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Congresswoman Mayra Flores, R-McAllen, first Mexican-born woman to win a congressional seat, credits South Texas College for much of her success; she will face Congressman Vicente González, D-McAllen, in November 2022 general - Mayra Flores - Titans of the Texas Legislature

FEATURED: Recentlysworn in congresswoman and South Texas College alumna Mayra Flores made history for becoming the first Mexican-born woman to win a congressional seat and the first Republican in more than 150 years to represent the people of Congressional District 34 across deep South Texas. Flores earned an Associate Degree from South Texas College’s Respiratory Therapy program in 2014 and a Bachelor’s Degree from the college’s Organizational Leadership program in 2019.

Photograph Courtesy SOUTH TEXAS COLLEGE


Congresswoman Mayra Flores, R-McAllen, first Mexican-born woman to win a congressional seat, credits South Texas College for much of her success; she will face Congressman Vicente González, D-McAllen, in November 2022 general election


Recentlysworn in congresswoman and South Texas College alumna Mayra Flores made history earlier this summer for becoming the first Mexican-born woman to win a congressional seat and the first Republican in more than 150 years to represent the people of District 34 across deep South Texas.

Flores won in a special election on Tuesday, June 14, 2022 to replace longtime Congressman Filemón Vela, D-Brownsville, who resigned from Congress on Thursday, March 31, 2022 to enter private practice.

Vela had announced previously that he would not seek reelection in 2022.

She will serve out the remainder of Vela’s unexpired term through January 2023.

The District 34 seat will be up for reelection in November 2022.

As a result of redistricting – which is the physical changing in 2021 by the Texas Legislature of all congressional districts in the state – she will face Congressman Vicente González, D-McAllen, in the November 2022 general election.

Flores, who earned an Associate Degree from South Texas College’s Respiratory Therapy program in 2014 and a Bachelor’s Degree in Organizational Leadership from South Texas College in 2019, said had it not been for her journey at South Texas College, she would have never discovered her interest in politics.

“STC really shaped who I am,” said the first-generation college graduate. “STC is where my interest in politics started. If not for a huge setback during my time in the respiratory program, I may not be where I am today.”

After barely missing the passing threshold by one point to continue in the respiratory program, she used it to her advantage to complete her academic core, enrolling in her first government class.

“This moment in my life; this government class, is where I was meant to be,” she said. “This was a defining moment. It all makes sense now. Without this class I wouldn’t have found my love for government or politics.”

She added that every instructor and professor, from those in the respiratory program and academic programs to organizational leadership, inspired her to set high standards, meet those standards and aim for her goals.

“Everyone had different teaching styles, some were even extra strict, but all inspired me, motivated me and impacted who I am. They made me want to be better,” she said.

South Texas College Organizational Leadership Instructor Emma Miller said Flores’ success clearly shows that a bachelor’s degree from South Texas College can help a person achieve their dreams and full potential.

“Mayra, while in my capstone courses, spoke to me about her passion for serving her community and how she truly enjoys politics,” said Miller. “I knew that one day she would make her dreams come true.”

Ali Esmaeili, South Texas College’s Dean of Math, Science, Information Technology and Bachelor’s Degree programs, shares Miller’s sentiment and said South Texas College is preparing the next generation of leaders.

“Bachelor’s degree programs at South Texas College provide quality instruction for preparing well-rounded and well-prepared 21st century leaders,” said Esmaeili. “Mayra is a great example of such leaders.”

Flores, 36, who was born in Burgos, Tamaulipas, Mexico and immigrated to the United States with her family when she was only six years old, said she has achieved the ‘American Dream,’ by becoming a U.S. citizen at 14 and now an elected official.

Her journey to this dream began at 13, when she began harvesting cotton with her parents in the Panhandle town of Memphis to pay for her own school supplies and clothes.

Years later, Flores is now a respiratory therapist, who worked the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic rehabilitating elderly who were recovering from the virus and a newly-elected congresswoman for District 34.

“Nothing is impossible when you work hard. I ran because I wanted to give back to this amazing country and community that’s given me so much,” said Flores. “I’m a proud STC alumna and a huge advocate of community colleges and the value of education they provide our communities.”


Highlights from her official biography follow:

Congresswoman Mayra Flores was born and raised with humble beginnings in Burgos Tamaulipas, Mexico.

She has served as proud U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) wife and a mother, fighting for a better future for the children of South Texas.

Her parents and grandparents raised her with strong conservative values and to always put God and family first. She came legally to the United States at six years old with the help of her father. Her father gave her family the biggest gift, the gift of becoming a proud, naturalized American citizen.

Her parents were migrant workers, and like all migrant kids, she moved a lot growing up. She spent most of her life in the Rio Grande Valley and in 2004, she graduated high school in San Benito, Texas.

Growing up, Flores worked alongside her parents in the cotton fields in Memphis, Texas to earn extra money for school clothes and supplies.

Instilling the value of hard work and the importance of education in her at a young age, Flores remains a firm believer in the American Dream and will always fight so that others can achieve it as she has.

She is eternally grateful to her parents for providing her with an opportunity to come to this amazing country to live the American Dream.

Flores graduated in 2014 as a Respiratory Care Practitioner with the support of her family. She currently works caring for the elderly and disabled with chronic respiratory issues and has been on the front lines helping patients combat COVID-19.

She continued her studies and graduated with a Bachelors in Organizational Leadership from South Texas College.

Flores has served as the Hidalgo County GOP Hispanic Outreach Chair and has played a critical role in growing and maintaining Republican support across South Texas. She believes that having a strong relationship with the community and understanding the needs of each individual should be a requirement for any political candidate.

She believes in fortifying the United States legal immigration system, in securing the nation’s borders, lowering the costs of healthcare, lowering taxes, promoting small businesses, and less government.

She is a Pro-Life, Pro-Second Amendment, and Pro-Law Enforcement.


Highlights from his official biography follow:

Congressman Vicente González is currently serving his third term in the United States Congress.

A lifetime resident of South Texas, González is married to Lorena Sáenz González, a former teacher and school administrator in Edinburg and McAllen. They reside in McAllen.

González earned his GED in 1985 before attending Del Mar College where he received an Associate’s Degree in Banking and Finance in 1990. He worked his way through college at Embry Riddle University where many of his classmates were active duty military personnel.

He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Aviation in 1992 and later earned a Juris Doctorate Degree from Texas Wesleyan University School of Law (now Texas A&M School of Law) in 1996. While attending law school, González worked as an intern in the office of former Congressman Solomon P. Ortiz.

In 1997, González opened his law practice, V. González & Associates.

González was influenced by his father, a Korean War veteran, to help individuals fight for their rights and practiced law for 20 years. He stood with working families wronged by powerful corporations and took on unscrupulous vendors, recovering millions in school bond revenues for taxpayers.

In Congress, he is fighting to protect Social Security and Medicare and to ensure that veterans, military members, and their families have the care and compensation they earned through their service. He is committed to improving health care for those who need it most: children, people with special needs, veterans, and seniors.

As a small business owner, González understands the challenges facing American businesses.

He serves on the House Committee on Financial Services. In Congress, he is working across party lines and with local, state, and federal government to expand economic opportunity for all. He serves on the Subcommittees on Investor Protection, Entrepreneurship and Capital Markets and Housing, Community Development and Insurance.

In his second term, González was appointed to the House Foreign Affairs Committee to promote stability, safety, success, and security around the world. He serves on the Subcommittees on Western Hemisphere, Civilian Security, Migration and International Economic Policy; and Europe, Energy, the Environment, and Cyber.

In the 117th Congress, González was reappointed to the Committees on Foreign Affairs and Financial Services and personally selected by Speaker Nancy Pelosi to serve on the Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth, where he focuses on the connection between economic growth and infrastructure connectivity.


Founded in 1993, South Texas College is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and offers more than 127 degree and certificate options, including associate degrees in a variety of liberal art, social science, business, math, science, technology, advanced manufacturing and allied health fields of study.

Additionally, South Texas College is the only community college in the State of Texas to offer five baccalaureate degrees. South Texas College has a faculty and staff of more than 2,700 to serve 28,000 students, on the college’s six campuses, two higher education centers, and one virtual campus.

To learn more or to register in one of STC’s five bachelor’s degree programs, visit or call 1-855-GoToSTC.

Pell Grant turns 50 – More than 120,000 University of Texas Rio Grande Valley students have benefitted since 2015

It has been 50 years since the Pell Grant program was created to help expand college access to students who otherwise may not have been able to afford pursuing a higher education.

A recently published Forbes.comarticle says Pell Grants have supported 80 million students since the program’s inception in 1972.

Dr. Guy Bailey, President, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, said the Pell Grant is one of the most significant financial aid programs in the history of higher education, and that its impact rivals that of the GI Bill of 1944.

“The impact of the Pell Grant has positively transformed the landscape of higher education and will continue to do so,” Bailey said. “We are grateful that so many UTRGV students continue to benefit from this life-changing program.”

Pell Grants have helped ensure that more than 120,000 University of Texas Rio Grande Valley students have had access to a college degree since the university first opened in 2015. That totals almost $575 million awarded to University of Texas Rio Grande Valley students to help them pursue their college goals from 2015 to 2022.

For the 2021-2022 academic year – not including 2022 Summer II semester distributions – the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley already has awarded more than $86 million, which has helped more than 18,000 students.

Bailey said Pell Grants not only are investments in students, but also help invest in the economy and future of local communities.

“One of our biggest goals at UTRGV is to make sure higher ed is accessible to all and to always be able to provide ample financial support to our students,” Bailey said. “UTRGV awards more Pell Grants than most universities in the country. With that assistance, our students are able to plan their futures and graduate on time without the burden of substantial student debts.”

The article reports that, with nearly seven million students in America needing assistance for college this year, Pell Grants can help open opportunities for students for generations to come.

Pell Grants are responsible for significant increases in college graduation, compared to students who did not qualify for assistance. According to, students who received a Pell Grant are 13 percent more likely to graduate from college and will have five to eight percent more earnings in their careers.

Magdalena Hinojosa, Senior Vice President for Strategic Enrollment and Student Affairs, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, said Pell Grants can be essential for students to achieve their academic goals.

“As a Pell Grant recipient myself, I know firsthand the vital importance of receiving these grants,” she said. “Pell Grants play a huge role in breaking the barriers to pursuing and completing an education.”


Pell Grants are awarded to undergraduate students who have not earned a bachelor’s or professional degree, with eligibility based on a student’s FAFSA (The Free Application for Federal Student Air results). What sets Pell Grants apart from other forms of financial assistance is that the grants do not have to be repaid.

Kelsey Silva, a University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Spring 2022 graduate who earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Rehabilitation Services, said that without Pell Grants, she may not have been able to complete her degree.

“The Federal Pell Grant helps students not stress about finding funds to pay for college,” she said. “It encourages them to continue their education. And one of the great incentives is that it does not have to be paid back by the student, unlike federal loans.

“Without the grant, I would not have been able to attend college and achieve my academic goals,” said Silva, who has been receiving Pell Grants since 2017.

All University of Texas Rio Grande Valley students who are awarded a Pell Grant must be making satisfactory academic progress, and they do not have to be registered full time to receive these grants.

Each Pell Grant amount is determined by the maximum set by the U.S. Department of Education, the Expected Family Contribution (EFC Number) and enrollment status.

Summer Pell Grants also are available to students, regardless of whether they were awarded Pell Grants for Fall or Spring semesters.

Summer Pell Grants require students to be eligible for a Pell Grant, be enrolled in at least six hours during the summer semester, and to meet all Financial Aid Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) requirements.

For more information on Pell Grants and other financial assistance available at UTRGV, visit here.


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.

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley 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, Weslaco and South Padre Island.

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, 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.


David A. Díaz and Amanda A. Taylor-Uchoa contributed to this article. For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories that affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (

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