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In America, everyone deserves a second chance, Rep. Muñoz tells high school graduates who overcame struggles

Estella Lane Treviño, featured center, seated, the longtime executive director for the Edinburg Housing Authority, was honored for her many professional and personal accomplishments by city and state leaders in Edinburg on Friday, September 23, which was designated a day in her honor by the Edinburg City Council. Treviño, whose many landmark achievements include being the first woman justice of the peace in Hidalgo County, recently retired as EHA leader after 39 years of service. Following the ceremony, she posed with her immediate family, from left: Dr. Valeria Guerra and her husband, Brian Joseph Guerra (Mrs. Treviño’s grandson) of Austin; George X. Guerra and his wife, Chiqui T. Guerra (Mrs. Treviño’s daughter) of McAllen; Xavier Blair Horler (Mrs. Treviño’s great-grandson) and his parents, Blair Horler and Leanne Marie Guerra Horler (Mrs. Treviño’s granddaughter) of Dallas; and Stephen Michael Guerra (Mrs. Treviño’s grandson) of San Antonio. See stories later in this posting.

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McAllen attorney R.D. “Bobby” Guerra on Thursday, September 8, celebrated with his immediate family following his successful campaign kick-off in McAllen for state representative, House District 41, which includes southwest Edinburg and northeast McAllen. More than 300 supporters joined the Guerra family at the Art Village for the political event. Guerra, a Democrat, is facing a challenge from Edinburg businessman T.C. Betancourt for the March 2011 Democratic Party primary nomination. The winner will face Rep. Aaron Peña, R-Edinburg, in the November general election. Guerra and his wife, the former Leslie Yoder, posed with their son, Cameron, and daughter, Tessa, following his campaign kick-off speech. The Guerra’s other son, Justin, was in San Antonio that evening because he was needed at his work. Guerra – son of the late Hidalgo County Judge Ramiro Guerra and Enedina Guerra, who served on the Pan American University Board of Regents – criticized Peña and the Republican Party for a state budget that cut about $4 billion from the state’s public education system. See story later in this posting.

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The Edinburg Consolidated ISD Board of Trustees were recently presented with a $20,000 grant check from State Farm Insurance and Texas Valley Communities Foundation (TVCOF) to implement college readiness programming  for students and parents across the district’s six middle schools. Featured, front row, from left: Raúl Resendez with State Farm Insurance; ECISD board secretary Ciro Treviño; ECISD board vice-president Carmen González; Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen; and Dr. René Gutiérrez, ECISD superintendent. Standing, from left: ECISD board trustees Juan “Sonny” Palacios, Jaime R. Chavana, and Dr. Martín Castillo; Dr. Rebecca Morrison, ECISD assistant superintendent; and ECISD board president David Torres. See story later in this posting.

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Colorful images of La Virgen de Guadalupe, La Llorona, indigenous groups and even Selena graced the walls of South Texas College’s Pecan Campus Library in McAllen, all paying homage to the thoughts and ideas that make up the vision of what it means to be a Chicana woman. The images weren’t chosen randomly; they were part of artist Santa Barraza’s exhibit and lecture, Four Decades of Chicana Art and Culture in Texas and Beyond, which kicked off South Texas College’s Hispanic Heritage Month celebration. In this photograph, Barraza stands next to her sand sculpture titled Day of the Dead Altar for Los Tios. She prepared the artwork specifically for STC’s Hispanic Heritage Month celebration. Barraza gave two talks on Thursday, September 15, at the college’s Pecan Campus Library Rainbow Room in to kick off the festivities. She was one of several noted speakers who participated in the Hispanic Heritage Month Pláticas Sol de Aztlán Lecture Series. See story later in this posting.

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Pedro Contreras, an employee with the Edinburg Parks and Recreation Department, was recently honored by Edinburg school district leaders for his determination to finish his high school education. Contreras, featured here with Nelda R. Garza, director of the Edinburg CISD Vision Academy of Excellence, dropped out of Edinburg North High School in 1991 to help provide for his family. But with help from the Vision Academy of Excellence, Contreras was able to earn his General Equivalency Degree (GED), and in this photograph, he and Garza are reviewing his application for admission to the HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) program at South Texas College. See story later in this posting.

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Are you a small business owner? Do you need help with issues such as employee attitude, how to increase your bottom line, where to go to get funding to expand or start your business, etc.?  These are just some of the free workshops that the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, based in McAllen, offers its members and future members.  The RGVHCC recruited new members in mid-September, but encourages prospective members to learn more about organization and how to join by calling 928-0060 or logging on to http://www.rgvhcc.com. “The RGVHCC is a non-profit business organization for all business owners and professional people who are interested in growing their business as well as meeting other professionals” said Armando Garza, RGVHCC chairman. Cynthia M. Sakulenski, president and CEO of the organization, noted that the group works on issues relating to health, education, women, and governmental affairs. Some of the RGVHCC leaders are featured here, seated, from left: Marti Miller, vice chair of membership; Rick Álvarez, vice chair of government affairs; and Nidia Villarreal, vice chair of women’s issues. Standing, from left: Ronnie Bernal, vice chair of small business and economic development; Armando Garza, chairman; Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, RGVHCC president and CEO; Sam Saxena, vice chair of finance; and Mario Garza, vice chair of health.

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Team spirit was in the air as faculty, staff and administrators from South Texas College and The University of Texas-Pan American gathered in Edinburg on Wednesday, September 7, to sign agreements to help students through the process of transferring from one institution to the other. The signing of the six new agreements allows STC graduates who earn Associate of Science and Associate of Art degrees in the fields of business administration, chemistry, communication arts, computer science, criminal justice and music to seamlessly transfer to UTPA to continue their studies towards a bachelor’s degree. “Now we have 17 agreements in place to ensure all the credits from our various STC degrees plans transfer to UTPA, but that’s not enough – we can do better,” commented Dr. Shirley A. Reed, STC president. “I think we should publicly commit today to having agreements in place within two years ensuring our institutions are 100 percent aligned.” At the end of the signing ceremony, college administrators swapped tee-shirts, hats and caps in a show of team work and spirit. Featured, front row, from left: UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen; STC President Shirley A. Reed; UTPA Senior Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies Ana María Rodríguez; STC Vice President for Academic Affairs Juan E. Mejía; and UTPA Provost Havidán Rodríguez. Featured, back row, from left, are STC deans Ali Esmaeili, Mario Reyna and Margaretha Bischoff. See story later in this posting.

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As hundreds of thousands of Texas youths returned to school this fall for a new academic year, Rep. Sergio Muñoz, D-Mission, has been delivering his message that it is never too late to finish a high school education. “Throughout the world, the United States remains known as the ‘Land of Opportunity’, in large part because during our history, this nation has been where countless number of people have come for a chance to achieve their dreams,” said Muñoz. “With many of our young students here in the Valley, I have had the honor to congratulate them for earning their second chance to finish their education.” Muñoz recently was the keynote speaker addressing graduates of the Pharr-San Juan Alamo (PSJA) school district’s Dropout Recovery Program, and the high school education graduates of the Evins Regional Juvenile Center. Featured at the PSJA graduation ceremony are, from left: José V. Romo III; Jena Hernández; Brisclarin García; Dr. Daniel King, PSJA superintendent; Rep. Sergio Muñoz; and Carla L. Vera. See lead story in this posting.

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Nelda T. Ramírez appointed Interim Executive Director for Edinburg Economic Development Corporation

A virtual ribbon was cut by South Texas College administrators, officially launching the college’s sixth state-of-the art campus in early August. Although the new virtual campus doesn’t feature beautiful green spaces or ambitious new architecture, what it does offer is something equally exciting and fitting for a new digital age. STC’s newest campus is one of the edgiest of its kind because it is an online virtual campus. STC’s new eSTC Virtual Campus went live on Tuesday, August 9, allowing the college’s over 30,000 students to enroll in one of more than 500 course sections toward earning one of 15 degrees and five certificates – available to earn all online. “The dawn of the Internet in daily life more than two decades ago meant the advent of a new era in the way we live and work; it has transformed every facet of our lives,” explained STC President Shirley A. Reed. “In a brave move that few colleges have dared to take, we are offering every service available to our traditional campus students – all online.” See story later in this posting.

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South Texas College on Thursday, July 28, received approval from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to offer a third university-level degree: the Bachelor of Applied Technology in Medical and Health Services Management. The new baccalaureate degree prepares graduates for entry to mid-level management positions at health care or medical facilities. Course work focuses on health care facility management principles, technological innovation in delivery of health care services, health information processing technology and government regulations related to health care services. Featured in Austin moments after the state board’s approval are, from left: STC President Shirley A. Reed, Rep. Sergio Muñoz Jr., D-Mission, and STC Vice President for Academic Affairs Juan Mejía. See story later in this posting.

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Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, featured here on January 28 during a legislative tour at the University of Texas-Pan American, on Friday, August 5, announced her bid to seek a fifth two-year term as the state legislator for House District 40, which includes much of Edinburg. “Over the past seven years, I have had the honor and privilege of working for and with people from all different backgrounds, occupations and perspectives,” Gonzáles noted. “I am also grateful for the support I have received from my law firm, friends and residents of Hidalgo County, which make my public service possible. I look forward to continue building upon these relationships and creating new ones to ensure that the next legislative session is a success for District 40.” From right, following last January’s legislative tour’s presentation on border control technology, are: Fred Schwien and Lee Moss with the Boeing Corporation; UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen; Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen; Rep. Gonzáles; and Ray Prewett, Texas Citrus Mutual.” See story on her election bid later in this posting.

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Some of the underwriters and sponsors of the Hobo Hap’nin Reunion, set for Saturday, September 17, recently gathered at the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce train depot to finalize the details of the event. Levels of support range from $500 to $5,000, with many benefits and recognition for support extended to enhance the historic train depot that was constructed in 1927. Featured promoting the upcoming event are, seated from left: Letty González, president, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce; Elva Jackson Garza, representing sponsor Edwards Abstract and Title Co.; and Maggie Kent, representing sponsor General Dentistry Center & RDS. Standing, from left: Marty Martin and Flo Prater, members of the Depot Restoration Committee; Naomi Perales, representing sponsor Texas Gas Service; Sandra Casas, representing sponsor H.E.B.; Edna Peña, representing sponsor Gotta Lovette; and Edinburg City Councilmember Elías Longoria, Jr., member of the Depot Restoration Committee. See story later in this posting.

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Plans are well underway for the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Hispanic Heritage Fiesta & Cook Off scheduled for the Friday, October 7 and Saturday, October 8 at the RGV Livestock Show Grounds in Mercedes. The event will include a sanctioned IBCA cook off with cash prizes totaling more than $10,000. Items to cook are brisket, pork spare ribs, chicken, pan de campo, beans and chef’s choice. In addition, live entertainment will be available all day, vendor’s selling their food, services and goods and a Kiddie Land area. Also, SPI Bikefest will hold a poker run, bike skills contest, and bike show. Featured accepting the sponsorship check from Superior Health Plan are, front row, from left:  Ronnie Bernal, vice chair of Small Business for the RGVHCC; Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, president and CEO of the RGVHCC; Mary Lou Cavazos with  Superior Health Plan; and Marti Miller, vice chair of membership for the RGVHCC. Featured back row, from left: Hari Namboodiri, member of the Advisory Board for the RGVHCC; Rick Álvarez, vice chair of Government Issues for the RGVHCC; and and Brent Smith, treasurer for the RGVHCC. See story later in this posting.

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The Leadership Edinburg steering committee is currently accepting applications for Class XXIII.  All interested applicants should call the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce at 956/383-4974 to register. Leadership Edinburg (LE) is a nine-month program which gives its class members the opportunity to practice their leadership skills and brush up on different community topics that include history, education, healthcare, politics, and quality of life plus a fundraising session and a community service project in which all members of the LE willingly give back to the community. More than 520 graduates have taken the Leadership Edinburg Challenge. Individuals who want more information about Leadership Edinburg may call the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce at 956/383-4974. Featured promoting Leadership Edinburg are members of its steering committee, from left: Jay Flores; Adelita Ozuna; Imelda Rodríguez; Cindy Castillo; Letty González; Flo Prater; and Marty Martin.

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The Edinburg Cultural Activities Board (CAB) has scheduled its first monthly Jardín del Arte for Friday, August 12, beginning at 6 p.m. at Edinburg City Hall, 415 West University Drive. The event, which is free and open to the public, is designed to connect the community to vibrant art, music and culture. Refreshments will be available during the gathering, which will last through 9 p.m. More information about Jardín del Arte, including how artists can submit an application to display and sell their work, can be found at http://www.edinburgarts.com. Anyone looking for information can also call Letty Leija, committee member and Director of the Dustin Michael Sekula Memorial Library, at 956/383-6246.

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Edinburg’s The Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley to add 90,000 square feet, new businesses

 

Retired Lt. General  Ricardo Sánchez (who was born and raised in Rio Grande City), who now lives in San Antonio, was the featured speaker in McAllen on Saturday, April 9, for the Welcome Home South Texas Vietnam Veterans Day celebration, which was co-sponsored by the City of Edinburg. A few days after his visit, he acknowledged that he is considering running as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate seat that will be vacated in 2012 by retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Republican. Sánchez’ possible candidacy drew support from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. "General Sánchez has spent his entire life serving our country, and there’s no question he would be a strong candidate if he decides to continue to serve his country in the U.S. Senate," said Matt Canter, a spokesman for the political group. "He has a tremendous life story, growing up poor, rising to the rank of general in the Army, and bravely leading more than a hundred thousand troops in both Gulf Wars." Featured during this portrait taken before he delivered the keynote speech at thecelebration, dubbed Landing Zone: Rio Grande Valley (LZ:RGV) are, from left: Agustín "Gus" García, Sr., commander, American Legion Post 408, Edinburg; LZ:RGV co-producer Brian Godínez, owner, Godínez Communications, McAllen; Dora Brown, senior vice president, IBC, McAllen; McAllen Mayor Richard Cortéz; State Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission; Retired Lt. General Ricardo Sánchez; Hidalgo County Judge Ramón García; Edinburg Mayor Richard García; Laura Gump, H-E-B regional vice president, San Antonio; LZ:RGV co-producer Miguel "Mike" Carrera, owner, Miguel Carrera Communications, Edinburg; and Julie Lara, H-E-B public affairs manager, San Antonio. 

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Dr. Robert S. Nelsen, president of the University of Texas-Pan American, met recently with administrators, faculty and staff from UTPA, along with representatives from South Texas College and the McAllen Economic Development Corporation to discuss the planning process for a world-class Research and Education Park. The park is being developed under the direction of a subcommittee of the North American Advanced Manufacturing Research and Education Initiative (NAAMREI). The Research and Education Park, which has not yet been officially named, will be a unique, mixed-use, research and education development that will provide and/or incorporate a full range of interactive research and development, education, training and/or public support services in an interrelated format. A unique feature of the park will be an education campus. Featured, from left, seated: Wanda Garza, executive director for NAAMREI; Dr. Robert S. Nelsen, president of the University of Texas-Pan American; and Keith Patridge, MEDC president/CEO. Standing, from left: Helen J. Escobar, STC public relations coordinator; Jenny Cummings, STC public relations and marketing diretor; Dr. David Allen, dean of UTPA’s College of Engineering and Computer Science; Dr. Miguel González, associate dean of UTPA’s College of Engineering and Computer Science; Dr. Kimberly Selber, UTPA executive director for University Marketing and Communications and associate professor for the Department of Communication; and Mariana Múgica, MEDC marketing director. To learn more about NAAMREI, log on to their website at http://www.naamrei.org. 

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“Hat’s off to Education” could almost be the theme for the upcoming RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Women’s Spring Luncheon & Style Show, hosted by the group’s Education Committee, which is set for Tuesday, May 24 at the Embassy Suites from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.  Anyone who wears a hat to the event will get $5 off of their ticket at the door.  In addition, their name will be added to a drawing for special prizes. Funds raised at the event will go towards scholarships that the RGVHCC gives out in June. Local retail stores have already committed to modeling their spring clothes, shoes and jewelry for the luncheon and style show. Vendors are also signing up to sell jewelry, purses, crafts, etc.  Sponsorships are: Queen $1,000; Princess $750; and Duchess $500. Exhibitors tables are $100. Ad’s for the program book can also be purchased. “We ask that the Valley step up to the plate and help us give out as many scholarships as possible by sponsoring or attending the luncheon” said Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, RGVHCC president and CEO. “We encourage gentlemen to attend as well. They’re guaranteed to have a great meal and fun among all the women." Debi Lou Modeling Academy will be coordinating the Style Show and music. More information on the luncheon and/or exhibit is available by calling the RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce at 928-0060. Education Committee members featured here, from left, seated: Adelita Muñoz and Cynthia M. Sakulenzki. Standing, from left: Edna Posada; Alexandria Posada; Noemi Ochoa; and Jenise Díaz. 

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High school students Dennis Luna and René Mendoza, both from Edinburg, were named "Students of the Year" on Monday, April 11, by the Migrant Student Graduation Enhancement Program at The University of Texas at Austin. Each student received a $2,000 college scholarship funded by a gift from the ExxonMobil Foundation. The Migrant Students of the Year were selected on the basis of obstacles overcome, overall academic achievements, participation and leadership in extracurricular activities, and their performance in distance learning courses offered by the university’s Migrant Student Program. Featured, from left: Roberto García (counselor at Edinburg High School); Carlos Mendoza (brother of René and senior at St. Edward’s University in Austin); René Mendoza (Migrant Student of the Year); Dennis Luna (Migrant Student of the Year); Rep. Aaron Peña, R-Edinburg; Diana Alejos (counselor at Johnny G. Economedes High School); and Cory Crow (Montana counselor). See story later in this posting.  

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A career panel opened the second annual South Texas College Communication Arts Festival, held at the Pecan Campus in McAllen on Friday and Saturday, April 1 and 2. The event offered a rare glimpse into the participants’ humble beginnings, and how education and the art of communication played key roles in their lives, leading them to successful careers in diverse fields. Participants in the panel were, featured from left: Hidalgo County Judge Ramón García; Dr. Shirley A. Reed, the president of STC; David Guerra, the president and CEO of International Bank of Commerce; Brent Branham, deputy city manager for McAllen; and Óscar Adame, news anchor for KRGV-TV Channel 5, who served as moderator for the panel. Also during CommFest 2011, representatives for several media outlets such as Telemundo, Entravision Radio, El Periódico USA,City MagazineSocial Life Magazine, among others, were on hand to speak to students and answer questions they had about careers in the media industry. See story later in this posting.  

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The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce supports the 60th annual “National Day of Prayer”, set for Thursday May 5 from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. at the East Lawn at the Hidalgo County Courthouse. Millions will unite in prayer at thousands of events from coast to coast. The National Day of Prayer Task Force’s mission is to communicate with every individual the need for personal repentance and prayer, mobilizing the Christian community to intercede for America and its leadership in the seven centers of power: government, military, media, business, education, church and family. Please call 956/533-0000 for more information or email to:Adrian@ndprgv.com. Featured, from left, promoting the local event are: Adrian Esparza Sr.; Elma E. Esparza; and Letty González, president of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce President.

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Expansion of Texas property tax freeze to be reviewed by Texas Attorney General Abbott

Following statewide power outages last week as a result of a massive winter storm that impacted much of the nation, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst on Monday, February 7, said that two Senate panels will review the event and determine what changes need to be made to ensure the reliability of electricity in Texas. Very cold weather was blamed for more than 80 generation stations in Texas going down on Wednesday, February 2, causing periodic blackouts around the state due to the loss of capacity. Dewhurst said he has charged Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, chairman of the Business and Commerce Committee, and Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, who chairs the Natural Resources Committee, to hold a joint session to hear testimony regarding the issue. The joint meeting will try and find the root cause of the problem, and what Texas power generators can do to prevent future outages. "I think the operators understand that they're on the hook to supply power and it's not there," Dewhurst said. "We're going to look at the market and make sure that it works so that people have dependable, predictable electricity. If certain changes have to be made, then we'll consider those." In a winter marked by several crippling storms, the storm of February 1–2, 2011, stands out. Heavy snow, ice, freezing rain, and frigid wind battered about two thirds of the United States, making it “a winter storm of historic proportions,” said the National Weather Service. This image from the NOAA-NASA GOES 13 satellite shows the giant storm developing and moving across the country between January 31 and February 2.

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Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, on Thursday, January 27, proudly tried his hand at singing in the State Capitol rotunda with the renowned University of Texas-Pan American Mariachi Aztlán as part of UT-Pan American Day. Nearly 100 UTPA faculty, staff, students and alumni participated in the legislative lobbying effort to help convince state lawmakers, who are facing up to a $27 billion state budget shortfall, to avoid inflicting severe reductions in state money for key university programs and student scholarships. Hinojosa confirmed the Valley delegation's support for access to higher education opportunities. "I am what I am today because of UT-Pan American and we will make sure that UTPA gets the funding it needs," Hinojosa said. "The university expands horizons of many South Texas students, it creates opportunity and fulfills dreams." Also featured in the background are Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, who is facing Dr. Robert S. Nelsen, president of The University of Texas-Pan American. "Education changes lives and families," Gonzáles said."We will fight for funding so you and future generations can continue to go to college … because education is the key to success." See story later in this posting.

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Dr. Shirley A. Reed, president of South Texas College, lobbied state lawmakers on Friday, January 21, at the STC Starr County campus in Rio Grande City when several dozen legislators were participating in a legislative trip sponsored by the Valley Partnership. Reed, featured here addressing Rep. Aaron Peña, R-Edinburg, center, and Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, fears that initial state budgets prepared by the Senate Finance Committee and the House Appropriations Committee, would have a dramatic negative effect on the two-county community college system. "For South Texas College specifically, the cuts in the preliminary budgets mean that overall we would see our projected funding from the state decrease by anywhere from 12 to 17 percent," said Reed. "Already our students are burdened by paying a little more than 42 percent of our $133 million a year operating budget." Reed details her concerns in a column that she has sent out to the area news media, and which is included later in this posting.

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As an influential delegation of political, business and community leaders were in Austin on Wednesday, February 2, to accept congratulatory resolutions in both legislative chambers honoring the City of Palms on its 100th anniversary, they left much more than their calling cards and gift baskets with the Texas Legislature. They submitted a long list of legislative priorities, which includes the city's support for state-sanctioned gambling in McAllen, beefed-up border security measures, more money for its emerging University of Texas-Pan American teaching site, and additional university-level degree programs at South Texas College. Featured on the Senate floor following passage of a legislative resolution honoring McAllen on its centennial are, from left: Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville; Steve Alhenius, president and CEO, McAllen Chamber of Commerce; Don King, chairman of the Board of Directors, McAllen Economic Development Corporation; Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst; Bob McCreery, member of the Board of Directors, McAllen Chamber of Commerce; McAllen District 5 City Commissioner John J. Ingram; McAllen District 2 City Commissioner Marcus C. Barrera; and Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen. See story later in this posting.

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Diana Peña, vice president of finance and administrative services for South Texas College, on Monday, January 24, was honored by the STC Board of Trustees for her more than 12 years of dedicated service to the college. She retired from her full-time position at the end of January, but will remain on a part-time consulting basis. Peña, a Rio Grande City native, has been with the college since 1998. She oversaw a variety of crucial services that ensure the college runs and functions on a daily basis, including maintenance, facilities, security, human resources and all financial and business functions, excluding financial aid. She managed an annual budget of more than $130 million. Featured, front row, from left: Rose Benavidez, STC board vice-president; Diana Peña; STC President Shirley A. Reed; Gary Gurwitz, STC board chairman; and Roy De León, STC board trustee. Featured, back row, from left: STC board trustees Dr. Alejo Salinas Jr., Jesse Villarreal, and Óscar Longoria Jr., who also serves as STC board secretary. See story later in this posting.

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The Texas House of Representatives on Thursday, January 27, approved two resolutions – one designating UT-Pan American Day at the Texas Capitol, and a second measure honoring Dr. Robert S. Nelsen, president of the University of Texas-Pan American – which were jointly authored by the the majority of the Valley's state House legislative delegation. A nearly 100-member delegation of UTPA officials, students and alumni gathered at the Capitol to lobby lawmakers, urging them to protect state funding for the largest university south of San Antonio. Featured presenting the two measures – House Resolution 221 and House Resolution 222 – before the full House were, from left: Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen; Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas; Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission; Rep. José Manuel Lozano, D-Kingsville; Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-San Benito; Rep. Armando "Mando" Martínez, D-Weslaco; and Rep. Aaron Peña, R-Edinburg. See story later in this posting.

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Pharr Mayor Palacios says STC board should appoint successor to fill vacancy

The Texas Access to Justice Commission and Foundation has honored Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, featured center, with the Texas Access to Justice Legislative Hero Award for his contributions to improving access to justice in Texas.  The public recognition was bestowed on Wednesday, October 27, at the Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid office in Edinburg. Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan L. Hecht, featured right, the Court’s liaison for access to justice issues, presented the award to Hinojosa. Lilia Ledesma (featured left), an attorney with Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP, a national law firm with offices in Edinburg and Brownsville, also attended the public ceremony. Hinojosa was recognized for his outstanding leadership efforts in the 81st Texas Legislature during the spring of 2009 that led to an historic appropriation of $20 million for civil legal services for poor and low-income Texans. “Times are tough, and funding is scarce for the legal assistance low-income Texans desperately need, whether it’s a protective order to prevent abuse, obtaining benefits for the family, help with an eviction, or other legal services,” Hecht said. “Sen. Hinojosa understands, and he has supported this worthy cause with leadership, determination, and courage.” See story later in this posting.  

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Rep.-elect Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, featured right on Thursday, October 21, at the University of Texas-Pan American, was selected to attend the prestigious NALEO National Institute for Newly Elected Officials in Washington, D.C., which was held November 18 – 21. The three-day governance “boot camp,” hosted by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund, is a professional development seminar designed to help newly elected officials acquire the skills needed for effective governance and establish professional networks needed to succeed in public office. Congressmen-elect Francisco “Quico” Canseco, R-San Antonio, and Raúl Labrador, a Republican from Indiana, were among this year’s participants. In addition to Muñoz, other new members of the Texas Legislature selected for the Institute were: Sen.-elect José R. Rodríguez, D-El Paso; Raúl Torres, R-Corpus Christi; Rep.-elect Larry Gonzáles, R-Round Rock; and Rep.-elect Naomi R. González, D-El Paso. For her part, Zaffirini  on Monday, November 8, pre-filed the first 44 Senate bills of the 82nd Texas Legislative Session that will convene on Tuesday, January 11. See stories on Muñoz and Zaffirini later in this posting.  

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McAllen banker Alonzo Cantú, featured left, and businessman Forrest Runnels, also of McAllen, on Wednesday, November 10, were sworn in by Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, as the newest members of the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority Board of Directors during the RMA’s work session in Weslaco. Cantú was appointed on Tuesday, November 2, by then-Hidalgo County Judge René A. Ramírez, who is featured in the background, while Runnels was appointed, also on November 2, by Hidalgo County Precinct 4 Commissioner Óscar Garza at the request of incoming Precinct 4 Commissioner Joseph Palacios. Both appointments received unanimous approval of the county commissioners court. In late October, R. David Guerra, Vice President and Director of International Bancshares Corporation (not shown), was sworn in as an RMA board member, representing the City of McAllen, on Wednesday, October 27. “Alonzo, Forrest and David bring tremendous credentials, integrity and vision to one of the most important projects that will affect all Hidalgo County residents," said RMA board member Michael G. Cano of Pharr, an attorney with the national law firm of Linbarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP, which has offices in Edinburg and McAllen. "For all of us, it is both very challenging and very gratifying to be part of history in the making. We encourage all Hidalgo County residents to provide their ideas, concerns, and hopes to us at any time." The seven-member governing board for the RMA is charged with many responsibilities that will affect the economic and transportation development of Hidalgo County, including planning and financing toll roads and other major highway improvements for the region. See story later in this posting  

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Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes,  featured here during his campaign victory party  in McAllen on Tuesday, November 2, has been elected as the 1st Vice Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC). The CHC is dedicated to voicing and advancing, through the legislative process, issues affecting Hispanics in the United States and Puerto Rico. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus aims to address national and international issues and the impact these policies have on the Hispanic community. The function of the Caucus is to serve as a forum for the Hispanic members of Congress to coalesce around a collective legislative agenda. Hinojosa, who was formerly 2nd Vice Chair of the organization, was promoted on Thursday, November 18. Congressman Charles A. González, D-San Antonio, was elected as Chair, Congressman Ben Ray Luján, D-New Mexico, as 2nd Vice Chair and Congressman Dennis Cardoza, D-California, as Whip. "I am honored to have been elected 1st Vice Chair to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus,” said Hinojosa. "I, along with my colleagues in the CHC, will continue to work on the issues that affect our Latino community in the 112th Congress. Together, CHC members will follow our new Chair, Congressman González, in our commitment to finding solutions to the problems facing Hispanics. I look forward to serving in my capacity as the 1st Vice Chair of the CHC and as a U.S. Congressman. We will all work vigorously to address the challenges that face Latino families today.”  

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The Holiday season is upon us. This is the season where Americans share good times with loved ones and count their blessings. Let this also be the time of year where we give to others and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing we have brought a smile to someone’s face. The Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce would like to invite the community to join them in their efforts with the “Surprises from Santa” Toy Drive. With this toy drive, that will run from November 30 through December 17, they hope to collect as many new unwrapped toys as possible so that they may be distributed in some of the colonias of the Rio Grande Valley. “Financial contributions will also be accepted to buy toys and clothing for the more unfortunate children,” added Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, president and CEO of the RGVHCC. The drop-off location for anyone interested in donating toys will be the RGVHCC office, located at 3313 N. McColl Road in McAllen. Please call them for information at 956/928-0060. Featured making preparations for the “Surprises from Santa” Toy Drive are, from left: Melisa Tejada, membership director; Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, RGVHCC president and CEO; and Obie Calzada, events intern. Seated in front is Michael García, membership intern.  

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Ready to kick off the holiday season with your friends and family? Come to South Texas College’s Christmas Toys and Joys Family Night on Thursday, December 9 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the college’s Pecan Campus located at 3201 W. Pecan Boulevard in McAllen. The event is open to the public and admission is two canned goods for the RGV Food Bank, or a coat for Tim’s Coats, or an unwrapped toy for The Salvation Army. Activities include games and rides, music, holiday carolers, a lighted train tour and more. Children will meet Santa and his helpers. For additional information, contact Armando Ponce at 956/872-2515.  

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