Featured: Dr. Francisco Guajardo, Executive Director of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley B3 Institute, on Tuesday, April 23, 2019 at the Museum of South Texas History in Edinburg.
Photograph By PAUL CHOUY
$2+ million grant to help Edinburg, Brownsville students learn more about regional history through University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
By AMANDA L. ALANIZ
Thanks to a newly-funded program spearheaded by The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley B3 Institute, local students from two school districts and their communities will have the opportunity to immerse themselves and better understand the regional history that surrounds them.
UTRGV officials held a press conference on Tuesday, April 23, 2019 at the Museum of South Texas History in Edinburg to announce the place-based professional development program for K-12 teachers, “Historias Americanas: Engaging History and Citizenship in the Rio Grande Valley,” and its collaboration with Brownsville Independent School District and Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District.
Dr. Francisco Guajardo, Executive Director of the UTRGV B3 Institute, and Dr. Maritza De La Trinidad, Associate Professor and Undergraduate Coordinator of the UTRGV Mexican American Studies Program, received a more than $2 million grant for the program from the American History and Civics Education-National Activities Grants, under the U.S. Department of Education.
“The spirit of the grant is to give teachers, especially social studies teachers from Brownsville and Edinburg, an opportunity to really become immersed in a different way of thinking,” Guajardo said.
UTRGV, Brownsville ISD and Edinburg CISD representatives and educators were on hand to share their enthusiasm about what the program will mean for K-12 students and their communities.
Gracie Alonso, a Brownsville Rivera Early College High School social studies teacher, said she was grateful for the chance to be part of something that can help students better understand the history surrounding them.
“This grant affords us the opportunity to tell our students that we are not just a little blip on a map, that the Mexican American experience is part of the American experience” Alonso said. “And, hopefully this will make them more connected to our local history, our national history, and help create that enthusiasm, that passion, and that awareness.”
Over a three-year period, the program will provide teachers from the two districts the tools necessary – professional development summer institutes, online teaching materials and instructional guides, and more – to use innovative teaching and learning modules to enhance current and historical understandings of local and national citizenship.
Teachers will learn place-based pedagogical approaches that will examine and build on student, family and community knowledge and cultural wealth to link microrealities to the larger American history narrative.
Edinburg North High School U.S. history teacher Juan Ortega said this new program will give teachers the opportunity to create their own resources and expand on the unique history of the Rio Grande Valley.
“I know teachers are going to be excited. We’re passionate about history, but I think it’s our job as educators to infuse that passion into students. And with this opportunity, I think we will have the passion in the classroom and, hopefully, that could overflow into the community,” he said.
The leaders of the collaborating school districts both shared excitement for the partnerships and for what’s to come.
“The students are going to be the winners of all of this,” said ECISD Superintendent Dr. René Gutiérrez. “They’re going to benefit and be able to connect all of our history and culture in the Valley, as well as the state and the nation.”
“I couldn’t be happier for this opportunity for Brownsville ISD, partnering with UTRGV and Edinburg CISD,” said Dr. Sylvia R. Hatton, Brownsville ISD Interim Superintendent. “I know we’re going to produce great work together.”
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.
ROBERT F. KENNEDY HUMAN RIGHTS SELECTS TWO VALLEY GROUPS – “ANGRY TIAS AND ABUELAS OF THE RIO GRANDE VALLEY” AND “LA UNIÓN DEL PUEBLO ENTERO” (LUPE) – AS 2019 HUMAN RIGHTS AWARD WINNERS
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights on Tuesday, April 23, 2019, announced that three organizations which advocate for migrant rights and the humane treatment of asylum seekers – including two groups with deep roots in South Texas – will be honored at the 36th Annual Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Awards in Washington DC.
2019 Human Rights Awards will be presented to Angry Tias and Abuelas of the Rio Grande Valley in recognition of their pursuit of dignity and justice for individuals and families seeking asylum at our borders; Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee (DMSC), an organization that challenges the inhumanity of the US migrant detention system; and La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), the organization founded by labor rights activist César Chávez and Dolores Huerta to build strong communities where residents can leverage the power of civic engagement for social change.
The ceremony will take place at 11:00 AM EST on Thursday, June 6 in The Kennedy Caucus Room in the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill.
“The Trump administration has continued to create an unprecedented level of fear along our borders through both dangerous rhetoric and regressive policies that bury the core truth – we are a nation of immigrants and a place where the ‘tired, poor, huddled masses’ have always sought new freedoms and opportunity,” said Kerry Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights President. “As the political debates around immigration policy continue to ignore the humanity at the core of this fundamental human rights issue, we are honored to recognize Angry Tias and Abuelas of the Rio Grande Valley, Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee, and La Unión del Pueblo Entero for their tireless work to secure dignity, safety, and community for those seeking that very same opportunity and freedoms we all so frequently take for granted.”
Since its inception, the Human Rights Award has honored activists from 30 countries. The organization works to forge strategic partnerships with laureates whose work advances human rights causes all over the world. In combining resources and collaborating on global social impact initiatives, Human Rights Award laureates amplify their transformative work to a worldwide audience.
Led by human rights activist and lawyer Kerry Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights has advocated for a more just and peaceful world since 1968. The organization works alongside local activists to ensure lasting positive change in governments and corporations. Whether in the United States or abroad, their programs have pursued justice through strategic litigation on key human rights issues, educated millions of children in human rights advocacy and fostered a social good approach to business and investment.
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award
The Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award honors an individual or group of individuals who stand up to oppression at grave personal risk in the nonviolent pursuit of human rights. Since inception, the Human Rights Award has honored activists from 30 countries. The organization forges strategic partnerships with laureates whose work advances human rights causes all over the world. In combining resources and collaborating on strategy, their laureates amplify their transformative work to a worldwide audience.
About the Honorees
The Angry Tias and Abuelas of the Rio Grande Valley is a diverse, grassroots association of women dedicated to assisting the migrants arriving at the Texas Mexico border. It was spontaneously organized in the summer of 2018 by local women bringing food, water and blankets to endangered migrant families stranded on the international bridges in south Texas.
The Tias’ efforts include providing information and immediate humanitarian aid to migrants left at the bus stations, or trapped on the bridges or dangerous parts of Mexico due to the administration’s so-called “Stay in Mexico” policy; working with migrants suffering long term detention in alleged prison-like conditions; and documenting and reporting first hand on the harms caused by U.S. policies, such as the separation of families, and kidnapping and trafficking.
The Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee are a group of liberation activists building community to practice solidarity with detained migrants. Together they challenge the inhumanity of the U.S. migrant detention system, its practices and policies, by holding a visible presence and raising awareness of abuses in our communities.
Founded by César E. Chávez & Dolores Huerta, La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE) was rooted in the belief that members of the low-income community have the responsibility and the obligation to organize themselves, and through their association, begin to advocate for solutions to the issues that impact their lives.
Serving the low- income immigrant community of the South Texas Border, LUPE believes that for people to have ownership of this endeavor, they have to invest of themselves, their efforts and resources, to sustain it.
The membership, and the responsibility that comes with it, power the organization. In the midst of family separation crisis, LUPE immigrant families welcome new immigrants into the nation while advocating for long-term immigration relief.
Max Burns and Sunshine Sachs contributed to this report. For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories which affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (>TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com).