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Photograph By PAUL CHOUY

Featured, from left: Dr. Kelly Cronin,Vice President for Advancement, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley; Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen; Verónica Gonzáles, Vice President for Government and Community Relations, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley; and Dr. Guy Bailey, President, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, at the main campus in Edinburg on Wednesday, January 20, 2016.

Photograph By PAUL CHOUY

From the fields of Peñitas to the jungles of Vietnam to the halls of the Texas Capitol, Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, says he has created a political legacy he could never have achieved without family, friends and supporters. Now, he is “paying it forward” by helping first-generation college students, like himself, at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. (Paying it forward is an expression for describing the beneficiary of a good deed repaying it to others instead of to the original benefactor.) On Wednesday, January 20, 2016, Hinojosa presented UTRGV a $50,000 gift to support “The Cotton Fields of Peñitas” Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa Endowed Scholarship, an endowment he began in 2013 at The University of Texas-Pan American, a UTRGV legacy institution. “For me, education is the best equalizer we have in our society,” Hinojosa said during a press conference at the UTRGV Performing Arts Complex on the Edinburg Campus. “Education is knowledge and knowledge is power. Education is a way out of poverty.” The scholarship supports first-generation college students pursuing degrees in all majors at UTRGV. UTRGV President Guy Bailey called Hinojosa “a true ambassador for The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley” and “one of the best public servants in the state of Texas. “Sen. Hinojosa exemplifies excellence in giving back to our community, state and our nation, and always supporting education,” Bailey said. “I don’t know where we would be without him. If you look at what he has done for the institution and what he has done in the last Legislature, we all owe him continuous thanks for what he has done.” The longtime legislator/attorney offered himself as an example to others that almost any obstacles can be overcome to reach personal and professional successes. “If I myself, (an American citizen) who was deported (to Reynosa) when I was 5 years old, who couldn’t speak English until I was 7 years old, who grew up the oldest of a family of eight can graduate from Pan American University, become a lawyer, and now be Texas senator, that means any young person can also do the same thing,” he said.

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Sen. Juan ‘Chuy’ Hinojosa gifts $50,000 to UTRGV to support his endowment

By MELISSA VÁSQUEZ

From the fields of Peñitas to the jungles of Vietnam to the halls of the Texas Capitol, Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, says he has created a political legacy he could never have achieved without family, friends and supporters.

Now, he is “paying it forward” by helping first-generation college students, like himself, at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

(Paying it forward is an expression for describing the beneficiary of a good deed repaying it to others instead of to the original benefactor.)

On Wednesday, January 20, 2016, Hinojosa presented UTRGV a $50,000 gift to support “The Cotton Fields of Peñitas” Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa Endowed Scholarship, an endowment he began in 2013 at The University of Texas-Pan American, a UTRGV legacy institution.

“For me, education is the best equalizer we have in our society,” Hinojosa said during a press conference at the UTRGV Performing Arts Complex on the Edinburg Campus. “Education is knowledge and knowledge is power. Education is a way out of poverty.”

The scholarship supports first-generation college students pursuing degrees in all majors at UTRGV.

The funds for the scholarship were accumulated when Hinojosa, who was elected the Senate’s President Pro Tempore this past 84th Legislative Session, was chosen by fellow senators to serve as “Governor for the Day,” an honor bestowed on a select few.

The day usually involves large ceremonial events, but Hinojosa chose to forego those events and instead raise money for endowed scholarships for universities across his senatorial district. His efforts resulted in $50,000 for UTRGV, along with funds for several other colleges in his district – South Texas College and Del Mar College.

“We all need to do our part in helping our students. Tuition continues to increase, and student loans get bigger and bigger. It is important for all of us to help them graduate so they will not be hindered, and have financial issues become an obstacle for them to graduate,” he said.

UTRGV President Guy Bailey called Hinojosa “a true ambassador for The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley” and “one of the best public servants in the state of Texas.

“Sen. Hinojosa exemplifies excellence in giving back to our community, state and our nation, and always supporting education,” Bailey said. “I don’t know where we would be without him. If you look at what he has done for the institution and what he has done in the last Legislature, we all owe him continuous thanks for what he has done.”

He thanked Hinojosa for his generous gift, and for his continued support of UTRGV and its efforts to be the leader in student success in the state and nation.

“There is no greater investment than education,” Hinojosa said. “Giving to universities and directly to students through this endowment to make college affordable is key. Education is the greatest equalizer. I am honored to give to our UTRGV students and play a role in helping them attain a college education.”

The longtime legislator/attorney offered himself as an example to others that almost any obstacles can be overcome to reach personal and professional successes.

“If I myself, (an American citizen) who was deported (to Reynosa) when I was 5 years old, who couldn’t speak English until I was 7 years old, who grew up the oldest of a family of eight can graduate from Pan American University, become a lawyer, and now be Texas senator, that means any young person can also do the same thing,” he said.

Hinojosa’s deep commitment to higher education and university support includes the following:

• During the 2013 Legislative Session, Hinojosa authored Senate Bill 24, the historic legislation that combined the assets of UT Pan American and UT Brownsville to create UTRGV and the URTGV School of Medicine, which includes a $50 million, 88,000-square-foot Medical Academic Building that will open August 2016 at the UTRGV main campus in Edinburg.

• In May 2013, SB 24 was passed unanimously by the Texas House and Senate, making UTRGV eligible to receive funding from the Permanent University Fund (PUF). This gave South Texas access to nearly $200 million that can be used for the construction of new facilities;

• Hinojosa helped secure legislative approval of Tuition Revenue Bonds to provide a major portion of the funding for the $42.7 million Performing Arts Center on the Edinburg Campus. The remaining funds for the facility, which features a 1,000-seat grand auditorium, came from the state’s Higher Education Assistance Fund;

• Hinojosa passed landmark legislation that supported the establishment of the Regional Academic Health Center (RAHC), which promotes physician training on the Texas-Mexico Border. Since his election to the Texas Senate in 2002, Hinojosa has secured more than $100 million for new construction for universities in his district; and

• Hinojosa was the House sponsor of legislation in the late 1980s which brought Pan American University in Edinburg and Pan American University in Brownsville into the University of Texas System.

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David A. Díaz contributed to this article. Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa represents the counties of Nueces, Jim Wells, Brooks, and Hidalgo (part). Hinojosa currently serves as Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, and serves on the Senate Committees on Natural Resources & Economic Development, Criminal Justice, Agriculture, Water & Rural Affairs as well as the Sunset Advisory Commission.

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