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Christmas inspires precious memories, divine hope for Dolia González, others who have lost loved ones

Hidalgo County leaders have joined forces recently on several projects of mutual concern, including pushing for environmental planning for the eastern portion of the Hidalgo County loop project and urging President Bush to wave any associated costs local governments incurred during the aftermath of Hurricane Dolly. In this photograph, taken during the December 6 meeting at Mission City Hall of the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority, Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, Hidalgo County Precinct 1 Commissioner Sylvia S. Handy, and Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas, III, successfully encouraged the RMA Board of Directors to speed up plans for the eastern portion of the proposed county roadway loop. See stories on Hurricane Dolly recovery requests and on a successful prescription discount card that recently went into effect in Hidalgo County.

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South Texas College has been selected to participate in the Community Colleges CAN Mentoring Program, which is a national program to link community colleges across the country in unique ways for the betterment and continued pervasiveness of higher education. Through the program, STC will work closely with El Paso Community College to develop an outreach program tying together all higher education institutions and school districts across Hidalgo and Starr counties to address the college readiness needs of all current and future students in the counties. Ultimately, STC hopes to facilitate increased college-going rates, increased college readiness rates, and increased degree attainment rates by creating a seamless system to transition students from high school to college. Featured in this shot, taken during the fall 2008 orientation at STC’s Pecan Campus in McAllen, are high school students from McAllen who are part of the South Texas College McAllen I.S.D. Achieve Early College High School program, one of the many initiatives the college has created with Valley school districts to create a seamless path to college. See story later in this posting.

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“I heard my song while I was watching Fox News the other day,” said Christopher Holloway, South Texas College history instructor. “Who would have known that more than 20 years later it would still be a hit? I think you can say it’s become a Christmas classic!” Holloway, a man of many talents, has not only taught history for more than half a century, but also had a prosperous career in singing and songwriting. A natural vocal talent and composer, he was signed by Playback Records. He wrote several songs, including Man From Galilee, which caught the attention of Christian singer Cristy Lane. Eight years after the song’s birth, Lane released a Christmas CD in 1985 featuring her version of the song, which sold 250,000 copies in the first year. Holloway poses with a record of his songs and the songs of Cristy Lane. See story later in this posting.

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This year will mark the 40th Christmas that Dolia González of Edinburg has spent without her only child, American war hero Freddy González. But instead of sitting alone with her memories, she reaches out and is like a star shining for those around her. That is her sense of decency, honor, and civic duty, says John Flores, author of a book about the Edinburg family. Last February, Dolia González and her son were the center of attention in Edinburg, when Gov. Rick Perry, to her left, came to the three-time All-America City to bestow Texas’ highest honor in memory on her son’s courage in battle. From left, are: Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg; Edinburg City Councilmember Noé Garza (back row); Dolia González; Edinburg City Councilmember Alma Garza (back row); Gov. Perry; and Edinburg school board president Omar Palacios. See lead story later in this posting.

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Democrat Criss champions civil rights, equal justice as controversy faces GOP-led Texas Supreme Court

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Dolia González, mother of Edinburg war hero Alfredo “Freddy” González, is comforted by Gov. Rick Perry as they both look at the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor, the state’s highest recognition for valor, which was posthumously bestowed upon the national war hero by Perry at an historical event at Cats Stadium on Monday, February 4 – the 40th anniversary of the young Marine’s death in action in Vietnam. “The story of Freddy González will be told as long as there is a Texas,” the governor said. Featured, from left, are: Commander R. Alistair Borchert, Commanding Officer of the USS González, a $900 million guided missile destroyer named in honor of the Edinburg native son; Dolia González; the governor; Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg; former Texas Longhorn head coach Fred Akers, for whom González played quarterback when Akers was head coach for the Edinburg Bobcats; Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen; Edinburg school district superintendent Gilberto Garza, Jr.; and Letty Garza, KRGV-TV anchorwoman who served as the the mistress of ceremonies. See story later in this posting.

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Hundreds of area residents looked on from the stands at Cats Stadium in Edinburg on Monday, February 4, to bear witness to a ceremony honoring the late Marine Sgt. Alfredo “Freddy” González as a Texas hero. Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, a former U.S. Marine squad leader in Vietnam, was one of the dignitaries to participate in the event. Hinojosa was a high school quarterback for his hometown of Mission and he remembered playing against González, the quarterback for Edinburg’s only high school back in the 1960s. “I am very proud of Freddy González, and of his mon, who gave up her son so we can enjoy our freedom,” Hinojosa said. “As I stand on this football field today, I can feel Freddy’s spirit. From this community, we produce people who are young, raised by our families, but who are willing to become adults and fight for our country. For us, there would be no freedom, no America, if it were not for people like Freddy González.” See story later in this posting.

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Janiece Longoria, a daughter of the late Sen. Raúl Longoria, a longtime Democratic political leader in Hidalgo County, on Friday, February 1, was appointed by Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, to the University of Texas Board of Regents for a term to expire February 1, 2011. Longoria, who was raised in Pharr before leaving the Rio Grande Valley to attend the University of Texas at Austin and the UT Law School, currently resides in Houston as a partner in the law firm of Ogden, Gibson, Boocks & Longoria, L.L.P. She succeeds Robert Estrada of Dallas, whose term had expired. Estrada is formerly of Brownsville.Fittingly, her first meeting as a UT regent was held in Edinburg on Wednesday, February 6 and Thursday, February 7, when the governing board held one of its rare session out of Austin. See story later in this posting.

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Place 4 City Councilmember Alma A. Garza, who also serves as mayor pro-tem, on Thursday, January 31, asked hundreds of her friends and family members at her campaign kick-off at the ECHO to support her bid for a new, three-year term during the May 10 city elections. She noted that the city’s continuing strong economy – low unemployment rates, major new commercial and residential projects, strong retail and medical performances – is among the many good reasons for voters to keep her in office. Garza will be facing Johnny Rodríguez, CEO of Austin Personnel Services of Edinburg, who is making his first run for elected office. “We have 100 days until May 10 – 100 days to run this election,” she rallied her troops. “I take nothing and no one’s vote for granted. Please note that in the next 100 days I will be runing con todo mi corazón (with all my heart). See story later in this posting.

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Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, vice chair of the Senate Finance Committee, grills officials with the Texas Department of Transportation, disputing the agency’s claims that it no longer has necessary funding to continue work on public roads, though it continues to spend tax money to support toll projects. “I am dismayed that the legislature didn’t receive accurate information regarding TxDOT spending,” Zaffirini said on Tuesday, February 5, during a joint legislative hearing in Austin of the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Transportation Committee. “It is crucial that we get to the bottom of this, as projects across the state are being delayed or cancelled.” To her left is Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, and to her right is Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan. See story later in this posting.

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