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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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Edinburg’s retail economy in December 2008 up more than 21 percent over same month in 2007

Mayor Joe Ochoa, who earlier this year announced he would not be seeking reelection in May, on Tuesday, February 10, was honored by the Texas House of Representatives for leading Edinburg through an unprecedented period of economic development and improvements in the quality-of-life during his 13 years as one of South Texas’ most effective political leaders. The high praise was contained in House Concurrent Resolution 39, authored by Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, whose House District 41 includes southwest Edinburg. The measure, which was approved unanimously by the 150-member House of Representatives, was publicly endorsed by Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, whose House District 40 includes most of the three-time All-America City. Ochoa was credited for heavily influencing the city’s "dramatic growth and prosperity," noting that during his tenure as mayor, Edinburg has seen the number of all properties in Edinburg increase dramatically, from $500 million in assessed valuations when he first took office in 1993, to $3 billion today. See story later in this posting. 

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Roland Arriola, Ph.D., president of the Texas Valley Communities Foundation, was one of 15 members appointed on Monday, February 16, by the University of Texas System Board of Regents to serve on a presidential search committee to advise regents on the selection of a president for UT-Pan American. Arriola, a former member of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, was selected because of his role as president of the UT-Pan American Alumni Association. The UT System appointed Charles A. Sorber as interim president last month. Sorber assumed the interim presidency on Monday, February 16. The advisory committee will be asked to present the names of no more than 10 candidates – unranked – to the board, which will make the final decision. Featured, from left, during a major conference in Harlingen last fall, are Kelli Rod, Vice President of Community Relations with TXU Energy; Arriola; and Courtney P. Suhr, Senior Strategic Communications Specialist with the OneStar Foundation.  See story on the presidential advisory panel later in this posting. 

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Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, featured left, and Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, featured right, on Tuesday, February 10, presented a Senate Resolution to members of Amigos Del Valle celebrating Senior Day at the State Capitol. Lucio paid tribute to the organization’s 2008-2009 King Luis Barrientos and Queen Eva Martínez, featured center, both representing Casa Del Mar in Brownsville. The 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 Royal Courts were also honored and included members from senior centers throughout the Rio Grande Valley. Amigos Del Valle is a consortium of county and city governmental entities working to provide nutrition, transportation and housing services to senior citizens of Cameron, Hidalgo and Willacy counties.  Helping senior citizens live healthy, productive and self-sufficient lives is the group’s primary goal. The Executive Director of Amigos Del Valle, Inc., located in Mission, is José Garza.  

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Former Rep. Roberto Gutiérrez, D-McAllen, is back in action at the Texas Capitol, working on key measures designed to help millions of Texans. But he is not a registered lobbyist nor a state lawmaker. Instead of providing public service in either of those two influential roles, he is serving the state as a member of the nation’s most powerful political entity – the American citizen. In that role, Gutiérrez and his wife, Cecilia, along with Delia Oropez of Weslaco and Estella Lane Treviño of Edinburg, are members of the Texas Silver-Haired Legislature, a powerful coalition of influential Texans who work on measures to help older residents. Featured in this portrait taken in the chamber of the House of Representatives are, from left: Delia Oropez; former Rep. Gutiérrez; and Cecilia Gutiérrez. See story later in this posting. 

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Congratulations to Maureen F. McClain, associate director of Disability Services at The University of Texas-Pan American, who was recently appointed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry to the Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities. McClain was one of five individuals in the state, whose terms will expire February 1, 2010, to be chosen for the committee that works to ensure Texans with disabilities may live their lives with integrity, independence and productivity. Pictured is McClain being sworn in by U.S. District Judge Ricardo Hinojosa in late January in McAllen to the Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities. McClain, who has been employed with UTPA for more three years, earned her bachelor’s degree in rehabilitative services and a master’s in rehabilitative counseling from UTPA. She is a member of the Association of Higher Education and Disabilities, and was appointed to the Academic Advisement Council. To learn more about UTPA’s Disability Services department and the services offered, visit http://www.utpa.edu/disability or for more information on the committee, visit http://www.governor.state.tx.us/disabilities/. 

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Criminals don’t take a day off and they are always on at the top of their games. So why shouldn’t the rest of society be just as prepared to trump their aces, especially when it comes to cyber security? That’s why South Texas College is hosting a Cyber Security Workshop on Thursday, February 19 and Friday, February 20 at its Pecan Campus in McAllen. Offered in conjunction with Texas A&M University, the National Science Foundation and TEEX, the free workshop offers business owners and technology professionals the latest information about cyber terrorism and cyber security issues. “We are very excited to host this workshop because the developments in technology occurring every day mean that we must be extremely vigilant in learning about the lat est innovations and how criminals are using them to try and damage our identities,” said Raquel Peña, assistant professor of computer science for STC, featured in this photograph. “But we don’t have to be victims, as long as we stay ahead of the curve and use the tools available to keep the cyber world safe.” Space for the workshop is limited to 80 participants and is filling up quickly. For more information or to reserve a spot, call 956/872-2056. 

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Several South Texas College students had the unique opportunity to meet recently with Texas lawmakers in Austin to share their views about higher education, as well as their hopes for current and future generations of Hidalgo and Starr county students. Karina Cerda, Darien Fernández, Miguel García, Lizette Muñoz, Cassandra Orozco, Ronald Tanamachi and Esther Ybarra, who are members of STC’s Student Government Association, represented the student body at Community College Day at the Texas State Capitol on Wednesday, February 4. Community College Day was sponsored and organized by the Texas Junior College Student Government Association. The students toured the capitol building, attended a rally and had the opportunity to network with students from across the state. The STC students, who were chaperoned by a delegation of STC administrators, met with: Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo; Rep. Ismael "Kino" Flores, D-Palmview; Rep. Verónica Gonzáles; Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Roma; Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham; Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas; and Rep. Fred Brown, R-Bryan.  The meetings allowed students to share their experiences and expectations with lawmakers to help them understand the continually growing role community colleges play in the economic growth and vitality of the districts they serve.  In a related matter, STC leaders have announced that enrollment at the two-county higher education institution approached 22,000 for the spring 2009 semester. See story on enrollment later in this posting. 

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The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce is going on a “SAFARI” from Thursday, February 26 through Sunday, March 1, at the Edinburg Municipal Park. The Heart of America Carnival will be featured during that week; with a $5 "All-You-Can-Ride" special on February 26. Musical headliners “Little Rob” will perform Friday evening and “DUELO” will perform on Saturday at 7 p.m. Fiesta Edinburg will also feature food, carnival, various music and entertainment. Also, check out the  free “SAFARI” Kidz Zone on Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. ($5 parking fee required). Edinburg residents also will be treated to the IBC Bank Fiesta Edinburg “SAFARI” Parade, scheduled for Saturday, February 28, beginning at 10 a.m.  The parade will start at the Hidalgo County Court House. Dedicated IBC Bank employees, as part of the IBC Employee Advisory Board, have contributed to making Fiesta Edinburg a great success for the community, noted Dina Araguz, Edinburg 107 IBC Bank branch manager. For more information on Fiesta Edinburg, please call 956/383-4974. Featured, from left: Enrique García, Salvador Martínez, Josue Ramírez, Aaron Ramírez, Judith Cantú, Dina Araguz, Lizette Cano, Ashley Herrera, Griselda Zambrano, Aaron Galván , and Robert Alaniz. 

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In break from majority, Councilmember García rolled the dice and won big with President Obama

 

When then-Sen. Barack Obama came to the University of Texas-Pan American in late February, you could literally count on one hand the number of elected officials who endorsed the man who would be President – and three of them were from Edinburg. Edinburg Councilmember Gus García, Jr., featured here with his wife, Tonya, publicly supported Obama during his February 22 visit to the University of Texas-Pan American. Also endorsing Obama were Edinburg Mayor Joe Ochoa, Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-San Benito, and Edinburg school board trustee Robert Peña, Jr.  The South Texas leaders astonished the Rio Grande Valley Democratic power brokers when they backed Obama against a hugely popular Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, for the Democratic Party presidential nomination. Almost a year later, their public support of Obama could help Edinburg and South Texas keep their presence and issues known to the newly-elected President, says the local councilmember. See lead story later in this posting. 

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Key legislators, featured in this file photo during the opening of South Texas College Technology Campus in McAllen in 2006, could soon be joining forces again to bring another higher education crown jewel to the Rio Grande Valley. Rep. Ismael "Kino" Flores, D-Palmview (third from left), says he is coordinating a public meeting with the City of McAllen, the University of Texas-Pan American, and South Texas College so McAllen officials, led by Mayor Richard Cortéz, may lay out their vision to bring graduate-level university courses to the City of Palms. "For some time now, the leadership of McAllen has been working on ways to continue bringing additional higher education opportunities for the people of South Texas," Flores said. "Under a state law I authored four years ago, the way has been paved for helping do just that." Joining the Palmview Democrat in this shot were, from left: Congressman Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin; Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen; Flores; Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen; Rep. Armando "Mando" Martínez, D-Weslaco; and Cortéz.  Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, carried the Flores legislation in the Senate. See story later in this posting. 

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The University of Texas-Pan American has now made it easier for students to transfer from a two-year college to the University through the help of the newly opened UTPA Transfer Center. A grand opening was held Tuesday, January 13 at the center, which is located at Pecan Boulevard and 29th Street in McAllen. “It is this sort of partnership and teamwork that will pay off ‘en grande’ for the students of STC and most importantly for the economy and prosperity of the Rio Grande Valley,” UTPA President Dr. Blandina "Bambi" Cárdenas said. “It has become far more urgent that we make sure students have the information they need in order to make efficient decisions in their college pathway.” Featured at the ceremony, from left: Mike Allen, board of trustees, South Texas College;  Dr. Magdalena Hinojosa, UTPA associate vice president and dean of admissions and enrollment services; Dr. Paul Sale, UTPA provost and vice president; Cárdenas; Dr. Shirley Reed, STC president; Alejo Salinas, board of trustees, South Texas College; and Mike Pérez, McAllen city manager. See story later in this posting. 

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Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, featured right, will be in Weslaco on Thursday, January 22, as part of a major legislative tour coordinated by the Rio Grande Valley Partnership, according to Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, featured left. Straus will be joined by dozens of other state lawmakers for the only scheduled visit into Hidalgo County, according to the tentative schedule that has been distributed to state senators and representatives by the Rio Grande Valley Partnership. The speaker and the legislators will meet for a reception with mayors of Hidalgo County at 7 p.m. at the home of Patti and Larry Dittburner at 2912 S. International Boulevard, according to Peña. Later in the week, the legislative delegation will primarily visit key points in Cameron County. The Rio Grande Valley Partnership is hosting the tour for dozens of legislators from across the state from Thursday, January 22 through Sunday, January 25. "Joe Straus is a good friend and I congratulate him on his unanimous election as our new speaker," said Peña. "We have been able to succeed in the past because of our willingness to work with members on both sides of the aisle. In these dire economic circumstances and with our state facing a grim budget outlook it becomes so much more important to put aside partisanship and do what is best for the state of Texas. That is why I invited Speaker Straus to join our colleagues in a tour of the Rio Grande Valley." Featured, from left: Peña; Straus; Aaron Peña III; and Aaron Austin Peña. See story later in this posting. 

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Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, featured third from right, on Tuesday, January 13, was sworn in for another four-year term representing Senate District 21, which includes Starr County.  Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst presided during Opening Day Ceremonies, officially gaveling to order the 81st Texas Legislative Session. "I truly am delighted to renew my unwavering support for all families in our district," Zaffirini said. "I especially look forward to prioritizing education and health and human services and to ensuring the health and welfare of Texans, especially those whom I represent."  She returns as the highest-ranking senator for Bexar County and the border region. including Starr County. Featured, from left: Sen. Mike Jackson, R-La Porte; Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo; Zaffirini, D-Laredo; Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston; and Sen. Leticia Van De Putte, D-San Antonio. See 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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Edinburg school board, citizens panel begin joint work on $150 million bonds

The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, the City of Edinburg and the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation have congratulated Memorial Funeral Home for their recent contribution to the 3rd Annual Texas Cook ‘Em: High Steaks in Edinburg.  Memorial Funeral Home will sponsor Edinburg’s Very Important Party (VIP) on Friday, July 4 at the Edinburg Municipal Park, located on 714 Raúl Longoria. The party kicks off at 6 p.m., and all competing cooks are automatically entered to participate and compete for the “Party of the Year” banner. Also featured at the Texas Cook ‘Em on July 4 will be John Conlee plus the Valley’s own Texas Heat. Doors open at 10:30 a.m., and admission is free with payment of a $5 parking fee per vehicle. The Texas Cook ‘Em is sanctioned by the International Barbeque Cookers Association (IBCA) and sponsored by Inter National Bank, The Edinburg Review, The Monitor, and H-E-B.  To participate log on to http://www.Edinburg.com.

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During the 19th annual Valley Proud Honors Banquet, which recognizes the top two graduates of every high school in the region, Mr. Bill Summers, president/CEO of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership, jokes that everyone can show thanks to H-E-B, the event sponsor, by buying bread there.  Watching on from far left that evening are Mr. and Mrs. Armando Sánchez with H-E-B; Mr. Bill Card, III, chairman of the Partnership board of directors; Mrs. Jo Summers; Ms. Marcy Martínez with KGBT Action 4 News; and Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, who was the keynote speaker.

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Staff members from the office of the Texas Comptroller visited South Texas College’s Technology Campus on Wednesday, June 11 to learn about the college’s Institute for Advanced Manufacturing and the training it offers to support the North American Advanced Manufacturing Research & Education’s (NAAMREI) Wired Grant Initiative. Karen Hudgins and Karl Wolfson, writers for the comptroller’s newsletter, comptroller photographer Barbara Schlief and KVNO videographer Don Ramírez were given a presentation by STC regional manager Carlos Margo and met with other STC staffers. They discussed the college’s work with local manufacturing companies to train new and existing employees to meet the challenging demands of the manufacturing sector. The comptroller’s four-member team will use the knowledge and materials gained during their visit to shed light on the important role that South Texas College is playing in the long-term vision of NAAMREI to develop a sustainable advanced manufacturing sector in the Rio South Texas Region. For more information about NAAMREI visit http://www.naamrei.org.  Featured from left are Margo, Schlief,  Ramirez, STC training specialist Ron Merrill, Karen Hudgins, Karl Wolfson, and Keith Partridge,  president and CEO of the McAllen Economic Development Corporation.

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Dr. Francisco Guajardo. featured here during a recent meeting of the Edinburg school board, is the chairman of the Bond Oversight Committee, a citizens advisory panel which is working with trustees and top administrators on the best ways to implement the construction plans for new campuses authorized by the May 10 passage of almost $112 million in bonds. On Tuesday, June 10, he gave an update to the community. Trustee Carmen González also provides her views on how the school board is approaching the major school construction projects that will be made possible by the bond issuance. Stories on González  and Guajardo are featured later in this posting.
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