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Teach for America continues to make a difference in the RGV.


Financial literacy is a prerequisite to success. Do you know what to do with your money?


Exploring Rio Grande Regional Hospital’s expansive emergency services.


McAllen natives team up for feature film, “The Ghost and the Boy with a Box on his Head. “

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WHEN WE SERVE TOGETHER IN OUR COMMUNITIES, EVERYONE SOARS. Southwest Airlines® proudly partners with those who are helping to shape our communities all across America. One good deed—when coupled with another and another and another—can truly make a positive difference in our daily lives.



IT’S THE POWER OF YOUR VOTE THAT DRIVES OUR DEMOCRACY Take the wheel on your own voting journey by finding out what stops you need to make so you can keep heading in the right direction towards making your voice heard!

START KNOW THE IMPORTANT DATES OCT. 11 Last Day to Register to Vote

OCT. 28

Register to vote or make sure that your voter registration information is up to date. *Request a mail-in ballot if you are going to be away from your county during the election period, sick or disabled, 65 years of age or older on Election Day, or confined in jail, but eligible to vote.

Last Day to Apply for Ballot by Mail

NOV. 8 Last Day to Receive Ballot by Mail: Election Day

OCT. 24 – NOV. 4 Early Voting


Make a quick note to remind yourself about the details of your plan to vote such as: • When you intend to head to the polls?

NOV. 8

• Where you can vote at?

Election Day!

• What you will be doing beforehand? • Who you are thinking of bringing along?

See who’s running, what you’re voting on, when elections are happening, and where you can vote at.


Take an acceptable form of photo ID to the polls. For questions on acceptable forms of ID, please visit our website or contact your local elections department.


Once you have cast your ballot, help us encourage others to do the same. Remind your family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, people at church, and everyone else that it’s important for them to have their voice heard too!

612 Nolana Ave. Suite #430, McAllen, TX 78504

*Note: Qualified voters without an approved photo ID may obtain a free Election Identification Card from the Texas Dept. of Public Safety. *Note: A voter can cast a provisional ballot in scenarios where the voter is not able to present an acceptable form of photo ID, or their name is not found on the registered voter file, does not exactly match, or is not substantially similar to the name as it appears on the official list of registered voters.




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Jimmy. DIESEL TECH in the making. By offering over 119 degrees and certificates, South Texas College provides its students with 119 different ways to turn their dreams into reality. Many, like Jimmy, will enter the workforce to make a real difference in The Valley.


MAKING LIVES Founded in 2008 by a group of emergency room physicians, Neighbors Emergency Center operates as a freestanding emergency room, providing patients with the same level of service as a hospital-based emergency room. We operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Neighbors Emergency Center takes pride in only hiring local board certified physicians to care for patients. By doing this, our physicians provide nothing less than the highest of quality patient care. Neighbors Emergency Center is rooted in and driven by a purpose that sets us apart from the healthcare industry as a whole. Our purpose drives our vision which is inspired by our patients, culture and community. Neighbors Emergency Center believes in providing extraordinary care that is dedicated to making lives better every day. Neighbors Emergency Center operates around an unfaltering vision to be “The Best Neighbors Ever” – this means providing unparalleled medical care driven by compassion, respect and dedication.




2073 E. Ruben Torres Sr. Blvd. Brownsville, TX 78526

1725 N. Ed Carey Dr. Harlingen, TX 78550

6700 N. 10th Street McAllen, TX 78504














At RGVision, our print publication calendar of six issues per year, we see time a little differently. We plan far ahead, making predictions about what topics will be meaningful and interesting weeks in the future. We’re focused on the future - and ensuring that it’s the one we want. Earlier this year, we took small steps to help an organization make a better future for children with special needs and their families in the Rio Grande Valley. The work of the Capable Kids Foundation initially touched our hearts, and in the months that followed as we met some of the children facing challenges with their health, we were often overwhelmed with emotion. A plan began to take form: a gala benefiting Capable Kids would provide the funds to expand Capable Kids activities and raise awareness for the families trying to give their children a complete childhood. With help from the local community, the possibility for an inclusive, disability-friendly playground became an

exciting new goal. The gala takes place October 27, which will also feature the premier debut of a minidocumentary, “Capable.” Interviewing the therapists who founded Capable Kids, we learned the passion for children was drawn from their CEO’s leadership– Carmen Pagan of Milestones Therapeutic Associates. It is this type of leadership from which we draw inspiration for positive change in our future. We are glad to share her passion and success with you along with many other great profile stories this issue. As we continue to move forward in time, always looking ahead, we hope that our community in the RGV will join our efforts and that of the Capable Kids Foundation in reaching a point where all individuals are accepted, welcomed, and capable. Thank you for reading.

At Hebrews 13:16 “...And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” Copyright by rgVision Publications Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without expressed written permission of the publisher is prohibited. The opinions and views expressed in the magazine don’t necessarily reflect those of our advertisers or collaborators. rgVision magazine is published bi-monthly and circulates 12,000 copies across the Rio Grande Valley in 420 locations with a direct mail distribution to major hospitals and Superintendents within Region 1. The rgVision office is located at 506 W. University Dr. #101 Edinburg, TX 78539. To receive an annual subscription of RgVision publications for $29.99, email



























Note from the editor: In our last issue, May/June, we incorrectly published that Adrian Cruz was RGV Iron Chef in 2012 and 2013. Chef Jesse Castellon actually won the fifth and final RGV Iron Chef in 2012. For editorial comments and suggestions, please send e-mails to For advertising information, please call us at 210.618.8930 or e-mail us at


Elementary classrooms take on a modern approach.

14 12

Exploring life beyond the Rio 14 Grande Valley PSJA ISD students tour prestigious Ivy League universities.

In the Making


A Change of Course


A Snapshot of Excellence


Israel Reyes is training to be Texas State Trooper at STC.

ON THE COVER Working Toward the Potential

RGVisionary Woman Carmen Pagan has changed the lives of special-needs families in the RGV.


By Abbey Kunkle | Cover Illustration by Mariela Peña




RGV Careers helped former teacher enter medical field.

Teach for America continues to make a difference in the RGV.


VOLUME 8 ISSUE 5 September / October







Don’t Fall Behind


Life After Surgery


Fighting to the Top


It Takes A Grant


Unpacking Back Pain


No Car, No Problem


Bald No More


Don’t Miss PalmFest


Butterflies of Mission


The Vision and Sound


The Orchard Lounge


23 Years of RGV Indie Films


Collage 2016


Lift, Jump, Squat, Crossfit!


Poetry Unites!


This autumn, try a realtor!

ERI Team helps secure millions for Weslaco ISD.

Streamlining Solutions

With advising, Raymond James’ clients find lifelong financial security. You can, too!

Healthy Holiday Budgeting



Make 2016 the year you set a financial limit - and stick to it - for your wallet’s sake.

Catered to You


Local caterer serves attention to detail to the table.

Investment is for Everyone


Financial literacy is a prerequisite to success. Do you know what to do with your money?

Weight-loss surgery means adopting a new lifestyle.

When children complain of back pain, their book bag may not be to blame. RGV Hair Restoration offers permanent results for hair loss.

Growing with Communities

People are the spark that drives Neighbors Emergency Centers.

A Steady Hand


Local MMA fighter Guilherme Farias da Costa strives for victory. Metro Connect is our public transportation solution. McAllen celebrates culture and community.

The RGV city with a national butterfly center hosts annual festival, art to honor flying friends. McAllen natives team up for feature film, “The Ghost and the Boy with a Box on his Head. “


Dr. Betancourt offers new laser services at Valley Baptist Medical Center.

The team at Orchard Lounge created an environment that anyone would fall in love with.

Trick or Treat for Your Teeth

Cinesol Film Festival celebrates film appreciation and innovation in the RGV.

This Halloween, practice these tips for helping your child prevent cavities.

Inside the ER

Exploring Rio Grande Regional Hospital’s expansive emergency services.



IMAS to celebrate A Legacy of Discovery at annual fundraising event.

South Texas Games are a celebration of CrossFit in the RGV.

FeIPoL encourages unity through Acción Poetíca. SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016




HCISD Elementary Classrooms Take On A Modern Approach By Marifer Quevedo Students at elementary campuses across the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District will be greeted with transformed learning spaces as they enter their new classrooms for the 2016-17 school year. In January, a committee composed of teachers and administrators from all 17 elementary schools rated and ranked designs from different classroom furniture vendors. The focus was placed on selecting furniture and technology that would optimize the classroom environment by creating spaces for active learning and increased productivity. New desks with angular shapes will allow teachers to quickly and effortlessly assemble different group configurations into pods of various sizes, maximizing student engagement and participation. This type of collaboration is evident in collegiate and professional workspaces. “The integration of the new, collaborative furniture into my classroom will help foster an environment of creativity,” said Ruth Garcia, a fourth-grade teacher at Dr. Rodriguez Elementary. “Utilizing the benefits of teamwork, my students will enhance their interpersonal skills. As a digital classroom teacher, I intend to incorporate lessons focusing on relevant technology to make sure my students leave my classroom prepared for the diverse challenges among modern society.” Each third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade classroom is receiving 25 new chairs and desks in addition to a 52-inch monitor. Each grade level is also receiving a digital package including 12




12 iPads, a Mac computer, and an Apple TV. Larger campuses with more than four classrooms in a grade level will receive two digital packages. “The impact on morale is exhilarating. Everyone’s excited - teachers, parents, and staff alike,” said Dr. Rodriguez Elementary principal Traci Gonzalez. “The new furniture and technology will facilitate learning by tailoring to the evolving needs of the 21st century learner. The design of the new desks is conducive for group collaboration, optimizing the learning environment. The iPad is what they know. When teachers are able to deliver instruction using the latest technology, all barriers are removed and students have the opportunity to take their learning to the next level.” The modernization of classroom furniture directly aligns with the district's strategic plan, “Transforming Learning for Global Achievement,” by creating flexible learning spaces. The goal is to expand technology rich environments that empower students to maximize their learning experiences.

“Our ultimate and primary goal is academic success,” said Administrator of Elementary Education Loranda Romero. “We want students to be able to participate in a rigorous, challenging environment, not just to regurgitate information. We want them to be motivated to analyze, collaborate, and communicate at a much deeper level. The new furniture will give teachers the liberty to transform their classrooms into flexible learning spaces adapted to the specific lesson presented.” The contagious excitement will undoubtedly be transferred to the thousands of hopeful students walking into transformed learning spaces on Aug 23. The district has allotted $480,000 per year from the approved tax ratification, and the plan has been accelerated to furnish three grade levels this upcoming school year. The remaining elementary grade levels will be furnished and infused with technology within the next three years.

“Utilizing the benefits of teamwork, my students will enhance their interpersonal skills. As a digital classroom teacher, I intend to incorporate lessons focusing on relevant technology to make sure my students leave my classroom prepared for the diverse challenges among modern society.”

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Exploring life beyond the Rio Grande Valley PSJA ISD students tour prestigious Ivy League universities

In add ition t o visit a grou ing Tim p of 1 es Squ 2 junior Prince are in s toure ton Un New Y d Yale iversit ork, Unive y and rsity, Colum bia Un iversit y.

By Claudia Lemus


or many high school students living in the Rio Grande Valley, pursuing a college education beyond South Texas is often overlooked and in the back of their minds as they are often plagued by the ultimate fear of leaving home and the dreaded question, “What if I don’t make it?” Additionally, the lack of knowledge and means to travel to explore out-of-state universities further hinders students from taking advantage of the many opportunities and possibilities beyond home. With this in mind, the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District (PSJA), in partnership with the Texas Graduate Center, selected more than 30 PSJA sophomore and junior students to tour universities as part of the Summer Ivy League Tours Program. They visited Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Princeton University, Brown University, Yale University, and Columbia University. For Anna K. Sanchez, a junior at PSJA Early College High School, the experience was life changing. “This trip was priceless as it was able to enrich me with vast knowledge regarding admissions, college life, financial aid, and what colleges look for,” shared



Sanchez of her visit to Columbia, Yale, and Princeton. “I learned things that one could not simply experience by just going online. It really changed my perspective on my education.” The tours are exclusive to MATHTEACH Collaborative partners with the Texas Graduate Center based out of Mercedes. Partnering school districts, such as PSJA ISD, support a math teacher in their Math for Teaching Graduate Program in partnership with Harvard University. Two PSJA teachers recently graduated with their master’s degrees from the program and another two are currently participating.

“The tours are at no cost to the district provided that our teachers get selected to earn their master’s at Harvard University,” explained Marisela Zepeda director of Advanced Academics for PSJA ISD. “The district gets two slots for student tours for each teacher selected to participate in the master degree cohorts.” A total of three different tours took place this summer starting in June. The first tour took a group of eight


n the ted i a p i c r Ivy parti who mme u s t S n r et e stude Cent o me t A e J t d S a e P a du xcit lumn s Gra s were e JA a S Texa r P y u t i . ,a ue To ivers nilla n a t U n Leag i e l u ng Ya ria Q endi Victo t t a ntly curre

Than ks to a pa Grad rtner uate ship Cent stud betw er (T ents een G w C), c ere g Leag PSJA urre iven ue ca ISD a n t PSJ the o mpu nd th A so ppor ses a eT p hom tunit nd s ore a exas pecia y to t n our s lty co d jun ever llege ior al Iv s thi y s sum mer.

sophomore students to visit the halls of Harvard, MIT ,and Brown University. For the second tour, four junior students interested in pursuing a career in the medical field were selected to learn about the Washington University St. Louis School of Medicine. While the first two tours were completely funded by Texas Graduate Center, PSJA ISD sponsored 20 additional students and two chaperones for the third tour to Yale, Princeton, and Columbia. In addition to visiting the prestigious universities, students participating as part of the last tour also got to stroll down, the Big Apple and got a taste of life beyond the Valley. Although the tours provide a tremendous experience for students, being selected is anything but easy. Students had to complete an online application, submit a detailed essay, and go through an interview committee. “The PSJA Summer Ivy League Tours program is a very competitive program,” said Vera Boda, PSJA College Transition Lead. “Students are able to get a first look at prestigious universities, the many programs they offer, connect with staff, learn about the college

admission process and opportunities for financial aid.” In addition to broadening their perspectives, many students returned home with a better sense of appreciation for their education. “This tour helped me realize the dedication and importance of my education. I can now see all the effort the PSJA Board of Education makes to help us see what is out there,” said Roxanne Flores, a junior at PSJA Southwest Early College High School. “Being from South Texas and going to New York is an eyeopening experience.” Having explored life beyond the Rio Grande Valley, students said they were grateful for the opportunity.

“Being able to experience firsthand these different universities saved me! I hadn't even thought of applying to Yale University before and now it's my dream school,” said Joel Vela, a junior at PSJA North ECHS. “I am extremely grateful to the Texas Graduate Center and PSJA ISD for selecting me for this opportunity.”




WHO IS ELIGIBLE? Fathers and father figures with children from birth to five years of age. These services are available to all eligible persons, regardless of race, gender, age, disability, or religion.

BOWIE COMMUNITY RESOURCE CENTER CONTACT: Fatherhood Program 811 E. Bowie Ave. Alamo, Texas 78516 Tel: 956.354.2130 ext. 7514

Funding for this project was provided by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Grant: #90FK0094-01-00.


Israel Reyes

TROOPER IN THE MAKING By Aaron Cummings “Courtesy, Service, Protection” is the motto of the Texas Department of Public Safety, but Israel Reyes, a criminal justice major at South Texas College, embodies these ideals on a daily basis both as a student and as a parent. As Reyes’ plans culminate in his expected graduation this December, he is quickly coming one step closer to his long-term aspiration of one day to upholding the DPS motto he already embodies in a new role as a Texas state trooper. Becoming a Texas state trooper has been Reyes’s dream since childhood, but his first attempt to gain the required education, back in 1998 at the University of Texas Pan American, “didn’t pan out.” Fresh out of high school, Reyes attempted to work just long enough to pay for college, but soon “life happened” and the obstacles to achieving the first-generation college student’s dream became overwhelming. Nevertheless, Reyes, a hard worker, never gave up. As adulthood unfolded, he worked for 10 years in construction as an iron worker, plus an additional year as a truck driver. Still, the inner calling to serve others as a law enforcement officer never receded in Reyes’ mind, and in time he obtained a “stepping stone” job in law enforcement as a detention officer with the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Department. Even in this intermediate step toward his long-term goal, Reyes was already demonstrating the DPS motto’s first ideal of courtesy: as a detention officer, says Reyes, he learned to work with inmates “as people.” The stepping-stone job at the sheriff’s office was more than a career move; it was also a pit stop on the way to an advanced education. Reyes soon enrolled in the



“Courtesy, Service, Protection” is the motto of the Texas Department of Public Safety, but Israel Reyes, a Criminal Justice major at South Texas College, embodies these ideals on a daily basis both as a student and as a parent. criminal justice program at South Texas College. Although the pressures of school and fatherhood eventually forced him to leave his job at the sheriff’s office in order to complete his education, Reyes did not halt in his pursuit of his long-term goals. He continued to show resilience and dedication in his twin roles as a full-time student and a father of five children. Mr. Reyes has one semester of study left before applying to become a state trooper, but he has already achieved the goal of being a role model for his children. As a father, Reyes is living the DPS motto’s additional themes of service and protection. Even as he prepares for a life of service, Reyes is determined to protect his children from the influences that kept their father, a first-generation college student, from succeeding in college a decade - and - a half ago. Right out of high school, Reyes was unprepared for the challenge. Now on his second chance at college, Mr. Reyes is determined to persevere so that his children can say, “Look at what my dad does.” The student-lawman’s strategy is working: Reyes’ school-age children think it is “awesome” that their father is a student with homework of his own. Nor will Reyes’ impact be limited to his children. He plans to become a state trooper in order to preserve “the safety


of the people, of the public,” Reyes says. That is what they are: The Department of Public Safety. So, they are labeled as ‘bad guys,’ or ‘that guy who gave me a ticket because my kid wasn’t buckled,’ but they don’t see it as ‘Well, that kid could have had his life saved’” after a routine traffic stop. For Reyes, the guiding lights of law enforcement career will be “integrity and honesty.” At 35 years old, Reyes brings a wealth of experience to the classroom. Asked for advice for his younger classroom comrades, Reyes notes that while his classes are online, “they are not handing out grades” at STC. It takes dedication to balance one’s busy life with rigorous academics. “You have to be disciplined” is the key mantra of the online student. In spite of the challenges, Reyes advises prospective students that college is well “worth the effort.” Students can start by researching college and finding out what they want out of life. Reyes’ challenge for high school seniors rings out loud and clear: “If someone doesn’t know what they want, look into it!”






OF COURSE RGV Careers Helped Former Teacher Enter Medical Field By Lori Houston Photos by Kevin Martinez

Making a career change can be a daunting prospect. However, the way you approach it makes all the difference in the results. Julianna Luera is making that change in a big way, transforming herself from a kindergarten teacher into a licensed physician’s assistant. Changing jobs is stressful enough, but Luera’s strong desire to reach out to her community and make a difference through medicine led to her switching fields from education to medical. Though such a change takes some extra work, Luera has started her journey to become a physician’s assistant by getting medical experience with RGV Careers in their nurse’s aide program. According to Luera, “Ships in harbor are safe, but that’s not what ships were built for. You need to detach your anchor (get rid of inhibitions), gather up your crew (support system), and set sail.” Luera’s “crew” is made up of a supportive husband, mother and father, and her four children. “They are my sole reason for wanting more in life,” said Luera. “I want to be their role model - not some super star they see on television, but me.” Throughout this process, Luera has modeled hard work and determination for her family. One of the hardest parts of the program for her was missing out on family time because she was teaching during the day, and attending classes at night. However, she says this has, if anything, instilled in her children that if you want something bad enough, “stop at nothing to get it.” Enrolling at RGV Careers was easy for Luera. “I can remember wanting to join this program one day and literally being enrolled in the course the next day.” The



staff and administration were very helpful in seeing her through the enrollment process and getting her settled in to the nurse’s aide program. “It seemed like every person there was genuinely interested in me and were there to help me.” Luera found the courses challenging but manageable because it was exactly what she wanted to learn while at the same time providing her a stepping stone into a career in health care. “I enjoyed role playing with other students and actually getting hands-on training by spending time at a local nursing home.” The nurse’s aide program at RGV Careers left Luera well prepared for her further studies in the medical field. “Learning about patient care / safety definitely gave me huge insight on better ways to help my future patients.” She is continuing her education with a physician's assistant masters program at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and is thankful for the solid base in patient care she received at RGV Careers. “ I learned a lot about compassion and although that is something you can’t be taught, you can definitely learn ways to express it.” RGV Careers helps their students from the very beginning of the chosen program all the way through job placement. “Another thing that impressed me about this program was the way they track their students after the classes end. I received several followup calls for job placement assistance for months after I finished. I felt like the staff really wanted me to succeed … and I did!” Here in the Rio Grande Valley, healthcare jobs are numerous and Luera recommends RGV Careers to others seeking employment in the field. “RGV Careers can open up one door that can open up a hundred doors.You have nothing to lose and everything to gain,” said Luera.







A Snapshot of Excellence Teach for America continues to make a difference in the RGV

by Aaron Cummings


ities in the Rio Grande Valley sometimes find themselves chagrined by headlines such The Street’s listing of the Brownsville and McAllen metros at the bottom of this summer’s rankings of “The 20 Least Educated Cities in the US.” According to Street, the McAllen region “comes in dead last…for education” among the 150 largest metro areas in the country. As is often the case with click-bait journalism, The Street’s pessimistic snapshot stops short of telling the whole story. The other half of the tale is the individuals and organizations striving to improve access to education in the Rio Grande Valley. To take only one example, consider the teachers of Teach for America, an organization dedicated to tackling educational



inequality. TFA grew from one student’s thesis idea in 1989 into an educational force that has deployed more than 50,000 corps members and alumni in underserved regions. The program recruits stellar recent college grads and places them as teachers in regions suffering from low educational attainment – places like the Rio Grande Valley. One individual who has experienced RGV education both as a student and as a TFA teacher is Gabriela Ontiveros, a Weslaco native who exceeded expectations and who has used her talents to brighten the future of students in her hometown. Gabriela Ontiveros was a diligent student during her days at Weslaco High School. At the end of senior year, she had earned a place at St. Edward’s University, a liberal arts school in Austin. There, in spite of her hard


work at Weslaco High, she had to make up ground “because there were some things that I just had not been taught.” This hard lesson on the side effects of educational inequality stuck in her mind. At the end of her first year at St. Ed’s, Gabriela received terrible news: According to doctors, pulmonary fibrosis threatened her mother’s life. In order to be closer to her mother, Gabriela returned to the Valley and enrolled at the nearby University of Texas Pan American. Once again, and in spite of family tragedy – her mother passed away from the disease – Gabriela excelled. Upon graduation, Gabriela took the MCAT and applied to medical school. She had such conviction of her future success that she applied to only one medical school (University of Texas San Antonio), unlike most other would-be doctors who – mindful of the low percentages of applicants who are actually accepted – might apply to a score of schools in hopes of being admitted to one. Gabriela’s confidence paid off. She was accepted to medical school at UTSA. In spite of completing her college career with flying colors and being accepted into medical school, Gabriela felt something was amiss. “I was not fulfilled,” she recalled. “Yes, I was proud and happy and all those positive feelings, but I did not feel complete.” In the midst of this existential crisis, a friend introduced her to Teach for America. An intense internal struggle commenced: All of Gabriela’s prior education had been geared toward medical school, and in her hand she held the admissions letter that was her ticket to that goal.Yet, there was something about the prospect of teaching. In the end she applied to TFA just as the deadline passed; only a last-minute extension of the deadline allowed Gabriela’s application to be considered. Gabriela took the deadline extension as an omen of sorts, and her resolve hardened. With her mother having passed away, Gabriela had no intention of leaving her remaining family members. She was determined to find a path to success in her home region. The TFA recruitment process is highly selective, and success was by no means certain. Nevertheless, Gabriela again excelled, acing interview after interview on her way to joining TFA’s elite corps of teacher trainees.

I learned about myself and I was able to see first-hand how a person that truly cares can change a young adult’s life… From potential doctor to rookie teacher may be an unexpected career change, but upon reflection, Gabriela’s side-step was not so surprising. After all, both teaching and medicine are service professions appealing to those with a burning need to help their fellow creatures. In hindsight, Gabriela can contrast her two career options. She knew that teachers are often denigrated while doctors enjoy prestige. Yet her two-year teaching commitment with TFA exploded those societal stereotypes. “I learned about myself and I was able to see first-hand how a person that truly cares can change a young adult’s life,” said Gabriela. “I was blessed to be able to have the same students I had my first year and teach them my second year. I taught 130 biology students my first year and moved up with them to chemistry my second year. I knew their families, I knew their struggles, and I knew what space I held in their lives.” The same brilliance that had prepared Gabriela for medical school had also prepared her to continuously mentor her students through both biology and chemistry. Nor did Gabriela’s efforts on behalf of her students end in the classroom. Cheerleading sponsor, HESTEC robotics coach, and girl’s powerlifting coach are all extracurricular roles that Gabriela has worn with distinction. In recent years the challenges of teaching in an increasingly stressful environment have been the subject of an army of op-eds. A skeptic might admit that teaching could attract a big-hearted person with a desire to help others, while cynically assuming that the increasing pressures of the profession would soon drive a new teacher like Gabriela away. Yet, once her TFA commitment was upon, Gabriela did not seek refuge in


medical school; she dove back into the classroom for a third year. Gabriela readily owns up to the reality of the challenge: “As a teacher you have so many duties that actual teaching becomes a small part of what you do.” For Gabriela, the solution to this plethora of problems comes down to a shift in perspective: she focuses on the young human lives she has been given the privilege of molding. “You have to problem solve a lot in my profession. How do I do all this? Well, I don’t think of them as problems, I think of them as lives.” Gabriela – and many other TFA teachers in the Rio Grande Valley – is a professional life-changer. At the end of the day, it is not afterglow of TFA’s institutional prestige that most impacts the Valley, but rather the kindly warmth of TFA teachers. Hailing from all over the United States, TFA teachers have a wealth of experiences to share with Valley students, enabling both teachers and students to think outside the proverbial box. Given the selective nature of the program, many TFA teachers have enjoyed the privilege of an elite education; TFA’s involvement in the Rio Grande Valley extends that privilege to local high school students. Dedicated, talented, and inspired teachers such as Gabriela Ontiveros are transforming the Valley through classrooms that are laboratories of excellence. 1 William Richards. “The 20 Least Educated Cities in the US” The Street, 2 August 2016. slideshow/13658203/21/the-20-least-educated-cities-in-theu-s.html 2 Teach for America. “About Us.” https://www.!



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Don’t Fall Behind This Autumn, Try a Realtor! By Karen Villarreal The real estate market typically slows down in the fall, following the fast-paced buying and selling rush of the summer. You still have a chance of making these deals happen in the coming months by working with a realtor. Judith Benavides-Garza of BIG Realty explains why this profession is one you want to get familiar with if you’re on the move.

Realtors are here to serve YOU

First of all, a realtor is an individual who is dedicated to becoming familiar with local real estate and forming relationships within the community to better match individuals to properties. It is a little like romantic match-making; if you know two of your friends will get along, why not introduce them? One of BenavidesGarza’s favorite parts of the job is getting to know her clients and their stories. “It helps me better understand what they need and where they need their home. Where does the family work and play - is a short commute a major factor? Do they have or want children? Schools may be more important to that family.” Orchestrating this perfect scenario is not as easy as hopping online and browsing pictures, though Benavides-Garza says that does occupy about 20% of her work day. “I try to keep myself up to date with new inventory daily,” she says. According to, for every hour an agent spends in your presence, he or she will spend an average of nine hours out of sight working on your behalf. From finding potential matches online and visiting them in person to spending time with other



realtors comparing listings, a realtor stays busy finding the right houses for their clients. Benavides-Garza finds that it is very rewarding seeing her clients’ satisfaction. “We save them time finding a new home. Instead of shopping online and visiting websites that are outdated, we give them access to homes that are available in real time. There are times when Harlingen board realtors get listings in the greater McAllen area, but they will not show up on a regular McAllen board search.” There is nothing better than making the right match for both buyer and seller. “It’s very fulfilling when my clients say, ‘This is the one - I want to make an offer,’” says Benavides-Garza, “and selling is just as difficult to do on your own. Often, a seller has tried the ‘For Sale by Owner’ signs with no luck and then they call to say, ‘I need your help.’ Once a match has been made, a realtor stays involved in the process until every signature is collected and all parties satisfied with the outcome. While the most exciting part is closing on a deal, “negotiating can be fun when both parties are familiar with the market,” says Benavides-Garza. Offers and counteroffers can make or break a sale with a significant difference in price, but they require paperwork and follow-up that can be tedious for individuals with busy schedules. “People get cold feet all the time, but a good realtor will work with you until you find the home that meets your every requirement,” says Benavides-Garza. Reclaim your life; utilize the services of a licensed realtor like BIG Realty!


Stop existing, and

START LIVING Norma Gonzalez had enjoyed being active when suddenly all of that changed. Norma had an accident at work and broke her ankle. With her mobility significantly limited, her weight crept higher and higher – Norma gained 80 pounds. With support and direction from the staff at Valley Care Clinics Weight Loss Surgery Center, Norma learned about various approaches to weight-loss that included surgical and non-surgical methods. After considering the options, Norma decided to have gastric sleeve surgery and has never looked back. “It was a life-changing surgery for me,” says Norma. “I hit the gym and said, I am not going to waste time!” Today, Norma is back to enjoying her favorite activities, and truly living the lifestyle she values so much.

It’s a new chapter from here on out. Norma Gonzalez Bariatric Patient

For more information about weight-loss options, call 1-855-VCC-APPT or visit

Individual results may vary. There are risks associated with any surgical procedure. Talk with your doctor about these risks to find out if bariatric surgery is right for you. Physicians are independent practitioners who are not employees or agents of McAllen Heart Hospital. The hospital shall not be liable for actions or treatments provided by physicians. 160625


It Takes a Grant ERI team helps secure millions for Weslaco ISD By The Educational Research Institute

Weslaco Independent School District (WISD), located in south central Hidalgo County about 8 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, was recently awarded three separate grants with help from Linda V. Alaniz, founder of the Educational Research Institute (ERI), and her employees. They include the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC), Job and Education for Texas (JET), and the High Quality Pre-Kindergarten grants. Weslaco ISD, which encompasses 54 square miles and is bordered by the cities of Progreso, Donna, Mercedes, and Edcouch, and Elsa, will be able to increase their number of employees and district resources, bolstering them in their race for success. Weslaco ISD is glad that with the help of the Jobs and Education for Texas award ($135,000), they will be able to support



the Career and Technology Program with equipment. With over $8,277,442 awarded from the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC), WISD will be able to support an afterschool program. In addition, funding from the High Quality Pre-Kindergarten grant ($669,522) will help Pre-K students in preparation for their early education. Educational Research Institute is proud to have helped Weslaco ISD secure these recently awarded grants, and like the Weslaco ISD superintendent and employees, are eager to see the impact these funds will have on their district. To learn more about how grant writers at the Educational Research Institute can help your school district or non-profit organization find funding, visit


A Weslaco ISD Timeline of Success In the beginning, Weslaco city officials organized an independent school district soon after the city’s establishment in 1919. Starting with a small school located on the corner of Illinois and Seventh Street with an enrollment of only 350 in its 1921-22 first school year, the district had a faculty of 10 and a graduating class of nine students. The first official school building, which still stands on the corner on Illinois and Seventh Street, was completed in February 1922. A new expanded building brought comfort to the faculty and students of the later years. Weslaco ISD has grown to include a student population of over 17,000 which are serviced at four high schools, 4 middle schools, and 11 elementary schools. Because of Weslaco ISD’s overreaching goals and expectations, students are able to enjoy a district that offers the following distinctions: 1996 to current - Weslaco ISD was given a rating of “Recognized School District” by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) for 14 out of 16 years. This was due to the outstanding student scores in the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) state exam.


Weslaco Independent School District (WISD), located in south central Hidalgo County about 8 miles from the U.S. -Mexico border, was recently awarded three separate grants with help from Linda V. Alaniz, founder of the Educational Research Institute (ERI), and her employees.

A new State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) test was introduced in the 2012-13 school year, replacing TAKS. Weslaco ISD met the challenge of this new rigorous state exam, receiving the “Met Standard” distinction in 2014 and 2015. Weslaco ISD adopted the 21st Century Learners initiative to embed technology and innovative learning into the curriculum.

2014 2015 2016

Weslaco ISD established the 21st Century Career and Technical Education Early College High School, offering associate degrees to students for Precision Manufacturing, Diesel Mechanics, and Welding.

Weslaco ISD incorporated Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) into the secondary curriculum and established several “high schools” within the Weslaco HS and Weslaco East HS campuses. High school students who are interested in engineering can now enroll in the Weslaco Early College High School T-STEM Academy housed at Weslaco HS, while students interested in health-related professions can attend the Weslaco East Early College High School at the Weslaco East HS campus.

The district’s operating budget is $182 million with approximately 2500 employees.












hether you are interested in leaving a legacy for the next generation, planning your retirement, or seeking advice for your business, financial planning is a specialty that a select few are able to provide with competence. At 1845 Capital of Raymond James, financial planning is what attracts clients, but it’s the relationships made in the process that retain them through generations. 1845 Capital of Raymond James is a partnership team built by CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals, Bill Martin and Mark Southwell, neither of whom are strangers to the realm of the financial industry. Martin is a product of the Rio Grande Valley, a graduate of Texas A&M University in College Station who earned his degree in business administration with a focus in marketing. Southwell hails from the Houston area and attended the University of Houston, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business. Both Martin and Southwell were raised in families that provided financial services to clients at AG Edwards. After starting their careers and moving back to the valley in the late 1990s to join AG Edwards in McAllen, Martin and Southwell grew as friends and business associates. At Edwards, they developed the skills that would later become the basis for their eventual financial planning partnership. “It was here that the importance of longterm client relationships was made clear,” explains Martin. After 10 years together at A.G. Edwards, the company was bought by Wachovia Bank. Shortly thereafter, the pair made the decision to open the first Morgan Stanley office in the RGV and continued their practice for an additional eight-anda-half years. It was around this time they realized a change was needed. “We were looking for a firm that valued the client first and offered a platform with a depth of

resources to serve their needs,” says Martin. On June 17, 2016, Martin and Southwell opened their branch of 1845 Capital of Raymond James at 7001 North 10th St. in McAllen. Together with their assistant, Thelma Vela, Raymond James & Associates (RJA) provides bilingual financial services to the South Texas community in addition to servicing clients in more than a dozen other states. The 1845 Capital of Raymond James currently services more than 100 multigenerational families, business owners and professionals with the purpose of defining individual financial goals, providing financial roadmaps, and ultimately implementing and reviewing those goals regularly to best benefit their clients. “What we provide is the opportunity to cut through the abundance of information and misinformation to give clients the relevant advice for their specific needs and manage their wealth to their goals,” says Martin. As far as building a financial advisory business and establishing their practice, Martin says it was no easy task. ”You have to be trustworthy, competent, and establish relationships in the community over time in order to grow in this business. There are no shortcuts to success.” Currently, the permanent Raymond James office is being planned for six financial advisors and three associates. “That should be about the right size for our area. The challenge is to grow without losing the culture that made your office special.” After all these years and so many changes in the industry, Martins explains, “We are pleased to find a firm in Raymond James that is committed to the client, remaining independent and the wealth management business.” For more information about 1845 Capitol of Raymond James, please visit www.1845capitalrj. com or call (956) 331-2777.

Raymond James & Associates, Inc. member New York Stock Exchange/SIPC Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, CFP® (with plaque design) and CFP® (with flame design) in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.

“What we provide is the opportunity to cut through the abundance of information and misinformation and give [clients] what they need in terms of advice.” - Bill Martin






The winter holidays make up nearly 20% of all sales for retailers in a calendar year with an average spend of $730 per shopper, according to the National Retail Foundation®. Each year we tell ourselves we’ll be better prepared for the holidays next year, but why not make 2016 the year you finally stick to a holiday budget? Your first step to stay within your holiday budget is determining what that budget should be. Once you’ve established the dollar amount you want to stick to, a little planning and coordination will help you stay on track. Take your defined value and divide it into three categories: gifts, travel (if applicable) and holiday meal prep. If additional categories are necessary, allocate your budget accordingly. Once you’ve determined your gifting budget you’ll want to make

a list of every person for whom you expect to purchase a gift. This list should include any possible lastminute gifts for teachers, neighbors, or office gift exchanges. With this list, include a value for each person, representing the amount you’re able to spend for that individual. The total spend of all recipients should not exceed your predetermined gifting budget. By planning ahead for your holiday meal preparation, you can save you both time and money; schedule your

shopping in advance in order to avoid last minute spending. If you’re hosting a holiday meal, consider making the event a potluck and encourage everyone to bring their favorite holiday dish. The important thing to remember is to stick to the designated amounts you’ve assigned yourself and if you can stay within your budget, the holidays will be easier on you and your wallet. Sources: and

To learn more visit or call 956.682.4196.


Bringing Detail To The Table


By George Cox

hether it’s a small dinner party or a banquet for hundreds, personalized planning and service goes a long way in creating a memorable event. AJS Gourmet Catering by Design is a fullservice catering company based out of Harlingen that prides itself on offering quality food and event planning down to the last little detail. “We want them to kick back and enjoy their event,” owner Aaron Salmela said. “You don’t want people all stressed out over their event. We take that stress away.” In the fall of 2015 Salmela, who also owns Copz Lounge, purchased the established catering business Wray &




Company with the intention of taking a good company and making it even better. He also bought the former Primavera Adult Day Care Center building in north Harlingen and renovated it into a commercial kitchen and headquarters for AJS, bringing his initial investment to approximately $350,000. Salmela’s experience in the bar business, which included using his liquor license to provide bar service for Wray & Company as a vendor, combined to make AJS the only full-service catering company in the Rio Grande Valley to offer full bar service. AJS general manager Suzanne Clifton started working in the catering industry in 1998 and prides herself on a personalized approach to working with customers. “It’s all about listening to our clients,” she said. “I meet with clients personally to get an idea of what they want before I even start thinking about a menu. Then we will custom design menus based on the clients’ needs and wants.”

“It’s all about listening to our clients. I meet with clients personally to get an idea of what they want before I even start thinking about a menu.” AJS has catered events from small breakfasts and lunches for 20 or so people to steak dinners for more than 900 at the annual STARS Scholarship Fund banquet at State Farm Arena. “We do all our food from scratch,” Salmela said. “At the STARS event we cooked 900 steaks on site.” AJS’s commercial kitchen is where much of the food is prepared and then transported in commercial warmers to the event, but there is often a need to take equipment to the venue to cook fried shrimp or grill steaks, for example. Other large events catered by AJS include the Algodon Club annual banquet and the Dining by Design charity fundraiser hosted by the American Cancer Society. And they can do it all, from site selection, floral

arrangements, music and even valet parking. What they can’t do in-house AJS staff will coordinate with outside vendors to provide. “Say you are planning a wedding from out of town. We can take care of all the details so the bride only has to deal with one contact instead of coordinating with a lot of different companies,” Clifton said. “From start to finish, from invitations to farewell gift bags to entertainment, you can rely on AJS Gourmet Catering to attend to every detail.” She said weddings should be personalized to reflect the bride’s and groom’s tastes in everything from the décor to the menu. “And that’s what we want to bring to the table,” Clifton said. From large to small events, the AJS team strives to provide not only quality food and surroundings but professional service as well. Whether it is a sit-down dinner with table service or a buffet, each event is staffed to meet the company’s quality standards of service, with professional chefs preparing the food and experienced wait staff and bartenders attending to the needs of the guests. “You can’t accomplish anything without a team, and we have a good team,” Clifton said. As with any business, success is largely measured by customer satisfaction, which brings personal satisfaction in addition to financial rewards. “I love making people happy and knowing I accomplished what they wanted, that we pulled it all together and it was a successful event,” Clifton said. For more information on AJS Gourmet Catering by Design, call 956-622-3269, email at ajsgourmetcatering@gmail. com, or visit the company’s Facebook page.

“From start to finish, from invitations to farewell gift bags to entertainment, you can rely on AJS Gourmet Catering to attend to every detail.”





INVESTMENT IS FOR EVERYONE! Financial Literacy: Prerequisite to Success By George Cox


nvesting in your future can seem like a daunting task in the beginning, but with just a few dollars and some sound advice anyone can launch a plan to achieve financial security. And it’s never too early to start. Young people coming into the workforce often don’t think about their needs 30 or 40 years down the road. The longer they wait the more difficult it becomes to build a portfolio that will take care of their retirement years or give them the capital they would need to launch their dream business. “Quite frankly you have to take control of your own financial future and you have to do it right now,” said Jeanie Wyatt, CEO and chief investment officer of South Texas Money Management, Ltd. “If you say you’re going to do it someday, it may never happen.” Wyatt suggested that the best way for individuals to start mapping out their financial future is to develop a budget. “We tell everyone, even our wealthiest clients, that every single person needs to live by a budget,” she said. “They have to know what they spend and try and match that spending to the inflow of money they have.” The first step is to tally up all the expenses that must be met to live comfortably. That includes everything from food and housing to utilities and taxes. “You have to know what you need to spend and match that spending to the inflow of money you have and make sure your inflow is going to support those expenses,” Wyatt said. “It’s a basic framework that’s imperative to remain in good financial condition.”



And keeping a close eye on spending while young, even as your income may increase with better jobs or promotions, is something that will pay off in the long run. “You have to make a decision early in life,” Wyatt said. “Are you going to eat hamburger now so that you can eat steak in retirement? If you want to be secure in your later life you need to be something of a cheapskate early in life.” Beyond setting a budget that simply balances out income and expenses, individuals should set aside something in their expense budget to build for the future. “Savings are important no matter what,” she said. “Even if it’s 5 percent of your income, 1 percent, whatever.” Many employers offer savings plans that can make investing in the future easy and profitable. In many cases, even people making minimum wage have access to a 401k or other savings plan through their employer. Wyatt believes a 401k plan is one of the best ways to start building financial security. “If you are in a job with a 401k plan, you can invest some of your income on a pre-tax basis,” she said. “It really is a way for low-income earners to get their foot in the door. And many employers will match some percentage of their contribution.” 401k plans typically invest in stocks and mutual funds that provide dividends to help the individual’s contribution grow into a nest egg for the future. Wyatt also suggests that individuals interviewing for


jobs should make sure to ask about this type of benefit. “Ask the question when you are interviewing for a job,” she said. “The younger you are the more important that question is. Starting early is critical.” In today’s world where the daily news is filled with reports of terrorist attacks, stock market volatility, and other frightening developments, Wyatt warns investors to maintain a steady course. “Don’t let the headlines that you see in the media every day scare you too much,” she said. “If you’re getting fearful and waiting to invest, that becomes a real headwind to your security because having a savings plan works. If it’s prudent and planned, it will be successful.

There’s no doubt about it.” Over the years, as individuals continue to invest and grow savings, Wyatt also advises to continue to keep a close eye on that budget they used to help lay the groundwork for financial security. One of the biggest threats to staying on plan is the failure to manage debt properly. “Sometimes it’s smart and prudent to use debt,” she said. “But when it’s used excessively, especially when the economy is down, debt can cause big problems. Having too much debt can lead to a bad credit rating and those are things that make your financial future even more challenging.”





“We’re business advisers. We work with entrepreneurs to help them get a business started.” - Aaron L. Gonzalez

As an example, Wyatt said a $5,000 purchase on a credit card with a 20 percent interest rate, which is not all that uncommon, can become a $10,000 purchase in three years because of the compounding of interest. “High interest rates, variable rates, very long debt, that’s what I would call bad debt,” she said. “Good debt might be, if you can afford the payments, mortgage debt. That can be categorized as good debt because mortgage rates are very low right now. Mortgage debt is typically very low and very predictable.” While developing a savings and investment plan is a common goal for individuals thinking ahead to secure a comfortable retirement, many people have dreams of launching their own business and doing what they love instead of working for someone else. And they need to have a built a solid financial foundation to help make that happen because it costs money to start a business and succeed. But aspiring entrepreneurs also need more than a financial plan; they need to have a business plan that takes into account much more than a dream or personal passion. A solid business plan is just as much an investment in the future as a financial portfolio. Funded by the Small Business Administration, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s Small Business Development Center offers advice and guidance to people intent on opening the doors on their dreams. “We’re business advisers,” senior business adviser Aaron L. Gonzalez said. “We work with entrepreneurs to help them get a business started.” The UTRGV Small Business Development Center offers direct assistance and counseling to individuals as well as some 40 different classes to help people prepare to start or expand their business. Much like starting an individual savings plan, a business plan must lay a solid foundation for success because statistics show that some 60 percent of new businesses fail in the first two years, Gonzalez said. He added that out of the approximately 1,000 people a year that come to the center, only 15 to 20 percent succeed in opening a business. “We see people from all different industries, people



right out of college, veterans, people who are retired who want to get a business started, teachers looking for supplemental income,” Gonzalez said. He said people he sees have a business idea but typically little knowledge about how to organize and manage the nitty-gritty side of running a business. “People have the idea many times but they don’t know how to realize the business side of it,” Gonzalez said. “Before they even go to the bank we sit down with them and go over all the details, what they need in terms of physical equipment and so forth. And we let them know the bank is going to expect them to meet part of the investment.” Using a restaurant as an example, Gonzalez said the owner must do much more than come up with a name and plan a menu. They need to research everything, including tables and chairs, food costs, kitchen equipment, knives and forks, and marketing needs. “I always tell them they should figure out every tiny little cost, down to the last napkin holder,” he said. “Sometimes they come in with what they think they need but they don’t drill down enough. That can be very intense for someone just starting a business.” A small business owner must worry about dozens of functions every day and oftentimes they need to consider outsourcing some aspects they don’t like or need help with, which makes having capital even more important. “The reason they are starting the business in the first place is to do what they love,” Gonzalez said. “But they need to look to outsource some of the things they don’t like. It may be more cost effective to find someone else to do those things.” Gonzalez also advises start-up business owners to have enough cash on hand to cover all the expenses, large and small, for three months, without factoring in any sales. So, whether you want to secure a comfortable retirement or put your talents to work in your own business, the advice from experts is pretty straightforward. Get out a pencil and paper or create an Excel spreadsheet and start planning and investing now.




TRUSTED EXPERIENCE Over 50 years of financial experience you can trust.

We believe that wealth creation and protection are the result of exceptional planning – and financial planning for the future is what we do best.

Walter J. Reyna, Inc. is a Registered Investment Advisor and Walter Reyna is a Certified Financial Planner.



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Life After

SURGERY By Andew Nieto

1 2 3

Bariatric surgery can give renewed life to those whose health has been negatively affected by their weight, allowing them the chance to regain an active and healthy lifestyle.


ave you ever had to plan a course through crowded areas, or struggle to find anything in your size while shopping? Individuals who are considered obese encounter situations on a daily basis that are taken for granted by two-thirds of the United States; even enjoying a movie in theaters or trip by plane is a challenge involving calculations about the size of the seats. “Common sense” dictates that a very dedicated individual with the right plan and lots of support could make slow and steady headway towards losing a few pounds per month; however, it is a sad realization for well-meaning friends and family that after a certain point, when the individual’s health is approaching morbidity, diet and exercise aren’t feasible options for the drastic change their loved one needs. There is an option that can restore hope when every other course of action has been exhausted. Weight-loss surgery is a proven method for obese individuals to lose weight and improve their health. Considering that weight-loss surgery has improved in recent years to be a very safe and routine practice, what is stopping individuals from taking that second chance at an active lifestyle? Dr. Mario del Pino, director of the bariatric program at Rio Grande Regional Hospital, believes there is still some outdated information out there that could be keeping individuals from changing their lives.



Del Pino, who has been practicing three types of bariatric surgery in the Rio Grande Valley for 13 years, stresses that the surgery isn’t a magic solution. He says many prospective patients are often surprised to learn that the lifestyle of post-surgical care is as important as the surgery itself. “Lifestyle and dietary habit changes are key in order for the patient to be successful in the long term,” says Del Pino. “If you are not willing to make those changes, surgery is not for you because you may gain the weight back or not lose enough.” He finds that a multi-disciplinary program is a key component for the long term success of patients undergoing weightloss surgery, that they must understand and follow completely.

Weight-loss surgery is not magic.

Bariatric surgery is like a jump start that allows you control your appetite, eat less, absorb less, and consequently lose a significant amount of weight. However, Del Pino wants to dissolve the idea that it means a person can eat whatever they want with no consequences. “If somebody keeps eating junk food or liquid calories after the surgery, they will not lose as much weight -or they may regain the weight after two to three years,” says Del Pino. While patients of Del Pino find support with nutritional, physical, and mental health at Rio Grande Regional Hospital’s monthly seminars and a multitude


of other resources he discusses with them, the patient is ultimately responsible for those changes. “That it is why it is so important to educate patients before and after surgery to increase the chance of success,” says Del Pino.

Strict diet

One of the major factors in their success is keeping to a new diet that requires strict attention. Many patients find it better to limit or avoid bread and red meat the first year or two after the surgery as they may cause indigestion. Additionally, patients need to be careful if they are going to drink alcohol due to the new changes in the stomach's natural absorption, which increases the alcohol’s potency. In addition to maintaining healthy eating habits, Del Pino says all forms of bariatric surgery require that patients take multivitamins to prevent vitamin deficiency. “With reduced stomach size, a patient's ability to absorb vitamins reduces and can result in vitamin deficiencies,” he explains. Vitamin supplementation and nutritional education are discussed with patients before and after surgery with their doctor and nutritionist. Yearly follow-ups with blood work are needed to monitor all levels of health and wellness.

Emotional support

Individuals who are obese can struggle with low self-esteem and their emotions,

and unsuccessful attempts to manage their health with fad diets might lead to lost hope. While weight-loss surgery can change physical features and improve your overall health, patients who underwent this surgery will need emotional support from loved ones, which isn’t always what is found. “Sometimes relatives sabotage patients’ efforts to lifestyle and dietary changes,” says Del Pino. “They can get jealous and offer negative comments.” Additionally, a person may already be suffering emotional problems or underlying conditions like depression or anxiety that may have contributed to overeating and severe obesity. Those conditions need to be addressed and stable before having surgery as they could undermine the fresh start offered by the surgery. A preoperative psychological evaluation is key to select patients for weightloss surgery. “Having said that, depression or anxiety are not contraindications for surgery,” says Del Pino. “For these patients, postoperative support is key for success and weight loss helps stabilize their condition.” To help ensure the best possible outcome, patients of Del Pino find support with nutritional, physical, and mental health at Rio Grande Regional hospital’s monthly seminars, where patients may converse with others who have undergone bariatric surgery, as well as dieticians, therapists, and bariatric doctors. Now, in the technologically advanced era, these groups are also found in the cyber world via Facebook pages, websites, blogs, and other platforms of social media. These social networking groups connect, inform, and persuade others to “go under the knife.”Del Pino shares information via his Facebook page, "mario del pino md."

Calm those fears

Del Pino says there are some misconceptions about bariatric surgery, such as the idea that patients who’ve undergone surgery can lose too much weight at an unhealthy rate. Del Pino explained that in truth, weight loss stops when your body reaches an equilibrium that is finely tuned by your body. “People have lost perception of what a healthy weight is because unfortunately, most of us are unaware of us being overweight or obese,” he says. Other patients fear waking up from anesthesia during their operation (or not

waking up after); Del Pino can assure patients that that doesn't happen. Bariatric surgery is quite safe. “This is an elective procedure and patients undergo a rigorous preoperative preparation to minimize complications and maximize outcome. Modern anesthesia has contributed significantly to the safety and success of weight-loss surgery,” he says.


Women considering getting pregnant have specific concerns if they are obese, and may face problems with conception. “Obesity is a known risk factor for infertility,” says Del Pino, explaining that fatty tissues create hormones that affect ovulation. Thus, Del Pino recommends women manage their weight first with the bariatric surgery and then wait a year before going for the pregnancy. “Women are afraid that having weight -loss surgery will negatively affect future pregnancies or prevent them from getting pregnant,” says Del Pino. The message is exactly the opposite. “It is safer for the expecting mother once her weight and health are at stable conditions,” says Del Pino. Thus, he says it is better for women to get weightloss surgery, lose the weight, and then get pregnant. The baby will be healthier and the pregnancy will be safer with less risks and complications for mom and baby. “The key is to wait one year after the surgery for weight and health to be stable,” he says.

Is it for you?

Bariatric surgery can give renewed life to those whose health has been negatively affected by their weight, allowing them the chance to regain an active and healthy lifestyle. The process is a journey that involves full engagement and many changes, but with support and pre and post-procedural information readily available, Del Pino believes there is no reason an individual can’t have a successful recovery and results they’re happy with. Del Pino performs robotic gastric bypass, laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy, and adjustable gastric bands. Read our previous July/August 2016 issue’s “options for obesity” for more information on Del Pino and the options for bariatric surgery.


SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 3, 2016 + Mocedades

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2016 + College Admissions Assistance + NPC Iron House Classic + South TX Comic Con Presents Gamer's Expo

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2016 + McAllen Chamber of Commerce Business Expo

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 23-24, 2016 + North American Jewelry & Gift Show

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2016 + North American Jewelry & Gift Show + South Texas Wedding & Quinceañera Showcase

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2016 + PalmFest International Folklife Celebration 2016

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 8, 2016 + Sunset Live Outdoor Concert Series

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 15-16, 2016 + Saxet Gun Show + College Admissions Assistance + 2016 Apostolic Assembly

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2016 + STC Career Discovery Expo

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 21, 2016 + Marcos Witt and Thalles Roberto

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 23,2016 + Rio Grande Valley Wedding Fair

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2016 + Light Up the Night Gala: RGVision and Capable Kids


For More Info:



700 Convention Center B McAllen, Texas 78501 Phone: (956) 681-3800 Fax: (956) 681-3840

Mario del Pino, M.D

Board Certified in General Surgery Fellow of the American College of Surgeons (FACS) Fellow of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (FASMBS)





UNPACKING BACK PAIN Is It Really About Backpacks? By Fortino Gonzalez, PT, Dip MDT, FAAOMPT, OCS


ver the past several years a lot has been written about how backpacks are causing an increase in back pain among school-aged children. I have heard much well-meaning advice regarding this topic, and I often get asked to write letters to educators so that students can be excused from carrying heavy backpacks. If we dissect the evidence, can we truly blame backpacks as the culprits of back pain?

Myths about backpacks and back pain: Your child should carry no more than 10% of his or her body weight. This percentage has no scientific basis; it was a number that was arbitrarily decided upon and many clinicians agreed that that was the number. However, there are no studies that have been conducted that give this number any credibility over another. When it comes to an actual weight, let your judgment be the rule. Some children are just stronger than others.

Heavy backpacks cause scoliosis and/or can advance a scoliotic condition. This is nothing more than fear mongering. Not one study has ever shown this to be true. In fact, loading (strengthening) a scoliotic spine can actually make it stronger, and that is never a bad idea.

Backpacks cause disc herniations. False! Years of repeated bending/ flexing at the waist or sitting for prolonged periods of time are the most common causes of disc herniation of insidious onset (occurring for no apparent reason). This has been welldocumented for decades in a multitude of spine studies.

Backpacks promote poor posture. Now let’s think about this one. If a student is carrying a heavy backpack for many hours throughout the day, then I could easily see the logic, but the truth is that most children carry their backpacks for very short distances. In fact, carrying a heavy back pack for short distances can be viewed as strength training that can actually help improve your child's posture.

What’s really going on? For the past 28 years I have interviewed and treated thousands of school-aged children with back pain. Upon close questioning and testing, never once have I found that the patients’ pain was the direct result of a heavy backpack. Back pain of insidious onset is caused by poor sitting posture, frequent bending/flexing at the waist, and/or an inability to extend (bend backward) your spine. So, the next time your child complains of back pain of insidious onset, consider checking their posture and ask them to extend their back. (To view a demonstration, visit McAllen Physical Therapy YouTube page and click on the EXTENSION IN LYING/LUMBAR VIDEO.) Fortino Gonzalez is a physical therapist, Diplomat in Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (Dip MDT), Fellow in the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists (AAOMPT), and Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist (OCS) serving the Rio Grande Valley from his practice, McAllen Physical Therapy. To learn more, visit or call 956-661-1964.




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Bald no More RGV Hair Restoration Offers Permanent Results

By George Cox

Photos by James Hord


ou’ve seen the ads on TV, the ones that show before and after pictures that boast almost miraculous hair restoration and re-growth. As the old saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. “A major misconception about most of the products available for hair loss is that they re-grow your hair,” said Tony Gonzalez III, owner of RGV Hair Restoration in McAllen. “From vitamins to shampoos and various other types of costly therapies, most do not result in hair growth. The majority of the products available are intended to slow or stop the hair-loss process.” RGV Hair Restoration, founded by Gonzalez in December 2015, offers medically proven hair transplant treatment to help individuals with hair-loss problems. The majority of RGV Hair Restoration’s patients, or people who visit the clinic for a free consultation, have hair-loss issues



that include male pattern baldness, medical conditions that cause baldness or hair loss in specific areas resulting from accidents, Gonzalez said. “One thing we constantly hear from just about all our patients is that they have tried most products on the market and have not achieved the results they were hoping for,” Gonzalez said. “With a hair transplant the results are permanent.” RGV Hair Restoration specializes in what is called the Follicular Unit Extraction method, or FUE. Gonzalez said most people associate a hair transplant with the traditional strip method, in which a piece of scalp is removed from the back of the head to serve as the donor area.  The traditional method  leaves behind a long, permanent scar. “The method we use is a  non-invasive procedure that  does not leave a scar and provides for a faster recovery time,” SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016

Gonzalez said. Depending on how many follicular unit grafts are desired by the patient, a typical hair transplant procedure is about the length of a regular work day, he said. “The  procedure is  performed by hair technicians under the supervision of our overseeing medical director, Dr.  Jimmi Rios,” Gonzalez said. The hair technicians attend extensive training at an institution that specializes in hair transplants, where they learn everything from patient care to the details of extraction and implantation and hairline design. “Our technicians have a combined 18 years of experience and have  performed procedures all over the world,” Gonzalez said. “Our patients love them.”  The FUE procedure starts with a mild numbing agent for the scalp. Once the scalp is properly numbed and prepared, the hair technicians use a special machine to extract

“One thing we constantly hear from just about all our patients is that they have tried most products on the market and have not achieved the results they were hoping for. With a hair transplant the results are permanent.” - Tony Gonzalez III

the hair grafts from the donor area, usually on the back and sides of the head. The follicular units are then carefully planted into the tiny recipient  sites of the balding area. Once in their new place on the scalp, the follicular units will continue to grow into follicles that produce healthy hair.  “Because our method is non-invasive, recovery is fairly quick and patients can return to work within a day or two,” Gonzalez said. “Patients can typically expect to start seeing results within six months. Another aspect of hair loss treatment available through RGV Hair Restoration uses protein-rich plasma, which improves graft take after hair transplantation and speeds wound healing. “Treatments with protein-rich plasma have shown to wake up dormant hair follicles in hair loss patients, resulting in hair growth and hair-loss cessation,” Gonzalez said. The treatment consists of drawing blood

from the patient’s arm, processing it in a centrifuge to obtain the protein-rich plasma, and then injecting it into the scalp’s area of hair loss. The process can be repeated every four to six months. “This is a procedure that we highly recommend doing in conjunction with the hair transplant procedure,” Gonzalez said. “This will allow the patient to have a much quicker recovery and will increase the success and growth of each implanted graft.” For patients on the fence about committing to a hair transplant, Gonzalez said protein -rich plasma plus ACell, a regenerative medication, is a successful treatment

to preserve and thicken hair in patients who are genetically predisposed to hair loss. “Studies have shown significant success in patient hairlines, hair density, and the slowing of hair loss,” Gonzalez said. Protein-rich plasma plus ACell injections offer a treatment where no maintenance is required, he said. The  results last for months, even up to several years. “It's a great alternative for a patient wanting to re-grow hair naturally,  without the need of daily  maintenance and cost,” Gonzalez said. “The process typically takes less than an hour. Patient is in and out with results that will last.”  

To learn more about RGV Hair Restoration, call Tony Gonzalez III at (956) 322-4530.





By Abbey Kunkle Photos by Kevin Martinez








A divine influence directly and immediately exerted upon the mind or soul. It can be found in the beauty of the shimmering night sky or the sound of the waves crashing onto the shore. It can be found in the simple satisfactions of life or even in the most difficult times. For Pagan, lifelong inspiration was found in the eyes of a little girl; a little girl whose disability seemed to define her. Her eyes told a story that her voice could not. Through those eyes, Carmen could see into her heart. She could see the bright young lady that would forever change her world.

At the time, Janet, as Pagan calls her, was a 12 -yearold girl with a disorder called athetoid cerebral palsy, a movement disorder caused by damage to the developing brain. Pagan, a newly practicing speech language pathologist, met Janet at her very first job. She always had a passion for working with children and was placed at a school that housed exclusively special-needs children. According to Pagan, she was the first speech therapist to be assigned to the school because, during that time, the belief by many in the medical world was that some disabilities were simply too severe to be treated and that in certain cases, these children had reached their plateau in terms of progress. However, today we know that is not the case. Though Pagan was there to teach her, Janet, who could only control the movement in her eyes, taught Pagan a thing or two as well. Through their interactions, Pagan could sense that the young girl knew much more than



she was able to communicate. At the time, there was no way of testing her intelligence, so Pagan did everything in her power to find ways to prove that Janet was a very, very smart little girl. Looking back, she said, “I remember not knowing what to do, but together, we were determined to find a way to figure it out. Still to this day, I am very passionate because that’s my heart – helping those that, literally, don’t have a voice.” Ultimately, Pagan adapted several tests to use eye movement as a way of communicating answers, and Janet was able to be evaluated and, eventually, transferred parttime to a class with more typically developing children. In large part due to this amazing and inspirational little girl, Pagan went on to obtain postgraduate specialty training and certification working with children with neuro-motor disorders. Pagan received both a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Texas – Pan American. Postgraduate, she obtained certification


training in Neuro-Developmental Treatment (NDT) and, they have just celebrated their 16th anniversary, Pagan ultimately, became a pediatric speech NDT instructor. reflects on the difficulties the three women faced even getting the business started. She She has worked for over 20 remembers applying and being years with children with neuro“I remember not knowing denied for business loans, saying, motor disorders. Today, she and what to do, but together, “One bank just laughed at us. two founding partners, Misty we were determined to It just didn’t seem like we were Standard and Jennifer Griffith, taken seriously.” She was grateful own and operate Milestones find a way to figure it out. for the banker who took a chance Therapeutic Associates, a Still to this day, I am very on the trio, and after starting thriving outpatient therapy and rehab practice with specialists passionate because that’s my with just three therapists and heart – helping those that, a receptionist, the business has in physical, occupational, and speech therapy. With the goal literally, don’t have a voice.” grown tremendously over the years to more than 60 employees. of sharing their knowledge and Over the years, Pagan has served on many community impacting more lives, the company has also taken on the role of providing further education to therapists for service boards and committees including the Junior League of McAllen and local church groups. More recently, application of their studies into real-world practice. However, running a business was not always easy. As she has served as a member of the Texas Department of


State Health Services Council and chair of the NeuroDevelopmental Treatment Certification Board. She was also appointed by Gov. Rick Perry and re-appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott to the Governor’s Commission for Women, serving for more than 10 years, including terms as vice chair and chair of the commission. By focusing on, among other things, economic development, this commission helped Texas become number two in the nation for women-owned businesses, and the board shares a passion to become number one. Having faced the challenge of starting her own business, Pagan said, “It has been a wonderful experience working on issues that impact women in the State of Texas,” adding “I am very passionate about serving. God gives us the ability, and blesses us with so much, I feel it is our responsibility to serve others.” Last year, Pagan was honored by the UTPA alumni association as one of the “Pillars of Success” in our community. Using a team approach, she and her colleagues have helped to make great strides in their field and in individual children in the Rio Grande Valley and across Texas. Most recently, Carmen has been selected as honoree for the Capable Kids Foundation, a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to improving the quality of life for children and families who face the everyday struggles of living with a disability. More than doubling from approximately 50 children last summer to over 130 this year, the organization hosts several social and recreational events for children of all ages, and advocates for improved accommodations in the community, bringing joy and laughter to children and families who are navigating life with their various disabilities. On Oct.27 at the McAllen Convention Center, RGVision Magazine will partner with Capable Kids for a “Light Up the Night” gala to raise awareness and funds



for a disability-friendly park in McAllen for all ages and abilities. The City of McAllen has provided a location, and with too few parks serving the special-needs population south of San Antonio, this high-quality, all-inclusive accessible park will promote shared play and acceptance, accommodating those in the community with various disabilities, minimizing barriers, and ultimately, just providing a place for a “kid to be a kid” and enjoy all the wonders that go along with it. Funds raised from the event will go directly towards the purchase of equipment for the inclusive playground, which is padded for safety, is accessible to wheelchairs and walkers, and features equipment adapted for use by children of limited mobility, while also incorporating aid for vision and hearingimpaired children. Attendees of the event can expect to see Pagan, who has been supported all along the way by her husband, Kevin, and two wonderful children, a son, Alec, who recently graduated from college at Southern Methodist University (SMU) and a daughter, Katie, who, after seeing the impact one person can make, has been inspired by her mother to pursue studies in speech language pathology. After giving so much of her heart to this cause and her profession, Pagan is thrilled to see the life-changing project coming to fruition and encourages others to help play a part in any way they can. Sponsors are still needed for the event, and whether it is providing jerseys or pushing wheelchairs, volunteers are always needed to support games and activities for Capable Kids. Pagan said, “A lot of times we don’t realize that if we just give them the opportunity, they can shine, too. To see the joy on the kids’ faces, and know that you’re helping, is just beautiful.”





n a country with a swelling population and increasing health needs, the medical system has been challenged to serve more people while still maintaining a high standard of care. Neighbors Emergency Center has heard the feedback of the community and is pushing innovative ways of treating the patient. It's a model that Dr. Michael Mohun and his team at Neighbors Emergency Center in McAllen believe in and serve on a daily basis. "At Neighbors, we adhere to an old philosophy, 'If mom and dad were not around, who would you want to care for your children," said Dr. Mohun. "It's a simple belief that your caretaker cares as much for you as he or she would for their own family." Dr. Mohun, who is Board Certified in Emergency Medicine, discussed one of the main challenges facing patients who travel into a traditional ER facility. "Patients are often frustrated by the lack of time with the doctor they receive in a standard hospital ER. At Neighbors, people are surprised by the amount of time they



get to spend with our doctors. It's a shift for them. Fortunately, we have the flexibility to really dive into a patient's problems and provide a higher standard of care. Caring for people is the spark that our physicians are motivated by, and we practice that every day." Neighbors Emergency Center, is also on the cutting edge of technology used to properly diagnosis and treat patients. The facility offers offer treatment for all major and minor injuries, as well as cardiology, and OBGYN services in their emergency rooms. In addition, they are fully equipped with a CT Scanner, X-Ray, Ultrasound, and more. While Neighbors rolls out the 'red carpet treatment' for their patients daily, it also brings the same high standards when working with the community. "We have only been open a short time, but already we have been very active in the community," said Dr. Mohun. "We a participating sponsor for the Fajita Cook-Off in October, a community 5k in Harlingen, and fundraisers for various charities throughout South Texas. We are continually


“For myself and our other 10 other physicians, Neighbors Emergency Center stands for excellence in care. We want the patient to go away saying ‘I can’t believe this is an emergency clinic.’”

looking for opportunities for involvement in the community. We are committed to McAllen and the Rio Grande Valley." In addition, Neighbors will work closely with the nurses and caretakers in McAllen's school districts. When these men and women exhaust their budget for medical supplies, they are often reaching into their own pocket to cover the cost of additional supplies. Neighbors assists by asking these caretakers for a list of their needs, and works hard to get them what they request. It's another sign of its commitment to the health and well-being of McAllen residents. In the future, the company plans on continuing work with the local Fire Departments, Boy and Girl Scouts, and other community-focused organizations. Neighbors invites you to their next event, a 5k put on in collaboration with the City of Harlingen and Footworks. The half marathon takes place Nov. 13 and registration opens Oct. 10. Recently, the NEC McAllen team placed first in Redfish at Valley Haven’s 2nd Annual Boat & Kayak fundraising Fishing

Tournament. With many more events to come, Neighbors Emergency Center intends to be a long-standing and contributing member of the cities they serve. For Dr. Mohun and his team, the reasons for opening an emergency center and working in the field of emergency medicine are simple. "For myself and our other 10 other physicians, Neighbors Emergency Center stands for excellence in care. We want the patient to leave our care saying, 'I can't believe this is an emergency room.'" For the residents of the Rio Grande Valley and generations to come, the highest standards of care in a world-class emergency center can be found at Neighbors Emergency Center(s). The physicians at Neighbors Emergency Center are blazing a new trail that will improve the health of the community. For more information on Neighbors Emergency Center, please visit or contact NEC liasions for upcoming event details:chernandez01@neighborshealth. com for Hidalgo County and mdelapaz@ for Cameron County.

Providing a Lifetime of Quality Service 5801 N. 10th St. Ste 400 McAllen, TX Give us a call at (956) 971 - 0326 Follow us on

Raymond R. (Rip) Jr. CLU ChFC & Wilson R. (Dusty) Davenport SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016




Dr. Alejandro Betancourt

A Steady Hand Dr. Betancourt offers new laser services at Valley Baptist Medical Center


By Jose De Leon III t doesn’t take a neurosurgeon to tell you that neurosurgery can be a stressful experience. Both patient and surgeon involved in a craniotomy - an open procedure where patients’ skulls are opened to remove a tumor - may initially experience nerves at the exposed, delicate operation before them. But while patients would have been prepping for this moment for days in the hospital, the surgeons have trained for years. They have developed a steady hand that now, thanks to Medtronic technology, guides the Visualase MRI-guided laser ablation system, a revolutionary tool for neurosurgery. The Visualase laser treats tumors less than 3 centimeters long. A 1-inch incision is made on the back of a patient’s head where a laser applicator can be placed and then guided to where the tumor is located. The laser gives off heat, which destroys the tumor as doctors monitor any nearby tissue to make sure it is not damaged during the procedure. Once the applicator is removed, the small incision is then closed with one stitch.



is the first neurosurgeon south of Houston who has done this procedure; he practices at Brownsville’s Valley Baptist Medical Center and Edinburg’s Doctors Hospital at Renaissance. Though he remembers his first experiences performing craniotomies, he is relieved that modern technology is allowing surgeons to work on and around the brain without having to open skulls. Without this major incision, surgery and recovery are far less painful. “The procedure is more precise and minimally invasive. Patients can be in and out of the hospital within one to two days,” says Betancourt. He answers some questions patients have had in the past:

Q: How long does recovery at home take and what (if any) special considerations do patients need to take? “Typically, a patient can return to their regular routine once they’re out of the hospital. The only special requirement we have patients go through is that they not drive for at least two weeks. Also, our patients are given medication to prevent seizures and swelling in the head, something that has yet to happen with our patients.”

Q: Are there any individuals who are not candidates for this surgery? Example: If I have a pacemaker and thus can’t get an MRI, will I be able to do it? “If a candidate cannot get an MRI, then we have them run a CAT scan if necessary as a substitute. The only patients who can’t be candidates for this surgery are those taking blood thinners or have any infectious diseases that may complicate the surgery. Also, as the technology for this procedure is at the beginning stages, it can only treat tumors shorter than 3 centimeters.”

Q: What do you see for the future of this technology? “Again, the Medtronic Visualase treats tumors shorter than 3 centimeters, so hopefully within 5 to 10 years we’ll see this technology evolve so much that it can treat bigger tumors. So far, I am the only doctor south of Houston who has been trained in doing this procedure and I’d love to support this treatment in any way I can. I’d be willing to help train more doctors to do this procedure. It is the future of the treatment of tumors.”


Preparing your child for the test that matters most, LIFE. The only Waldorf School in the Rio Grande Valley 18347 Kilbourn, Combes, TX 956-778-4295



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r o T r k e c a i t r T for your Teeth

Tips for Helping Your Child Prevent Cavities By Karen Villarreal





hether you celebrate the holiday or not, there’s almost no escaping the cascade of seasonal candy that descends upon us every Halloween season. Warnings to avoid candy altogether will no doubt go unheeded, but moderation and good habits can allow children to partake in this sweet ritual without damaging their dental health. Claudia E. Rodriguez, certified DDS, American Board of Pediatric Dentistry, shares some vital tooth care information for parents to practice with their children. Parents can help their children pull smart choices from their trick-or-treat bag, but dental hygiene is a yearround endeavor to prevent painful dental problems in the future.

All Candy is Not Created Equal Are you on doorbell duty this year? Consider not distributing some of the worst offenders against tooth enamel. “We need to stay away from the tamarindo, Takis, Pelucas, Warheads, chile powder. Anything that is very sour or acidic is terrible for the teeth, no matter what,” says Rodriguez. Acid penetrates into the tooth and erodes it from the inside out, so rinsing isn’t very effective against these candies. Making it worse, brushing immediately after coating teeth with these acids can actually scrape away enamel. The neighborhood children won’t miss these sour candies if parents instead choose chocolates or other sweets for the door-to-door collection. “Anything that’s sweet is more superficial,” she says. “It goes on top of the tooth.” It can be rinsed away with water, so the sugars don’t have enough time with the bacteria on top of the tooth to cause a cavity. However, the time that it takes between eating the sugar and rinsing or brushing it away is where the magic lies. You have to “swish and spit,” according to Rodriguez, until that sugary feeling is gone. “Even I don’t walk around with a toothbrush in my purse, but I at least rinse out with water,” she says.

Timing is Everything A lollipop or jawbreaker could be in your mouth for a long time, and the sugar is taking negative effect that whole time. However, small candies that are chewed and swallowed (like Skittles) have less of an exposure time and are thus a better choice than long-lasting, solid sugar, hard candy. Even after these better choices, Rodriguez stresses the importance of brushing or rinsing. If you don’t have the chance to do this, sugar-free gum can help clean the teeth. It not only picks up the sugar, but stimulates saliva, the natural way our mouths wash our teeth. “Sugar-free is the only kind of gum you should be chewing, period,” she says.

The Name of the Game is Prevention “We need to teach our parents, because the problem is not just candy - it’s how we’re exposing our children's mouths to sugar,” says Rodriguez. “Babies don’t eat candy, but formula,

milk, sports drinks, and juices all have gobs of sugar, too. We see children who are 3 or 4 years old and they have cavities because they’re drinking milk at night and nobody is cleaning their teeth.” Nighttime brushing is vital. “If you don’t brush at night, you gave the sugar the entire day to sit on the tooth,” explains Rodriguez. Children should learn to brush with parental supervision until they have the coordination to do it safely on their own. That is typically around the same time that the child can write their name in cursive or tie their shoes. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children should have their first dental check-up six months after their first tooth or by the first birthday. “You don’t want to wait to go to the dentist until something’s wrong,” says Rodriguez, “especially if it's a child’s first exposure to the dentist.” A child’s fear of the dental tools or the stranger wielding them could instead be a positive first experience if parents take their child to meet their dentist at a young age to become familiar with preventative dental care. To schedule a visit with Dr. Rodriguez, call Lower Valley Dental Associates at (956) 350-0059.

“[Nighttime brushing is vital.] If you don’t brush at night, you gave the sugar the entire day to sit on the tooth.” - Dr. Claudia E. Rodriguez


Sp icy

Tamarindo / High Sour Candy / High Lolipop / High Taffy / Mild


Chocolate / Low Sugar-free Gum / Low






Inside the

Exploring Rio Grande Regional Hospital’s Expansive Emergency Services By Karen Villarreal Photos by James Hord





mergencies happen anywhere, anytime - and you need to know who you can trust. With Rio Grande Regional Hospital’s emergency rooms ready to receive any walk-in emergency or ambulance arrival on a moment’s notice, the RGV community knows they will be in good hands should they ever experience any medical emergency. “We have advanced trauma capabilities. We are the fastest and most efficient, full-service, hospital-based emergency department in the Valley,” says Dr. Richard Moore, medical director of Emergency Services at Rio Grande Regional Hospital. “We take care of all kinds of illnesses every day. We are ready for you.”

Quality Service Rio Grande Regional Hospital is recognized as an Advanced Level III Trauma Center. This recognition requires being surveyed through the Texas Emergency Medical Services Trauma & Acute Care Foundation (TETAF) and the State of Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) and meeting very specific requirements: provide prompt assessment, resuscitation, surgery, intensive care, and stabilization of injured patients and emergency operations. “Rio Grande Regional Hospital distinguishes itself as the only Level III Trauma Center in the Valley found to have zero deficiencies on their Consultation/Verification Program, carried out by both TETAF and DSHS in March 2016,” says Dr. Carlos Garcia-Cantu, Trauma Medical Director at Rio Grande Regional Hospital. “The quality we provide here is on par with great hospitals elsewhere in the state,” says Moore. “We have capabilities that some other local facilities don’t have.” Because of their extensive services like the cardiac catheterization laboratory, which is open 24 hours a day, the orthopedic program, the pulmonary care doctors and neurologists on call, a full service intensive care unit (ICU) and pediatric ICU with a neonatal unit, they rarely find themselves transferring patients to a higher level trauma center. In fact, local hospitals from Cameron, Hidalgo, and Starr counties transfer trauma patients to be admitted to Rio Grande Regional Hospital’s intensive care units. Rio Grande Regional Hospital’s pediatric critical care team is made up of some of the best doctors in the Valley, according to Moore. “These doctors have been with Rio Grande Regional Hospital for more than 10 years. They have made several great saves, taking care of some children who were very sick, received great care and ultimately, were discharged home. I’m very proud of that,” he says.

A Leader in Emergency Care Rio Grande Regional Hospital maintains its status as a leader in emergency care by adhering to strict guidelines.

Richard B. Moore, MD, Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Medical Director of Emergency Services at Rio Grande Regional Hospital

“We take care of all kinds of illnesses every day. We are ready for you.” Rio Grande Regional Hospital is affiliated with a larger healthcare organization, Hospital Corporation of America (HCA). Moore says that HCA is strongly focused on improving quality and efficiency. “The beauty of working within a large organization like this is that we’re always looking for best practices to ensure the highest quality of care for our patients.” Every subgroup at the hospital - from trauma, to ER, to the quality department itself - has measures that are looked at for quality assurance purposes. “Patient satisfaction is very important to us,” says Bertha Guerra, director of Emergency Services at Rio Grande Regional Hospital. “We ask for feedback through an exit survey, and part of what we do on a daily basis is leader rounds on our patients.” These visits let the patients see how serious the staff is about taking good care of them.

Don’t Wait A major factor for emergency care is the urgency of the situation, so naturally an emergency patient’s main concern is getting treatment as soon as possible. “We have excellent wait times,” says Guerra. She stresses that the measured ER wait time is from door to doctor. Patients will be examined by a triage nurse who assesses the patient's status within that time and transfers the care to the doctor. “We take great care to make sure they’re being seen by a doctor in a timely manner, and start the necessary treatment immediately.” The average wait time is displayed on billboards outside the hospital as well as within the waiting rooms, and online at their website, By sharing the short wait times, Rio Grande Regional Hospital wants the community to feel reassured knowing they will receive quality care when they need it most. Wait time averages around 10 minutes on the main campus, and tend to be shorter for Rio Grande Regional Hospital’s two freestanding emergency rooms.

More Locations, Same Quality Care The 24 Hour Freestanding Emergency Departments are Rio Grande Regional Hospital’s solution to the vastness of Texas and our sprawling cities. From one moment to the next, a life could be on the line, and you





Carlos Garcia-Cantu, MD, Board in Certified in Surgery & Critical Care, Trauma Medical Director at Rio Grande Regional Hospital.

“Rio Grande Regional Hospital distinguishes itself as the only Level III Trauma Center in the Valley found to have zero deficiencies on their Consultation/ Verification Program, carried out by both TETAF and DSHS in March 2016.” want the closest available help. “We are able to expand our emergency services to the community using the freestanding emergency room model,” says Dr. Carlos Ramirez, medical director of Rio Grande Regional Hospital’s freestanding emergency departments. “It was a strategic move we made a few years ago to accomplish this accommodation and immediate access to emergency services.” A freestanding emergency room is a self-contained, full-service, stand-alone emergency facility. “We’re emergency room departments but just detached from the hospital,” says Ramirez. “We’re fully staffed with highest quality personnel to attend to any emergency, from a stuffy, runny nose to heart attack, strokes or gunshot wounds. Our nursing staff and physicians have a very rigorous set of credentials and training.” Brett Stock, administrator of Rio Grande Regional Hospital 24 Hour Emergency Care Freestanding Emergency Departments, explains that Rio Grande Regional Hospital’s freestanding emergency rooms uphold the same standards as the main campus. Freestanding ERs are equipped similarly to hospital ERs, with a radiology lab, ultrasound, CAT scan machines, and laboratory. “Our locations are conveniently located so we can better serve the community,” says Stock. “From a service perspective, we offer the same services as a hospital based emergency room. “If the physician decides you have to be admitted to the main hospital, we can get you started here and we’ll have everything waiting for you at the hospital. The transition is seamless. You go right to your room; you don’t have to check in again.”

A Team that Cares The stress of the emergency room and the standards Rio Grande Regional Hospital upholds for its staff would be too much for a lot of people to handle but not to the employees of this hospital. Rich Tidwell, RN, EMT, director of Trauma states, “The staff is



prepared and more than willing to help every patient in any situation. All ER staff receive special training and certifications.” The ER staff sees every age group, from the geriatric generation to a mother giving birth to a newborn. With such a large population passing through the ER, they make a wide range of diagnoses. Guerra explains that patients know that you truly care about their well being, especially when you take the time to answer their questions and comfort them.“That’s fulfilling for everyone involved,” she says. This care for their patients is characteristic of employees at all levels at Rio Grande Regional Hospital, who put the patient’s first in every decision they make.“We have a team approach to taking care of our patients,” says Guerra, who has been with the hospital for over 12 years. “And we have an awesome team throughout the hospital.” ER staff also work with the community to spread potentially life-saving information.Their Stop the Bleed campaign helps schoolteachers learn basic first aid skills, and they teach fall-prevention strategies to Winter Texans. Rio Grande Regional Hospital engages in further community outreach via their campaign, which was recently nationally recognized. “The campaign is designed to help the community better understand their symptoms to key conditions and get answers when they may be searching online for information regarding their health,” says Adriana

Carlos A. Ramirez, MD, Board Certified in Family Medicine, Medical Director of Rio Grande Regional Hospital’s 24 Hour Freestanding Emergency Departments

“We are able to expand our emergency services to the community using the freestanding emergency room model.” Morales, director of Community & Public Relations. “We have worked very hard and are very proud that our GetERReady digital efforts are nationally on par with other large hospital organizations such as Johns Hopkins Medicine.” Rio Grande Regional Hospital’s services and locations ensure that our community members, are always taken care of because anyone can suffer an emergency anytime, anywhere. “We are proud to always provide you with health care you can trust,” states Cris Rivera, chief executive officer at Rio Grande Regional Hospital. To learn more about Rio Grande Regional Hospital, visit their website,



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FIGHTING TO THE TOP Local MMA fighter strives for victory 66



By May Ortega Photos by Gabriel Elizondo Starting with a broken nose in Brazil and presently healing a fractured foot in Edinburg, Guilherme Farias da Costa’s journey through mixed martial arts has been wrought with injuries. But time after time, the MMA professional finds himself in the octagon ready to land some more blows. “I’m a black belt in Muay Thai and I’m a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. I think this is the best martial arts that you need to know to be successful in MMA because Muay Thai has the striking, the way you throw punches, kicks, knees, and everything,” the 25-year-old said. “Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is where you have the chokes, the grappling, and all the ground fights.” The Manaus, Brazil, native was pulled into mixed martial arts by an uncle of his. Before then, da Costa stuck to soccer, never having practiced any form of fighting in his young life. “Around that time, I was scared. I was just 14 years old and he was calling me to train in his gym. He told me to do it for self-defense, and that I would start losing weight and feeling better,” he said. “In the beginning I was scared because I was the only 14-year-old there with a lot professional fighters.” One such pro present at his uncle’s Muay Thai gym was current Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight champion Jose “Junior” Aldo. The 29-year-old also hails from Manaus, but currently fights out of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Da Costa considers Aldo, whose record stands at 26 wins, two losses, and zero decisions, a personal role model. “I actually trained with him for a good while, even before he became a champion,” da Costa said. “Now to see where he is at and that one day we were training together, hanging out, it really inspires me.” When the local lightweight class fighter has a professional match coming up, he will train for six hours every day. So far, that effort has brought him a record of seven wins, two losses, and zero decisions. Even though he has had his share of victories, da Costa’s road to MMA fighting was not without bumps. “After the first month of training I stopped because I remember some guy broke my nose,” he said. “It was an accident and my mom kind of got upset but later I told her, ‘Mom I want to keep training. Please let me go train.’ After I convinced her, I never stopped.” And to this day, he hasn’t.

I’m a black belt in Muay Thai and I’m a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. I think this is the best martial arts that you need to know to be successful in MMA because Muay Thai has the striking, the way you throw punches, kicks, knees, and everything.

- Guilherme Farias da Costa





I have a friend who has a gym here and when I was living in Brazil, we had a meeting at my old gym. We started training together and after he asked if I wanted to go to Texas to help him out at his gym so I could coach his students.

The MMA and muay Thai instructor also trains students at various gyms around the area, which was the reason for his moving to the Rio Grande Valley in 2014. “I have a friend who has a gym here and when I was living in Brazil, we had a meeting at my old gym,” he explained. “We started training together and after he asked if I wanted to go to Texas to help him out at his gym so I could coach his students.” He has been training others at that dojo ever since. But coming to the United States and leaving his life in Brazil behind was nerveracking to da Costa, who did not speak much English at the time. Two years later, the Edinburg resident is married to a local woman whom he spends his spare time with and he is planning to open his own gym in Edinburg. As for his next match, those details are unclear due to an injured foot da Costa suffered in his previous July 16 match against Gilbert Jimenez of San Antonio. That shortfall hurt more than his bones. “At the end of the second round, I got hurt. I fractured my foot and I had to stop the fight,” he explained. “It’s hard to accept because I was winning the whole fight and I feel like he didn’t even touch my face.” Nevertheless, da Costa’s goal of becoming a UFC fighter is as steadfast as ever. “MMA fighter has this dream,” he said. “I know I have the potential to be there and I know it’s going to happen some time soon."






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f you need to get around in Rio Grande Valley and don’t have your transportation, or you just don’t want to get behind the wheel and navigate the sometimes treacherous freeway traffic, you can join the growing numbers of people opting for the express bus service of Metro Connect.

A cooperative transportation venture between the cities of McAllen, Brownsville, and South Padre Island, Metro Connect operates three routes with limited stops seven days a week. “In recent years we saw a need for regional routes to give people up and down the Valley an easy way to get around,” said Mario Delgado, transit director for the city of McAllen. “We worked with our counterparts in Brownsville and South Padre Island and decided that an express regional transit service was the best way to go.”



The municipal partners put together a plan and applied for funding and in May of 2013 received a $1.4 million grant from the Texas Department of Transportation as part of the Federal Transit Administration’s Section 5311 Non-urbanized Area Formula Grant Program, which provides states with funding for intercity bus service. Add to that $350,000 in local funding from the three cities and it wasn’t long before Metro Connect buses hit the road. “It started pretty quickly,” Delgado said. “A lot of the planning had already been put in place during the grant process since you have to have a detailed proposal in place. We just had to line it all up and get it ready to go.” Service started in November 2013 with up to four buses on the road at any given time from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week, Delgado said. “We started with three routes,” he said. “The main line to get you across the Valley is the Red Line with two buses in service daily.” One bus originates in McAllen and the other in Brownsville and they loop around the Valley with stops





grant from the Texas Department of Transportation

350,000 in local funding

in Harlingen and at the RGV Premium Outlets mall in Mercedes. The buses stop in Harlingen at the Valley Transit Company terminal in the downtown area. The Green Line operates between the Central Station in McAllen and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley campus in Edinburg, a service that runs Monday through Friday. The Blue Line runs back and forth between the multimodal terminal La Plaza in Brownsville and Port Isabel, where passengers can connect to the Island’s bus service. There is also a stop at the Brownsville-South Padre Island International Airport. The terminal stops in McAllen and Brownsville allow passengers to easily switch to the local city bus service to get around those towns. Metro Connect appears to have found a niche in the Valley transit scene, with ridership that has seen steady growth from the beginning. The first year Metro Connect logged 92,070 passengers during its 2013-14 debut year, and followed that with 129,982 riders in 2014-15, an impressive jump of almost 40 percent. So far in 2015-16, 106,806 passengers have traveled the Valley, setting the stage for another increase in the third year of operation. “It’s been received well,” Delgado said. “The ridership has grown every year from 2013 to now.” Even with growing ridership numbers Metro Connect, like most public bus systems around the country, does not generate enough revenue to make it self-sustaining. “We feel the service is needed and we were able collectively to make it efficient so the local investment could be minimized and we could take advantage of federal and state subsidies,” Delgado said. But the express service does provide an inexpensive way for Valley residents to take the ride. Metro Connect also offers passes that make it even more cost-efficient for the passenger. A daily pass that allows unlimited use of the three Metro Connect lines is available for $5, and a $10 daily pass can be used to connect with routes on Metro McAllen and Brownsville Metro. (The Island bus system operates free of charge.) Frequent riders can purchase an unlimited 30-day Metro Connect pass for $90 and a universal pass for all the systems for $100. A 30-day pass for students and faculty with a valid ID is available for $25. More information on Metro Connect routes and fares is available online at or by calling 956-681-3550.








Harlingen RGV Premium Outlets in Mercedes



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PalmFest Celebrates Culture and Community

By Abbey Kunkle PalmFest International Folklife Celebration is back in its 11th year with a variety of entertainment to highlight the Valley’s unique history and celebrate its rich cultural heritage. Each year, on the first weekend in October, PalmFest showcases the region’s amazing talent in art and music and puts on a weekend full of family-fun activities with games and rides, historical displays, FFA competitions and so much more! The annual celebration that boasts over 50,000 attendees is held at the McAllen Convention Center. Over the years, the event has grown to include entertainment such as a classic car show, a carnival, and this year - a Saturday night concert featuring Tracy Lawrence. PalmFest has developed over the years and has become an anticipated event across the region. However, these big events don’t just fall into place on their own. After McAllen’s Centennial Celebration in 2004, the Centennial Committee saw the value in bringing the community together to celebrate our unique history and culture. The annual folklife festival grew from their idea along with the help of countless hours and many hands of volunteers along the way. On July 22, 2016, Elva Cerda, one of the founding members of the festival, was inducted into the Texas Festivals and Events Association Hall of Honor for her outstanding volunteer service and commitment to the creation of PalmFest. According to Cerda, volunteering was a key to the success of the event. “My father raised us to serve others – to serve others and not expect anything in return. I really have found that, by and large, that has added a wonderful level of gratification to my life. I would love to see that spark be passed on to younger generations,” Cerda said. The committee’s dedication to preserve the history of the area and share it with the community was instrumental in the success of the event. This dedication from Cerda along with other committee





and community members helped the group to realize a goal that otherwise might have never come to be. “Volunteers can do a lot of things that couldn’t possibly be accomplished any other way," Cerda said. "It’s not about you, it’s not about me, it’s about the goal of what we want to accomplish. That’s why I’m a volunteer.” After many development meetings and continued organization efforts, the wonderful celebration has become a highlight in the community each year. Attendees can expect a variety of live entertainment, including local and regional musicians and dancers, artisan markets, kid’s activities, pig races and the exciting “Rancho El Caballo” horse show. New to this year’s event will be the Palmfest Classic, the FFA sponsored heifer, lamb and goat competition. Also new to the event is “Into the Wild,” the newest educational exhibit for PalmFest International Folklife Celebration. In addition to all of the exciting ways this event celebrates the rich heritage of Deep South Texas, “Into the Wild” will enhance the attendee’s experience with live animal demonstrations, nature exhibits, arts and culture as well as science and technology However, volunteers and sponsors are still needed to make this year’s PalmFest happen! Volunteer opportunities include something for everyone. They can greet attendees, work as stage runners for one of the six stages, act as a social media representative, or even take tickets and help with parking. Every job makes a big difference! The charming mascot Palmee is also needed to give high fives and pose for photos, bringing smiles all around. With over 150 volunteer opportunities available, there is something for anyone and everyone who is willing to serve. Mark your calendars for the exciting event taking place on Oct. 1 and 2 at the McAllen Convention Center. If you’d like to help out or just want more information, call the McAllen Convention Center at (956) 681-3800 or visit www.











Butterflies of Mission By Lori Houston




The 21st Annual Texas Butterfly Festival takes place during prime butterfly migration season when spectators may see as many as 60 different species in one day.


his fall, the North American Butterfly Association will be holding its biennial meeting during the 21st Annual Texas Butterfly Festival hosted at the National Butterfly Center in Mission. This event gives members of the North American Butterfly Association, founded in 1993, the opportunity to visit and celebrate their flagship project in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The festival takes place during prime butterfly migration season when spectators may see as many as 60 different species in one day. Registered participants will have access to special guided tours and educational activities during the three-day event. The Lower Rio Grande Valley is home to over 300 species of butterfly, approximately 150 of which are native only to this region and Northern Mexico. More than 200 of these species have been seen at the National Butterfly Center in Mission, including U.S. records such as the orange banner and the Guatemalan leafwing. During the fall and winter seasons, butterflies from colder states and regions of North America migrate south, where it is warmer. Not much is known about exact migration patterns of individuals species, other than the monarch butterfly. According to the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, monarchs in the western part of North America migrate to California and the monarchs from the eastern part of North America migrate to the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico, bringing them straight through the Lower Rio Grande Valley and the National Butterfly Center.

[956] 631 - 5411 Butterfly gardens, like those of the National Butterfly Center, are becoming increasingly popular due to the fear of the extinction of some species. While creating one in your own backyard may appear to be difficult at first, it can actually be quite simple. It all comes down to providing enough sunlight and plant diversity to provide shelter and nutrition for your colorful visitors. It is important to have plants and features that support these colorful creatures throughout their life cycle. Texas Parks and Wildlife recommends nectar plants such as elbowbush, horsemint, and bee brush to provide nutrition. They also recommend specific host plants depending on what species of butterfly you are trying to attract. For example they suggest milkweed for monarchs and citrus for giant swallowtails. Sometimes called the butterfly capital of the United States, the city of Mission, has recently launched their butterfly sculpture project in honor of Mission being the home of the National Butterfly Center and hundreds of species of butterflies. Conceived of by Maxilou Link of the Upper Valley Art League (UVAL), 10 sculptures of different butterflies have been placed around the city. Previously, UVAL has placed sculptures of city leaders around the city, but the butterfly sculptures are part of a beautification project. “I really thought of Mission as a cocoon ready to develop into a beautiful butterfly and so that inspired the design for the butterfly,” said Link. Several local organizations took on the painting of individual sculptures, making this a true community endeavor.


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McAllen natives team up for feature film

By May Ortega





hen then-18-year-old Jordan Kreimerman hatched up the plot for his first feature movie, he was trying to move beyond YouTube clips. Six years and a cinematography degree later, the McAllen native’s film has won awards around the world. “A Ghost and the Boy with a Box on His Head,” an adventure-drama film, follows a young man and his developing relationship with the woman of his dreams – literally – as well as his own personal battles. “He starts to imagine this perfect girl and he wants it so much that it appears to him, but nobody else can see her. She starts struggling with schizophrenia and he gets diagnosed and admitted into a mental hospital where he finds her again,” Kreimerman, 24, said. “Then he starts questioning whether she’s real or not and whether it matters if she’s real.” The 73-minute movie was in production since 2011 and completed in 2014. However, it has not been distributed yet, with a release date of early 2017. The film has been shown at festivals, though, earning a few victories. Kreimerman, whose directorial name is Philip Blue, earned his proudest set of accolades at the St. Tropez International Film Festival last year. “A Ghost and the Boy” had six nominations – the most of any entry – and Kreimerman won the Talented New Director Award. “It was crazy,” he said with a laugh. “We were competing with these pretty big movies with big, big budgets and I’m just there like ‘I’m a little kid and I don’t know what I’m doing.’” The director now resides in Los Angeles, but originally lived in McAllen along with his cousin, Jonathan Kreimerman, the movie’s composer. When Jordan Kreimerman contacted his cousin, the two were just learning the tricks of their future trades, with Jonathan Kreimerman just realizing his affinity for making music. “Jordan wanted to be a filmmaker and he was starting to develop his movie. So it came to the point where he said, ‘Hey, I need music and you make music. Do you want to work together?’” he said. “And without hesitation I said, ‘Of course,’ without knowing a thing about film scoring. But it was amazing.” Following his production of more than 40 minutes of music for “A Ghost and the Boy,” he decided to pursue a formal education in his field. “After doing the first scene that I scored and getting to the point where I said ‘Maybe we are somewhere,’ I switched from sound maker to audience member and I watched that scene,” he recalled. “That was realizing how important music and sound are to a picture. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. And I just said, ‘This is what I need to do with my life.’” He graduated in mid-August with a degree in electronic production and design from Berklee College of Music in Boston. While they are far from the Rio Grande Valley now, much of the movie’s filming took place here. The area

A Ghost and the Boy with a Box on His Head, an adventure-drama film, follows a young man and his developing relationship with the woman of his dreams – literally – as well as his own personal battles.

played a large role in the production coming together, the director said. In fact, the first third of the movie takes place in Jordan Kreimerman’s own home. “We shot the main bits in Texas, and we came to California to pick up forest shots and mountains and stayed out here since then,” he said. He said local spots were much more accessible than LA’s. And every actor, besides his two leads, are RGV residents, although he said the local acting pool was quite shallow. Jordan Kreimerman has plans for a “spiritual sequel” to “A Ghost and the Boy.” In the meanwhile, he is working on having his movie distributed. He is ecstatic for the film’s public release, so he can share his work with the world. “As the father of my little baby, I’m always proud when I watch it,” he said. “There’s a lot of compromises and little bits that I wish we would’ve been able to overcome, but overall I think we were, as a team, really amazing.” Movie Director, Jordan Kreimerman


To learn more, visit the movie’s website





The Orchard Lounge is McAllen’s newest hotspot for foodies, tempting the Valley’s insatiable appetite for great cocktails, a culturally crafted menu and a relaxed, artful vibe. The team at Orchard Lounge endeavours to create an environment that anyone would fall in love with. “We want every cocktail, every single dish to come out as a work of art,” said Stephanie Ramirez, coowner of Orchard Lounge. “If you’re looking for something unique, great cocktails and food that looks like a work of art, then this is a great place for you.” Situated on the busy corner of Business 83 and 11th Street in the heart of McAllen, Orchard Lounge’s floor-to-ceiling windows cover the facade of the establishment, giving diners a view of the city’s bustling midtown. “The venue alone is gorgeous,” said Kristina Garza, a McAllen native who visited the restaurant for the first time. “It’s a great mix of elegant and modern decor with an edgy flair.” In spite of the crystal chandeliers and chic atmosphere, Orchard Lounge manages to create a casual environment for anyone who enjoys good food, drinks, and an outdoor dining experience. Orchard Lounge features a category in their menu labeled Amongst Friends. Ideally, a group of diners order a variety of plates to share and sample different flavors. For example, the Tomahawk steak, known as “El Jefe,” is a 32 oz monster, thinly sliced and served with an assortment of vegetables, roasted potatoes, and house sauces.

“If you’re looking for something unique, great cocktails and food that looks like a work of art, then this is a great place for you.”








“There’s something soothing about the sound of mixing and shaking a cocktail. People get a big smile when they know their drink will be made with skill and love.“

The Orchard Lounge’s creative menu also features its infamous Concha Burger, which blends shitaki mushrooms, chorizo and beef into its patty, topped with homemade strawberry fig jam, chipotle aioli, egg fried in duck fat, applewood bacon, and string mushrooms.



Finally, the quixotic medley of ingredients is held together by a concha breakfast pastry (classic Mexican pan dulce), which serves as the bun. “People are apprehensive about it and once they try it, they can’t deny that it’s the best burger they’ve ever had,” Stephanie said. “It really is amazing; the flavors blend so well and it’s unique.” Valley-ites are lucky when it comes to booze - there are plenty of McAllen drinking establishments to choose from. Although you can pop in just about anywhere and find a margarita with an upside-down beer inside, Orchard Lounge’s drink menu goes far beyond that. There you will find a small but sophisticated list of wine and beer, and an array of mixed drinks crafted by experienced bartenders who certainly know what they’re doing. “We like to think of our bartenders as therapists,” said Stephanie. “There’s something soothing about the sound of mixing and shaking a cocktail. People get a big smile when they know their drink will be made with skill and love.” The classic cocktails are expertly mixed, but the real treat lies in Orchard Lounge’s Margarita Flights, a sampler of bartenderchoice drinks with flavors that range from Hibiscus mint to Pineapple basil. While the property on which The Orchard Lounge sits may have changed hands over the past few years, the owners don’t pretend to know what the future has in store for them. “When we built the Orchard Lounge, we built it to last for decades,” said Stephanie. “We’re all about empowerment, and making McAllen and the Valley a better place to dine.”


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CINESOL FILM FESTIVAL CELEBRATES FILM APPRECIATION AND INNOVATION IN THE RGV film in terms of genre, prop, dialogue, they also feature workshops to teach tricks location, and character and set off on a mad of the trade on topics like special effects CineSol Film Festival is back this fall, in its dash with just 36 hours to complete! Award and music composition as well as panels 23rd year, showcasing local achievements in categories include best actors, best editor, to discuss current issues affecting the filmmaking and spreading film appreciation and the coveted Estrella award. CineSol’s filmmaking world. The Valley’s premiere film festival is and production across the Rio Grande spring festival hosts an even bigger challenge recognized by the Texas Commission on the with a 24 Hour Film Dash. One of spring’s Valley. Since 1993, festivalgoers have enjoyed Arts as one of the top media arts event in the winners, Edgar Jackson, shared that he uses the screening of amazing independent films state. Details including the date and venue the challenge as a fun and beneficial learning from right here in the Valley and all over BY ABBEY KUNKLE for November’s festival are in the process of experience, saying, “I secretly always keep in the world. From two minute animations to being finalized, but film enthusiasts can look mind that anything that can go wrong during ten minute documentaries, CineSol Film CineSol Film Festival is back this fall, can in itsand 23rd year, forward to keeping up the tradition! For more a shoot will usually go wrong. That’s CINESOL FILM FESTIVAL Festival brings unique features that you won’t showcasing local achievementswhere in the filmmaking and kicks in.” information or to sign up for November’s learning aspect see in the theaters.spreading film appreciation and production across the CELEBRATES FILM film race, check out Dedicated to furthering the art and Coming up for November’s event,Since CineSol Rio Grande Valley. 1993, festivalgoers have enjoyed business of screenwriters and filmmakers in is calling all localtheartists to participate screening of amazing in independent films from right APPRECIATION AND the community, the CineSol Film Festival their 36 Hour Film a scavenger hereRace, in the Valley andhunt all over the world. From two INNOVATION IN THE RGV only screens amazing and unique of sorts for filmmakers the Teams minute of animations 10 minutenot documentaries, CineSol independent films from all over the world, are given five elements to include theirfeatures that you won’t see in Film Festival brings in unique

By: Abbey Kunkle


the theaters. Coming up for November’s event, CineSol is calling all local artists to participate in their 36 Hour Film Race, a scavenger hunt of sorts for filmmakers of the RGV. Teams are given five elements to include in their film in terms of genre, prop, dialogue, location, and character and set off on a mad dash with just 36 hours to complete! Award categories include best actors, best editor, and the coveted Estrella award. CineSol’s spring festival hosts an even bigger challenge with a 24 Hour Film Dash. One of spring’s winners, Edgar Jackson, shared that he uses the challenge as a fun and beneficial learning experience, saying, “I secretly always keep in mind that anything that can go wrong during a shoot can and will usually go wrong. That’s where the learning aspect kicks in.” Dedicated to furthering the art and business of

screenwriters and filmmakers in the community, the CineSol Film Festival not only screens amazing and unique independent films from all over the world, they also feature workshops to teach tricks of the trade on topics like special effects and music composition as well as panels to discuss current issues affecting the filmmaking world. The Valley’s premier film festival is recognized by the Texas Commission on the Arts as one of the top media arts event in the state. Details including the date and venue for November’s festival are in the process of being finalized, but film enthusiasts can look forward to keeping up the tradition! For more information or to sign up for November’s film race, check out





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Collage 2016




IMAS to celebrate A Legacy of Discovery By Jose De Leon III


on’t miss the black tie event of the year! McAllen’s International Museum of Arts & Science (IMAS) will again host its annual fundraiser to benefit the museum Saturday, Sept. 24. Now in its 38th year, Collage is one of the longest running fundraisers in the Valley, according to IMAS Chairman Laura Warren. “We don’t hold back on making sure that everyone who attends feel appreciated,” said Warren.

“We’re embracing science at this event and celebrating our former board members who have helped us in doing that for years.” The latest Collage will honor Dr. John Gerling, Mr. Arthur Hughes and Mr. Bill Ranganath. All three have volunteered for IMAS as chairmen and played a role in increasing public interest in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Along with their expertise, they have also generously donated

funds, artwork, and artifacts to the museum. “Great things have happened under the leadership of all those three. Because of them, the community has benefited from people going into the museum and seeing the variety of exhibits we offer,” Warren said. “We’d like to continue that, and Collage helps us afford it; our upcoming exhibitions are brought in with money raised by Collage.” Carlos Melguizo, IMAS vice-chairman, echoed Warren’s comments on how Collage benefits the museum. “We use the money raised by Collage to support IMAS,” he explained. “I have been a fan of Collage for more than 20 years and I’ve seen how it’s grown and how people are exposed to new things. It’s something that we’d like to encourage more of.” At Collage, which Melguizo hails as the black tie event of the Valley, attendees are greeted with a formal dinner at IMAS with a menu prepared by famed local chef Larry Delgado of McAllen fine eateries House. Wine & Bistro and SALT-New American Table. Following the dinner, attendees can


tour the museum after hours, attend a live auction and are even treated to an after party with drinks and entertainment provided by a live DJ. The atmosphere provided by the event lets attendees feel like they’re at a red carpet event, according to Melguizo. For Warren, the goal of the museum is to provide exhibits and attractions not normally seen by the public, and Collage plays a role in meeting those expectations. One of these exhibitions is Xtreme Bugs, an exhibition planned from October 2016 to March 2017 filled with giant, animatronic creepy-crawlies so attendees can learn about insects. “Our community deserves to have these kind of attractions and it takes money to afford things like that,” she said. “Where else but at Collage can you see so many people caring about the community and helping make a change for them?” Ticket prices are $150 for IMAS members and $175 for non museum members. More information on Collage can be found at




CROSS FIT! South Texas Games are a Celebration of Crossfit in the RGV By Karen Villarreal Photos by James Hord 86



ou may have heard of the strength and conditioning program known as CrossFit. The workout that consists of a mix of full body exercises including weight lifting, gymnastics, and cardio training is also a competitive sport, with athletes taking home prizes for their herculean efforts at events held all over the country. Locally, the South Texas Games is one such competitive event with $18,000 up for grabs over the course of three weeks. “We’re bringing elite athletes together from all over to show people what CrossFit is about,” says David Carr, co-owner

knowledge with anyone who wants to start working out. “When I first started about six years ago, I loved it and I learned how to train smart, looking at the longevity of the sport, and that’s a big part of what we do,” says Clemens. “We want everybody to be able to do this as a fitness program every day, see the results that they want, get more fit - ­that’s our objective here. But we have our competitive side too.” Winners from all categories of the online competition will be invited to compete in Pharr at the Kiss My Crossfit box. It is a 20,000 square foot space 100 percent

“We’re bringing elite athletes together from all over to show people what FrossFit is about.”- David Carr of Kiss My CrossFit box gym and the South Texas Games. The South Texas Games will be held at Kiss My Crossfit in Pharr, on Oct. 15 and 16, but the contest begins weeks before. The Online Qualifier for the South Texas Games begins on Sept. 7 and continues with weekly rounds and prizes. “Doing that part of the competition online broadens the amount of athletes who can be exposed to the competition,” says Jeremy Clemens, coowner and trainer at Kiss My Crossfit. With a total of $18,000 to be awarded over several categories, competitors in the South Texas Games stand to go home with larger prizes than they may have found in any other local competition. In early August, with weeks left before the start of the event, over 100 people in the categories of men, women, and teens had already signed up to submit their scores and videos of their workouts as entries to the South Texas Games’ online qualifier. “We verify that they’re doing it right with video proof. They have to meet certain standards,” explains Clemens. Kiss My Crossfit embraces safe training practices and trainers share their


dedication to CrossFit, equipped with everything that athletes need to hone their form and ability, including ropes, boxes, and rigs for weightlifting and gymnastics. “We’re going to use this whole space for the games,” says Carr. The event is going to be a family-friendly community event with DJs, refreshments, and activities like CrossFit 101 classes. “People who have been interested in crossfit can come in for the festivities and learn a little bit about CrossFit culture,” says co-owner of the South Texas Games Jerry Sanchez. With box gyms helping sculpt powerful individuals all over the RGV, the crossfit community in South Texas is growing. The sport has especially grown in popularity among women. “At Kiss My Crossfit I would say we actually have more women working out here than men, some of whom have made it pretty far in other local competitions. They’re definitely competing in this one,” says Sanchez. “We’re anticipating a large crowd, but we have plenty of room for our fans. It’s going to be great.” Learn more about CrossFit and competing in the South Texas Games at their website, www.




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POETRY UNITES! FeIPoL encourages unity through Acción Poetíca By Alyssa Garcia Photos by Jose Antonio Peña The Latin American Foundation for the Arts based in the Rio Grande Valley wants to spread a message of unity via the International Latin American Poetry Festival (FeIPoL), held for the first time at South Texas College’s Cooper Center in McAllen. The festival will span three days from Sept. 1 though 3, and aims to inspire the community to create positive change as they celebrate the diversity of the Latin American experience while bridging the divide between cultures through poetry and the arts. The festival is open and free to the public, promising to feature more than 30 poets from the United States, Mexico, and throughout Latin America. The poet of honor is none other than “El Maestro,” the U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera. He is the first ever Chicano poet to serve this coveted post. As such, he promises to give a voice to the immigrant’s son and share the experiences of the fieldworker. This California-born poet speaks not only to a growing demographic in America, but writes about experiences that many in the Rio Grande Valley have lived and are living today. Herrera is highly acclaimed and is a prolific writer with over 30 works of poetry, fiction and theater to his name. His writing career began in the 1960s in the generation of the Chicano and Beat Poets. He has served as the Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and as California’s Poet Laureate. Along with poetry, FeIPoL wishes to use the visual arts to start a movement of social action. Nothing better embodies this marriage between the visual and the poetic more than Armando Alanís Pulido’s

20 year project known as Acción Poética. Acción Poética started in 1996 when Alanís Pulido took to the streets of Monterrey, Mexico, with something to say. Instead of writing it in a book or speaking from the stage, he chose the abandoned walls of the city streets in his hometown as his medium. Alanís Pulido’s graffiti poetry is written with bold black letters on a white background symbolic of the words on the page. His poetic phrases are accessible to everyone on the street. “When something is on the street, the people make it their own,” said Alanís Pulido. And they did. Alanís Pulido was asked by individuals if they could pick up the mission of Acción Poética in their hometown. Twenty years later, Acción Poética can be found in over 150 cities and in 30 countries. People have adopted Acción Poética’s style and mission around the world, but when these (mostly romantic) verses were written of the walls of towns in Europe, Africa, and South America, the people chose to write them in their native tongue. You can find this street art in Spanish, French, Portuguese, and even in Braille. In July, as a prelude to the festival, organizers of FeIPoL, including festival director Monica Raygada, worked in collaboration with the Mexican Consulate and McAllen’s International Museum of Arts & Science (IMAS) to bring a photographic collection of Alanís Pulido’s work to South Texas. On July 7, the night the exhibit opened, Alanís Pulido left his mark literally! With an audience eagerly watching, he painted the title of the exhibit in bold black letters on a white background, “Sin Poesía No Hay Ciudad” (Without Poetry

there is no City) on the museum’s wall. The photography exhibit will be on display till Nov. 6; the images featured are from a project in which he vowed to write a phrase from the works of Octavio Paz in 100 Mexican cities to honor Paz’s 100s birthday. Alanís Pulido also left a verse on the streets of McAllen. His street art can be prominently seen next to Hinovations Art Gallery on 1009 Laurel Ave. Raygada envisions this being the Rio Grande Valley’s Lennon Wall. “We would love to make this a landmark. We hope people will come by and take a selfie with it!” Sin Poesía No Hay Ciudad speaks to Alanís Pulido’s beliefs that through encountering poetry, people will be transformed and can better understand allowing the city to properly function. “Poetry moves the consciousness, it changes attitudes. It makes us into chains of help, of comprehension and understanding. And in this way the city unites. We can better understand each other. The more we understand each other the more we value each other,” said Alanís Pulido. This is the ultimate mission of FeIPoL, and like Acción Poética, they wish their message to spread, uniting the community through understanding. They hope to inspire individuals to be moved to action through the transformation they encounter in the arts. For a full program of the activities planned at FeIPoL, please visit

“Poetry moves the consciousness, it changes attitudes. It makes us into chains of help, of dapibus. Vivamus elementum semper nisi. Aenean comprehension and understanding. And invulputate this wayeleifend the citytellus. unites. We can better understand Aenean leo ligula, porttitor eu, consequat

each other. The more we understand each other the more we value each other.” 90






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September / October 2016 - RGVision Magazine  
September / October 2016 - RGVision Magazine