Featured: Mission native and University of Texas Rio Grande Valley junior Alyssa Guajardo has been elected a Texas Civic Ambassador for the 2018-2019 academic school year. Texas Civic Ambassadors are students who represent universities around Texas and share a common goal of increasing civic engagement in their communities. Guajardo is studying exercise science with a concentration in physical therapy and a minor in Spanish and statistics.
Photograph Courtesy The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
Mission native Alyssa Guajardo, a UTRGV junior, elected Texas Civic Ambassador for 2018-2019
By ESTER NAVARRO
Mission native and University of Texas Rio Grande Valley junior Alyssa Guajardo has been elected a Texas Civic Ambassador for the 2018-2019 academic school year, UTRGV officials announced on Tuesday, November 21, 2018.
Texas Civic Ambassadors are students who represent universities around Texas and share a common goal of increasing civic engagement in their communities.
Guajardo is studying exercise science with a concentration in physical therapy and a minor in Spanish and statistics. She serves as a senator for The College of Health Affairs, and as chair for the Campus Life and Community Affairs Committee in UTRGV’s Student Government Association. She is a member of the Pre-Physical Therapy Society, Habitat for Humanity, Health & Kinesiology Club, and Astronomy Club, and works on campus as a student mentor, helping motivate, guide and support first-year students at the university.
“I’m very happy to be a Texas Civic Ambassador. Before, I was shy and lacked self-confidence,” she said. “Now, I feel I’ve been slowly coming out of my shell and have become more confident with public speaking. I’ve gained confidence in my leadership skills.”
Being a Civic Ambassador allows the students to learn from experts and researchers in the fields of leadership development, politics, community engagement, communication and civic life. Ambassadors also are expected to conduct nonpartisan/bipartisan educational outreach activities on campus or in their communities.
According to the Texas Civic Ambassador program, ambassadors receive educational opportunities that deepen their understanding of our democracy and the current state of civic life. They benefit from guidance in developing effective communication and outreach plans and programs, and in hosting dialogues and events. They also benefit from input into research, writing and presentations, as well as learning innovative methods for audience engagement.
Texas Civic Ambassadors will be expected to conduct nonpartisan/bipartisan educational outreach activities on their campus or in their community. TCAs will be provided the most up-to-date information about the current state of civic life and will become leaders and innovators in driving the way to share information and engage every-day citizens in the vital work of self-governance.
Guajardo said she is grateful to be given this opportunity to represent UTRGV.
“It was great meeting people from different universities and sharing our ideas about the projects we will be working on this year, and getting feedback on them,” she said. “This program offers more than 50 professional development training hours over the year, free of charge. I’m always learning new things with these trainings, and they are helping me grow as a leader.”
Guajardo is currently helping start a civic engagement organization at UTRGV, called the “It Takes One Alliance.” It is being created as a nonpartisan effort to increase voter and other forms of civic engagement on campus, and will include political and nonpolitical organizations on campus. And, she is helping launch a Voto Latino chapter on campus.
In the spring 2019, she plans to run the second annual State of the Rio Grande Valley Conference, designed to inform others about becoming more engaged in their communities and knowing their legislative representatives. It also will help with networking, and with internship and career opportunities.
“I’m hoping this conference will continue on for years to come and that it will grow each year and get better and better,” she said. “I’m hoping that students will learn from it and will be inspired to make a difference in their communities.”
The Texas Civic Health Index report, produced in 2018 by the Institute, shows levels of participation in our state significantly lower when compared to other states in the nation. Texas ranked 39th for volunteering, 50th for discussing politics, and 47th for voter turnout. Research shows that college-age youth are less likely to contact their elected representative, engage in civic conversations with their peers, and actively participate in the electoral process. According to the US Census Bureau, young voters between the ages of 18 through 24 have consistently voted at lower rates than all other age groups in every presidential election since 1962.
LUIS LEAL, DANIEL YMBONG, TWO UTRGV GRADUATE STUDENTS, REFLECT ON SUMMER FELLOWSHIPS AT ARCHER CENTER IN WASHINGTON, D.C.
Two graduate students from The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley served as summer Fellows in Washington, D.C., at The Archer Center, living and working as interns in the nation’s capital.
• Luis Leal, an MBA graduate student from Cd. Victoria, Tamps., Mexico, interned at the Hispanic Heritage Foundation. He is a 2015 graduate of UTRGV legacy institution UT Pan American.
• Daniel Ymbong, of McAllen, interned at the National Gallery of Art. A UTRGV graduate student, he is studying art history with a specialization in Spanish colonial art. He holds a bachelor’s degree in art with a minor in history and anthropology.
The Archer Center is the Washington, D.C., campus of the UT System. It provides undergraduate and graduate students from across the UT System with opportunities at various agencies and legislative offices in Washington.
Founded in 2001, the Archer Center is where Texas meets the world. As the Washington, D.C., campus of The University of Texas System, the Center provides talented undergraduate and graduate students from across the UT System with the opportunity to live, learn, and intern in the nation’s capital.
Archer Fellows take two classes at the Archer Center at the UT System Office of Federal Relations; they participate in an internship and work on an independent research project.
Both UTRGV graduate students, who have returned to the Rio Grande Valley from their Archer Fellowships and shared their experiences and the long-term value to their chosen careers.
Leal said his role as an Archer intern at the Hispanic Heritage Foundation was to be part of the development team, which handles all of the foundation’s activities and operations.
“My main role was to research corporations and foundations as potential donors to the foundation,” he said. “I also attended hearings and networking events where the foundation was recognized, and assisted with translating press releases, invitations and letters from English to Spanish.”
His translation skills were key when the foundation was preparing for the Hispanic Heritage Awards in September. His internship had ended already, but the foundation invited him to attend.
“I went back to D.C. for the awards and worked part of the event, then had the opportunity to stay and be present at the ceremony,” he said.
During his time with the foundation, the team made him feel welcome from day one, he said.
“Overall, it was a holistic experience, just to have the opportunity to interact with all the other UT System students,” he said. “It was great to know that although others might have come from bigger schools, we all have different skillsets that helped us achieve our goals.”
Leal currently serves as an Archer Ambassador for UTRGV as part of recruitment efforts in the Valley.
An internship at the National Gallery of Art was the ideal venue for UTRGV art history graduate student Ymbong. At the National Gallery, he helped with curatorial records and files, cataloguing, taking inventory, organizing files and conducting research on provenance on loan artwork at the gallery.
“It was exciting to be exposed to the plethora of Western masterworks, and to have access to inside connections to the best of fine art and fashion with other institutions like the Met,” he said.
He looks back on the Archer experience as essential to learning the ropes in the professional world of his chosen field.
“I learned the importance of communication in office decorum, diplomacy and networking. Passion, drive and hard work can bring about success beyond stereotypes and conventions,” Ymbong said.
NAMESAKE OF THE ARCHER CENTER
According to the Archer Center website:
On January 2, 2001, Bill Archer – now 90 years of age – retired from the United States House of Representatives after a 40-year career of service to his nation in local, state, and federal government. While he will be remembered in part for his many legislative accomplishments, Archer’s reputation as a responsible, committed leader of the highest ethical standards leaves an enduring image of this Texas son.
Archer served the 7th District of Texas since 1971 when he won the seat previously held by former President George Bush, who remained one of Archer’s constituents.
In January 1995, at the start of the 104th Congress, Archer became Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, a goal he had long sought to enable him to be the nation’s leader on taxes. He has modeled his leadership after the late Wilbur Mills, restoring the Committee’s tradition of bipartisan lawmaking and frugal internal budget keeping.
On the eve of the 104th Congress, the Houston Chronicle wrote, “the prospect of having Representative Archer (as Chairman) bodes well for Houston and the nation. While Houston cannot expect ‘a windfall of pork or special tax breaks,’ even more valuable to the nation than Archer’s sound political instincts is his unsullied reputation for principled representation.”
Among his many accomplishments in the House of Representatives, Archer was a key player to get the 1997 balanced budget with tax relief signed into law. Scheduled to be balanced by 2002, this was the first balanced federal budget since 1969. Archer’s initiatives of easing the death tax, expanding IRAs, and providing a $500 per child tax credit for middle-income Americans are now law. He helped extend the life of Medicare for another 10 years, and during the 104th Congress, he steered welfare and health care reform into law. He worked tirelessly to reduce fraud in Medicare, advocate for the long-term preservation of Medicare and Social Security, and pursue the expansion of free trade.
Upon entering Congress in 1971, one of Archer’s first acts was to create a student intern program for high school students from his district. The 30-year success of this program and the many lives it has touched, along with the interest in public service it has inspired, is a model for the Archer Fellowship Program that will benefit students, alumni, and faculty from his alma mater.
Archer received his BBA and LLB degrees with honors at The University of Texas at Austin. During his undergraduate and graduate studies in Austin (from 1946 to 1951), he was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon Social Fraternity, Phi Delta Legal Fraternity, the Varsity Tennis team, and was the Champion Intramural Athlete in 1951. One of his most meaningful and significant accomplishments was to receive UT Austin’s Distinguished Alumnus Awards in 1981.
Archer is married to the former Sharon Sawyer. He has five children: Rick, Reyn, Sharon, Barbara, and Lisa; two stepsons, Scott and Shannon; and 24 grandchildren.
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.
UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.
Victoria Brito and David A. Díaz contributed to this article. For more on this and other state legislative stories that affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature.