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Edinburg’s top elected and economic development officials, along with leaders with Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, on Thursday, March 3, participated in the groundbreaking of the $9 million Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance (ECCR). Located near the intersection of McColl and Dove in the southwest portion of the city – and adjacent to northeast McAllen – the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance will be used for an assortment of activities, all aimed to enrich the medical community and the public at large. “The Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance is a place where doctors and other health care practitioners from throughout South Texas will come together to hear from the leading experts in medicine and health care,” said Mayor Richard García. “Already, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance is recognized as one of the leading hospitals in Texas, and this facility will further enhance its ability to bring world-class health care to Edinburg and to the entire region. In the end everybody benefits, the doctors, the patients, and the community.” Featured, from left: Mayor Pro Tem Agustín "Gus" García, Jr.; Councilmember Noé Garza, P.E.; Mark S. Peña, a member of the Board of Directors of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; Councilmember Gene Espinoza; Fred Palacios, the secretary/treasurer for the Board of Directors of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; and Pedro Salazar, executive director of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation. See story in this posting. 

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The 38,000-square-foot Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance (ECCR), for which ground was broken on Thursday, March 3, will provide unparalleled architectural amenities. EECR will house an auditorium with stadium seating for 1,000 individuals, along with two multi-purpose rooms, each with seating for up to 250 people. The auditorium will feature a 3,100-square-foot main stage, a state-of-the-art sound system, theatrical LED lighting, and satellite broadcasting capabilities. The EECR will host meetings, lectures, community events, and patient education forums. The conference center is also designed to hold musical and theatrical performances. “The construction of the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance is evidence of the way our community can work together to build a center that will further our ability to share knowledge with the cities we serve,” said Carlos J. Cárdenas, MD, the chairman of the Board of Directors of Doctors Hospital at Renaissance. "The City of Edinburg is a driving force in providing the best for people in our community, which includes the best educational opportunities, entertainment, and the most advanced health services in the Rio Grande Valley.” As part of a more than $2 million investment by the city into the public/private partnership with Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, Edinburg will be able to secure usage of the complex for a wide range of events. See story later in this posting. 

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Who would have thought that a phone call from Three Rivers, Texas in 1949 would spark the Mexican-American Civil Rights Movement? No one was more surprised than Sara Posas, featured second from right, who is the sister-in-law of Pvt. Félix Longoria. She was a special guest-speaker at the opening of the recent National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies Tejas Regional Conference held at the South Texas College Pecan Campus Library Rainbow Room. The opening night of the 2011 NACCS Conference kicked off with the standing room only film screening and roundtable discussion of The Longoria Affair. The discussion brought together Posas with film director and writer John Valadez, Wanda García, daughter of civil rights pioneer Dr. Héctor P. García, and Marianne Bueno of North Texas University. At the conclusion of the film screening, Posas reminisced about the events that transpired after the death of her brother-in-law in World War II. She talked about the return of his remains to Three Rivers for a proper burial and the subsequent denial by the funeral parlor because “the white people wouldn’t like it.” She offered her sister help in the form of a call to Dr. García, which she accepted, and the rest is history. “I was at the right place, at the right time,” Posas explained. “All I did was make a phone call. I called my hero, Dr. Héctor P. García.” Featured, from left: the 2011 National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies Tejas Regional Conference opening keynote panel on The Longoria Affair included film director and writer John Valadez; Marianne Bueno of The University of North Texas, Félix  Longoria’s sister-in-law Sara Posas; and Wanda García, the activist daughter of civil rights pioneer Dr. Héctor P. García. See story later in this posting. 

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The Boys and Girls Clubs of Edinburg RGV are expressing their appreciation to the planning committee of Canada’s Hands Across the Border dinner and Victoria Palms Resort for their contribution of $1,145 towards youth development programs for youths served by the organization. The Boys and Girls Club RGV, which has played an integral role for 40 years in helping develop and guide tens of thousands of young residents, offers programs that emphasize character and leadership development, education and career development, health and life skills, the arts, and sport, fitness and recreation. Featured are some of the members of the Victoria Palms Resort and planning committee for Canada’s Hands Across the Border, from left: Sherry Morgan, manager for Victoria Palms Resort; Don and Sarah Mackenzie; Sabrina Walker-Hernández, chief professional officer for the Boys and Girls Club of Edinburg RGV; Marion Arnold; and Rosie and Gerry Culhane. Not pictured are George Arnold and Brian Smith. 

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Approximately 50 percent of the residents of the Rio Grande Valley aged 25 and older have not earned a high school diploma, much less college credits. Of that 50 percent, approximately one half have earned a ninth grade education. “When you are confronted with this data, it is startling and causes serious concern,” said Dr. Shirley A. Reed, president of South Texas College. “That is why we continue to host our annual Summit on College Readiness. Collectively, we have to do more to stress the importance of education, because the journey to college must begin the day a child is born. Our region will simply not continue to prosper if we don’t develop a high skill, competitive, and educated workforce, which includes all deep South Texans.” More than 260 attendees from all levels of education from across the region, state and nation gathered in late February to face the hard facts at STC’s summit. Featured, from left: Luzelma Canales, STC interim dean of Community Engagement; Jonathan Arteaga, McAllen High School AVID Program student; and STC President Shirley A. Reed. See story later in this posting. 

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The Boys & Girls Clubs of Edinburg RGV recently announced that as a result of grant from Hochheim Prairie Insurance, Evangelina Cantú and César Mercado – two members of the local group’s TeenSupreme Program – on Monday, February 28 and Tuesday, March 1, attended the 2011 Boys & Girls Clubs of America Texas Alliance and Youth Competition in Austin. Both local residents had earlier been named Youth of the Year for their local Edinburg Units, Club 2020 El Tule and San Carlos, respectively, and attended the Austin trip to visit the capital, the University of Texas, and the Youth of the Year luncheon, where the state finalist was named. The keynote speaker at this luncheon was Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen. Featured, from left: Ella de la Rosa and Judi Flowers, members of the Board of Directors for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Edinburg RGV; Araceli Valencia, local program supervisor teens; María Medina, local director of operations; Evangelina  Cantú, one of the two local Youth of the Year; Eduardo Villanueva, a member of the Board of Directors for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Edinburg RGV; Sabrina Walker-Hernández, chief professional officer for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Edinburg RGV; César Mercado, the second of the two local Youth of the Year; and Rep. Verónica Gonzáles. See story later in this posting. 

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Want to be part of an award-winning chamber of commerce? The board of directors of the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors recently finalized their spring membership drive, which was set for Tuesday, March 8 and Wednesday, March 9. The event was open to the public. Individuals unable to attend the early-March membership drive may still contact the RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce for needed materials by calling 928-0060.  Featured, from left, promoting the spring membership drive are: Armando Garza, chair; Marti Miller, vice chair of membership; Dr. Robert Nelsen, president of the University of Texas-Pan American, who also serves as vice chair of education; Jenise Díaz, vice chair of public relations; Mario Garza, vice chair of health; and Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, president and CEO of the RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. See story later in this posting. 

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Magee Elementary staff members Lorenzo Flores and Gloria Garza, along with students Juan Lara and Annette Pérez, get ready to raise an honor flag given to their school during a recent special flag ceremony. During a lesson on patriotism last fall, Magee students decided to write letters to American troops in Afghanistan that could be included in care packages they were sending to the soldiers for Christmas. When Commander Richard Nalwasksy, the commander of the American troops in northern Afghanistan, received the care packages and letters, he wrote Marla Cavazos, Magee principal, and the students thanking them for the uplifting gesture. The American troops were so motivated by what the students did that they decided to fly an American flag over their base in Afghanistan in honor of Magee Elementary. Magee Elementary staff and students held a flag ceremony to raise the honor flag. Cavazos said the students learned about social studies, honor, community and patriotism. 

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The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce and http://www.EDBGCityLimits.com on Tuesday, March 22, from 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m., will host a  seminar titled Marketing your Business during Hard Economic Times.  This presentation will provide area residents important tips on marketing – on a modest budget – their business through social networks, radio, television and newsprint media through DIY (Do it yourself) networking. Some guest speakers include Elizabeth C. Martínez with Media Morphosis, Lebby Salinas and Shaine Mata from Social Media Network, and others.  All businesses go through budget crunches and economic woes as they struggle to gain notice to news, events and finding ways to attract new clients without having to spend. This event, which is available for a $10 cost per individual, will be held in the Edinburg Depot, located at 602 West University Drive. The fee also will cover the costs for lunch, refreshments and door prizes. Individuals are encouraged to bring their business cards for networking purposes. Featured promoting the event are, from left: Elizabeth C. Martínez from Media Morphosis; Letty Reyes with the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; Evana Vleck with the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce; and Lebby Salinas and Shaine Mata with Social Media Networking.  To RSVP attendance, please call 956/383-4974. 

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Edinburg’s retail economy during holidays generated largest sales tax revenue in history 

By DAVID A. DÍAZ   

Edinburg’s retail economy in December 2010, as measured by the amount of local and state sales taxes generated by a wide range of local businesses, was up 11.2 percent over the same month in 2009, and also was a record level for the city, according to the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation. 

The EEDC is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. 

During December, a crucial month for retail interests in every community, the local economy generated  $1,724,220.34 in local sales tax revenue, compared with $1,550,742.56 in December 2009.

 

This latest economic barometer for Edinburg reflects an even better showing compared to the statewide average, according to Texas Comptroller Susan Combs, who announced the total sales tax revenue generated in December 2010 was $1.83 billion, an increase of 10.4 percent compared to December 2009. The total sales tax revenue reported by Combs comes from Texas cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts. 

"It’s the highest single month sales tax collection on record for Edinburg," said Pedro Salazar, EEDC executive director. "Most of the sales tax collection increases have been having come from existing store sales, and during the last two to three years, from the establishment of more shopping areas in the city. By having more offerings, the tendency for local shoppers is to stay around a particular area and shopping at nearby stores." 

In addition to the increasing number of retail options, he credited strong job growth, and a rapidly increasing population for what he predicts will be continuing good fortune for the local economy. 

The city, which also is the county seat for Hidalgo County, experienced substantial population growth during the past decade, with 77,100 South Texans now calling Edinburg their hometown – up almost 60 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to the U.S. Census. 

That latest official figure by the U.S. Census means Edinburg is the second most populous city in Hidalgo County, behind neighboring McAllen (population 129,877) and ahead of nearby Mission (population 77,058) and adjacent Pharr (population 70,400).   

Among cities in the four-county Rio Grande Valley, Edinburg is the third most populous city, with Brownsville having the most residents (population 175,023). 

These latest population figures are having a positive impact on Edinburg. 

“As our population continues to grow, and as Edinburg continues to be successful in creating more jobs, we add new shoppers,” noted Salazar. “We are experiencing strong private sector growth. We have several large projects under construction that are generating new economic activity, and which will bring more jobs in the near future.” 

He estimated that the city’s retail economy will continue to perform well over the next 12 months. 

"We anticipate that our retail sales tax collections will continue to grow at about the same rate," Salazar said. "In November 2010, we were up about nine percent over the same month in 2009, so we are hoping to see at least a 10 percent increase in sales tax collections in  2011 over 2010." 

In December 2010, Pharr registered a 16.47 percent improvement in the generation of local sales taxes over the same month in 2009 ($1,029,775.93 compared with $884,137.35), while Mission was up 11.66 percent in local sales taxes produced in December 2010 over December 2009 ($1,483,575.90 compared with $1,328,613.57). 

Salazar noted that Mission, Pharr, and Edinburg “are on the rise, and some of the larger communities with large retail presence are feeling it, more people are choosing to stay in their communities to shop." 

McAllen, the Valley’s largest retail market, actually saw a drop in local sales taxes generated, according to the latest state figures. 

In December 2010, McAllen’s retail economy generated $6,977,298.80 in local sales taxes, down 2.43 percent over the December 2009 showing of $7,151,559.79. 

Brownsville, the Valley’s most populous city, also showed a decrease. In December 2010, Brownsville reported local sales taxes of $3,605,739.52, compared with $3,649,169.63, a decrease of 1.19 percent.

 

Under the reporting system used by the state comptroller’s office, local and state sales taxes generated on retail sales in December 2010 were collected by the state in January 2011. In February, 2011, the state began sending back the local sales tax portion – called a rebate – to the cities in which the retail sales were made. 

The December 2010 sales tax figures also include some earlier sales by businesses that report sales tax to the comptroller on a quarterly basis. 

State officials were pleased with the improving economic trends at the statewide level, according to the state comptroller’s office: 

“Sales tax revenues have now improved for the last ten months, reflecting increased activity in almost all major economic sectors,” Combs said. “The strongest growth was from sectors fueled by business spending, such as oil and gas activity. Tax collections from retail trade were also up.” 

For details of December 2010 local sales tax figures, locate the Monthly Sales Tax Allocation Comparison Summary Reports at the comptroller’s website:  

http://www.window.state.tx.us/taxinfo/allocsum/compsum.html

The Edinburg Economic Development Corporation is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. It’s five-member governing board, which is appointed by the Edinburg City Council, includes Mayor Richard García as president, Dr. Glenn Martínez as vice president, Fred Palacios as secretary/treasurer, and Felipe García and Mark S. Peña. For more information on the EEDC and the City of Edinburg, please log on to http://www.EdbgCityLimits.com 

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City Council, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation herald construction of $9 million Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance

By KELLI K. OWEN 

Doctors Hospital at Renaissance (DHR), the Edinburg City Council, and the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation (EEDC) on Thursday, March 3, held a groundbreaking for the $9 million, jointly-funded Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance.  

The Edinburg Economic Development Corporation (EEDC) is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. 

Located near the intersection of McColl and Dove in Edinburg, the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance will house an auditorium with stadium seating for 1,000 individuals, as well as two multipurpose rooms, each with seating for up to 250 people. The auditorium will feature multiple viewing screens, a 3,100-square-foot main stage, a state-of-the-art sound system, and theatrical LED lighting. In addition, the auditorium will have satellite broadcasting capabilities.  

The Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance, which represents the first such facility for the three-time All-America City, will also feature sound and lighting technology in an inviting atmosphere. The 38,000-square-foot conference center, designed by The Warren Group, will provide unparalleled architectural amenities.  

“The Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance is a place where doctors and other health care practitioners from throughout South Texas will come together to hear from the leading experts in medicine and health care,” said Mayor Richard García. “Already, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance is recognized as one of the leading hospitals in Texas, and this facility will further enhance its ability to bring world-class health care to Edinburg and to the entire region. In the end everybody benefits, the doctors, the patients, and the community.” 

Representing the Edinburg City Council and the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation at the groundbreaking were: Mayor Pro Tem Agustín "Gus" García, Jr.; Councilmember Gene Espinoza;Councilmember Noé Garza, P.E.; City Manager Ramiro Garza, Jr.; Fred Palacios, the secretary/treasurer for the Board of Directors of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; Mark S. Peña, a member of the Board of Directors of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; and Pedro Salazar, executive director of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation. 

In addition to being a cutting-edge asset to Edinburg, this state-of-the-art conference center has been a missing component on the Doctors Hospital at Renaissance campus.  

“There is a need to have educational activities for the benefit of our physicians, medical staff, and the community as a whole,” said Marissa Castañeda, DHR chief operations officer. “Health care is an ever-evolving industry, so ongoing education for our staff, patients, and physicians is one of the components necessary to continue serving our community and providing optimal health care for the residents of the Rio Grande Valley.” 

The Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance will be used for an assortment of activities, all aimed to enrich the medical community and the public at large. Continuing medical education conferences and community educational seminars will take place in the main auditorium and multipurpose rooms. Aimed to host a world-class speaker’s bureau, the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance will be home to local and national conferences, as well as host various meetings, lectures, graduation ceremonies, community events, and patient education forums. The conference center is also designed to hold musical and theatrical performances.  

“This is a great day for the City of Edinburg and Doctors Hospital at Renaissance,” said Carlos J. Cárdenas, MD, the chairman of the Board of Directors of DHR. “We have been working toward this for many years and to finally see it come to fruition is deeply gratifying. 

"The construction of the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance is evidence of the way our community can work together to build a center that will further our ability to share knowledge with the cities we serve," Cárdenas added. "The City of Edinburg is a driving force in providing the best for people in our community, which includes the best educational opportunities, entertainment, and the most advanced health services in the Rio Grande Valley.” 

The project – which received more than $2 million from a special city fund dedicated to improve health care in Edinburg – will be a huge investment in the medical and educational needs of the Rio Grande Valley.  The Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance, which is aimed to open in November 2011, will provide more than 25 new jobs for local residents.  This investment will contribute over $244,000 to the respective tax bases of the county and city. 

“The Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance further demonstrates DHR’s dedication to providing the best health care possible to the residents of the Rio Grande Valley,” Cárdenas said. “We now have the opportunity to share information with the community and they too have the opportunity to share information with us. Since its inception, DHR has been dedicated to advancing educational and health-related services in the RGV. I am excited to say the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance will provide just that — superior education and health care.” 

Doctors Hospital at Renaissance was opened in 1997 by a group of physicians committed to developing a hospital that would provide personalized and high-quality health care for their patients. Today, DHR is a 506-bed general service acute care facility that serves the health care needs of the residents of the Rio Grande Valley. 

The vision of Doctors Hospital at Renaissance is to be leaders in the healthcare industry by providing the highest quality of care through excellent patient service. Doctors Hospital at Renaissance is devoted to maintaining and operating a state-of-the-art hospital dedicated to the provision of quality, compassionate, and cost-effective patient care. 

The rapid and tremendous growth and successes at DHR are a reflection of the continued dedication and support of all partners and medical staff members. Doctors Hospital at Renaissance has been able to offer the residents of South Texas quality health care through the following facilities: 

  • The Rehab Center at Renaissance
  • The Renaissance Behavioral Center
  • The Cancer Center at Renaissance
  • The Women’s Hospital at Renaissance
  • The Wound Care and Hyperbaric Center at Renaissance
  • The Therapy Institute at Renaissance
  • Five Free Standing Imaging Centers
  • The Cancer Center at Renaissance at San Benito
  • The Bariatric & Medical Weight Loss Center at Renaissance
  • The Diabetes Center at Renaissance
  • The Wellness Center at Renaissance 

For more information, please call Doctors Hospital at Renaissance at (956) 362-3100 or visit its website at: 

http://www.dhr-rgv.com

David A. Díaz edited portions of this article. 

The Edinburg Economic Development Corporation is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. It’s five-member governing board, which is appointed by the Edinburg City Council, includes Mayor Richard García as president, Dr. Glenn Martínez as vice president, Fred Palacios as secretary/treasurer, and Felipe García and Mark S. Peña. For more information on the EEDC and the City of Edinburg, please log on to http://www.EdbgCityLimits.com 

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Sen. Hinojosa’s bill to allow video lottery terminals at existing Texas race tracks

could raise billions of dollars for state economy 

By DANIELA SANTONI 

Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, on Thursday, March 3, filed the constitutional amendment, Senate Joint Resolution 33, and enabling legislation, Senate Bill 1118, allowing for the operation of video lottery terminals (VLTs) in existing race tracks and federally recognized Indian reservations.  

Hinojosa, who is vice chair of the Senate Finance Committee and serves as a member of the Legislative Budget Board, released the following statement: 

"Texans are in favor of this proposal and it’s clear why. This proposal will help keep the $2.5 billion a year Texans spend in neighboring states here at home; that’s money we can use for education and health care. 

"When people travel to other states to gamble, they pump millions of dollars into the economy  – they go out to eat, visit local attractions, and spend a day at the mall and shopping centers. We are talking about an economic impact of $8.5 billion, that’s a huge increase in state revenue and right now we are giving away the jackpot.  

"On top of everything else, this proposal can create over 77,000 new and permanent jobs in our state, and not just in the racetracks, but in 40 different industry sectors. And we can accomplish this without expanding the gaming footprint; placing VLTs in existing race tracks will maximize the value of our existing gaming and entertainment space. 

"In Texas we already have the necessary ingredients to be a leader in horse racing – we have good horses, excellent breeding, great weather for training and a longer racing season – we just need to increase traffic. VLTs will draw more people to the racetracks, increase tourism, make for bigger purses, and benefit the economy of this great state. This proposal is a win for Texas." 

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Legislature approves measure by Rep. Muñoz, Sen. Hinojosa, to honor area Vietnam veterans

By CHRISTOPHER MADRID 

The Texas House of Representatives on Tuesday, March 8, passed House Concurrent Resolution 56 by Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, that recognizes April 9 as Welcome Home South Texas Vietnam Veterans Day

Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, carried the measure in the Senate, where it passed on Wednesday, March 9, and will go to Gov. Rick Perry for his signature.  

Hinojosa served as a Marine combat squad leader in Vietnam. 

HCR 56 was co-authored by the entire Valley legislative delegation in both the House and the Senate. 

"I am so pleased to have this opportunity to honor these distinguished veterans here at the State Capitol," said Muñoz. "This is a long overdue tribute to our veterans. We’re glad to have been a part of it here at the Capitol and are looking forward to the event this spring in McAllen." 

Welcome Home South Texas Vietnam Veterans Day, promoted by area veterans groups, Hidalgo County Judge Ramón García, and the cities of Edinburg and McAllen, will feature special events – to be held at the McAllen Convention Center – that will honor Vietnam veterans.  

Organizers of the upcoming South Texas tribute say that too often, Vietnam veterans were condemned or ignored for their valiant service to the nation because America was bitterly divided over the war. 

The war was waged for numerous key reasons, but primarily to stop the expansion of communism to southeast Asia. 

The Vietnam War, a major military conflict in the 1960s through the early 1970s, pitted the U.S. and then-South Vietnam against North Vietnam, a communist nation aided by the then-Soviet Union and China. The losses and casualties for the U.S., South Vietnam and North Vietnam were huge: 58,220 Americans were killed (mostly military personnel) and 303,635 (mostly military personnel) were wounded; South Vietnam suffered 220,357 killed and 1,170,000 military personnel and civilians wounded; and North Vietnam lost 1,176,000 military personnel and civilians with another 600,000+ wounded. 

Passage of the Muñoz’ resolution on March 8 was followed by a reception at the Capitol with Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, himself a Vietnam veteran. Patterson has been a staunch supporter of Valley veterans, and is the chairman of the Texas Veterans Land Board, which provides  low-cost interest rate mortgages to Texas veterans, as well as operates state veterans nursing homes and state veterans cemeteries. 

During passage of his resolution, Muñoz recognized the following individuals as veterans and organizers of  the event, dubbed LZ:RGV Day: Don White, American Legion, Post 390; Rita Solis, American Legion Auxiliary Post 390; George Solis, American Legion, District 15 Commander; Rubén Cantú, American Legion, Post 408; and Mike Carrera, LZ:RGV Day organizer. 

The resolution reads: 

CONCURRENT RESOLUTION 56 

WHEREAS, Proud South Texas veterans of the Vietnam War are being officially welcomed home at the LZ:RGV event at the McAllen Convention Center on April 9, 2011; and 

WHEREAS, Short for Landing Zone: Rio Grande Valley, the event honors the service and sacrifice of the South Texans who were among the 2.59 million Americans who served in Vietnam; during that conflict, more than 58,000 Americans died, including 3,400 from Texas, and over 300,000 were wounded, including 75,000 who were severely disabled; approximately 2,000 Americans are still listed as missing, and hundreds spent time as prisoners of war; and 

WHEREAS, These brave men and women served with honor and distinction at a time when the nation was divided in its support of the war; returning home, they were caught in the crossfire of debate and protest and never received the recognition that they deserved; and 

WHEREAS, In order to rectify that omission, a coalition of groups in South Texas has come together to organize, promote, and host a long overdue tribute for the region’s veterans; sponsors include Hidalgo County Judge Ramón García, the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Veterans Alliance, the cities of McAllen and Edinburg, The Monitor and the Rio Grande Guardian, Total Imaging Solutions, and Entravision Communications; and 

WHEREAS, The LZ:RGV event will include a dedication ceremony for the Veterans War Memorial of Texas, lectures, a keynote address, and a concert; visitors may also learn about the war and its veterans from information booths, a portrait gallery, exhibits, and documentaries; and 

WHEREAS, Citizens of this state and nation owe our brave Vietnam veterans an eternal debt of gratitude, and the LZ:RGV event in McAllen will celebrate those South Texans who served and came home and will pay tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice; now, therefore, be it further 

RESOLVED, That the 82nd Legislature of the State of Texas hereby designate April 9, 2011, as LZ:RGV Welcome Home South Texas Vietnam Veterans Day and extend to the event’s organizers, supporters, and participants sincere best wishes for a meaningful and memorable day. 

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Congressman Hinojosa files bill to create full-service hospital for veterans in South Texas

By PATRICIA GUILLERMO 

Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, on Monday, February 28, introduced a bill that will require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to ensure that the South Texas Veterans Affairs Health Care Center in Harlingen includes a full-service Department of Veterans Affairs inpatient health care facility.  

“I am joining my colleagues, Senators John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison by introducing a bill that mirrors theirs in the Senate in a strong effort to give our veterans what they deserve”, said Hinojosa. “It has been a long road and a hard fought battle for our veterans who want a full service hospital closer to their homes. Our veterans have marched hundreds of miles to San Antonio, where the nearest veteran’s hospital is, just to prove their point. They need a full service veteran’s hospital in south Texas now.”  

The bills current name is the Meeting the Inpatient Health Care Needs of Far South Texas Veterans Act of 2011. The bill outlines the necessity of a full service, inpatient hospital. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that more than 117,000 veterans reside in deep South Texas. Travel time for area veterans to receive acute inpatient hospital care can sometimes exceed six hours.  

“For too long our veterans and their families have had to make tremendous sacrifices in receiving full service health care,” said Hinojosa. “South Texas has produced many brave and patriotic men and women who have served or who are serving in our armed forces. Those who are serving now will come home soon and my hope is to have the best medical care facility this country has to offer them. They deserve it.”  

Currently, the new Veterans Affairs Valley Health Care Center in Harlingen, Texas is an outpatient facility.  

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Rep. Gonzáles urges Texas veterans and their families to utilize benefits for college education

By RICARDO LÓPEZ-GUERRA 

Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, is encouraging Texas veterans to take full advantage of veteran’s programs through the state that offer educational benefits they have earned through their service to the nation.  

The Texas Hazelwood Act, amended in 2005, provides qualified veterans, spouses, and their children with an educational benefit of up to 150 hours of free tuition and fee exemptions at Texas public colleges and universities. The benefit also extends to the dependent children and spouses of eligible veterans who died in the line of duty or as a result of injury or illness directly related to military service, are missing in action, or who became totally disabled for purposes of employability as a result of service related injuries.  

Veterans may also assign unused hours of exemption eligibility to a child if the child is a Texas resident, meets dependency criteria, is 25 years or younger on the first day of the semester or term for which the exemption is claimed, and makes satisfactory academic progress.  

"I urge veterans to be aware of the many higher education benefits available to them and their children," Gonzáles said. "These programs are an excellent opportunity to make college and career goals more affordable for our families in the Rio Grande Valley."   

Another great option available to Texas veterans is the Combat Exemption for Children of Military Service Members, legislation supported by Gonzáles which became effective in 2009. This exemption allows children or stepchildren of a member serving in the Armed Forces to get free resident tuition at Texas public colleges and universities. To qualify for this education credit, a student must simply provide proof to the school’s financial aid office that his or her parent or guardian is presently deployed in support of a combat operation outside of the U.S. during the current academic semester.  

For more  information on veteran’s education benefits, please visit the Veterans Affairs office at area colleges or universities or visit the Texas Veterans Commission website at: 

http://www.tvc.state.tx.us/about/education

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Sen. Hinojosa files bill aimed at helping South Texas College work with local school districts to reduce high school dropout rate 

By DANIELA SANTONI 

Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, has filed Senate Bill 975, which aims to improve educational attainment levels and reduce the dropout rate in Hidalgo County. The latest American Communities Survey five- year estimates for 2005-2009 indicate that fewer than 60% of the adults in Hidalgo County over the age of 25 had completed high school. 

Texas is 43rd in the number of students graduating from high school.  

"Education drives economic growth. It’s the greatest equalizer in society, creating high paying job opportunities in communities that host a talented workforce," Hinojosa said. "Increased investments in education and greater efforts to ensure students are completing high school and moving on to college can only keep Texas competitive."  

The proposed legislation builds on the demonstrated success of the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo (PSJA) ISD’s College and Career Technology Academy, established by Dr. Danny King, in partnership with South Texas College. The Academy has already significantly increased graduation rates and college participation for the PSJA, Donna, and La Joya school Districts that have replicated the model. In the past three years, the schools have recovered and graduated 1,472 previous dropouts.  

"The College and Career Technology Academy is a great example of innovation, something we value highly here in Texas, and it should be replicated countywide," Hinojosa said. "With this bill, we can make it possible for more students to participate by providing them a clear pathway back to education." 

The bill would give South Texas College the statutory authority to engage in consortium agreements with public school districts to operate a high school dropout recovery program in Hidalgo County.  

This High School Recovery Consortium will allow students under 26 years of age, who are lacking three or more credit courses, or who’ve failed the school exit exams, to participate in a curriculum that includes career and technology education, dual credit, advanced placement courses, and other training to improve their employability, increase their high school completion rates, and promote higher education participation.  

"One of the best features of this efforts is the focus it places on making students feel valued and empowered – not only to finish high school but also to envision themselves as college students,"  Hinojosa continued. "This program will allow for partnerships, innovation and efficiency, and more importantly, it will allow us to work together, as a community, to pave a better future for our children." 

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South Texas College’s Summit on College Readiness reveals half of Valley adults, aged 25 and older, lacking a high school diploma 

By HELEN J. ESCOBAR 

Approximately 50 percent of the residents of the Rio Grande Valley aged 25 and older have not earned a high school diploma, much less college credits. Of that 50 percent, approximately one half have earned a ninth grade education.   

“When you are confronted with this data, it is startling and causes serious concern,” said Dr. Shirley A. Reed, president of South Texas College. “That is why we continue to host our annual Summit on College Readiness. Collectively, we have to do more to stress the importance of education, because the journey to college must begin the day a child is born. Our region will simply not continue to prosper if we don’t develop a high skill, competitive, and educated workforce, which includes all deep South Texans.”  

More than 260 attendees from all levels of education from across the region, state and nation gathered in late February to face the hard facts at STC’s summit.   

“We are making progress,” Reed told the crowd, “but we cannot rest. There is much more to do to make a dent in the numbers and those numbers start with the power of one. There is so much power in the number one. We believe that if we can change one life, that will have a ripple effect. And that one life will pay it forward to positively change another. One institution can set the example for others to follow. One community can make education its primary focus and change a generation. That’s the way we will see that 50 percent number decrease down to one percent and then none.”   

Attendees heard from a variety of presenters, but of particular interest were two gentlemen shedding light on a new phenomenon, the disappearance of Latino males from college campuses. Dr. Víctor Sáenz from The University of Texas at Austin and Dr. Luis Ponjuan from The University of Florida told the audience that the roots of the problem are based in societal and cultural expectations of Latino males.  

“While there is a lot of focus on getting Latinos into college and earning degrees, there isn’t a lot of focus specifically on Latino males,” said Ponjuan. “The economics of going to college make it hard on this target group. The reality for these students is that they have to give back to their families and so they need to work. There is also a social status in graduating from high school, going straight into working at a ‘good paying job’ and giving back to the family. They may think they have hit the jackpot, but we all know that route is just a quick pay out. There is also a feeling that the students don’t belong in the educational setting. There is no feeling of engagement. We have to focus on bringing them opportunities to feel like part of our educational community, both in and outside the classroom.”  

But amidst the discussions of the need for improvement in pushing Valley children to the college degree finish line, attendees also heard one story that provided a lot of encouragement. They heard from a student in the McAllen High School AVID Program, which focuses on accelerating student learning by using research-based methods of effective instruction and acts as a catalyst for systemic reform and change. Jonathan Arteaga had attendees on their feet after he told how he has overcome gigantic obstacles to become a current honors student and future college graduate.  

“I was a thug and a gangster through my freshman and sophomore years in high school because I wanted to feel accepted,” explained Arteaga. “I surrounded myself in an environment that made me believe college was impossible. A counselor told me about a program she said could change my life. I got in the program, but continued down the wrong path. My teacher told me I needed to start making the right choices – to shape up or get out of the program. That I had to look at the bigger picture and not throw away my life.  

“I thought long and hard about my decision and I chose to stick with the program,” he continued. “And through the experience, I learned that asking questions and stating my opinion is vital to learning. Now I am in cross country, wrestling, show choir, taking AP classes, and dual enrollment classes through STC. I’m in the top of my class and am a member of the National Honors Society.  

“But, I live in a two bedroom apartment with six other people,” he added. “I spend most nights sleeping on a couch and the situation can take a lot out of you. I went through many other obstacles and it’s tough, but fate has something else in store for me. I will go to college and become a lawyer. Your students can be just like me, but you have to plant that seed of hope and encouragement in their hearts. You have to believe before you can see.”  

Once again, the participants left with new, thought provoking information to help further improve the regional education pipeline.  

“STC is committed to improving access and opportunity for all Valley students and our hard work with our educational partners isn’t about patting each other on the back and lauding our results,” said event organizer and Luzelma Canales, STC’s interim dean of Community Engagement. “We are here to face the facts and see how we can improve. There is always a chance to be better at anything.  

“But, it’s also important to show that this summit and all the programs we have put in place with our community partners are working,” concluded Canales. “The number of students who come to STC and require some kind of developmental education has steadily dropped to 30 percent of our student population if you exclude dual enrollment students. If you look at STC’s total enrollment, including dual enrollment students, only 20 percent of STC students need to participate in developmental education. This is significant progress over the last decade. These courageous conversations are working and more and more of our Valley students are coming out of high school college-ready. We are holding ourselves accountable because we know that the livelihood of our children and our children’s children depends on it.”  

For more information about South Texas College’s annual Summit on College Readiness contact Luzelma Canales at 956/872-6760.  

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PSJA ISD’s dropout recovery success featured by US Department of Education’s Assistant Secretary in National publication 

BY ARIANNA VÁSQUEZ-HERNÁNDEZ 

The College, Career & Technology Academy, which is part of the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District, was profiled in the February 2011 issue of the Principal Leadership, a national magazine published by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP). 

The NASSP focuses on school leaders’ real needs, offering them practical, hands-on strategies for improving their schools in a constantly evolving educational environment. 

The local academic success story was featured in an article written by Thelma Meléndez de Santa Ana, the Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education for the U.S. Department of Education. 

Meléndez’ piece, entitled Bold Ideas For Secondary School Reform, highlights PSJA’s dropout recovery program, which opened in September 2007 and to date has helped 713 former dropouts between the ages of 18-26 complete all requirements to receive their high school diploma, while at the same time, attending South Texas College and receiving college credit toward a higher education degree.   

“The most effective school reforms come from local school leaders who know the needs of their students and can adjust practices and resources accordingly,” Meléndez de Santa Ana wrote. “As a result, they are proving that all  students can learn at high levels…and are examples of promising practices in secondary education reform that are happening right now.”  

Second Chances   

Excerpts from her article includes the following observations: 

When Danny King became superintendent of the Pharr–San Juan–Alamo Independent School District in 2007, he identified the district’s dropout crisis as one of his top priorities. His goal was to decrease the high dropout rate, increase the graduation rate, and raise overall achievement in the high schools.   

Under the leadership of Principal Leonore Tyler, the College, Career, and Technology Academy — or CC&T Academy — opened in September 2007 with two classrooms and eight staff members. The academy is part of the district’s comprehensive approach to addressing the drop-out problem. Created to meet the needs of older students from the ages of 18 to 26, the CC&T Academy is an alternative campus that reengages students who have not graduated from high school, either because they didn’t complete  their course work or because they did not pass the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS).  

The CC&T Academy recruited its first group of students from a list of those who failed to graduate from high school in the 2006–07 school year. The staff members conducted all types of outreach, including parent  information sessions, radio advertisements, and outdoor banners posted at busy intersections. Within four months, the CC&T Academy graduated its first group of students – 49 in all. By August 2008, the number of graduates had grown to 110 students, including  students from other district high schools who enrolled in the academy’s summer sessions.  

To read the entire article go to: 

http://www.psjaisd.us/ourpages/pr_forms/principal_leadership.pdf   

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Congressman Cuellar introduces measure to honor slain ICE agent Jaime Zapata to increase border security and reduce security threats

By LESLEY LÓPEZ 

Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo/McAllen, on Friday, March 4, announced that he has introduced the Jaime Zapata Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) Act of 2011H.R. 915 – named after ICE special agent Jaime Zapata, 32, of Brownsville.  

The bill would enhance border security and reduce security threats by authorizing and appropriating funds for law enforcement units on the border. 

On Tuesday, February 15, Zapata – an officer with the U.S Department of Homeland Security – Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), was shot and killed outside of Mexico City.  

He and another agent assigned to the United States Embassy and were traveling between Mexico City and Monterrey when they were forced off the road by 10 members of a Mexican drug cartel. The agents were in an armored vehicle with diplomatic plates and identified themselves as diplomats. 

The cartel members opened fire on them, fatally wounding Zapata and wounding the second agent. 

“I named this bill after ICE Agent Jaime Zapata out of respect for his service to our country and because he paid the ultimate sacrifice for the safety and security of us all,” Cuellar said. “I will push to move this bill through the legislative process in honor of his work, dedication and commitment to serving the United States of America in the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection.  

“When it comes to maintaining border security, collaboration and cooperation are key," Cuellar added. "These BEST units can reduce border violence by improving information sharing between federal, state, local and international law enforcement agencies.”   

BEST units may be comprised of Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Coast Guard, and other law enforcement agencies at the federal, state, tribal, local and international level. The units will have authority to investigate, apprehend and prosecute individuals engaged in drug trafficking, arms smuggling, human smuggling and trafficking, violence and kidnapping along borders.  

The bill, co-sponsored by Congressman Michael McCaul, R-Austin, would also give Congress the ability to oversee authorization and appropriation of funds for the units, which previously was under the purview of the DHS.  

“As Ranking Member of the Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee, I believe it is important that Congress has the ability to fund BEST units, so that they can continue to be successful combating border crime while cooperating and sharing information with federal, state, tribal, local and international agencies,” Cuellar said.  

The first BEST team was based in Laredo. ICE establishes BEST units based on which areas are significantly impacted by border threats, the availability of law enforcement to participate, and the extent to which the threats are harmfully impacting the area. DHS/ICE will annually report on the effectiveness of the BEST as measured by crime statistics, to include violent deaths, incidents of violence, and drug related arrests. 

Zapata had served with ICE for four years and had previously served with the United States Border Patrol for just under one year. He is survived by his parents and four brothers, two of whom also serve as federal agents. 

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Human smuggling convictions, including one case linked to Edinburg tractor-trailer park, obtained against six defendants

By ANGELA DODGE 

A total of six defendants charged in two separate and unrelated cases have been sentenced to prison  for transporting undocumented immigrants in the air dams of tractor trailers, United States Attorney José Ángel Moreno announced on Thursday, March 3, 2011. 

An air dam is a spoiler dome located on the top of the cab of a tractor trailer which is designed to lessen drag caused from air resistance from the trailer it is towing, which may be taller than the cab and provide a very non-aerodynamic effect. The air dam was not designed for use as a passenger compartment and poses a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury to persons transported in that manner.  

In determining the length of the prison term handed down, the judges took into consideration the total number of undocumented immigrants transported, the substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury to the undocumented immigrants based upon their being transported within the air dams and that at least one undocumented immigrant sustained a burn to his arm and another fractured his ankle while trying to get into the air dam.  

Five of the six sentenced to prison for using this extremely dangers means of transporting human beings were charged together in one indictment.  On Thursday, March 3, the five – all convicted in December 2010 after pleading guilty to transporting undocumented aliens within the United States inside the air dams of tractor trailers in or about November 2010 – were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Randy Crane.  

Domingo Sandoval-Mendoza, 31, of Mexico, who pleaded guilty in December 2010 to the smuggling charge as well as to being an undocumented immigrant in possession of a firearm was sentenced to a total of 41 months in federal prison. The other four defendants – José Asunción Olivares, 18, of Mission, Antonio Ibarra-Olvera, 57, of Mexico, Roberto Rodríguez-Casas, 20, of Mission, and Juan Ramón Sandoval-Mendoza, 28, of Mexico, also pleaded guilty in December. Olivares and Sandoval Mendoza were each sentenced to 27-month terms, while Ibarra-Olvera an Rodríguez-Casas and were each sentenced to 41 months in prison. Each of the five has also been ordered to serve a two-year-term of supervised release. 

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) and U.S. Border Patrol (BP) investigation leading to the charges against these five men began with surveillance of a tractor trailer parking lot in Edinburg, and the discovery of three undocumented immigrants hidden within the air dam area of a tractor trailer. Investigating agents discovered that these defendants had previously participated in the transportation of additional undocumented immigrants within the air dams of other tractor trailers, without the apparent knowledge of the tractor trailer operators. 

The sixth defendant sentenced and charged in a separate and unrelated but similar case, Pedro Junior Pérez, 18, of Donna, was sentenced on Wednesday, March 2, by U.S. District Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa to 24 months in federal prison to be followed by a two-year-term of supervised release.  Pérez also pleaded guilty in December 2010.  

In this case, ICE-HSI and BP agents had been conducting surveillance of a vehicle driven by Pérez, which had been identified as being used to transport undocumented immigrants. Upon conducting an immigration inspection of the occupants of the vehicle, agents discovered that two of the occupants were in the United States illegally. Through further investigation, it was learned that Perez had previously participated in the transportation of additional aliens within the air dams of other tractor trailers, without the knowledge of the tractor trailer operators.  

All defendants are presently in custody and will remain in custody pending transfer to a Bureau of Prisons facility where they will serve their sentence. Those defendants who are foreign nationals face possible deportation upon completion of their prison term. 

Assistant United States Attorney Linda Requénez prosecuted both cases. 

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Texas Attorney General resolves cases against five Valley motels for price gouging during Hurricane Dolly

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on Monday, March 7, resolved five price-gouging cases he filed against South Texas motel operators for their improper conduct during Hurricane Dolly. 

Each of the five defendants – Motel 6 – Harlingen, Best Western Las Palmas Inn, Comfort Inn – Edinburg, Comfort Inn – Pharr, and Country Hearth Inn & Suites Pharr/McAllen – entered into an agreed final judgment and permanent injunction. State investigators discovered that the defendants unlawfully increased the cost of their rooms after Gov. Rick Perry issued a disaster declaration as Hurricane Dolly approached Texas. 

Under the agreed final judgment, the defendants agreed to pay civil penalties to the state and implement multiple changes to their business practices during a declared disaster. Specifically, the five motel operators are prohibited from charging or accepting excessive or exorbitant fees for accommodations during a disaster. The defendants must also post the daily room rate in each room and maintain a registration system that includes guests’ names, contact information, length of stay and rates charged per day. 

Additionally, Motel 6 –  Harlingen and Best Western Las Palmas Inn are prohibited from collecting hotel occupancy taxes from evacuees who are fleeing a disaster when such taxes are waived by the governor. 

Under Texas law, when the governor declares a disaster, vendors are prohibited from raising prices to profit from the disaster. The attorney general is charged with enforcing the law’s prohibition on price-gouging during a declared disaster. Under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, vendors cannot sell or lease fuel, food, lodging, medicine or other necessities for excessive or exorbitant prices. 

According to Wikepedia: 

Hurricane Dolly was a tropical cycline that made landfall in extreme southern Texas in July 2008.  It was the first U.S. landfalling hurricane of the 2008 season.  

Dolly made landfall as a Category 1 storm on July 23 in South Padre Island with 85 mph (140 km/h) winds. The storm caused 212,000 customers to lose power in Texas as well as 125,000 in Tamaulipas, and dropped estimated amounts of more than 16 inches (410 mm) of rain in isolated areas. There were no deaths as a result of Hurricane Dolly in Texas; it did, however, cause an estimated $1.05 billion dollars in damage. 

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Evangelina Cantú and César Mercado of Edinburg participate in Texas Alliance and Youth Competition in Austin

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Edinburg RGV recently announced that as a result of grant from Hochheim Prairie Insurance, Evangelina Cantú and César Mercado – two members of the local group’s TeenSupreme Program – on Monday, February 28 and Tuesday, March 1, attended the 2011 Boys & Girls Clubs of America Texas Alliance and Youth Competition in Austin. 

Both local residents had earlier been named Youth of the Year for their local Edinburg Units, Club 2020 El Tule and San Carlos, respectively, and attended the Austin trip to visit the capital, the University of Texas, and the Youth of the Year luncheon, where the state finalist was named.   

The keynote speaker at this luncheon was Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen.  

Evangelina and César were impressed by the size of the University of Texas, by the number of students walking and riding bikes at the campus, and by the friendly atmosphere of college life. They were surprised by the diverse cultures they came across and could not believe so many students travel so far to attend college in Texas.   

Both said they were thankful of the opportunity to visit a college away from home and are now more open to the idea of attending college away from family, if it suits the career path they choose. 

Youth of the Year is Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s premier youth recognition program which promotes and celebrates club members’ service to organization, which features community and family, academic performance, spiritual values, life goals and poise, and public speaking ability.  

The Youth of the Year program is most effective when used as a year-round tool for fostering young people’s personal growth and leadership qualities.                   

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Edinburg RGV has played an integral role in the Edinburg community for 40 years, providing daily programs and services to more than 16,000 young people.   

During the school year, the club is open Monday through Friday, from 3:30 p.m. until 8 p.m., and during the summer the hours are from 7:30 a.m. through 5 p.m.   

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Edinburg RGV offers programs that emphasize character and leadership development, education and career development, health and life skills, the arts, and sport, fitness and recreation.  

Area residents who wish to to learn more about joining the Boys & Girls Clubs of Edinburg RGV or about its youth development programs may call (956/383-2582) or visit its website at  http://www.edinburgkids.com.  

Individuals who wish to make a financial contribution to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Edinburg RGV may contact Sabrina Walker-Hernández, chief professional officer, also at 956/383-2582, or email swalker@edinburgkids.com

Individuals may text “CLUB”  to 20222 to donate $5.  

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Edinburg Rio Grande Valley is a proud City of Edinburg partner and Hidalgo County United Way Agency.  

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Congressman Rubén Hinojosa announces nominations to U.S. military service academies 

By PATRICIA GUILLERMO 

Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, on Tuesday, March 1, announced his 14 nominees to the United States military service academies from the U.S. Congressional District 15 of Texas.  

“Each year I become more encouraged and inspired by the exceptional young men and women whom I nominate to the United States military academies,” said Hinojosa. “They have a special call to duty for their country and for all Americans. Each nominee exemplifies courage and honor. I wish them the very best during their selection process and in their future endeavors.”  

To be considered for an appointment to a service academy, an applicant must have a nomination. Members of Congress may nominate applicants who meet the eligibility requirements established by law.  

The nomination process is highly competitive. Before nominating an applicant, members of Congress carefully evaluate each applicant’s overall qualifications, including legal domicile, evidence of character, high school academic record, SAT and/or ACT scores. Also taken into consideration is the participation in athletics, clubs and class extracurricular activities, scouting or other community-related activities.  

Every year, members of Congress nominate exemplary young men and women from their respective districts to service academies and, from those recommendations, the service academies make final selections. Some names are submitted to more than one academy, if an applicant selected an alternate.  

Hinojosa submitted the following nominees to the U.S. service academies:  

U.S. Military Academy, West  Point, New York 

  • Daniel A. Caballero (Pharr, PSJA High School)
  • Alberto Castro Jr. (McAllen, Nikki  Rowe High School)
  • Stephanie A. Martínez (Harlingen, Harlingen High School)
  • Norris Overly (Mission, Sharyland High School)
  • John Ross Palacios (Pharr, PSJA North High  School)
  • Sergio J. Proctor (Edinburg, McAllen Memorial High  School)
  • Eric Anthony Ruiz (McAllen, Nikki Rowe High  School)
  • Jonathan M. Schwindt (Beeville, A.C. Jones High School)  

U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis,  Maryland 

  • Adan Barreiro (McAllen, McAllen High School)
  • Beau M. Culver (Sinton, Sinton High School)
  • Jeffery T. Ertter (McAllen, McAllen High School)
  • Norris Overly (Mission, Sharyland High School)  

U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado 

  • David A. Amador (McAllen, McAllen Memorial High School)
  • Adan Barreiro (McAllen McAllen High School)
  • Jonathan M. Schwindt (Beeville, A.C. Jones High School)
  • Nathaniel Tunberg (McAllen, Edinburg High School)
  • Dylan Weeks (Edinburg, Science Academy) 

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Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce kicks off Spring membership drive

Want to be part of an award-winning chamber of commerce?   

The board of directors of the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors recently finalized their spring membership drive, which was set for Tuesday, March 8 and Wednesday, March 9. 

The event was open to the public. Individuals unable to attend that membership drive may still contact the RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (RGVHCC) for information or other needed materials by calling 928-0060.   

The RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which has been named nine times as the  Texas Small Chamber of the Year, is open to all individuals, not just those of Hispanic descent. 

“Whether you’re Hispanic or not does not matter," reaffirmed Armando Garza, the chairman of the board of directors for the RGVHCC. "What does matter is that the RGVHCC is here to represent the whole Rio Grande Valley in Austin and Washington, D.C., when there are matters of concern such as business, health, education and international issues.”   

“We are a business organization whose reputation is well-respected and acknowledged by the United States Hispanic Chamber and the Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce, which in turn have direct connections with the proper legislative offices," added Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, the president of CEO of the RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.  

The RGVHCC offers many business, health, women’s issues workshops and Networking opportunities that assist in their members business or personal lives. They are also a satellite office to the Small Business Administration and the Small Business Development Center which helps members get funding for a start-up or existing business.   

In addition, they are also associated with Acción of Texas, which is a micro-lender that helps businesses get funding when they can’t get loans from a local bank.   

“Since becoming the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic chamber, we have recruited members from all over the Valley,” said Sakulenzki. “Members are excited that they get the opportunity to associate with other businesses throughout the Valley, not just businesses in their home town”.   

For additional details on joining the RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce or for more information on other aspects of the group, individuals may contact the organization at 928-0060.    

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Congressman Cuellar votes to eliminate some paperwork required of small businesses by IRS

By LESLEY LÓPEZ 

Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo/McAllen, on Thursday, March 3, voted in favor of House Resolution 4, the Small Business Paperwork Mandate Elimination Act of 2011. The bill would terminate a law that would impose unreasonable burdens on small business, such as filing detailed Internal Revenue Service paperwork for every business transaction exceeding $600.  

“To create jobs and economic growth, we must remove cumbersome, hefty paperwork burdens on our small businesses. Ending this provision will promote business growth and investment throughout Texas and the nation,” said Cuellar. “Small business owners in my district have told me that the best way to create jobs is giving them a chance to grow without redundant government paperwork. This bill will do just that.”  

H.R. 4 is bipartisan and supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Small Business Association, National Federation of Independent Businesses, American Farm Bureau Association, American Medical Association, National Association of Enrolled Agents, Associated General Contractors, among 175 other organizations.   

“Our nation relies on small businesses. At a time when our economy begins to recover, this bill will help it move faster by removing burdensome requirements that will not aid economic growth,” said Cuellar.  

The bill passed by a bipartisan vote of 314 to 112. 

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Rep. Guillen files legislation to provide more transportation funding for Texas

Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, on Tuesday, March 8, announced that he has filed legislation to provide more transportation funding for Texas. 

"With a major budget shortfall on our hands, it is absolutely imperative that our state utilizes funds to the best of its abilities," said Guillen, who serves as chairman of the House Committee on Culture, Recreation, and Tourism. "Texans must act wisely and sensibly in regard to using state and federal funds intended for important transportation projects." 

The following bills filed by Guillen would increase utilization of state and federal transportation funds: 

 • House Bill 981 by Rep. Guillen would create local mobility credit programs with the intent of improving local transportation systems. These credits would minimize requirements for state funds to match federal grants, freeing state money to be used on projects at a lower cost because they would not be required to meet more expensive federal requirements. 

 • H.B. 1276 would maximize the federal funds our state receives for transportation by improving in-state transportation planning processes that would increase Texas’ eligibility for additional federal funding opportunities. According to the Texas Legislative Budget Board, the amount of federal funds the Texas Dept. of Transportation receives as a percentage of its total budget has declined since fiscal year 2003. 

 • H.B. 578 would allow for more funding for public transportation in smaller urban transit districts and would strengthen the affected transit districts for purposes of growth. It would also continue to facilitate the necessary resources to maintain services to the communities.  

"Maximizing the utility of our resources for transportation projects today is essential to future economic development," said Guillen. "These bills are among several that my office has tirelessly been working on that address various transportation issues affecting our state." 

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Film screening at South Texas College of The Longoria Affair puts spotlight on past, current discrimination against Mexican Americans

By EDGAR CHRNKO 

Who would have thought that a phone call from Three Rivers, Texas in 1949 would spark the Mexican-American Civil Rights Movement? No one was more surprised than Sara Posas, the sister-in-law of Pvt. Félix Longoria. She was a special guest-speaker at the opening of the recent National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies Tejas Regional Conference held at the South Texas College Pecan Campus Library Rainbow Room.  

The opening night of the 2011 NACCS Conference kicked off with the standing room only film screening and roundtable discussion of The Longoria Affair. The discussion brought together Posas with film director and writer John Valadez; Wanda García, daughter of civil rights pioneer Dr. Héctor P. García; and Marianne Bueno of North Texas University.  

At the conclusion of the film screening, Posas reminisced about the events that transpired after the death of her brother-in-law in World War II. She talked about the return of his remains to Three Rivers for a proper burial and the subsequent denial by the funeral parlor because “the white people wouldn’t like it.” She offered her sister help in the form of a call to Dr. García, which she accepted, and the rest is history.  

“I was at the right place, at the right time,” Posas explained. “All I did was make a phone call. I called my hero, Dr. Héctor P. García.”  

Valadez’s film documentary has stirred up some controversy, but mainly brought to light the contributions of Mexican-Americans and Hispanics in the Civil Rights Movement, which has mainly been portrayed as black and white in the history books.  

“Some people took out a full-page ad in the Corpus Christi Caller Times saying that the film was a bunch of lies and that we tried to influence the mid-term elections even though the film was released afterwards,” Valadez said. “We’ve been verbally bashed, it’s been difficult. I don’t know how Dr. García did it. I would’ve crumbled a long time ago. Three Rivers is going on all over this country. Arizona is Three Rivers now, and if people don’t speak up, the arrogant, greedy and petty will fill that void.”  

The powerful film and roundtable were a proper opening to the NACCS Conference, which carried the theme of De Diosa a Hembra to Chicana: Celebrating the Last 40 Years of Chicana Activism, focused on the female role in the Civil Rights Movement.  

“We couldn’t have asked for a better way to kick off the 2011 NACCS conference,” said Víctor Gómez, STC Mexican American Studies Program Instructor and event coordinator. “This sort of panel doesn’t happen every day. To have a civil rights pioneer, a renowned documentarian, and the daughter of a civil rights leader was a powerful event. It was an honor to have John Valadez and first-hand accounts by Sara Posas and Wanda García of what happened during those early years of the civil rights movement. It was one of those rare instances that we get to experience.  

“It was great to see so many of our students and members of the community in the audience taking part in such a heritage-rich event,” he added. “It was gratifying to see the conference come to fruition, and most importantly, that our students took advantage of attending the conference. It was a learning experience for everybody involved.”  

The Mexican American Studies Program recognized Posas with a lifetime achievement award for her civil rights endeavors in Texas and for bringing The Longoria Affair incident to the attention of Dr. Hector P. Garcia.  

“She (Posas) just underwent hip surgery, but she didn’t let it stop her from attending.  She really wanted to come and she did,” Gómez concluded. “Without her ‘picking up the phone,’ as she stated, this incident perhaps never would have received the attention it did and, more importantly, it doesn’t help ignite the civil rights movement for Mexican Americans in Texas.” 

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