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Sixty-acre tract of land on South Monmack Road to be transformed into $47 million residential subdivision, announces Edinburg Economic Development Corporation

Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR

Featured, from left Councilmember J.R. Betancourt and Mayor Pro Tem Richard Molina on Monday, February 18, 2016, during a work session of the Edinburg City Council and the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court, review options for Edinburg in the proposed construction by Hidalgo County for a $150 million courthouse in the city’s downtown.

Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR

Valuable vacant property owned by First National Bank of Edinburg (which was closed in September 2013) is on the way to becoming yet another success story for the city following recent action by the Edinburg City Council, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced. When completed, the new residential community will help provide more high-quality housing for Edinburg, and pump an estimated $47 million into the local economy, based on the values of the lots and homes.

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Miriam Martínez’ campaign symbolic of humble beginnings, titanic struggles, and valiant victories of all South Texans

Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, on Tuesday, November 6, celebrated with his supporters and local news media reporters outside his law office in McAllen following his victory over Rep. Raul Torres, R-Corpus Christi. Hinojosa earned more than 60 percent of the vote for the right to serve as the District 20 state senator. District 20 includes a large portion of Hidalgo County, Nueces County, Jim Wells County, and Brooks County. "I would like to thank the voters for returning me to the Texas Senate to continue defending District 20’s fast-growing and distinct slice of Texas," Hinojosa following his victory. "I also want to thank my supporters, volunteers and campaign staff for their very hard work on the ground this election season."

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Mayor Richard García, Rep.-elect Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, and Paul Rappaport of First Hartford Realty, who is the General Manager for The Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg, on Friday, October 19, were joined by other area business and community leaders for a ribbon cutting ceremony marking the positive economic impact of the 440,000 square-foot retail shopping complex, which is scheduled to expand to more than 1.1 million square-feet in the coming few years. Since it first opened for business in the fall of 2008, The Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley, located at Trenton Road and U.S. Expressway/Business 281, has generated $4.6 million in local sales taxes and employs more than 220 full-time professionals, according to the mayor. Featured, from left: Martín Rivas, Membership Director, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce; Elizabeth Rocha, General Manager, Melrose Family Fashions; Letty Reyes, Project Manager, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; Ramiro Garza, Edinburg City Manager; Rep.-Elect Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; Mayor Richard García, president, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors; Paul Rappaport of First Hartford Realty, General Manager, The Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley; Chris Fuentes, General Manager, JC Penney; Agustín Lozano, Public Relations, Bert Ogden Motors; Letty González, President, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce; Marty Martin, Rio Valley Realty; Melissa Rodríguez, Austin Personnel Services; and Johnny Rodríguez, Austin Personnel Services.

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Robert R. Vela High School was formally dedicated on Saturday, October 13, during a grand opening ceremony that brought together hundreds of guests from throughout the Valley. There were local, state, and national dignitaries, former students, and people from all walks of life whose lives were touched by Vela. Vela was a teacher who firmly believed that academics and athletics worked hand-in-hand to mold well-rounded student-athletes into productive citizens in our community. Vela was one of South Texas’ greatest football coaches. He lived his life helping students see the potential of greatness within them. Robert R. Vela High School is home of the SaberCats. Featured, from left: His widow, Dominga Vela; Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville; Rep.-elect Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; Eva Torres, Principal of Vela High School; and Dr. René Gutiérrez, Superintendent of the Edinburg School District.

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South Texas College Dual Enrollment Medical Science Academy was one of only three programs that were honored on Thursday, October 4 with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s Star Award at the 2012 THECB Leadership Conference in Austin. "The Coordinating Board’s recognition of South Texas College’s exemplary Dual Enrollment Academy for Medical Sciences as a Star Award winner is long overdue," said STC President Shirley A. Reed. "The program has a sterling track record of success and helping hundreds of young people get a jump start on pursuing a professional degree in medical sciences by earning an associate degree from STC, tuition free." Featured, from left: Nick González, STC High School Programs and Services Liaison; Ali Esmaeili, STC Dean of Bachelor Programs and University Relations; Lupe Chávez, STC High School Programs Director; Raymund Paredes, Commissioner of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board; Mark Murray, President of STC Faculty Senate; and Juan E. Mejía, STC Vice President for Academic Affairs. See story later in this posting.

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Silver Ribbon Community Partners, First Choice Power and the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce are asking the community to "Share the Warmth" with the elderly and disabled this winter season. Silver Ribbon is a non-profit United Way Agency that assists the elderly 65+ and the disabled 18+ who have been referred to them by Adult Protective Services due to abuse, neglect or exploitation. Many of these elderly clients fall into the "low-to moderate income" bracket and may receive $10,000 a year or less from Social Security. Every year the county of Hidalgo receives over 2,500 calls of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, neglect, self-neglect, or exploitation of the elderly and disabled. Area residents can help the less fortunate by donating new or gently used blankets, warm stretch gloves, non-skid socks, or winter caps and scarf’s that will be distributed to the elderly or disabled of Hidalgo County who meet the income criteria. Monetary donations will also be accepted. Please make checks out to Silver Ribbon Community Partners. Residents also may drop off donations now until December 17 at Silver Ribbon Community Partners located at 1919 Austin Avenue in McAllen, at First Choice Power located at 2423 E. Expressway 83, Suite 400, in Mission, or at the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce located at 3313 N. McColl in McAllen, Please call Rose Ramírez, Program Director with Silver Ribbon at 956/664-4892 for more information and remember your donation is tax deductible. Featured, from left: Cynthia Sakulenzki, RGVHCC Pres/CEO; Rose Ramírez, Program Director Silver Ribbon Community Partners, and Moníca Rodríguez, Area Manager for First Choice Power.

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First National Bank on Friday, November 9, announced that Saúl Ortega, its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, has been named the honoree for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Edinburg RGV 6th Annual "Steak" in Your Community Event. Ortega and the 2013 Youth of the Year will be celebrated on Saturday, January 12, 2013, at the Legacy Center@Boys & Girls Clubs, 702 Cullen Street (Rogers & Expway 281). Ortega has been with First National Bank for 25 years, formerly as Accounting Officer, Controller, and Chief Financial Officer. He assumed the role of Chairman and CEO in late 2011. Ortega’s focus is on strong, conservative lending practices and maintaining FNB’s long history of the best customer service in banking. Featured, first row, from left: Amaya Hernández; Tomás Espinoza; Brianna Espinoza; Mallory Espinoza; Adam López; Abel López; and Alex Castillo. Back row: Saúl Ortega and Sabrina Walker-Hernández, Chief Professional Officer, Boys & Girls Clubs of Edinburg RGV. See story later in this posting.

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A scholarship for South Texas students at The University of Texas at Austin has been named for Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, the Texas Exes announced on Tuesday, October 30. The Senator Judith Zaffirini Scholarship will be presented annually by the Texas Exes to deserving students from South Texas who need assistance paying for college. The scholarship was endowed by the senator’s son, Carlos Zaffirini Jr., an attorney and businessman. Because of his contribution, the Texas Exes will create a permanent endowment that can fund scholarships for years to come. Featured, from left: Carlos Zaffirini Jr.; Leslie Cedar, Texas Exes Executive Director; Bill Powers, UT President; and Dr. Francisco Cigarroa, UT System Chancellor. Not shown: John Beckworth, Texas Exes President. See story later in this posting.

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León and Velma Sue De León, owners of Memorial Funeral Home in Edinburg, among other area businesses, on Saturday, November 3, were recognized as 2012 Man and Woman of the Year by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. The honor was bestowed during the Annual Chamber Installation Banquet, held at the ECHO Hotel and Conference Center in Edinburg. The Man and Woman of the Year selection was based on a community-driven committee process that selected a man and woman that exceeds in professional and civic commitment and avid volunteerism within the community of Edinburg. Featurd, from left: son Jason De León; León and Velma Sue De León; and son Jacob De León. See story later in this posting.

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Edinburg Mayor Richard García, featured seated, center, on Saturday, October 13, help lead a delegation of Valley mayors who met at Pepper’s Restaurant in McAllen with San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro to begin building an alliance with San Antonio on legislative issues of mutual concern to that city and the Rio Grande Valley. They addressed shared challenges and strategies needed to develop a partnership between the two regions of South Texas in advance of the upcoming regular session of the Texas Legislature, which begins in January. Featured, front row, from left, are: Rio Grande City Mayor Rubén Villarreal; Granjeño Mayor Yvette Cabrera; Mayor Castro’s twin brother, Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio; Edinburg Mayor Richard H. García; San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro; San Juan Mayor San Juanita Sánchez; and Laguna Vista Mayor Susie Houston. Standing, from left: Gilbert Hinojosa, Texas Democratic Party Chair; Rio Hondo Mayor Alonzo Garza; La Feria Mayor Steve Brewer; Port Isabel Mayor Joe E. Vega; Alamo Mayor Diana Martínez; Alamo Commissioner María del Pilar Garza; Mercedes Mayor Henry Hinojosa; McAllen Mayor Richard Cortéz; and Harlingen Mayor Chris Boswell.

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On November 28, 2011, Miriam Martínez of Edinburg, who only the year before had become a naturalized U.S. citizen, gave back to her beloved America with her remarkable first entry into U.S. democracy, which ended for her on Tuesday, November 6, as the Republican nominee for State Representative, House District 41. In her almost year-long campaign, she has endured, as so aptly put in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" – dealing with political attacks on her honorable reputation, plus all the complications and problems that life throws at her. Yet, Martínez has never wavered in her bold vision, integrity, and willingness to "speak truth to power" – the highest standards of U.S. democracy – in order to drive her message that anyone can run for high office in America, not just the privileged few.
"The promise of America and Texas is that if you are willing to sacrifice and work hard, pray for guidance, work with people, listen to the wisdom of others, and do what is right and just, you can accomplish just about anything," she said. "My campaign is symbolic of the humble beginnings, titanic struggles, and valiant victories of all South Texans." See lead story in this posting.

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Texas Transportation Commission would include South Texans under measure approved by House

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Rep. Armando "Mando" Martínez, D-Weslaco, featured in Edinburg last year with Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, has secured House passage of his legislation that would prevent the sale and distribution in Texas of flame-producing lighters that look like toys – mechanisms that have been linked to injuries and deaths of children nationwide. His House Bill 90, which was approved by the House of Representatives on Friday, May 1, now goes to the Senate for its consideration and action. The bill defines "toy-like lighter" to mean a mechanical or electrical device typically used for lighting cigarettes, cigars, or pipes that resembles in physical form or function articles designed or intended for play by children under 10 years of age. "HB 90 would protect the public, and especially children," said Martínez, who is a firefighter, licensed paramedic, critical care flight paramedic, and Texas Department of Health instructor and coordinator. "Deadly fires have  been caused across the country by these lighters. These objects are easily  mistaken for toys and are enticing to children. They do not have  disclaimers and are inherently dangerous." Gonzáles is a co-author of Martínez’ legislation. See story later in this posting. 

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Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo/McAllen, right, met with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday, May 7, in Washington, D.C., to discuss border security and the appointments of U.S. District Judges, U.S. Marshalls, and U.S. Attorneys. The gathering was part of a meeting between the Texas congressional delegation and Holder. Also on May 7, Cuellar, during a separate event, joined a bipartisan majority of the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act.  The bill, which cracks down on predatory lending practices and ensures that the mortgage industry follows basic principles of sound lending, responsibility, and consumer protection, passed the U.S. House on a 300-114 vote. See story on the mortgage legislation later in this posting. 

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Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, and Rep. Aaron Pena, D-Edinburg, on Tuesday, May 5, marked the Texas Senate’s passage of legislation that would require convicted sex offenders to provide their online and cellular telephone account information to the state’s Sex Offender Registry.  Senate Bill 689 passed the Senate on Monday, May 4, and is now pending in the Texas House of Representatives, where the Edinburg lawmaker will carry it as the sponsor. “This legislation will help protect children by ensuring that state law keeps up with modern technology,” Abbott said. “By requiring sexual predators to provide their electronic identities, the Legislature is simply improving existing registration requirements – which require convicted sex offenders to provide their addresses to the Department of Public Safety. As Attorney General, I am grateful to Sen. Shapiro and Rep. Peña for their innovative approach and commitment to Texas children.” See story later in this posting. 

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Rio Grande Valley members of the Juvenile Justice Association of Texas are featured behind the Senate chamber, greeted by Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, during their visit to the Texas Capitol on April 29. The group was in Austin to attend a conference. From left: Linda M. Luna of Brownsville; Abel Zapata of La Feria; Sen. Lucio; Al Elizondo of San Benito; Luis Flores of Harlingen; and Javier Losoya of Harlingen. 

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Edinburg 2008 construction drops $45 million from 2007, with new homes down by more than 50 percent

Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, featured second from left, on Wednesday, March 4, presented legislation that would create a medical school in the Rio Grande Valley.  His measure, along with similar, but separate plans by Rep. Armando "Mando" Martínez, D-Weslaco, and Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-San Benito, were considered by the House Committee on Higher Education. Peña’s measure, House Bill 110, would transform the Regional Academic Health Center, located in Edinburg and Harlingen, into a stand-alone, four-year medical school and health science center. The key legislative panel, which has no Valley lawmakers, heard testimony in support of the medical school idea, but no vote was taken. Featured during a break during the panel hearing to review the legislation are, from left: Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, chair of the House Higher Education Committee; Peña; Martínez; and Lucio, III. See story later in this posting. 

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Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, presents a Texas flag to Edinburg native Captain Leonel A. Peña after honoring him on Tuesday, March 3, with a Senate resolution on the Senate floor at the Texas Capitol. Peña is the youngest person and first and only Hispanic to become conductor for the United States Army Band program. Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, not featured in this portrait, also was a co-author of the Senate resolution. See story later in this posting. 

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More than 200 educators from across the Rio Grande Valley, Texas and the nation gathered in early March to discuss methods to accelerate students through the education pipeline and into the workforce. Hosted by South Texas College, 2009 marks the fourth year for the event. During the day-long summit, attendees looked at student access and success through a variety of lenses, including issues related to the Latino student population, issues faced by migrant and impoverished students, and how technology and the global marketplace have changed the education pipeline. Featured, from left: Pricilla Hinojosa, MISD project manager for STC; STC President Shirley A. Reed; and Jessica Ray Rincones, a student in STC’s MCCTI Program with her parents Nancy and Ruben Rincones. See story later in this posting. 

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An intriguing list of presenters, events and activities will delight the community – young and old – at the third annual Festival of International Books and Arts (FESTIBA) scheduled for March 22-28 at The University of Texas-Pan American. FESTIBA is a weeklong celebration of the arts and humanities and promotes literacy and cultural awareness by providing students and the Rio Grande Valley community interactive, hands-on opportunities to experience books, theatre, storytelling, music, art, dance, and performance competitions. Participants in a February 20 press conference to announce FESTIBA 2009 activities were, from left: Dr. Peter Dabrowski, associate director, UTPA Department of Music and Dance; Laura Hinojosa, Hidalgo County Clerk and president of the South Texas Literacy Coalition; Stephen Leach, director of Government Relations and Community Outreach, Reading is Fundamental; Dr. Dahlia Guerra, UTPA dean of the College of Arts and Humanities and FESTIBA coordinator; and Dr. Steven Schneider, UTPA English professor, director of New Programs and Special Projects in the College of Arts and Humanities and Big Read project director. 

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DPS drug incinerator begins operation in South Texas, will destroy about 150,000 pounds of marijuana per year, says Sen. Hinojosa

 

The University of Texas-Pan American Alumni Association Board of Trustees recently held their quarterly meeting in Edinburg, reviewing some of their many achievements and outlining some of their goals for the coming year, said Dr. Roland Arriola, president of the Alumni Association.  The Alumni Association provides scholarships, mentorship, outreach and fundraising to improve the benefits and services for students and graduates and promote the university’s educational and technological excellence. Board officers, trustees, and guests who met during a September 30 board meeting at the Wells Fargo Bank in Edinburg featured in this photograph are, from left, seated: Diane Willis of Edinburg; Carmen Lara, formerly of San Juan and current McAllen resident; Frances Treviño of Edinburg, who serves as Secretary; Norma Rydl of Edinburg, who serves as Treasurer; and María “Charo” Mann, formerly of Lima, Perú and current Edinburg resident, who serves as Vice President. Standing, from left: Héctor Landez, formerly of Brownsville and current McAllen resident; John Taméz of Edcouch, who serves as President of the UTPA Student Alumni Association; John Sigrist, formerly of Helena, Missouri and current Mercedes resident; and Dan Martínez, formerly of San Benito and current Richmond resident. 

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The UTPA Alumni Association is a dynamic organization of proud graduates, ex-students and friends who have joined together to provide continued support and service to UT Pan American. The first Pan American University Alumni Association began in the early 1970s with 600 charter members. Today, the association is still strong and grows with each wave of new graduates. Chapters have been formed in Houston, Dallas and Austin providing long distance links to home and their alma mater for the ever-expanding family of graduates and supporters. The association relies on your support since it is a self-funded, membership-driven organization. The UTPA Alumni Association offers its members a variety of ways to stay connected and explore opportunities for building a place in the world. Tangible benefits help members grow personally and professionally while having fun and enjoying good fellowship. Board officers, trustees, and guests who met during a September 30 board meeting at the Wells Fargo Bank in Edinburg featured in this photograph are, from left, seated: Debby Grant of McAllen, who is UTPA’s Director of Alumni Relations; Linda Ríos of Edinburg, who is UTPA’s Assistant Director of Alumni Relations; Marissa Acevedo of McAllen, who is UTPA’s Clerk of Alumni Relations; and Marisela Leal of McAllen, who is UTPA’s Office Supervisor of Alumni Relations. Standing, from left, are: David Garza, formerly of Elsa and current Pearland resident, who serves as Vice President; Thomas Yznaga of Edinburg; Marco Ramírez, formerly of Monte Alto and current Edinburg resident; José “Joey” González, formerly of Roma and current McAllen resident, who serves as Vice President; and Dale Winter, formerly of Westbrook, Minnesota and current Alamo resident, who is the former President and current Parliamentarian of the UTPA Alumni Association Board of Trustees. The UTPA Alumni Association maintains a website at http://www.utpaalumni.com 

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Carlos Ramos, featured here, is making his first run for elected office, seeking the Place 7 school board seat currently being held by Ciro Treviño. Ramos, a former police officer with the Edinburg school district, and Roger C. Bunch, Jr., a teacher at the Edinburg Alternative Education Academy, are part of the second local school board race that has not drawn the media attention of the battle between Gilbert Enríquez and incumbent Carmen González for the Place 6 spot. But that doesn’t mean the behind-the-scenes competition for the seat by Bunch, Ramos and Treviño is not as important in determining political control of the seven-member school board. See story later in this posting. 

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Irene García, featured third from left, who is the District 2 representative on South Texas College’s Board of Trustees, on Monday, October 13, announced that she will resign her leadership post with STC, as required by state law, when she is sworn in on November 5 as a newly-elected member of the La Joya school board. Elected to STC’s Board of Trustees in May 2000, García has represented the interests of the constituents of La Joya, western Mission, Palmview, Sullivan City, Penitas and western Alton for more than eight years. She served as secretary, vice chair and chair of STC’s board. She also helped steer the goals and actions of the board’s facility, finance and human resources, and education and workforce innovations committees. “I retired from the LJISD administration team after a career spanning four decades of service in the classroom and at many levels of administration with both the La Joya and Hidalgo school districts. So, understandably, I have a real love and passion for this work,” said García. “I am moving my focus back to LJISD because I feel that my skills and knowledge would be a great benefit to the district’s board. I look forward to joining the board in November, working hard to continue LJISD’s tradition of excellence." She is the mother-in-law to Rep. Ismael "Kino" Flores, D-Palmview.  Her fellow trustees, along with STC President Dr. Shirley A. Reed, honored her on October 13 for her service to the community college system.  From left are: Dr. Alejo Salinas Jr., Jesse Villarreal; García; Dr. Shirley A. Reed, board chair Mike Allen; and board vice chair Gary Gurwitz. The STC board is soliciting nominations from qualified residents of District 2 in order to replace García. See story later in this posting. 

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Area higher education leaders gathered for a Friday, October 9 press conference at the University of Texas-Pan American to discuss with Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, the recently passed Higher Education Opportunity Act, which provides greater accessibility and affordability to higher education for the nation’s students. Featured, from left: Dr. Héctor Ochoa, dean of the UTPA College of Education; Dr. Antonio Zavaleta, vice president for External Affairs, UT-Brownsville/Texas Southmost College; Dr. Blandina "Bambi" Cárdenas, UTPA president; Hinojosa; Dr. Shirley Reed, South Texas College president; Pat Hobbs, interim president, Texas State Technical College at Harlingen; Dr. Michael Zúñiga, director, South Texas Center, Texas A&M University Health Science Center; and Ben Reyna, special assistant to the provost for Federal Relations, The University of Texas at Brownsville/Texas Southmost College. See story later in this posting. 

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