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House approves plan by Rep. Flores to use state agencies, other resources to build Valley VA Hospital

Al Ramírez, Edinburg’s first Mexican American mayor who served from 1963 to 1967, passed away on Wednesday, April 22. The groundbreaking mayor, shown here last August 21 during a campaign kick-off for Edinburg school board trustee Carmen González, was credited for helping desegregate public swimming pools, among many other achievements. "We lost one of the great men of the Valley," said former Rep. Alejandro Moreno, D-Edinburg. "He was a descendant of pioneer families. He was a former mayor of Edinburg who welcomed the striking Rio Grande City Farm workers from a hospital bed on their 1966 march to Austin. He was a life long educator who helped develop bilingual curricula in the 1970’s. He also published history and genealogy books and had a great sense of humor. May he Rest in Peace." See obituary later in this posting. 

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Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, a guest of Mayor Joe Ochoa during Kennedy’s visit to the University of Texas-Pan American in February 2008, accepted a replica of the community’s All-America City Award, a symbol of some of many achievements generated during the leadership of Ochoa, who is not seeking reelection. Ochoa, who a few days after Kennedy’s visit welcomed then-presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, to the three-time All-America City, will be making one of his final official appearances as mayor on Thursday, May 7, as part of the National Day of Prayer. The prayer breakfast, which will take place from 6:30 a.m. to 8 a.m., will be held at The Social Steak House and Club, 205 Conquest Boulevard in Edinburg.  There is a $15 fee, which includes breakfast along with a special gift to the first 150 people, courtesy of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce.  For more information or to RSVP call the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce at 956/383-4974.  

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United States Army Major General (Retired) William F. Garrison, featured second from left, a 1966 alumnus of the University of Texas-Pan American, came back to his alma mater recently to address military cadets in Edinburg.  Garrison became most famous for his role as the commanding officer of Operation Gothic Serpent, the military operation launched in 1993 to capture Somalian warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid, which ended with the Battle of Mogadishu on October 3, 1993. Actor Sam Shepherd later portrayed Garrison in the film Black Hawk Down, which chronicles the events of the Battle of Mogadishu, regarded at the time as as the biggest single firefight involving American soldiers since the Vietnam War. Featured, from left, at at the Dining-In ceremony for UTPA and UT-Brownsville/Texas Southmost College ROTC cadets are: Colonel (USAR) Christopher B. Rivers, UTPA assistant director of military science; United States Army Major General (Retired) William F. Garrison; UTPA Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Paul Sale; Cadet Bronc Battalion Commander Vanessa Randolph; and Lieutenant Colonel André Dean, professor of military science and commanding officer of the UTPA battalion.  See story later in this posting. 

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Saturday, April 25, was declared Texas Meningitis Awareness Day under a measure by Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, which was approved by the Senate on Friday, April 24. Bacterial meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cords. The disease strikes 2,000 to 3,000 Americans each year, and 10 to 12 percent of those infected die. There is also a viral type of meningitis. Lucio also named a bill by Sen. Wendy Davis, R-Fort Worth, requiring bacterial meningitis vaccinations for first-time college students living on campus in this state, the Jamie Schanbaum Act, after the 20-year-old University of Texas student has been hospitalized for the past six months with the less common and more violent version of the bacteria Meningococcemia. Jamie Schanbaum’s mother, Patsy Silva Schanbaum, is originally from Brownsville. Featured on the Senate floor on April 24, from left: Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst; Maureen Moore, of the Houston Area Immunization Partnership and Confederation of Meningitis Organization; Nancy Day, representing her son, Kyle Hendrix (Meningitis survivor); Patsy Silva Schanbaum, representing her daughter, Jamie Schanbaum (Meningitis survivor); Jamie’s brother, Nicholas Schanbaum; Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo; Sen. Wendy Davis, R-Ft. Worth, and Sen. Lucio. See story later in this posting. 

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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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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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South Texas College studying expansion; could result in new campuses for region, possibly in Edinburg

The Edinburg school district on Wednesday, October 8, celebrated the Edinburg Centennial by hosting a special program and an essay contest detailing the city and school district’s history. The fifth grade finalists are shown from left: Brianna C. McCormick, Freddy González Elementary (honorable mention); Jean Almonte, Guerra Elementary (honorable mention); Brooke Baus, Canterbury Elementary (1st place); Julissa Alexandra Mendoza (2nd place), Esparza Elementary (2nd place); and Kiana Ramírez, Travis Elementary (3rd place). Also featured, from left: Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg; Paul Rodríguez; Patricia Galindo; Shirley Clancey; ECISD School Board President Omar Palacios; and Edinburg Mayor Joe Ochoa.

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The McAllen Chamber of Commerce has announced that it will hold its 54th Annual Banquet on Friday, November 14, from 7 p.m. to midnight at the McAllen Convention Center. The event also will include the prestigious Man & Woman of the Year awards program. The Man & Woman of the Year awards are presented to individuals who have gone above and beyond routine civic service activities to promote the McAllen community and its residents.  Organizing the event are, from left: Edna De Saro; Tammie Risica; Dora Brown; Ricardo Portillo; Blanca Cárdenas; and Andreina Milpaca.  See story later in this posting.

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With area leaders gathered in Mission on October 7 to celebrate the 15th anniversary of South Texas College, the STC Board of Trustees has commissioned a major study which could lead to the creation of one or several new campuses in the coming years. STC President Shirley Reed, featured first row, third from left, says the study could come up with preliminary projections at the beginning of 2009, with the final report due by mid-2009. Featured with Reed during STC’s 15th anniversary celebration were, from left: Sylvia Bernal from STC’s Office of Academic Excellence; former Rep. Roberto Gutiérrez, D-McAllen, the House sponsor of the legislation that created STC in 1993; Reed; George McCaleb; and Jenny Cummings. Standing, from left, were: Valley Scholar students Adrian Rivera and Melanie Silva; Program Coordinator Marie Olivarez; Anahid Petrosian, assistant to the vice president of instructional services; and Valley Scholars Raymond Manguera, Delilah Castillo and Isaac Pérez. See lead story on STC expansion plans later in this posting.

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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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