FEATURED: Three federal grants totaling more than $9.5 million have been awarded to South Texas College ($8,303,772) and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley ($1,199,998) for educational and COVID-19 pandemic programs, as well as for a construction project, Congressman Vicente González, D-McAllen, has announced. This image was taken in Edinburg on Friday, March 26, 2021.
Photograph Courtesy CITY OF EDINBURG FACEBOOK
Congressman Vicente González, D-McAllen, announces federal grants for South Texas College and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley; he will face Congresswoman Mayra Flores, R-McAllen, in November 2022 general election
By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Three federal grants totaling more than $9.5 million have been awarded to South Texas College ($8,303,772) and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley ($1,199,998) for educational and COVID-19 pandemic programs, as well as for a construction project, Congressman Vicente González, D-McAllen, has announced.
On Thursday, July 21, 2022, González said the Economic Development Administration, which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, will be investing $1,500,000 to South Texas College to support the construction of a 20,000 square foot facility to house the college’s continuing education training program.
“Congratulations to South Texas College on receiving this well-deserved funding to continue offering outstanding education and training courses to their students,” said González. “I want to thank U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce Alejandra Y. Castillo, and the Biden Administration for helping equip students across our region looking to gain valuable skills. I look forward to joining Dr. Solis and South Texas College leadership when they break ground on a new facility.”
“This facility will allow South Texas College to continue being responsive to the needs of the community it serves,” said Ricardo Solis, Ph.D., President, South Texas College. “I firmly believe that the way in which an institution produces and distributes education and training, increasingly determines the economic competitiveness of a region and the apportionment of economic opportunity among its constituents.
“President Biden is committed to creating new opportunities for workforce advancement for Americans across the country,” said Raimondo. “This EDA investment in South Texas College will provide upskilling and workforce development leading to good-paying jobs and new economic opportunities for local residents.”
“Upskilling” means the process of individuals learning new skills.
This investment by the U.S. Economic Development Administration supports South Texas College with constructing a new 20,000 square feet facility for the Continuing Education training program that will be effectively managed by South Texas College’s Department of Continuing, Professional, and Workforce Education in McAllen.? The facility will be used to provide fast-track hybrid healthcare training and leading to certifications.
On Wednesday, July 20, 2022, González said that the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley will be receiving almost $1.2 million from the National Science Foundation to establish the Center for Equity in Engineering and broaden participation in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) studies.
“The future of the American workforce will be centered around STEM and South Texas students need to be prepared to excel in these fields,” said González. “UTRGV has been ahead of the curve and invested in our students success since its inception. With great faculty, administrators, and students at UTRGV, our region will continue to be a hub for growth and innovation.”
STEM stands for Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. It is a broad term used to group together these academic disciplines. This term is typically used to address an education policy or curriculum choices in schools. It has implications for workforce development, national security concerns and immigration policy.
“We are grateful to the National Science Foundation for its continued support, and we are especially honored to be among the first in the country to be awarded funding to establish a center like this one,” said Dr. Ala Qubbaj, Dean, College of Engineering and Computer Science, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, and principal investigator on this project. “Our center will help us further our mission to increase the enrollment and success of Hispanic students, particularly Latinas, in engineering higher education.
“The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley is set to become a national model for diversity, inclusion and professional preparation of underrepresented minority students in engineering,” Qubbaj added.
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley is a majority Hispanic Serving Institution with a student population that is more than 95 percent Hispanic.
Among the nearly 4,000 colleges in the U.S., many serve historically excluded student populations. The federal government designates certain schools as Minority-Serving Institutions. These colleges serve diverse student bodies, including a large number of Latino/a undergraduates.
Hispanic-Serving Institutions are a type of Minority-Serving Institution that play an important role in educating one of the fastest-growing racial and ethnic groups in the country. Two out of three Latino/a undergraduates attend an Hispanic-Serving Institution. These institutions promote diversity while enhancing opportunities to serve students from diverse backgrounds. Hispanic-Serving Institutions make up about 18 percent of U.S. colleges.
The goal of the Center for Equity in Engineering at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley is to increase enrollment, retention, and advancement rates of Hispanic students in higher education engineering.
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley offers students more than 120 programs at the Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral levels led by internationally acclaimed faculty. With campuses throughout the Rio Grande Valley, the public higher education institution empowers students to be successful in the fields of higher, bilingual and health education, biomedical research, and emerging technology that advance positive change.
On Tuesday, July 19, 2022, González reported that South Texas College will receive more than $6.8 million from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, a U.S. Department of Education program created by the CARES Act that González helped pass.
The CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund-IHE/Student Aid provides funding to institutions to provide emergency financial aid grants to students whose lives have been disrupted, many of whom are facing financial challenges and struggling to make ends meet.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, is a $2.2 trillion economic stimulus bill passed by the 116th U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 27, 2020, in response to the economic fallout of the COVID disease.
“Robust federal investments like these empower South Texas College and higher education institutions across South Texas to provide their students with the resources they need to be successful,” said González. “Access to a high-quality education is imperative for the economic growth of our region. I’m proud to represent South Texas College and work with them to move our region forward.”
Ricardo Solis, Ph.D., President, South Texas College, said the funding will have a positive impact on many students.
“On behalf of the students of South Texas College, our deepest gratitude for this grant award which will go a long way in offering deserving students financial support for tuition, debt forgiveness opportunities and basic needs, such as child care, food and housing so they can achieve their dreams of an education,” said Solis.
More importantly, with national studies showing that one in three college students are suffering mental health issues due to the stresses of the pandemic, “this grant will allow us to provide counseling and other services to help our students persevere,” Solis noted. We are grateful to our Valley lawmakers for championing the students of South Texas and making this grant possible.”
Founded in 1993, South Texas College currently offers students more than 127 degree and certificate options that include associate degrees in the fields of liberal arts, social science, business, math, science, technology, advanced manufacturing, and allied health.
South Texas College is the only community college in the State of Texas to offer 5 baccalaureate degrees.
As a result of redistricting – which is the physical changing in 2021 by the Texas Legislature of the boundaries of all congressional districts in the state – González will face Mayra Flores, R-McAllen, in November 2022 general election.
Both leaders will are running for Congressional District 34 in the upcoming November 2022 general election.
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.
ABOUT CONGRESSMAN VICENTE GONZÁLEZ
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.
ABOUT CONGRESSWOMAN MAYRA FLORES
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.
College Assistance Migrant Program at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley awarded $2.3 million to help migrant seasonal farmworker students
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s College Assistance Migrant Program has been awarded $2.3 million in federal funding to recruit and enroll 45 eligible migrant seasonal farmworker (MSFW) students who are engaged, or whose parents are engaged, in migrant and other seasonal farm work during their first year of college.
This grant is for the Brownsville Campus, which was up for renewal this year.
The award, from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Migrant Education, is a five-year grant and goes through June 2027. The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley has College Assistance Migrant Program is in place on both the Brownsville and Edinburg campuses.
The College Assistance Migrant Program was founded in 1972 under legacy institution UT Pan American and continues at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley with staff dedicated to helping first-year migrant students achieve their higher education goals by providing them with academic tutoring, peer mentoring, financial assistance and career guidance.
“CAMP (College Assistance Migrant Program) students receive academic support, advising and connections to various campus resources, and they make life-long friends,” said Cindy Valdez, Associate Vice President for College Access and K-12 Partnerships. “The program gives students the tools to succeed beyond their first year and builds on the work ethic and sacrifice they have seen modeled by their families.”
Noel Rodríguez, Director, Special Programs, College Assistance Migrant Program on the Brownsville campus, said the funding plays an essential role in demonstrating the university’s commitment to student success in college and beyond.
“This work demonstrates to our community and our stakeholders that the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley is an institution of higher education that embraces the migrant seasonal farmworker community. We understand the need to provide supportive services from a program such as the College Assistance Migrant Program,” Rodríguez said.
“Additionally, the College Assistance Migrant Program will continue to join in on the effort with the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley to inform our communities and potential College Assistance Migrant Program student participants of the excellent undergraduate academic programs and unique experiences the university offers,” he said.
The grant seeks to support students in three areas: college and career planning, financial academic support, and resources, such as social and emotional support and cultural educational experiences.
The program projects that 86 percent of College Assistance Migrant Program students will complete the first year of their postsecondary program, and 92 percent of College Assistance Migrant Program students who complete their first academic year of college, will continue their post-secondary education.
Rodríguez, who has served as College Assistance Migrant Program director for 13 years, said the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley supports the migrant farmworker community, and he looks forward to collaborating with regional school districts and their migrant education program staff by providing year-round outreach services about the College Assistance Migrant Program program at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
The grant is designed to provide migrant and seasonal farm working students with opportunities for educational growth.
“Because most College Assistance Migrant Program students come from a first-generation college background, they immediately begin to shift their family’s educational trajectory when they enroll at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. They establish a college-going culture within their family for generations to come,” Rodríguez said.
James Rivera and María González 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 (TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com).