbor Children’s Shoe Drive to be held December 7 through December 18

Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley and Shoes for Orphan Souls (SOS), announce the 1st Annual Love Thy Neighbor (LTN) Children’s Shoe Drive to be held December 7-18, 2009. New children’s shoes will be purchased, collected, and distributed to needy children in the Rio Grande Valley and surrounding areas in an effort to prevent the health risks associated with children going barefoot or without adequate foot protection.

Children’s shoes are often overlooked as an essential necessity; however, bare feet can seriously injure children’s health with the risk of tetanus, cuts, abrasions, viruses and bacteria, puncture wounds, plantar warts, and other foot problems. Additionally, children outgrow shoes at a rapid rate, making it difficult for poor families to purchase on a frequent basis.

“To see impact that a loving gesture such as the gift of shoes can have on a child’s innocent soul, especially one who has gone so long without, is the driving force behind this project,” said Mike Robledo, shoe drive organizer.

To encourage participation in the shoe drive, Bishop Raymundo J. Peña of the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville added, “We must always remember that there are those less fortunate than ourselves.”

The shoe drive is accepting new children’s shoes at collection boxes located across the Rio Grande Valley.  The shoe drive has partnered with various businesses, civic organizations, community-based organizations, and faith-based organizations to solicit the greatest turnout of shoe donations and help the greatest number of needy children. The greatest need is for leather or canvas tennis shoes.  Financial contributions are also encouraged and will go directly toward the purchase of new children’s shoes.

For more information on the Love Thy Neighbor Children’s Shoe Drive, please contact Robledo at 956/289-3045 or visit http://www.rgvshoes.com.

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Attorney General Abbott files brief defending “under God” in Texas Pledge of Allegiance

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on Wednesday, December 2, filed a brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit defending the constitutionality of the Texas Pledge of Allegiance.

“Just as it is perfectly constitutional for Texas school children to pledge their allegiance to ‘one nation, under God,’ it is also constitutional for students to pledge their allegiance to ‘one state, under God,’” Abbott said. “Despite multiple U.S. Supreme Court decisions finding that patriotic acknowledgments of the Almighty are constitutional – and a federal district court ruling rejecting their lawsuit – the plaintiffs are continuing their attack on the Texas Pledge. The Office of the Attorney General remains committed to protecting young Texans’ right to express their patriotism and recite the Texas Pledge of Allegiance each morning.”

n 2007, the Texas Legislature added the words “under God” to the Texas Pledge. That year, a Dallas couple filed a lawsuit arguing that the amended state pledge violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. During the trial, the Office of the Attorney General successfully argued that patriotic acknowledgments of the Almighty are completely consistent with the U.S. Constitution. After a federal district judge rejected the plaintiffs’ challenge in 2009, the plaintiffs appealed. In response, the attorney general is urging the Fifth Circuit to deny their appeals and affirm the Texas Pledge’s constitutionality.

In the December 2 brief, the attorney general reiterated that “patriotic acknowledgments of religion are constitutional.”

The state’s brief explains that the plaintiffs’ challenge is “based on a proposition that this Court has repeatedly rejected, and indeed condemned as ‘frivolous’ – namely, that the inclusion of the words ‘under God’ somehow violates the Establishment Clause.”

Abbott also rejects the plaintiffs’ argument that the Texas Pledge endorses a particular religious belief. On the contrary, the state explains, the Pledge “simply acknowledges, within a broader patriotic statement, a basic historic fact about our Nation: that religion was significant to our Founders and to their enduring political philosophy.”

The Texas pledge, amended in 2007, reads: “Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one state under God, one and indivisible.”

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Diana Delgado sees path to law school through South Texas College paralegal studies program

By HELEN J. ESCOBAR

Diana Delgado graduated from South Texas College with an Associates of Science in Paralegal in May 2008. But it wasn’t her intended career path.

“I attended another college and started out in criminal justice, but I made the switch to STC and decided to try something else,” she explained. “I took some classes in office management and got interested in paralegal studies because I really wanted to work in the legal field.”

Now she is putting her degree to use as a paralegal assistant for Pharr family law lawyer Damian Orozco.

“I started work at the office in February 2008 as an intern, which was part of my degree plan at STC,” she said. “On my second day, he hired me as a full-time employee. Since then I have seen so many stories about neglected, abused children. It motivates me in my work to do my best.

“I love it when I am able to help someone, a client, get the help they need and ensure that the best interests of the children involved come to fruition,” she continued. “The hardest part of the job is managing all the activity of multiple clients at once.”

The skills she learned have been crucial in her daily work.

“I use the skills from the classroom every day in my job,” Delgado said. “All the practice and hands on work we did in the program have been so beneficial to me and my employer, especially the organizational skills.”

Delgado’s path to earning a degree wasn’t simple.

“I am a single mom of a seven year old son and it was hard, when he was little, to be 17 myself and a single parent; at that time I never even thought I would graduate high school,” explained Delgado. “My family supported me and my mother helped take care of my son, which made it all possible.

“Now I can make a good living and give my son more opportunities,” she said. “I can take him out and we can go places and experience new things together. I couldn’t do that without my degree. “

She believes her story is a good example to others than anything is possible.

“You can accomplish what you believe you can accomplish – meaning you have to believe in yourself and that anything is possible,” she said. “What pushed me was trying to better myself. Its hard work, but it pays off to have an education and a good job.

“In fact I have set an example not only for my son, but others in my family. My youngest cousin is attending college at Texas A&M University and he calls a lot to get help and advice from me. We can all be that example for others, telling them that education is important.”

And Delgado isn’t finished with higher education.

“My dream is to go on and earn my bachelors and then attend law school,” she concluded. “I am looking into the requirements now and look forward to opening up that next chapter in my life. But right now I am devoted to my son and enjoying this time together.”

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