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House panel preserves option to upgrade Edinburg RAHC into UT medical school, says Rep. Martínez

A second Edinburg war hero – the late Pedro Cano – could soon join an elite group of Texas veterans who have been bestowed the state’s highest medal for valor – the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor – under a bill introduced on Friday, April 17, by Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg.

Family members for Cano – who is featured here during ceremonies honoring him in downtown Edinburg more than 60 years ago – are among the special guests invited to participate in a special presentation on Saturday, April 25, while Peña’s measure continues through the legislative process. The April 25 gathering,  which is free and open to the public, is also being organized by the Edinburg lawmaker. It will begin at 10 a.m. on the western plaza of Edinburg City Hall. More than half a century ago, the city of Edinburg dedicated April 26, 1946 as Pedro Cano Day. On that day, businesses closed, schools were dismissed, a parade was held and more than 4,000 people witnessed the award of the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest military honor, to the 25-year-old South Texan. Only six Texans have been bestowed the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor, including its most recent recipient, the late U.S. Marine Sgt. Alfredo "Freddy" González of Edinburg, who was posthumously awarded the honor in February 2008, during a public ceremony in Edinburg which featured his mother, Dolia González, and Gov. Rick Perry. See story on Pedro Cano later in this posting. 

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Amanda Lira, who attends Economedes High School, hugs her mother, Delma Lira Sánchez, during a ceremony earlier this month at the University of Texas at Austin, where Amanda was one of two South Texas high school students honored as Migrant Students of the Year. Texas has the second-largest migrant education program and the largest interstate migrant student population in the nation. Students and their families migrate annually from Texas to 48 other states to work in agricultural and other seasonal jobs. The Liras were joined in this portrait by Dr. Judy C. Ashcroft, UT’s Dean of Continuing and Innovative Education, and Dr. Felipe Alanis, UT’s Associate Dean of Continuing and Innovative Education and Director of the K-16 Education Center. See story later in this posting. 

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Deyanira Castillo of Weslaco celebrates with her mother, María Castillo, after Deyania was one of two Texas high school students honored by the University of Texas at Austin as Migrant Student of the Year. Since it was begun more than two decades ago, the Migrant Student Graduation Enhancement Program has enrolled more than 22,000 students in its mission to increase the graduation rate of high school migrant students in Texas. With funding from the Texas Education Agency and gifts from the Beaumont Foundation of America, the Exxon Mobil Foundation, the John G. and Marie Stella Kenedy Memorial Foundation and the Microsoft Corporation, the program helps Texas migrant students earn high school credits through distance learning courses that meet Texas curriculum requirements. See story later in this posting. 

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Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, honored members of the Zonta Club of Brownsville on Tuesday, April 14, at the Texas Capitol with a Senate Resolution commending them for their contributions to the Brownsville community and congratulating them on their 50th anniversary. Zonta is a worldwide service organization of executives and professionals working together to advance the status of women worldwide through service and advocacy. There are over 32,000 members in 1,255 clubs in 67 countries. Featured, from left: Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst; Danita Utsman, Zonta District Governor; Rosalie Gutiérrez, Brownsville Zonta President; Lee Ann Greer, Zonta Vice President; Brenda Pérez, Public Relations Chairwoman; Brunilda Villarreal and Minnie Lucio (wife of Sen. Lucio), Conference Co-Chairs, and Sen. Lucio. 

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For House Speaker candidate Senfronia Thompson, speaking truth to power personifies Texan’s values

 

For Rep. Senfronia Thompson, a veteran state legislator, moderate Democrat, and state party superdelegate who helped rally support for the nomination and landmark election of a black American (Sen. Barack Obama) for president, making history is a foundation of her own life.

With legislative achievements that include leading a major House committee for a dozen years and authoring more than 200 bills that became state laws, the renowned attorney – who represents northeast Houston and Humble – is a major player in the race for Texas Speaker of the House. Thompson’s personal and professional achievements drew the admiration of Obama when the Illinois senator was campaigning for the Democratic Party presidential nomination. "I’m honored to have earned the support of Representative Thompson and am pleased that she’ll play an important role in advancing our grassroots movement for change in Houston and across Texas," Obama said in a February 2008 statement. "Throughout her three decades in the Legislature, she’s been a tireless advocate for working families and when I’m president we’ll work together to put the American dream within reach of every child in Texas and across our country." Thompson, born in Booth, Texas, and raised in Houston, is Dean of women legislators in the Texas House of Representatives. See lead story later in this posting.  

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Dr. Francisco Cigarroa, M.D., featured left, the president of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, is reportedly one of two finalists to lead the UT System as chancellor. If he is selected, the Laredo native and transplant surgeon would become the first Mexican American chancellor of the sprawling UT System, which includes UT-Pan American, the UT Regional Academic Health Center in Edinburg, Harlingen, and Brownsville, and UT-Brownsville. The UT System, which includes 15 institutions and 185,000 students, is the largest system of higher education in Texas and one of the largest in the country.  Cigarroa, along with former Sen. John Montford, D-Lubbock, are expected to be interviewed for the top job by the UT System Board of Regents this week during its meeting in Austin, scheduled for Thursday, December 18, and Friday, December 19. In this photograph, taken in 2006 during the ribbon-cutting of the UT-RAHC in Edinburg, are, from left: Cigarroa; Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen; and UT-Pan American President Blandina "Bambi" Cardenas. In a related story, McAllen construction magnate Alonzo Cantú has been appointed by the UT System Board of Regents to serve on an advisory panel to recommend the successor to Cigarroa, who will be retiring next summer from his current role as president of the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio. Also, the UT System Board of Regents are scheduled to review plans for a football team at UT-San Antonio. See the story on Cantú and a separate story on the UTSA college football team plans later in this posting.  

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The McAllen Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, December 4, presented Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas III, featured second from right, with its prestigious TR, or Teddy Roosevelt Award, given to individuals who, in the face of adversity, “do the right thing.” The chamber chose Salinas for his stance against the Border Wall and for his success in working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to rethink the wall and instead rebuild portions of the county’s levees, said Steve Ahlenius, president and CEO of the chamber, who is shown in this photograph.  The levee-barrier alternative, which Salinas fought for in Washington D.C., will save residences and businesses from having to purchase mandatory flood insurance and will protect southern Hidalgo County’s bustling industrial parks from flooding. The award, a beautifully drawn graphite portrait of the 26th president captioned and framed with one of President Roosevelt’s most famous quotes, was designed by McAllen artist Joe Taylor. 

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The Office of Hidalgo County District Clerk Laura Hinojosa recently partnered with Target to promote professionalism in the workplace as part of their office training series. The workshops, held monthly and proposed through employee feedback, consist of professional and technical development for staff throughout the year. Through their partnership, the district clerk’s office was able to borrow store apparel at no cost. During the session, staff volunteers modeled select ensembles for their peers during the “fashion show” portion. Featured, from left: Elias Arteaga, Roxanne De La Cruz, Norma Cantú, Erick Rodríguez, Angela García, Jessica Jiménez, Irma López, Janey Ramón, and Oneida Llamas. See story later in this posting. 

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Edinburg school board candidates draw ballot spots; Gilbert Enríquez campaign kick-off set for Thursday

Omar Palacios, president of the Edinburg school board, addresses hundreds of faculty and staff during the Tuesday, August 19 General Assembly, outlining some of the accomplishments and goals for the largest school districts in South Texas. One of the major issues facing the school district is the detailed groundwork being done to implement the $112 million bond construction measure overwhelmingly approved by area voters last May.  In late August, the school district received news that the state will be sending almost $4 million as part of a long-range plan to eventually pay for more than 50 percent of the total bond construction debt. See related stories later in this posting.  Featured with Palacios at the General Assembly were, from left: Mario Salinas, Assistant Superintendent for District Administration; Palacios; trustee Carmen González; board secretary Ciro Treviño, and board vice president David Torres.

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For the sixth consecutive year, South Texas College will not increase its property tax rate. In fact, STC’s Board of Trustees voted at its August 21, 2008 meeting to slightly lower the college’s rate to $0.1498 per $100 of assessed property valuation, a 2.73 percent decrease from last year’s rate of $0.1540. “We recognize that many constituents in our districts are going through some economic struggles and so we felt it was important to look at ways to reduce the college’s budget, while ensuring that we do not have to raise taxes or tuition,” said Mike Allen, chair of STC’s board of Trustees. “We worked closed with the college’s administration, financial team, faculty and staff to make sure that every penny requested is tied to a student success initiative. We are very proud of all college employees for using restraint and keeping a keen eye on the bottom line – student access and success.”  Featured in this portrait are, from left, sitting: Roy De León; Irene García; and Jesse Villarreal.  Standing, from left: Dr. Alejo Salinas, Jr.; Manuel Benavidez, Jr., Allen; and Gary Gurwitz.

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Byron Jay Lewis, (featured bottom row, third from right), president of Edwards Abstract and Title Co. is congratulated by community leaders and staff members for earning the Feature Business of the Month award from the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. The local chamber’s Feature Business of the Month is a program that recognizes local businesses and investors monthly for contributing financial resources, support of the Program of Work and participation in the many events offered throughout the year. “We are honored to receive this recognition from the board of directors, Chamber Champions and staff,” said Lewis. “The chamber volunteers and staff, city leaders, business community and citizens of Edinburg have played a role in the continued success of Edwards Abstract and Title Co. and we want to say ‘thank you’. We look forward to serving you for years to come.” Included in this portrait, taken at the company’s corporate headquarters in Edinburg, are Letty González, (bottom row, fifth from right), the president of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, and Lee Castro, (bottom row, second from right), the chairman-elect of the local chamber.  See related story later in this posting.

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Technically preferred alignment approved for Hidalgo County Loop; public hearings set to begin in mid-July for input on selected route

Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, one of the premier hospital systems in South Texas, on Thursday, July 10, hosted a delegation of eight state representatives from Houston as part of the hospital leadership’s strategies to build legislative alliances statewide that can benefit Edinburg and the Valley. The delegation of Democrats, which included Rep. Senfronia Thompson, the Dean of the Texas House of Representatives and a candidate for Texas Speaker of the House, reviewed upcoming major legislative issues that will impact the delivery of medical care in Texas.  Prior to a tour of the local hospital system in Edinburg, the delegation also met with Alonso Cantú, a member of the DHR Board of Directors, Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen.  Featured in this portrait, taken at the Women’s Hospital at Renaissance, front row, from left: Sue Bajus, Director of Women’s Services at DHR; Rep.-elect Armando Walle; Rep.-elect Carol Alvarado; Thompson; Rep. Ellen Coen; Rep. Dora Olivo; Rep. Alma Allen, Ph.D.; Rep. Hubert Vo; and Rep. Ana Hernández. Back row, from left, are: Dr. Carlos Cárdenas, a gastroenterologist and chairman of the DHR Board of Directors; Patricia Burch, R.N., Director for Neonatology; and Dr. Carlos Mohamed, a gynecologist and oncologist.

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Award-winning reporter/blogger/columnist Ramiro Burr has left the San Antonio Express-News to launch his own company, Ramiro Burr Communications. Burr’s move is the latest in a professional trajectory that includes stints as an entertainment writer, newspaper reporter, freelance writer, book author, and regionally syndicated columnist. Most recently, the alumni of the University of Texas at Austin was recognized as No. 1 blogger at Mysa.com. Burr says he is ready for the next level. “I will continue to write and blog about music. I think the community, especially the Latino community, is still underserved when it comes to news and information,” he said. “I have always emphasized the need for all media to be well-balanced and fully represent their communities, including the Latino community. By being inclusive, we are all enriched.” Burr,  left, is featured here with Nicolás Kanellos, Ph.D., director of Arte Público Press, at the 2004 Edward James Olmos Latino Book Festival in Houston.  See story later in this posting.

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A recent seminar presented at The University of Texas-Pan American offered Rio Grande Valley disability service professionals as well as individuals with disabilities an opportunity to learn more about benefits and services available locally to enable individuals with disabilities to obtain a higher education. The “Disability Benefits and Return to Work” seminar, co-sponsored by the UTPA Department of Rehabilitation Addiction Studies Project, Workforce Solutions and the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), covered Social Security Administration’s (SSA) disability benefits and return to work considerations and incentives. It also held a session highlighting individuals with disabilities who had been on SSA disability benefits but have successfully transitioned to higher paying professional jobs by obtaining higher education. Featured participating in the Student Success panel at the seminar are, from left: Ernesto González, Eberto Soto Jr., Jorge Urrutia, Héctor Requenez, Benny Ramírez, Noel Ysasi, and Judith Pérez. See story later in this posting.

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Joshua and Frank Jaramillo of Edinburg show off their movie poster design for an upcoming film, The Álvarez Vietnam Story: Brothers in Arms to Fernando Álvarez, also an Edinburg resident, at South Texas College’s Technology Campus. The Jaramillo brothers, both PSJA High School graduates, are experiencing the glitz and glamour of Hollywood-style movie production first hand. They were chosen to design the movie poster and promotional binder for the film, which tells the true story of three Hispanic brothers, Emeterio III, Gilberto and Fernando Álvarez, originally from San Antonio, who risked their lives serving in Vietnam.  See story later in this posting.

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Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas, III, and McAllen Mayor Richard Cortéz on Thursday, July 3, joined key International Museum of Art & Science (IMAS) leaders to announce the return of the free general admission program every Sunday for the next 12 months. The free general admission program, which will take place every Sunday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., began on Sunday, July 6. Complimentary general museum admission is available to all visitors, not just residents of McAllen. Gonzáles, along with Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, filed legislation in 2007 that was enacted into law, which allows the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court to appropriate county funding to IMAS. Featured at the press conference at IMAS from left: Serena Rosenkrantz, IMAS executive director; Salinas; Gonzáles; Cortéz; and Dr. John Gerling, president of the IMAS Board of Directors. Gonzáles, whose House 41 legislative district includes southwest Edinburg, is facing a reelection challenge in November from fellow McAllen lawyer Javier Villalobos, a Republican. See story on the Gonzáles/Lucio legislation later in this posting.

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