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Featured in this image during the Thursday, February 6, 2014 grand opening of Rep. Terry Canales’ District Office in Edinburg, are, from left: Edinburg City Councilmember Richard Molina; Agustín “Gus” García, Executive Director, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; Fred Palacios, Secretary-Treasurer, Board of Directors, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; Edinburg Mayor Pro Tem Elías Longoria, Jr.; Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; Erica E. Canales, wife of Rep. Canales; Rachel Borchard, mother of Rep. Canales; Alex Ríos, Director for Rep. Canales’ District Office; and Elva Jackson Garza, Edwards Abstract and Title Company.

Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR

A groundbreaking legislative internship program for qualified students of The University of Texas-Pan American has begun at the Texas Capitol, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, who helped set it in motion, has announced. The fledgling program, featuring five students assigned to five Hidalgo County lawmakers, including Canales, promises to create a new generation of powerful political leaders who will be able to champion many of the dreams of deep South Texas, not just in future years, but during the current 140-day regular legislative session, which runs through the end of May. “The Texas Legislature, which meets every two years, approves hundreds of state laws and policies that affect almost every portion of our lives, from deciding how much of the estimated $200+ billion state budget over the next two years will be invested in the Valley, to acting on the other great issues of the day in Texas, from education reform proposals to anti-tax measures, and dozens more major legislative priorities,” said Canales. Influenced by his experiences in the Legislature, Canales wants more Valley residents to have the opportunity to develop the firsthand expertise needed to excel in the state legislative process. Opening the doors to the corridors of power and knowledge, as is currently being done by other major universities in Texas, is part of his vision. “It’s real simple,” Canales said of his hopes for the UTPA legislative internship program. “If we in the Valley are going to continue building on our influence in the Texas Legislature, we must bring more South Texans into this powerful arena, let them see in person how it really works, and help them take their rightful place as the future leaders of our great state.” The legislative interns currently participating at the Texas Capitol are: Carlos Aguayo of McAllen, serving with the Office of Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya; Jacqueline Sandoval of Harlingen, serving with the Office of Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco; Lesley Andrea Marín of Weslaco, serving with the Office of Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; Johnathan Simcha Weisfeld-Hinojosa of McAllen, serving with the Office of Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen; and Shawna Miller of Wimberly, serving with the Office of Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission.

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First-ever UTPA legislative internship program, set in motion by Rep. Canales, now underway at Texas Capitol for the 84th regular session

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Legislativemedia@aol.com

A groundbreaking legislative internship program for qualified students of The University of Texas-Pan American has begun at the Texas Capitol, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, who helped set it in motion, has announced.

The fledgling program, featuring five students assigned to five Hidalgo County lawmakers, including Canales, promises to create a new generation of powerful political leaders who will be able to champion many of the dreams of deep South Texas, not just in future years, but during the current 140-day regular legislative session, which runs through the end of May.

The internships are being sponsored this year by the University of Texas-Pan American Foundation, whose 23-member Board of Trustees is composed of leaders from business, the professions and civic affairs who are dedicated advocates of the university and thoughtful stewards of the Foundation’s assets, according to its website, UTPAFoundation.org.

The Office for Government and Community Relations for The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley is overseeing the internship program, and helped to create it with Canales.

The interns, their hometowns, and the offices in which they are working for the 84th regular session of the Texas Legislature, are:

• Carlos Aguayo of McAllen, serving with the Office of Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya;
• Jacqueline Sandoval of Harlingen, serving with the Office of Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco;
• Lesley Andrea Marín of Weslaco, serving with the Office of Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg;
• Johnathan Simcha Weisfeld-Hinojosa of McAllen, serving with the Office of Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen; and
• Shawna Miller of Wimberly, serving with the Office of Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission.

“The Texas Legislature, which meets every two years, approves hundreds of state laws and policies that affect almost every portion of our lives, from deciding how much of the estimated $200+ billion state budget over the next two years will be invested in the Valley, to acting on the other great issues of the day in Texas, from education reform proposals to anti-tax measures, and dozens more major legislative priorities,” said Canales.

REP. CANALES: OPENING THE DOORS TO CORRIDORS OF POWER AND KNOWLEDGE

Canales, influenced by his experiences in the Legislature, wants more Valley residents to have the opportunity to develop the firsthand expertise needed to excel in the state legislative process. Opening the doors to the corridors of power and knowledge, as is currently being done by other major universities in Texas, is part of his vision.

“For example, the Texas Legislative Internship Program, created in 1990 by Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston), has provided more than 500 undergraduate and graduate students, through Texas Southern University (TSU) in Houston, the knowledge, skills, and real-world experiences of working in the Texas Legislature,” the House District 40 legislator noted. “These are literally life-changing internships that more quickly lead to positions of leadership and influence at the highest levels of government and business in Texas. I want these golden opportunities for the students of UT-Pan American, and in the future, The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley.”

Under legislation co-sponsored by Canales in 2013, UT-Pan American, UT-Brownsville, and the three UT Regional Academic Health Centers (RAHCs) in Edinburg, Harlingen and Brownsville are being merged into one regional institution of higher education, to be known as The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley (UT-RGV).

UT-RGV, which also is expanding the RAHCs into the UT-RGV School of Medicine – including a major component in Edinburg – was created by the Texas Legislature under Senate Bill 24, whose main author was Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, and whose principal sponsor was Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville.

SB 24 was signed into law following the 2013 regular session of the Texas Legislature.

So, with the help of Curtis Smith, his legislative chief-of-staff in Austin, Canales last fall reached out to Dr. Guy Bailey, the incoming President of UT-RGV, along with former Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, Vice President for Government and Community Relations at U-TRGV, to see what could be done to help open the corridors of power in Austin to some of the best and brightest minds in South Texas.

Bailey, Gonzáles, and Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, Ad Interim President for UT-Pan American (and a member of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors), met for a key session organized by the state lawmaker on Thursday, August 14, at Canales’ district office in Edinburg, with Smith and Alex Ríos, the District Office Director, participating in the organizational meeting.

Leonard Spearman, Director of Government Relations at Texas Southern University, flew in from Houston to share ideas on how UTPA could create as successful a legislative internship program as the one administered by TSU.

UTRGV PRESIDENT BAILEY FAMILIAR WITH CONCEPT, NEED FOR LEGISLATIVE INTERNS

“Of course, Mr. Spearman’s experiences, advice and wisdom were very valuable to all of us, from how to secure financial support to developing the program so the students would receive class credit for participating in the UTPA legislative internship,” said Canales. “I also was most pleased that President Bailey is very familiar with and supportive of the concept, since Texas Tech University, where he was president from 2008 to 2012, has its own very successful effort.”

While at Texas Tech University, Bailey directly witnessed the success of that school’s internships at various levels of government. Texas Tech University owns a building near the nation’s Capitol in Washington, D.C. where the university houses dozens of interns year-round for internships at federal institutions, including Congress.

“Internships are of great benefit to our students because they allow them to gain real-life exposure to a professional working environment and mentorship experience,” Bailey said. “The fast pace and dynamic legislative session offers a unique experience to our students to see how government works, how it impacts the daily lives of Texans and how policy is formulated in our state, from concept to actual implementation.”

The UT-RGV president foresees “that in the next several years, we will have students from UT-RGV working in local, state and federal government offices. This is a prime example of how UT-RGV plans to offer greater opportunities to our talented students. We thank Representative Canales and all the other Valley legislators for participating in this internship program and the UTPA Foundation for its financial support of this program.”

UTPA FOUNDATION PLAYS VITAL ROLES WITH FINANCIAL, LEADERSHIP SUPPORT

Gonzáles, a former and successful state representative who served House District 41 before retiring from the Texas Legislature, said this year’s legislative internship program reflects the vision of the UTPA Foundation and its Board of Trustees.

“It is fitting that in our final year as UT-Pan American – before we are renamed and become part of The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley – that this great American institution of higher education, with the invaluable help of the UTPA Foundation, launches an effort that truly will provide the mantle of leadership for our students at the highest levels of state government and public service,” she said.

In 2004, voters in the McAllen, Mission, Edinburg and Alton area elected Gonzáles to serve as the first female representing District 41 in the Texas House of Representatives. She was re-elected three more times, serving eight years in the Texas Legislature before retiring from elected office. An attorney as well as a former state legislator, she was hired by UT-Pan American in the summer of 2012.

According to their website, “with the help of the trustees, individually and collectively, the UTPA Foundation has made great strides since its creation in 1982 in raising, managing and investing funds to help build first-class academic, research and public service programs that benefit the region, state and nation. Through their dedicated work over the years, the UTPA Foundation Board has raised more than $35 million in endowment funds to support student scholarships, faculty research and development, academic initiatives and student support programs, and to provide flexible funding to meet other university needs.”

Canales shares the enthusiasm and importance of providing more UTPA/UT-RGV students with an education and experiences which best come from being on the proverbial and figurative inside of the Texas Capitol.

“It’s real simple,” Canales said of his hopes for the UTPA legislative internship program. “If we in the Valley are going to continue building on our influence in the Texas Legislature, we must bring more South Texans into this powerful arena, let them see in person how it really works, and help them take their rightful place as the future leaders of our great state.”

Best of all, he believes, shaping the future legislative and political trailblazers for the Valley represents the highest ideals of education.

“In one of his final prepared speeches, President Kennedy spoke eloquently and wisely about the need for Americans to assume the awesome responsibility of governing,” Canales reflected. “President Kennedy said, ‘Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.’ Leadership and learning are what this legislative internship program is all about.”

The Board of Trustees for the UTPA Foundation are:

• Chairman of the Board Jaime Ramón, Partner, Cox Smith, Dallas, Texas;
• Vice Chair of the Board Víctor M. González, M.D., Ophthalmologist, Valley Retina Institute, McAllen, Texas;
• Treasurer Armando A. Pérez, Senior Vice President, Houston Division, H-E-B, Spring, Texas
• Secretary A.R. (Felo) Guerra, Rancher and General Manager, Guerra Brothers Successors, Linn, Texas;
• Arcilia C. Acosta, Chief Executive Officer, CARCON Industries and STL Engineers, Dallas, Texas;
• Armando Arismendi, Director, Special Government Projects, Research, IBM Corporation, Armonk, New York;
• Theresa Barrera-Shaw, Retired, Wal-Mart, Bentonville, Arkansas;
• Rudy Beserra, Vice President of Latin Affairs, The Coca-Cola Company, Atlanta, Georgia;
• Alonzo Cantú, President and Chief Executive Officer, Cantú Construction and Development Company, McAllen, Texas;
• Bill Ellis, Jr., Attorney and Partner, Ellis, Koeneke and Ramírez, McAllen, Texas;
• Marilyn Fox Box, President, IWB, McAllen, Texas;
• Lisa Brady Gill, Executive Director, Education Policy and Practice, Texas Instruments, Dallas, Texas;
• Yno Gonzáles, Senior Vice President, Network Services, Healy and Company, San Ramón, California;
• R. David Guerra, President and CEO, IBC Bank, McAllen, Texas;
• Sally Fraustro Guerra, President, Alumni Association, McAllen, Texas;
• Roel (Roy) Martínez, President, 2M Ranch, Mission, Texas;
• Doug Matney, Group Vice President, South Texas Health System, Edinburg, Texas;
• Edward Muñoz, Principal, Muñoz Group Investment Banking, Leesburg, Virginia;
• David Norman, Senior Vice President of Operations, Texas Division, Wal-Mart, Bentonville, Arkansas;
• H.R. Bert Peña, Troutman Sanders LLP, Washington, District of Columbia;
• Joe Ramírez, Principal, J.R. Enterprises, Summit, New Jersey;
• Ed Rivera, Director, Sales and Marketing, Nypro Kanaak, Laguna Vista, Texas;
• John Schrock, Sr., Chair and Chief Executive Officer, Lifetime Industries, McAllen, Texas; and
• Tom Torkelson, Chief Executive Officer and Head of Schools, IDEA Public Schools, Weslaco, Texas.

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