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JAN UARY/FE B RUARY 2 0 19 | VO LUM E 11 ISSUE 1

RGVISION Looking back on 10 years of starting the conversation.

HONOR ROLL Innovative educators lauded for contributions to Rio Grande Valley.

FOSTER CARE For the love of all children.

EXERCISE COMPASSION Local missionary views border issues through eyes of recent immigrant.


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In this issue of RGVision Magazine, we celebrate our 10-year anniversary. We not only reflect on the

counties, like new medical schools, economic growth, and educational triumphs. Education is the key to any thriving community, which is why we paid special attention to honoring the individuals who have put the RGV on the map in public and higher education. We would also like to thank you, our readers, for making this milestone possible. Here’s to another 10 years!

Adriana Dominguez Bill Martin Dr. Alfonso Mercado Rev. Dr. Leslie Gonzales Leonardo F. Chang Explore RGV

Jason Garza James Hord Ray Pedraza Norma Hess

WRITERS

region, highlighting the achievements across our four

CONTENT CONTRIBUTERS

Valley itself. It has been an honor to be a voice in our

PHOTOGRAPHERS

growth of RGVision, but the growth of the Rio Grande Lori Houston Sofia Aleman Karla Arredondo Irene Wazgowska Angela M. Insalaco Danya Perez Karina Vargas Rod Santa Ana Ana Karen Torres

“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57

PUBLISHER'S NOTE

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 801 N. Bryan Road, Mission, TX 78572. To receive an annual subscription of RGVision publications for $29.99, email info@RGVisionMagazine.com.

For editorial comments and suggestions, please send emails to info@rgvisionmagazine.com. For advertising information, please call us at 956.379.6017 or email us at info@rgvisionmagazine.com. A special thank you to all the advertisers who support this publication: You are the power behind the flywheel igniting positive change that keeps the conversation going. P RI N T ED I N MEXI CO

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TABLE OF

CONTENTS 2 0 19

22

VOLUME 11 ISSUE 1 RGVISION MAGAZINE

58 ON THE COVER

58

22

RGVISION

Looking back on 10 years of starting the conversation.

64

HONOR ROLL Innovative educators lauded for contributions to Rio Grande Valley.

6 4 FOS T ER C A RE

For the love of all children.

84

EDUCATION

BUSINESS

EX ERC IS E C OM PA S S ION Local missionary views border issues through eyes of recent immigrant.

HEALTH

QUALITY OF LIFE

Innovation Excellence

Mindfulness in the Workplace

Early Prevention

A Sentiment in Semitones

pg 8

pg 30

pg 46

pg 68

PSJA ISD Makes History

Fighting Hunger & Feeding Hope

Workout Trends

Staying Sharp

pg 32

pg 48

pg 72

Who Wouldn’t Mind a Gap

One Step Ahead

Your RGV Adventure Guide

pg 34

pg 50

pg 74

Aged to Perfection

Alternative Education

2019 New Year’s Resolutions

pg 36

pg 52

pg 78

Work Hard, Cowork Harder

More Than Shyness

Ice Hockey Thriving in RGV

pg 38

pg 80

Financial Focus

pg 54 Dinner for Two

pg 40

pg 56

pg 10 IDEA U pg 14 Math and Science in a Garden pg 16 Careers of the Future pg 18 FFA Lessons pg 20 Planting Community pg 28

Seasons of Life pg 42 In the Orange Zone pg 44

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E D U C A T I O N

Innovation EXCELLENCE Harlingen CISD’s Zavala Elementary Recognized as Apple Distinguished School

RGVISION MAGAZINE

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JAN/FEB 2019

by A dria na D o mi nguez Apple Distinguished Schools are centers of innovation, leadership, and educational excellence that use technology to inspire creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking. And Harlingen CISD’s Zavala Elementary has been recognized as one of them for 2018-2021. “We are thrilled to be recognized as an Apple Distinguished School,” said principal Tanya Garza. “This recognition reflects the hard work, planning, professional learning, and innovation that is used to personalize instruction for every student. Zavala Elementary is a campus that nurtures creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication. Technology is embedded throughout the environment which empowers students and teachers to use different modalities to inspire an innovative mindset.” Apple Distinguished Schools showcase innovative uses of technology in learning, teaching, and the school environment and have documented results of academic accomplishment. Zavala students participate in authentic digital content and invest in their learning through differentiated instruction. Students are encouraged to think outside the box and take risks as they engage in the adventures of academic pursuit. “Our teachers customize student learning environments so students can become effective

collaborators and communicators,” Garza said. “In turn, this fosters students to become critical thinkers within their classrooms, across grade levels, and within our community.” Garza said that the campus will release a book called “Tell Our Story.” The book focuses on the five best practices that promote continuous innovation and how Zavala transformed into a 1:1 learning environment. It will be available in the iBooks Store later this year. Zavala Elementary was selected to receive an Apple grant as part of the ConnectED program in 2014. In 2017, Garza and instructional coach Erika Galvan were named to the Apple Distinguished Educators Class.

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PSJA ISD MAKES HISTORY

LAW

High school students in the Rio Grande Valley who

law with one-on-one mentorship from local attorneys

desire to pursue a career in the legal field will get a

and judges, insight on what it takes to get admitted

jumpstart on their dreams through the newly launched

into law school, and opportunities to be part of special

Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD (PSJA ISD) Pre-Law Institute.

workshops, job shadowing, and internships.

PSJA ISD held a kickoff for the Pre-Law Institute on

As part of the kickoff, current attorneys and judges

Friday, Nov. 30 at PSJA Early College High School in San

who are also PSJA ISD alumni spoke to 10th-, 11th-, and

Juan. Aimed to mentor and guide high school students

12th-graders about their experiences in the field and the

interested in pursuing careers in the legal field, the Pre-

importance of taking advantage of the opportunities they

Law Institute is the first program of its kind in the area.

will receive being part of the Pre-Law Institute. Guest

According to PSJA School Board President Jesse

speakers included Probate Court Judge-Elect JoAnne

Zambrano, the goal of the district's new Pre-Law Institute

Garcia, Judge Rodolfo “Rudy� Gonzalez, Judge Arnoldo

is to provide PSJA students interested in a career in

Cantu Sr., and attorney Mike Cano.

RGVISION MAGAZINE

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JAN/FEB 2019

District Launches First Pre-Law Institute in Hidalgo County

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“No other school district in Hidalgo County has a Pre-Law Institute like this,” Cantu told students. “Your and constantly working to provide the best educational

“No other school district in Hidalgo County has a Pre-Law Institute like this. Your school leaders are at the cutting edge of innovation and constantly working to provide the best educational opportunities for you.”

opportunities for you.” In addition to the guest speakers, students witnessed a real sentencing hearing hosted by Hidalgo County Judge Luis Singleterry. Students also got a glimpse of what to expect in law school through a Law School Classroom Simulation hosted by University of Texas Rio Grande Valley professor and attorney Jaime Peña. “Lawyers are no different than you are,” Cano said in his closing remarks. “Your journey is not going to be easy. Law school is not going to be easy, but just believe in yourself and you will be able to do anything.”

J u d g e A r n ol d o C a n t u J r. ,

Hidalgo Cou n ty Cou rt-at-Law N o.5

Nearly 300 PSJA ISD high school students are currently signed up to be part of the first cohort. They will have the opportunity to engage in numerous workshops, job shadowing, and even internship opportunities starting in

.

spring 2019.

JAN/FEB 2019

school leaders are at the cutting edge of innovation

RGVISION MAGAZINE

For more information about the new PSJA Pre-Law Institute, please visit www.psjaisd.us/prelaw.

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E D U C A T I O N

IDEA U

Empowering Valley Residents One Degree at a Time

RGVISION MAGAZINE

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JAN/FEB 2019

by Lo ri Ho u s to n IDEA-U enrolled their first students less than a year — and — half ago, but they have already produced sixteen college graduates “We have 13 students that completed their associate's degree, and three students that completed their bachelor's degree,” said María Esther Rodríguez Nguma, co-founder and Director of IDEA-U. IDEA-U is an alternative, accelerated route to a college degree, originally designed to support IDEA alumni whose full lives, changing work schedules, and family obligations have not allowed them to finish college. It has since expanded to include IDEA employees and the general community. “We found that the flexibility, the affordability of the program, and all the support that they get via their inperson adviser worked really well for lots of students,”

Rodríguez Nguma said. There are many aspects of life that can get in the way of getting a college degree in the traditional way. Many students find that work and family obligations take priority over their schedule. Grace Hernandez, a recent IDEA-U graduate, had tried the traditional path to a college degree, but had scheduling conflicts often. “Working made it difficult to find courses to fit my schedule,” she said. “When I tried to go back to school, it meant that I would have to miss work or quit my job and that wasn’t an option.” The flexible schedule and support allowed Hernandez to finish her bachelor’s degree in record time. Another recent IDEA-U graduate, Jesse Melgoza appreciates the affordability of the program. “Even taking one class at a time proved difficult to pay for,” he said.

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E D U C A T I O N

I was told not only can I still graduate, but I could graduate within the year. I thought it was almost too good to be true. The amount of support they were offering along my journey was unreal.

a degree to try this program. She earned her associate degree in 10 months after being away from college for 15 years. “This program is excellent and the only way I feel you would not be able to complete it is if you don’t want to,” she said. Rodriguez added that the program is flexible enough to accommodate anyone’s busy schedule, noting that she is a single parent, works full-time, and was able to work her studies into her life and graduate in no time at all. The IDEA-U program is project-based, allowing students to accelerate toward their degree. Many of the students are surprised at how fast they can progress.

17

JAN/FEB 2019

Stephany Rincon recently earned her associate degree. “I was told not only can I still graduate, but I could graduate within the year,” she said. “I thought it was almost too good to be true. The amount of support they were offering along my journey was unreal.” With all the support she received, she was able to finish the associate degree in seven months and is now working on her bachelor’s degree. As part of their efforts to empower Rio Grande Valley residents with flexible, affordable education, IDEA-U is offering up to 100 scholarships to Rio Grande Valley students who are part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. “These scholarships will cover all tuition and fees for the program as long as they remain in good standing with the program by submitting weekly assignments, meeting with their adviser, and working on their school work for 12 hours per week at the center,” Rodríguez Nguma said. There is also a limited amount of other scholarship funds budgeted for other students who may have a financial aid gap. These 16 IDEA-U graduates are just the beginning of many to come.í “Weslaco was the original site, which opened its doors a little over a year ago, and we welcomed the first 54 students in 2017,” Rodríguez Nguma said. “Since then, we've opened up two new centers: one in Brownsville that is serving lower Valley students, and another one in San Antonio.”

.

“I got two jobs and still couldn’t save money to pay off an emergency loan I had gotten the semester before. I just couldn’t save up the money — things kept breaking or sudden bills kept appearing.” He was frustrated at not being able to finish his degree at a traditional school, but now, after only a year, he has his associate degree and is a passionate advocate for IDEA-U. Loryna Garza, a wife and mother of two, didn’t hesitate to put in the work she needed to in order to get her degree. “You are in charge of your own destiny and success rate,” she said “At the same time, you have the encouragement of an entire staff. Your success is their success. I am so grateful for the help and encouragement I’ve received at IDEA-U. They are staffed with the most caring and helpful staff I've ever encountered.” Priscilla Rodriguez encourages anyone who wants

I DE A - U C l a s s of 2 0 1 8

RGVISION MAGAZINE

Stepha ny Ri nc o n, ID EA - U gr a d uate


E D U C A T I O N

MATH AND SCIENCE IN A GARDEN by S of ia A lema n | photo s b y Ja s o n G a r z a

Planning

Pace Academy recognizes children can have short attention spans, so instructors like to incorporate as many subjects as they can into one lesson. If students are listening and engaged in the classroom for 30 minutes, it’s beneficial to relate to the subject in ways that are both practical and purposefully academic. When it comes to gardening, it’s actually not that hard. Pace students have the opportunity to work on a variety of horticulture projects. Children generally enjoy nature and benefit from being outside, delving into handson learning. A typical gardening project looks something like this:

Teamwork Grammar-sentence structure Each mathematical question will require solving the corresponding formulas. What is the formula for area or perimeter? How long is it? How wide is it? The perimeter will tell how much fencing we will need, and the area will tell us how much soil we will need. We may also introduce volume because soil has depth. If we want 2 inches of soil on the entire area, then how much is that? One lesson in gardening includes research, organizational skills, science, math and proper use of sentence structure when written in our workbooks. And it’s fun because it’s gardening! Students are engaged like never before because their eyes aren’t just reading about gardening in a textbook — their hands are getting to construct and create something they can later take pride in. Students have shown such gratification towards building in the backyard, and they take home practical skills when learning is active. This type of hands-on learning is how Pace Academy instructors like to construct their lessons, allowing students to become physically engaged. When they get to run, spread the soil, or plant the seeds, those are elements that aren’t present in a traditional classroom experience. Students get to go outside and have some fun!

RGVISION MAGAZINE

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JAN/FEB 2019

The objective: establishing a layout for a garden TEACHES: Math • How many square feet will the garden need? What is the perimeter of the garden? What is the area of the garden? Science • Concerns: Are there plants that cannot grow next to each other because it introduces possible obstacles? Are there some plants that would thrive on top of or near each other because they’re so beneficial to one another? Organizational skills Research Critical thinking skills

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E D U C A T I O N

CAREERS OF THE FUTURE b y A n g e l a M . I n s a l a co

“The Future.” Those two little words always conjure up

Robotics and artificial intelligence are mainstream

the same image. Picture opening scene in the movie Back

ideas. These concepts would even 30 years ago, only be

to the Future Part II where Doc Brown comes back from a

expected in the science fiction writing of H.G. Wells or

2015 reality to visit Marty in 1985 telling him he needs to

Gene Roddenberry. It was even announced this year that

do something about his kids.

the United States would be launching a Space Force as

When thinking about “the future,” one of the things

a separate branch of the U.S. Military as part of ongoing

RGVISION MAGAZINE

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JAN/FEB 2019

that can almost be universally agreed on is that careers

national defense initiatives.

that exist today may not necessarily exist tomorrow and

Historically, we expect this type of change to happen.

that careers that no one has ever thought of before will

In 1776, when America declared independence from

be the hot new thing for our children. We already see

Great Britain, very few probably foresaw the Industrial

this happening. All you have to do is pay attention to

Revolution that was starting to take place in Great Britain

business news.

would move America away from an agrarian nation into

For example, Tesla is not only creating electric cars.

an industrial powerhouse. Your own grandmother or

They are also rolling out electric semi-trucks that have

great-grandmother who lived during the Great Depression

been pre-ordered by some of the largest companies in the

of the 1930s could probably never have imagined that her

world. Multiple companies are testing self-driving cars,

grandchildren would be able to run their entire business

something that even 10 years ago the average person on

from a pocket-sized smartphone.

the street would have thought of as “futuristic” and still

As society advances, progress is being made in

decades away from being a reality.

industries that will affect the types of jobs that are

Does the newest generation even know what a rotary

available in the future. In order to prepare our children

phone is — and better yet, how to use one? As gains are

and grandchildren to compete in the changing global

made in the technology field, even Superman has had

economy, we need to know what to expect.

to adapt. The need for phone booths has been almost

South Texas College offers over 120 different degrees,

completely eliminated from society.

many of them preparing students for careers of the

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E D U C A T I O N

future. “All programs of study are relevant to current and future economic and workforce trends in some form or fashion,” said Celinda Palacios, director of Career and Employer Services at STC. The institution bills itself on its website as “the most affordable College in the Valley,” and

I would venture to say that both formal education and trade school are both excellent choices. The career choice is up t

students are able to graduate with zero debt. As student loan debt is ballooning across the country, STC and its diverse range of programs of study is an attractive option for students. “As an educator, administrator, and director of Career and Employer Services of South Texas College as well as an advocate of higher education, I would venture to

C e l i n d a Pa l a ci os , director of Career an d E mployer Services at STC

say that both formal education and trade school are both excellent choices. The career choice is up to the student,” Palacios said. She added that at STC students are offered a career assessment that can help align them with a career that fits their interests.

revolves around access to technology. “STEM fields will

Palacios quoted Albert Einstein when discussing

continue to attract people,” Palacios said. “But that is not

student’s career options. “If they love their job, they will

to say that there are limits in liberal arts. I don’t see liberal

never work a day in their life.”

arts careers being affected in any way.”

So, what exactly are the “hot” jobs of the next five, 10, or

The good news for those living and working in the

20 years supposed to be? According to research Palacios

Rio Grande Valley is that Palacios sees “extraordinary

cited from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Kiplinger, we can expect to see more jobs in the fields of:

career growth in the next five to 10 years.” One thing is for

• • • • • • • •

generation with more exciting careers that we haven’t

certain — this will be an ongoing conversation for every

App Development

even imagined yet.

Computer Systems Analysts Nurse Practitioners Physical Therapists Health Service Managers

JAN/FEB 2019

Physicians Assistants Market Research Analysts Personal Financial Advisers Nurse practitioners, physical therapists, health service

managers, and physicians’ assistants are key on this

.

list. According to the Association of American Medical

RGVISION MAGAZINE

Colleges in an April 2018 news release, the United States can expect a physician shortage of up to 120,000 by 2030. Another area that looks to be hot in the future is science, technology, engineering, and math careers. Today’s world

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E D U C A T I O N

FFA LESSONS SURPASS RAISING LIVESTOCK

RGVISION MAGAZINE

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JAN/FEB 2019

b y Da n y a Pe r e z People skills, punctuality, dedication, and overall responsibility are some of the skills that tend to go unnoticed when people think of Future Farmers of America. But these will definitely be an asset to students during and after their college years. “The first thing that I tell everybody is that it’s not just about showing livestock,” said Jessica Castellano, current agricultural sciences teacher at Nikki Rowe High School and former student FFA member at the same campus. “That’s the biggest misconception … it’s so much more than just exhibiting animals and that’s not a requirement, that’s an option.” Castellano, 27, has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agricultural science from Texas A&M Kingsville as well as her teaching certificate. She is the only agriculture teacher at the high school and teaches four subjects including principles of agriculture, advanced animal science, welfare management, and agricultural mechanics.

But the lessons expand further than that, Castellano said, as the students become involved with the community through volunteer work. They learn how to work with peers and help each other when needed. Even as some students — including herself, back in high school — are drawn by the love of animals or intentions to become veterinarians, they end up learning much more than that without even knowing. “It really helped me learn to talk to people because I was the person who was really smart but kind of just sat at the back of the class,” Castellano said, recalling her time as a high school student. “Without FFA, I wouldn’t have been as strong of a person because it just built me into who I am.” From the moment she left high school, she knew she wanted to return home to teach ag science classes and lead the FFA program, which at the moment has 46 student members and about 80 students enrolled in its classes.

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love

NATURE

AT

stay at the school district’s Ag Farm and students — sometimes aided by parents or family members — visit several times a day to feed them and clean up after them. “The students are responsible to supply all the supplies for the animal, and the animal itself,” Castellano said. “They feed it, they walk it, they take care of its health… That animal depends on them for its life and they have to be responsible and go out and feed it every single day.” The entire team also prepares for several competitions, including the Mercedes Livestock Show, which runs for 12 days straight. The animals have to be kept in the fairgrounds the entire time, and students must tend to them there and get them ready for show. The animal then gets sold for market or for breeding. Anzaldua believes the responsibility skills gained through her time at FFA will come in handy once she moves on to college in hopes of becoming a pharmacist. “Through this program I’ve been learning to manage my time, which is definitely going to help me out in the future because I know it’s going to be way more intense in college,” Anzaldua said. “I’m trying to be a full-time student, so I know it’s going to be hard managing a job, (college), and a social life.”

JAN/FEB 2019

One of her students and current FFA President Alexa Anzaldua, 17, said she got in the program for the love of animals and her former dreams of becoming a veterinarian. Anzaldua joined the program as a sophomore, and now as a senior, her career goals have changed — but her respect and love of the program grew stronger. “When I first got into the program, I was very shy and just in my own little bubble,” Anzaldua said. “At the shows, I get to talk to a lot of people and students from different shows and it’s really awesome.” The fear of college is now gone, she said, as she has learned to come out of her shell — as well as other skills, such as time management and dependability. Anzaldua currently works, attends school, and leads the chapter. She also tends after her own animal, a lamb named Honey, and alongside her 10-year-old brother, a junior FFA member, she also helps raise his goat named Toby. Raising these animals is nothing to take lightly, as the responsibility falls solely on the students. The process demands good time management and dedication. Students who choose to raise an animal for competition or show have to tend to the creature every day of the year, including weekends and holidays. The biggest animals

BUCKETS OF FUN Thursday’s 10 am SPEAKER SERIES Thursday’s 6 pm HISTORY TOUR Friday’s 10 am SONGBIRD STROLL Saturday’s 8:30 am NATURE TOTS Saturday’s 9:30 am DISCOVERY DAYS Saturday’s 11 & 2

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Jessica Ca s tel l a no, a gr i cul tur al s ci e nces teach er

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Tuesday - Saturday: 8am to 5pm Thursdays until dark

www.quintamazatlan.com 23

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“The students are responsible to supply all the supplies for the animal, and the animal itself. They feed it, they walk it, they take care of its health … That animal depends on them for its life and they have to be responsible and go out and feed it every single day.”

Quinta Mazatlán


E D U C A T I O N

Dr. Art Cavazos

Dr. Daniel King

HCISD Superintendent

PSJA ISD Superintendent

“I believe we are equipping students with the skills to take on and solve global issues that exist today.”

RGVISION MAGAZINE

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JAN/FEB 2019

“The Valley has kind of become the hotbed of early college work in the nation.”

Tom Torkelson

Dr. Shirley A. Reed

IDEA Public Schools CEO

STC President

“I think education over the last decade, last decadeand-a-half, has just gone from zero to 60 in the Rio Grande Valley.”

“We will continue to serve as the catalyst for what we call regional economic prosperity.”

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HONOR ROLL Innovative Educators Lauded for Contributions to Rio Grande Valley

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The Rio Grande Valley is a region in the midst of dynamic growth. In the last decade, one of the most palpable areas of progress has been in education. “I think education over the last decade, last decade-and-ahalf, has just gone from zero to 60 in the Rio Grande Valley,” said Tom Torkelson, CEO of IDEA Public Schools. “We have a medical school now where we didn’t before. We have one of the largest and most successful community colleges in the United States with South Texas College. We have one of the best magnet school systems in South Texas ISD. Our school districts are doing a really wonderful job.” In some cases, RGV school districts are serving as

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pacesetters for the rest of the state and country. “I think the Valley now is seen as one of the bright spots in education in the state of Texas,” said Dr. Daniel King, PSJA ISD superintendent. “The Valley has kind of become the hotbed of early college work in the nation.” Educational development has a ripple effect on the region. In 1993, when South Texas College was founded, the Hidalgo County unemployment rate clocked in at 24 percent. Now, it’s just over 6 percent. “I’m absolutely convinced the reason those statistics have changed is because we have been able to prepare a skilled workforce,” said Dr. Shirley A. Reed, STC president. “The only path out of poverty is a job, and the only way you get a job is having some skill sets to sell to an employer. We will continue to serve as the catalyst for what we call regional economic prosperity.” Sometimes, it all comes down to establishing the right foundation as early as possible. “I believe we are equipping students with the skills to take on and solve global issues that exist today,” said Dr. Art Cavazos, Harlingen CISD superintendent. “We see the success of authentic learning experiences, and we know the demand for choices and opportunities in public education.”

Publisher’s note: As RGVision Magazine celebrates its 10-year anniversary, we reflect on a decade of coverage and service while commemorating remarkable education growth in the Rio Grande Valley and beyond. During a Feb. 1 fundraising gala with Teach for America, RGVision will honor several local leaders in education who have been innovators in this progress not just locally, but across the state and country: Dr. Art Cavazos of Harlingen Consolidated School District, Dr. Daniel King of Pharr-San JuanAlamo Independent School District, Dr. Shirley A. Reed of South Texas College, and Tom Torkelson of IDEA Public Schools.

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b y Amy Ca s eb i e r | p h ot os b y J a m e s H or d


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HARLINGEN CISD

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‘PLAN THE WORK AND WORK THE PLAN’ Dr. Art Cavazos knows that even when change is necessary, the motivation must come from within. Take, for example, Harlingen CISD’s flourishing robotics programs. “We had one campus that had adopted robotics as an afterschool program,” said Cavazos, HCISD’s superintendent. “A year-and-a-half later, we have it to scale at every campus in the school district. A year later, we’re looking for a specialty school for kids who love the space of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.” The district opened STEM2 Preparatory Academy for middle schoolers in 2018. And it all started with a few robots. “We created some pressure for change and that pressure then led to innovation because then people are the ones asking, ‘well, we want more and we want more,’” Cavazos said. “I tell people, oftentimes, you’ll find us in Harlingen creating the plan and then working the plan. So you have to plan the work and work the plan — that’s the whole idea.” Districtwide robotics are just a single facet of HCISD’s approach to cultivate educational experiences for its students. Additional opportunities include construction camps, news station internships, working with firefighters, and being able to step foot in surgical procedure rooms, among others, Cavazos said. “The past 10 years have been filled with immense innovation through technological and workforce advancements, causing

a need to keep up with and be on par with schools around the world,” he said. “As we pay more attention to workforce needs, we have shifted our focus in not only how students learn, but also how they engage when learning.” For HCISD, this looks like a dedicated effort to broaden course offerings and ordinary paths of study. A push for early childhood literacy readiness has resulted in 96 percent of HCISD pre-K students being kindergarten ready. Two district elementary schools are candidates to become international baccalaureate schools. HCISD is creating more dual language opportunities for middle schools. And in addition to STEM2 Preparatory Academy, the district is home to Lee H. Means Fine Arts Academy and Harlingen School of Health Professions. “As the medical hub of the Rio Grande Valley, we know that every student has the potential to impact health care,” Cavazos said. “We are providing opportunities to ensure students are meeting their maximum potential in the spaces they most desire.” The Career and Technical Education Department has also grown to give students more practical learning opportunities. Now, more than half of the program’s students are graduating with an industry certification, Cavazos said. “While we can't predict all the careers of the future, we can put our students in the best position possible by setting them up for the future,” he said. “Our goal is that they graduate college, career, and community ready.”

“We are providing opportunities to ensure students are meeting their maximum potential in the spaces they most desire.” D r. Ar t Ca va z o s , Harlin gen CI SD su perin ten den t

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PSJA ISD

“We tackled the dropout situation immediately. We started going out to the home of every student who had dropped out and invited them back to school.” Dr. Da ni el K i ng, P SJA ISD s up e r i nte nd e nt

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going out to the home of every student who had dropped out and invited them back to school,” King said. “We also opened that year a dual-enrollment high school for dropouts ages 18 to 26. We invited students to come back to school in an adult setting where they could start their coursework at South Texas College while they finished up their last requirements for their high school diploma.” In 2008, PSJA also opened the district’s first STEM-focused early college campus in a collection of portable buildings in Alamo. Now located at the renovated site of the district’s first high school on Business 83 in Pharr, PSJA Thomas Jefferson T-STEM Early College High School has served as a model to connect students to higher education experiences. This year, close to 2,200 seniors are in an early college setting — every 12th-grader in the district. Change in PSJA has been measurable — and significant. “We moved from having a dropout rate twice as bad as the state average to more than twice as good,” King said. “It’s been tremendous. It’s changed what high school education is all about in PSJA.” The district is in the process of opening a college and university center that will function as an academy setting for PSJA students from different campuses to connect with specialized higher education programs. PSJA already graduates students with their associate degree in nursing in a career pathway partnership with STC, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, and the Region One Education Service Center. It all represents a renewed focus on the promise the future holds. “There’s a strong belief among our students that they can succeed in college,” King said. “There’s a strong hunger for higher education and for really making their way in life and becoming leaders in our community, leaders in the state of Texas, and leaders in this country.” The next 10 years look even brighter for PSJA. “I think that each cohort and each generation is building on and surpassing what the ones before them did,” King said.

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When Dr. Daniel King began his tenure as superintendent at PSJA ISD in 2007, the district was at a low point, grappling with poor graduation rates, struggling to meet federal standards, and facing the possibility of closing and reconstituting PSJA High School. Now, the district hosts an annual conference attended by over 300 visitors interested in exactly what it takes to have a success story like the one King has written for PSJA. It’s a remarkable turnaround. “We tackled the dropout situation immediately. We started

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‘TREMENDOUS’ TRANSFORMATION


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STC COLLEGE

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A ‘CATALYST’ FOR REGIONAL CHANGE

why legislative sessions like the one starting this month are so important. Another issue Reed faces is emphasizing the importance of college degrees — and the positive impact they have. “If you really want a better life for your child, it does have to involve going to college,” Reed said. “Not everybody wants a four-year baccalaureate degree, but we do have to have skill sets so we can be gainfully employed. Somehow, families don’t fully understand the importance of getting at least two years of college and how transformative it will be for future generations.” That transformative power happens both within RGV families and in the RGV itself. “If one student can finish college, be gainfully employed, the brothers, the sisters, the parents — they’ll seriously consider going to college. We see it every day,” Reed said. “And that’s what drives our economy. That’s what leads to regional economic prosperity and social mobility for people in our community.” In the next 10 years, Reed sees STC doubling in size. The college is currently at 32,000 students, but that doesn’t count the 23,000 students taking non-credit courses — or individuals enrolled in customized training requested by their employers. Because as STC grows, so does the RGV’s skilled workforce. The Valley, too. “If a company is considering coming to the region, they go to a website, they look at the educational profile, they look at the economy, they look at the diversity of the workforce and they make a decision as to whether this region is feasible for their consideration,” Reed said. “We want those educational statistics to show we have a young, educated, highly skilled workforce. Come on down and join us.”

South Texas College also has inspired and experienced positive change over the last decade — though as a founding president, Dr. Shirley A. Reed has overseen that progress for the past 25 years. STC facilitates the opportunity for high schoolers to earn college credit — some even earning associate degrees before high school diplomas. STC students also can now earn four-year baccalaureate degrees. It’s a matter of seeing both what the Rio Grande Valley needs to grow, and what Rio Grande Valley residents need to fulfill that growth. “We’re developing new degrees and certificates in direct response to what employers tell us is needed,” Reed said. “We don’t develop a program just to develop a program. We will talk to employers — ‘what are the skillsets you need?’ — and they will help us design a program.” Recognizing a need for registered nurses in the region, STC shaped a career ladder for licensed vocational nurses, EMTs, paramedics, and others. The college also tailored diesel and welding technology training programs to prepare students for high-paying jobs that could lead to even more lucrative supervisory positions. The new Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence in Pharr fits another need STC identified: rapidly changing demands for law enforcement, as well as a goal to offer degrees for future officers. But there are always challenges to every success story — even STC’s. Securing funding can be a struggle, which is

We’re developing new degrees and certificates in direct response to what employers tell us is needed.” Dr. Shirley A. Reed , So uth Texas Co l l e ge p r e siden t 28


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IDEA PUBLIC SCHOOLS

My goal is to make sure that every single family who wants a high-quality, tuition-free public education can get it, and it’s my mission to bring that to as many families as we possibly can.” To m To rkel s o n, ID EA Pub l i c Scho o l s CEO

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students by the year 2022, and with the current trajectory, we are definitely on pace to be able to achieve that.” That success and growth comes from developing a plan for students — and sticking to it. By the time students graduate from an IDEA high school, they’ll have taken the ACT four or more times, passed around 11 advanced placement or international baccalaureate courses, and visited about 30 college campuses, Torkelson said. Parents are included in this plan from the beginning. “The very first thing we do when we’re signing up parents and they come to their first orientations, we ask them to draft their vision for their child as an adult,” Torkelson said. “Then we have moms and dads read it to each other, and you just have these strangers who are just meeting for the first time and they are literally weeping. Nobody has ever asked them what their vision is of their child.” IDEA’s scope reaches beyond a traditional 12 years of public education. Torkelson highlights the schools’ efforts in ensuring IDEA alumni continue to receive guidance, counseling, and financial support throughout their college experience — including career services to help them obtain gainful employment after earning their degrees. “What I’m most proud of is for every year for the past 10 years, 100 percent of our seniors have applied to college, 100 percent have been accepted to college, and every year but one, 100 percent of our students stepped foot on a college campus for the first day of their freshman year, which I just think is very historic,” Torkelson said. “Once they’re in college, they are graduating at five times the national average for similar demographics. I think that just shows the potential of young people in the RGV is limitless.” There are even resources for students who don’t initially thrive in college. “We’ve launched IDEA University — IDEA-U — to recapture our students who have dropped out of the traditional university system,” he said. “We’re re-matriculating them, and we’re going to make sure they get that degree with minimal to zero debt.” There have been some growing pains for IDEA, though. “Over the past decade, our biggest challenge has been keeping up with the demand,” Torkelson said. “Last year, 70,000 students applied to IDEA. We opened up 18 schools last year, but it wasn’t nearly enough to meet the really pent-up demand that families all across the region have for high quality public education for their children.” To keep up, IDEA is slated to open 18 new campuses in August, 22 in 2020, and 28 in 2021, Torkelson said. And in 10 years, he projects IDEA serving a quarter of a million students with campuses in Ohio and Florida. “My goal is to make sure that every single family who wants a high-quality, tuition-free public education can get it, and it’s my mission to bring that to as many families as we possibly can,” he said.

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When Tom Torkelson started teaching RGV fourth-graders in 1997 through Teach for America, he didn’t like what he saw. From his experience, government-run public schools weren’t adequately preparing children for higher education. So in 2000, he created IDEA Public Schools’ first charter school. “We worked really hard for four or five years with this really basic bargain,” Torkelson said. “We told parents, ‘you stick with us, we’ll stick with you. I promise I will get your son, I will get your daughter into a college or university.’” The bargain worked, and people took notice. A phone call from Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates telling Torkelson that no one was outperforming his charter school within the demographic led to the first expansion of IDEA. “We’ve gone from 150 students on the second floor of the First Baptist Church in downtown Donna, Texas, to 45,000 students across 79 campus in Austin, San Antonio, El Paso — Louisiana and obviously our biggest region is right here in the Rio Grande Valley,” Torkelson said. “Our goal is to reach 100,000

JAN/FEB 2019

‘FROM ZERO TO SIXTY’


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PLANTING A COMMUNITY at The Plantation Apartments

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by RGV isio n

We spoke with the Greater Mission Chamber of Commerce’s Featured Member of the Month, Stacy Patterson, property manager and community director of The Plantation Apartments, managed by Mosaic Residential in Mission. Patterson discussed their services, amenities, and the ways in which the Greater Mission Chamber of Commerce has helped them connect with the Mission business community since opening in 2012.

in 2012. We have 300 apartment homes. We have one, two, and three-bedroom floor plans. We have full-size washer and dryer. We have full-size appliance packages. Our first floors have wood plank vinyl throughout and carpet in the bedrooms. R: What amenities and features do you offer residents? SP: We have almost two of everything. We have two club houses, two pools, two fitness centers. We have barbecue grills and we are looking to add in this coming year some other exterior amenities for our community. We are split into two phases, even though we run as one. We have a section that has its own club house and its own pool and its own barbecue area and behind the

RGVision: Tell us a little about the apartments at The Plantation on Shary Road. Stacy Patterson: Plantation Apartments was established

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R: How has the Greater Mission Chamber of Commerce helped you grow? SP: We are very excited to be working with the Chamber of Commerce, or to be a part of that business community. And we think that it’s going to be an asset not only to us, but to the chamber to be working in conjunction, to build the community and make it a strong force for the Rio Grande Valley.

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Contact your Edward Jones financial advisor for a one-on-one appointment to discuss what’s really important: your goals.

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Leonardo F Chang

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R: How do you promote community among residents? SP: Our resident events are really big in bringing the community together and having the ability to socialize and come together and a lot of people want to know who their neighbors are. They want to know who lives

Investing is about more than money.

Financial Advisor

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R: What other services to you offer? SP: We have a conference room here in our main office and we also have our club house that’s available to rent not just to residents, but to outside companies if they want to hold meetings. It’s for a fee, but it is a very large, very spacious area so it can be utilized for … baby showers, we’ve had reveal parties, we’ve had football watch parties, so it runs the gamut of the availability and what you can use to utilize the space.

R: Tell us more about your staff. SP: We have a management staff of seven— we have four maintenance and three office. And between us our years of experience is at least more than 30. So we are very knowledgeable in the apartment community industry in what we’re doing and how to help service the residents and help meet their needs and help make this a place where they want to stay for a very long time.

4500 N 10th St Suite 40 Mcallen, TX 78504 956-630-0241

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R: Do you host any events for residents? SP: We try to do at least two to three residential social events a month. In December we might do a hot chocolate bar, in the summer we have a pool party. We try to build that sense of community where everyone from the youngest to the oldest are involved and included.

next door and what their interests are and they look out for one another. So we really want to bring that sense of community and enhance that with some of the events that we do and the things that we offer. And we also have a wonderful staff … we are definitely customer service oriented. We want to make sure that we take care of the residents. We want them to feel like this is their forever home. And we do the very best we can in what we can with our abilities and our limitations.

MKD-8652B-A

main office here, where we office out of, we also have a pool. We have a fitness center in both areas. And we have picnic areas and we have hopefully in the coming year we will have a playground, a pet park. So those are all things we are working towards to better the community.


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MINDFULNESS IN THE

WORKPLACE

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How Practicing Presence Can Improve Your Leadership When one thinks of leadership within the context of the workplace, the concepts that most often come to mind are ones typically associated with “hard” skills, such as the ability to communicate clearly, to organize, to create action plans, and to make tough decisions under pressure. However, experts increasingly agree that there is yet another equally important quality of leadership that does not fit into the “hard” or “soft” skill dichotomy: mindfulness. According to David Gelles, in his book, Mindful Work: How Meditation is Changing Business from the Inside Out, major corporations such as Google, Aetna, General Mills, and Target have all built extensive programs aimed at fostering mindful practices among their workers. So why the sudden interest in a topic that has previously only been relegated to the realm of the

religious? Early adopters of mindfulness practices within the workplace have recognized its business benefits on both the employee level as well as on the employer level. According to the World Health Organization, stress costs American businesses an estimated $300 billion annually, yet companies that have adopted mindfulness practices within their workplaces have reported decreases in these costs as the result of the subsequently reported reductions in stress levels, improved sleep quality, and reduced pain among their employees. For those unfamiliar with the term, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, professor emeritus of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, defines mindfulness as, “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgementally.” Dr. Beth Cabrera, Senior Scholar at the Center for the Advancement of Well-

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although our body’s chemical response to an emotion lasts only 90 seconds, that is still enough time to do or say something without thinking that could cause detrimental and long-term damage to one’s relationships and work. Indeed, statistics indicate that one’s emotional intelligence is a better predictor of leader success than traditional IQ quantified using traditional measures. Finally, the ability to calm a racing mind ties everything together by contributing both to enhanced focus and improved emotions as the emotional reactivity of the amygdala (the portion of the brain that reacts when we encounter stress), is reduced, allowing the individual to return more quickly to a calm, thoughtful state of mind. At Kairos Chaplaincy Services LLC, mindfulness practices are not only incorporated into all the services that we provide, they can also be taught on an individual level through one-on-one consultations. If you would like more information on workplace chaplaincy or any of the other services we provide, you can contact Kairos Chaplaincy Services LLC at (956) 332-3040.

ARTICLE PROVIDED BY

The Rev. Dr. Leslie Gonzales is lead chaplain of Kairos Chaplaincy Services LLC. He holds a Doctor of Ministry in Leadership from Regent University with a focus on stress and burnout, and is an ordained minister through the American Baptist Churches, USA. More information regarding him and his organization can be found at www.kairoschaplains.com.

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Being at George Mason University, further elaborates on mindfulness by stating that it is, “a conscious choice to attend to what’s happening in the moment and … accept it, rather than getting caught up [in] thinking about whether it’s good or bad or wishing it were different.” In other words, mindfulness is about being present and practicing presence in a skilled and intentional way. According to Cabrera, there are at least three ways that practicing presence can improve one’s leadership: it enhances focus, it improves emotional intelligence, which is the ability to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions within the context of relationships, and it calms racing minds. In an age where technology offers constant distractions (statistics indicate that employees visit Facebook 21 times a day and check emails 74 times), yet focus is critical for improved performance, enhanced focus as the result of mindfulness practices is a godsend for any employer. We also see that mindfulness practices help to improve emotional intelligence (a subject that deserves an article all its own), which is critical to relationships and general success. Cabrera notes that

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FIGHTING HUNGER &

FEEDING HOPE

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by Lor i H ou s t on The Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley looks and feels like the nerve center of a vibrant community. Everywhere you look, there is sense of coordinated urgency. The warehouse area is constantly teeming with action, from forklifts moving pallets of food, to groups of volunteers cheerfully and carefully sorting food items. Jacqueline Flores, the director of Development & Donor Services, explains that the regular groups of volunteers from the local community are integral to the successful operation of the Food Bank. It only has 65 actual employees, but the additional help by the volunteers allows the organization to reach up to 64,000 different clients each week with free food assistance. The majority of the sorting and packing is done by volunteers from local businesses and organizations, as well as participants in the Texas Second Chance program. The Texas Second Chance Program is a joint effort between the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and Feeding Texas

members that offers a “second chance� for offenders to develop job skills and give back to the community. Many local businesses also have a desire to give back to the community, so they support the Food Bank by sponsoring events and holding food drives. This past year, 87 percent of the support for the Food Bank RGV came in the form of donated food. The Food Bank RGV is the fourth largest in Texas based on distribution. It has over 275 partner agencies in Hidalgo, Willacy, and Cameron counties. All of the food assistance offered by the Food Bank RGV is free for all participants. Through their different programs they are committed to improving lives through food assistance, nutrition education, and access to community services. The Emergency Food program has the largest impact on the community. Food pantries, homeless shelters, and onsite feeding programs operated by the partner agencies directly feed an average of 64,000 clients each week. The

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distributing food to them on-site. This program also includes disaster response, distributing food after hurricanes, storms and flooding. “We have a lot of elderly homebound people that are not able to leave their homes,” Flores said. “A lot of our own employees are delivering the food on their own time to the neighborhoods they live near.” The Gem Valley Farm program started in 2014, primarily focused on becoming an educational platform for food and health. It is open to the public and anyone can come in and grow their own vegetables in the community garden. The Garden Club holds weekly learning activities on Tuesdays. Eighteen families are currently participating and there is room for more. Gem Valley Farm has recently partnered with PSJA schools in an eight-week program for teachers where they will learn gardening techniques and principles in order to set up gardens at their school campuses. The farm has also begun a vegetable prescription program with Hope Family Health Center and Elks Lodge McAllen which aims to improve the health of the Rio Grande Valley community through food. Currently, the Food Bank RGV is gearing up for its annual Farm Dinner Fundraiser on Jan. 19, where they hope to raise money for farm equipment and funds to continue all the farm programs. The fundraiser will feature a five-course meal prepared by Chef Larry and Jessica Delgado of house. wine. & bistro. and S.A.L.T. The meal will utilize produce from Gem Valley Farm and will be served at the historic Food Bank RGV building. For more information about the programs offered by Food Bank RGV or opportunities to get involved in their mission to fill the great need in our community, please visit www.foodbankrgv.com.

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clients are registered with the partner agency, and each week the agency puts in an order online to the Food Bank RGV, which they then pick up after it is packed up for them so they can distribute it to their clients. There is also an Emergency Food pantry located at the Food Bank RGV building, where individuals and families can come if they need emergency food assistance. It is set up to give them a shopping experience where they can choose from different items. “We really start seeing more people come in towards the end of the month, especially because that’s when their resources run out,” Flores said. “Many of the families are dealing with a real hardship situation. These situations are sometimes temporary and we help them get themselves out of that as well by offering them help accessing the social services they may need, helping them with the application process.” The Commodity Supplemental Food Program provides a bag of commodities each month for nearly 10,000 low income seniors over 60. Operation Kid Pack is operated through elementary and middle schools in low-income areas. Select students are given a backpack with enough food for meals and snacks over the weekend or long breaks from school. “For the parents, it can be a challenge feeding their children when they’re not in school,” Flores said. According to the Food Bank RGV website, between 1 in 5 and 1 in 7 households in the Rio Grande Valley are food insecure, not knowing where their next meal is coming from. The Summer Food Service Program aims to provide Valley children nutritious meals when school is not in session. School Tools is a program that helps local teachers stock their classroom with supplies for their students. Teachers from nearly 50 schools that are registered can pay a yearly $20 annual donation, and come get a basket full of supplies each month instead of paying out of their own pocket as many teachers do. Healthy Living is part of the free nutrition education program where participants are taught how to shop on a budget and cook nutritious meals. The Mobile Food Program is something the Food Bank RGV is actively trying to grow by searching for grant money. When they can, they assist families living in food deserts by

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The Food Bank RGV is the fourth largest in Texas based on distribution. It has over 275 partner agencies in Hidalgo, Willacy, and Cameron counties.


B U S I N E S S ARTICLE PROVIDED BY

Bill MARTIN, CFP® Vice President, Investments 1845 Capital of Raymond James, 1400 N. McColl Road, Suite 101 | McAllen 956-331-2777

WHO WOULDN’T MIND A

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GAP?

YOUR TIME, REIMAGINED Before planning extended time away, think about your intentions and what you hope to gain. Do you prefer to get away without going too far? To spend more quality time with family? Or to return to work with renewed drive, creativity, or an enhanced skill set? Perhaps you hope to pick up a neglected hobby or explore new career options. Taking time off to volunteer or serve on the board of a local charity could turn into a full-time position with the organization — or offer networking opportunities that lead to something new. Whatever it is you’re craving, there’s a wealth of programs and resources available to suit your goals and time frame — both near and far.

When you think of a gap year, what comes to mind? High school or college graduates backpacking through Europe before starting the next chapter of their lives? While that image isn’t inaccurate, it seems there’s a new wave of people looking to embark on a gap year — not before starting their career but, rather, in the middle of it. “We mainly work with students, but we see an increasing number of older adults who aren’t completely retired,” said Holly Bull, president of the Center for Interim Programs. “They’re looking for a new direction and asking themselves what they want to do for the rest of their lives. “While gap years are traditionally seen as a time for young adults to explore and gain life experience before entering the ‘real world,’ for those who have been working for two decades or more, an escape from the ‘real world’ and their routine may be just the ticket.” Such was the thinking for designer Stefan Sagmeister, who decided to disperse a portion of his retirement years throughout his career, allowing him to take a yearlong sabbatical every seven years. He found his work significantly improved after he’d seen it grow stagnant in years prior. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average productivity per American worker has increased 400 percent since 1950 — so it’s no wonder people are looking for a break. Whatever the reason may be for the trend, for those planning their own gap year or sabbatical, there are lots of approaches to take to help you make the most of your time.

EXPLORE NEW HORIZONS Itching to see the world? There are few better ways to shake up your routine than by traveling somewhere new. Whether it’s for a month or a year, a road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway or backpack trek around Asia, travel promises days spent exploring new sights, cuisines, and cultures. While it isn’t free, websites like HomeExchange.com and SabbaticalHomes.com can help you recoup some costs by swapping homes with a family abroad.

Hear more about Stefan Sagmeister’s famous gap years in his TED Talk. Search: “The Power of Time Off” on ted.com.

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When retirement just isn’t soon enough, some adults hit pause mid-career.

SATURDAY JANUARY 5 + Hidalgo County Cotillion

SUNDAY JANUARY 6

+ Texas Cheerleader Open State Championship

MONDAY JANUARY 7 + Camp Longhorn

TUESDAY JANUARY 15 + Winter Texan Expo

THURSDAY JANUARY 17 + Texas DECA

SAT-SUN JANUARY 19-20 + McAllen Marathon

FRI-SUN JANUARY 25-27

+ McAllen International CarFest

The average productivity per American worker has increased 400 percent since 1950.

FRIDAY FEBRUARY 1

U.S. B ur ea u of La b or St a t i s t i cs

FRI-SUN FEBRUARY 8-10

+ RGVision 10 Year Anniversary Gala

SUNDAY FEBRUARY 3

+ AR Socials Wedding and Quinceanera Expo

+ All Valley Boat Show

Sources: ted.com; HBR.org; telegraph.co.uk; huffingtonpost. com; nbcnews.com; LinkedIn; BBC.com; 20somethingfinance. com; bloomberg.com As featured in WORTHWHILE, a quarterly periodical dedicated

SATURDAY FEBRUARY 9 + PVAC Puppy Love Gala

FRI-SAT FEBRUARY 15-16 +Texas HOSA

to serving the clients of Raymond James advisers and affiliated advisory firms. © 2018 Raymond James & Associates, Inc., member New York Stock Exchange/SIPC © 2018 Raymond James Financial Services, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC Investment products are: not deposits, not FDIC/NCUA insured, not insured by any government agency, not bank guaranteed, subject to risk and may lose value. 17-WorthWhile-0022 BS 8/18

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

JAN/FEB 2019

MAKING THE LEAP While extended time off may not be commonplace, it may be easier than you think to make the case. For example, when Melissa Harper, CEO of Good Sports, took a one-month sabbatical, she realized her team was more than capable, and permanently delegated more than 30 percent of her responsibilities to them, leaving her more time to focus on big picture goals. Your company may also see the benefit in using your temporary absence as a stresstest of sorts that could highlight potential gaps in leadership or process. Even better? It may give your team a chance to further develop their leadership skills. Perhaps

MIND THE GAP Whatever is realistic for you and your family, be it a week away, a month or a year, it’s never a bad idea to hit pause and reflect on your personal and professional goals. And when it comes to your financial wellbeing and trajectory, don’t forget to tap your financial advisor as a resource and sounding board to help you plan for the gaps and career moves that make the most sense for you.

UPCOMING EVENTS

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GET REAL Sure, a gap year sounds great, but how can you actually make it happen? It’s not hard to imagine the reservations people have about taking time off mid-career with bills to pay and homes to tend to. Plus, with just 17 percent of companies offering a sabbatical program (paid or unpaid) in 2017, this would likely involve negotiating with your employer if you want a job to come back to. When broaching this conversation, make sure you get answers to all the pertinent questions. If they’re willing to let you take the time, would it be paid or unpaid? Would you still be considered a full-time employee or would you move to a contract position? Will you still be covered by insurance? Your financial advisor can help you talk through the possible outcomes of the negotiation process as well as your other options for income and benefits during your time off.

less surprising are the benefits of time off for employees. One study of university professors found that those who took sabbaticals experienced a decline in stress and an increase in their overall well-being when they came back. What is surprising is that these positive effects often lasted long after they returned, refreshed and ready to tackle the work again with renewed energy.

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WORK, PLAY, WORK, PLAY Need a break from retirement, instead? You’re not alone. According to the Federal Reserve Board, a third of those who retire eventually rejoin the workforce. If you’re looking to do the same, consider seeking out temporary contract positions – perhaps with a former employer or a nonprofit you support.


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AGED TO PERFECTION

In the heart of downtown McAllen, house. wine. & bistro.’s charming merlot-painted brick building sits on Business 83 just north of the Chase Tower. Monday through Saturday, you can find it bustling with business from brunch to late dinner time. In its first 10 years of business, it has easily become a beloved staple in the Downtown Entertainment District for locals and visitors alike. The business opened its doors for the first time in October 2008 as a part wine lounge, part home furnishing

Valley Wine Lounge Turned Eatery Celebrates 10th Anniversary by Ka rina Va rga s | p h o to s b y Ja mes Ho r d

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store. Former Austinite and owner Larry Delgado said he and his wife, Jessica, who is co-owner, first opened their company to “nurture the wine culture in the Valley and bring it to the forefront of the Entertainment District.” The Delgados had spent the better part of 14 years in the restaurant industry before opening house. wine. They met while working at Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Larry starting off as a dishwasher, and Jessica as a server. Both worked their way up to managing proprietors within a few years, later selling their shares to start their new business venture. Offering over 100 wines by the glass, the main idea behind the wine lounge was to educate customers on unfamiliar wines as well as encourage them to broaden their mindset when choosing a wine. For the non-wine drinkers, the menu also included beer, mainly from Texas breweries and small craft and micro-breweries. Delgado said for both their wine and beer offerings, they wanted to emphasize supporting smaller, lesser known businesses and try to steer clear of “the big guys.” “We want to make sure that we’re offering something different and we’re giving our customers opportunities to get out of their comfort zone and try something new,” Delgado said. To discover new wines and beers meant traveling to find them. Delgado said both he and Jessica enjoy traveling, as it is an excellent tool to help them stay ahead of trends when it comes to their menu. “Our wine distributors are from all over the world, but a number of them are based here in Texas,” Delgado said. “[When we travel] we get to understand the winemaker and the philosophy of the winery and we love to tell that story.” The business was well received by the public, but Delgado quickly realized that they needed to add a kitchen. House. wine. debuted its kitchen, nixed the furniture, and became house. wine. & bistro. in November 2009. “At that time, it was hard to find restaurants that were serving foods like risotto, escargot and pork belly—things we loved to eat,” Delgado said. “They weren’t mainstream [in the Rio Grande Valley], so we wanted to make these foods more accessible to the public.” Seeking the freshest, most ethically grown ingredients, house. wine. & bistro. began sourcing their foods for their menu from local farmers, such as Yahweh’s All Natural Farm & Garden in Harlingen. “Our menu is really driven by ingredients,” Delgado said, “so we work very closely with local farmers that grow different organic vegetables and herbs depending on the season and we build our menu around that.” The restaurant also sources its meats from local farmers who raise the animals organically and responsibly. A popular menu item, the McAllen Burger, hails from beef sourced from the legendary McAllen Ranch.

“People have learned to put their faith in us and trust in our brand. And without that trust, we never would have been able to open our second or third restaurant, much less keep our doors open.”

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Delgado stated that although the bistro was offering unique and delicious menu items and wines that no one else had, it was still a challenge building up trust among customers. “There are so many customers that know what they want and don’t want to try something new or unfamiliar. I think we’ve all been that customer.” Delgado added that although it wasn’t easy trying to redefine perspectives (and taste buds), he is grateful to have gained the loyalty of his customers. In its first 10 years of business, house. wine. & bistro., the Delgados’ first restaurant, has undoubtedly become a vital thread in the tapestry of the Rio Grande Valley. “People have learned to put their faith in us and trust in our brand. And without that trust, we never would have been able to open our second or third restaurant, much less keep our doors open,” Delgado said. “And I think it’s a testament to our tenacity that we’re here 10 years later, still growing our business.” For more information on house. wine. & bistro., contact the restaurant at (956)994-8331 or visit the website at housewineandbistro.com.

JAN/FEB 2019

La r r y D e l g a d o, own er


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WORK HARD, COWORK HARDER More Collaborative Workspaces Emerging in Rio Grande Valley

What do a coffee bar, postsecondary campus, magazine, brewery, educational advocacy organization, and inventor all have in common? They represent a sampling of the diverse businesses with offices at the Center for Education and Economic Development in Mission. Jitterz Coffee Bar, Schreiner University, RGVision Magazine, 5x5 Brewing Company, Teach for America, and Knife Glider, respectively, are a few of the tenants at the CEED building, a coworking space managed by the Mission Economic Development Corporation. “The idea is to nurture creative types, nurture entrepreneurship that exists not only in Mission, but in the Rio Grande Valley,” said Alex Meade, former CEO of Mission EDC — also headquartered at CEED. The CEED building is one of several coworking spaces emerging across the Rio Grande Valley. Of the growing trend of workspaces that encourage collaboration and sharing, Grindstone Coworking was the Valley’s first, opening its doors to freelancers, corporate refugees, and small businesses in 2015 in Edinburg. In 2018, Grindstone opened a new location in McAllen. “I think one of the most exciting things about Grindstone is being able to see the success stories that are coming out of it,” said manager Daniel Rivera. “We’ve seen people come in with part-time memberships that met their business partner within the walls of Grindstone, formed a company, and now are thriving companies.”

Like many of its coworking counterparts, Grindstone offers several levels of membership along with phone booths, private offices, conference and training rooms, and networking events. “Instead of sitting next to that stranger at a Starbucks, you’re sitting next to someone who you’ve developed a relationship with who may have the answer to the problems you have or maybe a connection to the next business opportunity,” Rivera said. It’s those networking opportunities — serendipitous encounters with people in other industries or from other companies — that is one of the major draws of coworking. “Networking is a big reason people come to Venture X,” said Cooper Elliff, community manager of Venture X Harlingen. “There, it’s really amazing to watch our members meet each other, realize that they serve a need that maybe another member has or another member’s client has and organically networking.” Venture X, a coworking company with locations around the nation — as well as in Canada and soon in Australia — also has another space in Brownsville that offers the same amenities as the Harlingen location. Those perks include 10,000 square feet of private, furnished offices, open seating, and monthly membership plans. “Coworking originally was open-seating collaboration that’s expanded into more private offices inside a coworking space,” Elliff said. “So luckily, when Venture X Harlingen was built and established, we already knew that

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JAN/FEB 2019

b y Amy Ca se b i e r | p h ot os b y O m a r D í a z

Most coworking spaces feature a range of benefits to share among members, like the CEED building’s lecture hall, computer lab, smart classrooms, board room, and makerspace.

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UPCOMING EVENTS WED-SUN JANUARY 2-6 + John Milton SATURDAY JANUARY 26 + El Show Chuponcito WEDNESDAY JANUARY 30 + Legally Blonde – The Musical

Grindstone Coworking (956) 990-2190 thegrindstone.co Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday

SATURDAY FEBRUARY 12 + Love Stinks- An Anti-Valentine’s Day Concert

Grindstone Edinburg 506 W. University Drive

SATURDAY FEBRUARY 23 + A Oscuras Me Da Risa (Touring)

Grindstone McAllen 7001 N. 10th St., Suite G2 Venture X venturex.com Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday Venture X Brownsville (956) 443-3481 222 N. Expressway 77, #100 Venture X Harlingen (956) 752-6143 6710 W. Expressway 83, Suite A201 WorkPub Cowork (956) 641-9767 workpubcowork.com Open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday 847 E. Elizabeth St. Brownsville, TX 78520

FRIDAY FEBRUARY 22 + Dancing with the Stars Live!

TUE-WED FEBRUARY 26-27 + Chicago: The Musical FRIDAY MARCH 1 + Valley Symphony IV: Hooray for Hollywood TUESDAY MARCH 12 + B – The Underwater Bubble Show SATURDAY MARCH 16 + The Price is Right Live! FRIDAY MARCH 22 + Il Devo: Timeless Tour THURSDAY, MARCH 28 + The Beach Boys FRIDAY APRIL 5 + Valley Symphony V:  The 3B's:   Beatles, Brahms And Beethoven SATURDAY APRIL 13 + Morat TUESDAY APRIL 30 + Tom Jones THURSDAY MAY 30 + Anjelah Johnson 956.681.3800 www.mcallenpac.net

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@MCALLENPAC

JAN/FEB 2019

Center for Education and Economic Development (CEED) Building (956) 379-6016 missionceed.org Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday 801 North Bryan Road Mission, TX 78572

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RGV COWORKING SPACES

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trend was coming. So we have a lot of private offices, a lot of small teams working together that still want the opportunity to collaborate with the people next door to them.” Collaboration leads to new ideas — and new business opportunities. “Coworking has a huge benefit that’s not really talked about, which is the social aspect,” said Luis Urquieta, founder of WorkPub Cowork in Brownsville. “You never know who you’re going to meet, or meet somebody who knows somebody that is that key factor for your business to really work.” WorkPub offers flexible memberships ranging from meeting room-only plans for remote teams to evening- and weekend-only plans tailored toward graduate students. The space also features guest passes and events. “It works well because it facilitates small business growth from networking to flexibility to allowing you to put money into where it really matters versus an office you don’t really need,” Urquieta said. Most coworking spaces feature a range of benefits to share among members, like the CEED building’s lecture hall, computer lab, smart classrooms, board room, and makerspace. In coworking, resources — and ideas — are shareable even if you work for separate businesses. “The idea of not sharing is an old way of doing business,” Meade said. “Now the idea of doing business is to actually share your ideas with others because maybe somebody else has already done that and they would’ve learned something. And now they can share their lesson learned with you, making you a stronger entrepreneur.”


B U S I N E S S ARTICLE PROVIDED BY

Leonardo F. Chang Financial Advisor Edward Jones 4500 N. 10th St. Suite 40 | McAllen 956-630-0241

FINANCIAL FOCUS

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Roth vs. Traditional 401(k): Which Is Right for You? For many years, employees of companies that offered 401(k) plans only faced a couple of key decisions — how much to contribute and how to allocate their dollars among the various investment options in their plan. But in recent years, a third choice has emerged: the traditional versus Roth 401(k). Which is right for you? To begin with, you need to understand the key difference between the two types of 401(k) plans. When you invest in a traditional 401(k), you put in pretax dollars, so the more you contribute, the lower your taxable income. Your contributions and earnings grow tax-deferred until you begin taking withdrawals, which will be taxed at your ordinary tax rate. With a Roth 401(k), the situation is essentially reversed. You contribute aftertax dollars, so you won’t lower your taxable income, but withdrawals of contributions and earnings are tax-free at age 59-1/2, as long as you’ve held the account at least five years. So, now that you’ve got the basics of the two types of 401(k) plans, which should you choose? There’s no one right answer for everyone. You essentially need to ask yourself these questions: When do you want to pay taxes? And what will your tax rate be in the future? If you’re just starting out in your career, and you’re in a relatively low income tax bracket, but you think you might be in a higher one when you retire, you might want to consider the Roth 401(k). You’ll be paying taxes now on the money you earn and contribute to your Roth account, but you’ll avoid being taxed at the higher rate when you start taking withdrawals. Conversely, if you think your tax rate will be lower when you retire, you might be more

inclined to go with the traditional 401(k), which allows you to avoid paying taxes on your contributions now, when your tax rate is high. Of course, you can see the obvious problem with these choices — specifically, how can you know with any certainty if your tax bracket will be lower or higher when you retire? Many people automatically assume that once they stop working, their tax liabilities will drop, but that’s not always the case. Given their sources of retirement income from investment accounts and Social Security, many people see no drop in their tax bracket once they retire. Since you can’t see into the future, your best move might be to split the difference, so to speak. Although not all businesses offer the Roth 401(k) option, many of those that do will allow employees to divide their contributions between the Roth and traditional accounts. If you chose this route, you could enjoy the benefits of both, but you still can’t exceed the total annual 401(k) contribution limit, which for 2019 is $19,000, or $25,000 if you’re 50 or older. You may want to consult with your tax adviser before making any decisions about a Roth or traditional 401(k) — or Roth and traditional 401(k) — but in the final analysis, these are positive choices to make, because a 401(k), in whatever form, is a great way to save for retirement. Try to take full advantage of it. This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

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B U S I N E S S

SEASONS OF LIFE Kairos Chaplaincy Services Offers Variety of Resources In and Out of Workplace

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b y Amy Ca s ebi e r | p h ot os b y J a s on G a r z a

For everything, there is a season — wisdom that Rev. Dr. Leslie Gonzales intimately understands. Gonzales left the Rio Grande Valley after he graduated high school, and his life was a season of plenty. “There’s a passage in scripture that says if we, ‘delight ourselves in Him, He’ll give us the desires of our heart,’” Gonzales said. “I felt that God had given me all the desires of my heart. I traveled. I had become a pastor. I was living the life I had dreamed of.” After 17 years away, he moved back to where he was raised. “I came back to the Valley because I believed God was calling me to a new season,” Gonzales said. “That season was not what I expected at all.” His father had been ill with diabetes, kidney disease, and other ailments, but died within 16 months of

Gonzales’ return. Around that same time, Gonzales and his wife had twin boys born who fell behind their milestones. Autism diagnoses presented a new set of challenges to parenthood. But time didn’t stop to give Gonzales the space to grieve or cope. “As I was going through these things, I was still expected to carry on with life,” he said. “My family owns a small business in Harlingen. I was trying to hold the business together, I was trying to support my mother in her grief, I was trying to support my wife as she was raising our children, but it was just very, very difficult in light of what I had just gone through.” But a seed sprouted from his season of difficulty — a desire to assist others struggling with their own issues. “There are so many other people who go through these

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things every day, and yet they’re also expected to work, they’re also expected to push through these things,” Gonzales said. “I wanted to be a resource to them to help them to walk through their seasons.” He founded Kairos Chaplaincy Services LLC to help meet spiritual, emotional, and relational needs in and out of the workplace, according to the organization’s website. The word kairos is a term that comes from biblical Greek, meaning an appointed season, occasion, or time. “I realized all of us have these appointed moments in our lives,” Gonzales said. “Sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re bad, but they’re always specifically for us. We need people who can come alongside us when we experience these kairos moments of life.” Kairos Chaplaincy Services is headquartered in Harlingen, though Gonzales is currently remodeling the physical offices. He often finds himself making house calls, of sorts, to businesses and other entities who hire him for Kairos’ services. These services include professional chaplaincy, Christian counseling, instructional seminars and workshops on a variety of topics related to his expertise, team building, professional coaching, religious services, and public speaking and preaching. Right now, Gonzales is contacted the most for his professional chaplaincy services in workplaces big and small. “In the beginning, it’s just about building trust,” he said regarding what his services look like onsite for employees of companies he serves. “As I begin to build that trust, they begin to open up about their personal lives, about their professional lives, about any struggles they might have.” Gonzales said that he understood the perspectives of both employers and employees when it came to overcoming issues in the workplace. If employees are going through a personal crisis, they might not be productive in the office. But employers need their workers to be effective, or the business won’t thrive. Identifying issues and creating plans of action to address them — from those personal crises to conflicts with coworkers — is where Gonzales comes in. And employees don’t have to be religious in order to reap the benefits of Kairos Chaplaincy Services. “I simply spend time with each person, listening and utilizing the skills I’ve learned through the years,” Gonzales said. “For those who are spiritual in their life, then I’m spiritual. I’ll pray with them. For those who aren’t, then I’ll carefully listen and help them process some of the things they’re going through.”

“I want people to know that there is something out there for them. I want employers to know there is a service out there they can offer to their people that is mutually beneficial.” Re v. D r. Le s l i e G on z a l e s ,

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The feedback he receives for his services is overwhelmingly positive — from entry-level workers to company CEOs. Sometimes, all people need is the opportunity to be heard, and the sense that help is available. “I want people to know that there is something out there for them,” Gonzales said. “I want employers to know there is a service out there they can offer to their people that is mutually beneficial.” To learn more about Kairos Chaplaincy Services LLC, or to schedule an appointment with Rev. Dr. Leslie Gonzales, visit www.kairoschaplains.com or call (956) 332-3040.

JAN/FEB 2019

Kairos Ch aplain cy Services, L LC


H E A L T H

IN THE

ORANGE ZONE State Representative Branches Out from Law to Fitness Business

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JAN/FEB 2019

b y Ka r i na Va r g a s | p h ot o b y J a m e s H or d

While the Rio Grande Valley has no shortage of traditional gyms for its residents to work out in, one particular fitness studio has set itself apart from the crowd. Texas state Rep. Eddie Lucio III, along with his business partners, wife Jaime Lucio, and Michael Gutierrez, opened his first Orangetheory Fitness location in his hometown of Brownsville on Nov. 20, 2017. His second Orangetheory Fitness location in Harlingen opened Dec. 28, 2018. Orangetheory Fitness studios offer members group personal training workouts based on high intensity interval training that blends cardiovascular and strength training. According to its website, orangetheoryfitness. com, Orangetheory’s heart rate monitored group interval fitness concept was formulated to stimulate metabolism and increase energy levels all while providing members with group support and coaches’ guidance. Lucio said when he first started working at the Legislature as a young attorney in 2007, he noticed that he and his colleagues’ physical activity levels were declining, they were slowly gaining weight, and feeling unhealthy overall. He decided to make healthy changes for himself and encouraged his colleagues to do the same. “I started inviting staff to work out together. We would host seminars at work where medical professionals would come and take our blood pressure and teach about making healthier choices, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator,” he said. Within a few months’ time, he and his colleagues

started to see not only physical changes, but positive mental changes as well, such as improved mood and mental clarity. “At this point, I was already a promoter of fitness, but I never thought it would turn into a business,” Lucio said. Years later, “when we were looking at different industries to invest in, [Orangetheory] seemed like such a natural fit.” He said that his business partners each bring a different vital component to the business that helps it to thrive. “I just spoke to high school students about entrepreneurs,” Lucio said. “One of their teachers actually joined our Orangetheory studio and wanted us to address them.” One of the pieces of advice Lucio gave the students about starting a business was to surround themselves with people who have expertise that they do not. Lucio said that he was fortunate to have his two business partners possess different areas of expertise than he did, which made for an ideal business team. Gutierrez had already been a successful personal trainer for over 16 years, which strengthened the fitness side of the business, while Lucio’s wife, Jaime, had a great understanding of finances, which brought the financial component. Lucio himself had spent most of his career in marketing and sales in addition to his legal background. “It just made for such a cohesive team,” he said. “If you want to grow your business, you have to put the right people in place on your team to make that happen. If it wasn’t for putting together this great team, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

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And in its first year of business, it has indeed grown. Brownsville’s Orangetheory Fitness studio currently includes about 750 members. Class sizes normally range anywhere from 32 to 48 members per class. Classes are offered weekdays from 4:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Saturday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sunday from 8:15 a.m. to 2 p.m., accommodating all types of schedules. A typical Orangetheory Fitness workout is about an hour in length and includes both cardiovascular and strength-training intervals with periodic breaks. Workouts range within five different levels of monitored heart rate zones and are designed for members to spend 12 or more minutes in the Orange Zone to raise their heart rate between 84 to 91 percent of their heart rate maximum. Members rotate between starting on treadmills, bikes, and striders. The second half of the class takes place on the weight-room floor, using a variety of equipment. Fitness coaches are available to help correct form, coach and work with every member individually. Lucio said that the dedication of his staff is part of what keeps members coming back. “We’ve created an inviting studio culture where our

members look forward to coming in and being a part of our community,” he said. “There is so much satisfaction that comes from hearing members say that they are meeting their fitness goals and it’s changing their lives.”

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Harlingen Orangetheory Fitness 6710 W. Expressway 83, Suite 104, Harlingen, TX 78552 (956) 752-3470 harlingen.orangetheoryfitness.com Facebook- Orangetheory Fitness Harlingen Instagram- otfharlingen

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Brownsville Orangetheory Fitness 3230 Pablo Kisel Blvd., Suite E-109 Brownsville, TX 78526 (956) 443-0206 brownsville.orangetheoryfitness.com Facebook- Orangetheory Fitness Brownsville Instagram- otfbrownsville

JAN/FEB 2019

CONTACT INFO:


H E A L T H

EARLY PREVENTION Valley Care Clinics Urologist Encourages RGV Patients to Address Issues Immediately

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by Amy Casebier

When Desmond Adamu, MD, was a child growing up in Cameroon, his father made sure he and his siblings never forgot where they came from. “We would regularly visit our extended family and go back to our village,” he said. “You definitely see that there are some challenges in the community in general, and the ones that affected me personally were a lot of times medically related.” Adamu witnessed people experiencing ailments that dramatically affected their quality of life and the ability for their families to lead normal lives. “I think that put in me the desire to want to do something that would be able to help those conditions [and] those situations,” he said. “I think that drew me toward medicine and made me interested in medicine,” formulating questions such as, “How do we cure illnesses? How do we help people with chronic illnesses live the best lives that they can?” Now, Adamu is a urologist, practicing since October 2018 at Valley Care Clinics McAllen Urology. He received his undergraduate degree from Texas Southern University in Houston, went to medical school at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, and completed a general surgery internship at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, where he also completed his residency in urology at the University of Miami.

encompasses such a broad spectrum, incorporating both medical management of patients and surgical solutions. "Another thing that I really loved about urology was that it’s one of the specialties that was first in adopting [advanced] technology — especially when it comes to robotics, such as the da Vinci® [Surgical System],” he said. “Being able to do a very delicate surgery, minimizing human error because of how refined the motions of the robots are, is really something that is appealing to a lot of urologists.” The opportunity to use the da Vinci® Surgical System in his urology practice was just one of the benefits that attracted Adamu to the Rio Grande Valley. “The growth here is extraordinary. I definitely wanted to go to a place that was ready to embrace technology [such as] robotics in surgery,” he said. “I absolutely wanted to go to a place where I could put my robotic training to use and to be able to do what’s best for the patient.” Adamu remains driven by his passion for service and his memories of seeing an individual’s health taking a toll on that patient’s family. “For me, it’s always been about the patient and their families and how they’re affected,” Adamu said. “I always want to do what’s best for a patient, what’s best for their family, what will help them be prosperous members of society.”

INTEREST IN ROBOTICS PIQUED At Meharry, Adamu had the opportunity to work directly with surgeons — something that normally doesn’t occur until a residency. And at the University of Miami, Adamu had the chance to learn about another childhood passion: robotics and technology. “I was lucky enough to be at the University of Miami in an era where robotics was all the rage,” he said. “I think a lot of our attendings and our professors were really considering the future [of] urology using robotics. As an instrument, it has its place.” Urology interested Adamu from the beginning since it

CONDITIONS IN MEN AND WOMEN Urology addresses dysfunctions of the urinary tract and genitalia, including urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, and benign prostatic hyperplasia, among other conditions, as well as prostate, urinary tract, bladder, kidney, penis, and urethra cancers. Urologists also assess and address male infertility. “Coming from an African family, having a child is one of the life goals of many parents,” Adamu said. “Not being able to achieve that can be very distressing to a lot of people. We treat male aspects of infertility, some of which can be surgically corrected, and a lot of people don’t necessarily

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Dr. D e s m on d A d a m u , Valley Care Clin ics u rologist

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“The growth here is extraordinary. I definitely wanted to go to a place that was ready to embrace cutting-edge technology as is represented with the robotics in surgery.”

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PATIENT EDUCATION CHALLENGES One challenge in patient education that Adamu says he sees all the time is the reluctance for male patients to do something about their urological issues. Even though Viagra® — that little blue pill — had a hand in revolutionizing the discussion of such issues, they remain sensitive. “So many men that come into the office are brought in kicking and screaming by their loved ones — their wives, their girlfriends, their significant others,” Adamu said. “I think there are a lot of factors that go into that — the machismo. Men would not go to a place where they would feel vulnerable, necessarily.” That becomes an issue when patients neglect to take steps to address their health issues. Allowing an ailment to progress into something more serious when it could have been easily dealt with earlier can have wide-ranging effects. “Sometimes, what patients are really emotional about is not necessarily the thing that plagues them, but the way it affects the ones that they love,” Adamu said. “If you’re ill because you did not address a problem in a timely fashion or if you succumb to an illness that could’ve been treatable, the family that you’re trying to look after, the job that you’re trying to do, the goals that you’re trying to accomplish [all those intentions] just go with you to the grave. “It’s hard sometimes to get that message through, but it’s really important to come in early. Whatever the situation is, we can always figure out a plan.” Dr. Desmond Adamu practices at Valley Care Clinics McAllen Urology, 1801 S. Fifth St., Suite 209, McAllen, TX 78503. Contact him at (956) 318-1129. For language assistance, disability accommodations and the non-discrimination notice, visit our website at www.valleycareclinics.com.

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know about this.” Urologists also see female patients for a wide variety of issues — urinary incontinence among them. Adamu describes advertisements for female adult diapers that highlight fashion-forward designs, discreet profiles, and colors meant to mimic underwear. What isn’t addressed, however, is that some women might not have to resign themselves to wearing adult diapers in the first place. “Some of them could be treated by conservative measures, like physical therapy exercises that could help women gain or improve their continence,” Adamu said. “Some of them can be treated surgically with procedures that could help restore women’s continence. We need to address that and we need to educate our patients on that.”


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WORKOUT TRENDS Throwback to ‘80s Workouts that Still Get Us Closer to Our Fitness Goals by D a nya Per ez 50


‘80s after a study showed these were a good alternative to treadmill exercise. And because of the low-impact provided by the trampoline, these were advertised as perfect for those with back pain or joint issues. Trampoline workouts are only a search away in online platforms such as YouTube. And for those who might get turned off by having to investing in the equipment to do it at home, these classes are also still available at some gyms and fitness studios. One not-so-friendly on the joints option that outlived the era is the always fun, yet sometimes regrettable, Step Aerobics. Once you got a hold of a plastic box-step and a hang of the moves, these high-energy, coordinated routines made you feel like you and your classmates could be featured in your own video. But after gliding over the step for a few-too-many turnsteps, grapevines and v-steps, your joints might’ve not been as excited as you were. These videos and box-steps are still available for purchase or online. And in efforts to make these moves a little more joint-friendly, cushioned box-steps were also made available, even though a soft step might slow your perfect routine a bit. And who can forget the Tae Bo craze of the early ‘90s, which was actually born in the early 80s out of Billy Blanks’ own garage. His love of martial arts led him to create a workout mix of taekwondo and boxing, using moves such as fast-paced kicks and punches for cardio purposes only, as these were not meant for combat or self-defense. The workout quickly became hit with people of all ages who didn’t hesitate to make Blanks’ videos an infomercial success. Today, we can find traces of this craze amid rows and rows of boxing bags found at the many kickboxing and mixed martial arts gyms, which still offer high-intensity workouts and the ability to punch the stress away. So whether you are looking to bring back the bright leotards or just burn calories, now it’s easier than ever to relive the workouts that initiated today’s fitness fads.

We now have the privilege to access these videos right on our phones, tablets, or computer without filling up cabinets with VHS tapes.

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Popping in a VHS tape for a quick Jazzercise session, or perhaps to have Jane Fonda or Billy Blanks take you one step closer to your dream body, were a few of the living-room-friendly fitness options of the ‘80s and ‘90s. And although VHS players, bright leotards, and leg warmers are practically extinct, some of the moves replayed by many of us over and over prevailed. Cardio and aerobic exercise videos were extremely popular in the ‘80s and ‘90s with many different routines to choose from. And new versions of these high-energy workouts remain the go-to for many of those trying to stay active, have fun, and burn some calories while they’re at it. Fonda and other workout-video goddesses like Denise Austin and Paula Abdul were the closest to today’s workout classes or videos, many of which are easily accessible on online platforms such as Pinterest and PopSugar. We now have the privilege to access these videos right on our phones, tablets, or computer without filling up cabinets with VHS tapes. Abdul’s dance videos and the well known Jazzercise are said to be a precursors to other dance crazes such as Zumba, which has had millions of people across the country and world dancing and sweating to Latin rhythms. And although this popular workout was created in Colombia in the ‘90s, it didn’t reach U.S. viewers until the early 2000s. Another good example of dance exercise prevalent in the ‘70s and ‘80s are the hi/lo workouts, which stood for high impact and low impact. These choreographed routines mixed low-impact dance moves with highimpact moves such as grapevines and knee lifts, and were popular among those seeking to burn calories with a fun aerobic exercise. Today we can still find these type of hi/lo techniques in dance cardio workouts aimed at burning fat while having fun and without the need for equipment. Many online workout outlets give you a variety of options when seeking these routines. Mini trampoline workouts also became popular in the

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H E A L T H

ONE STEP

AHEAD Area Patients Relearn and Adapt with the Help of an Exoskeleton

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by Da nya Pe r ez

At a glance it’s hard to imagine that what looks like a backpack connected to leg braces could be the key to faster recovery for many relearning to walk. From the initial lift from sitting to standing position; to weight shifts between steps; to the proper height their feet should reach. It all matters. The Ekso Bionics GT exoskeleton helps maintain body alignment and provides support with every aspect of walking, allowing stroke patients or those with spinal cord injuries to walk with little to no assistance sooner. “It maintains body alignment, high repetitions, and it’s functional and relevant to the patient,” said Dr. Michael Auer, director of rehabilitation therapy services at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance. “The brain just eats that stuff up, it really adapts and relearns at a higher rate. And that’s what Ekso does.” DHR first acquired the technology in late 2016 and now has two devices and nearly 70 patients who have used it as part of their rehabilitation treatment. It is the only hospital using the exoskeleton as part of its physical therapy program along the Mexico border, attracting local and international patients. “Our goal is to get them to use Ekso, to then not use Ekso,” Auer said. “They are using Ekso so that they can then progress out of it and be walking on their own. That’s our whole focus here.” The first to use it in early 2017 was 43-year-old Donnie

Barajas, of McAllen, who had to relearn every aspect of walking after a car accident that same year. Barajas was in the hospital for nearly three months with a broken back and peripheral-nerve damage. And even though he hasn’t regained 100 percent of movement or feeling in his legs, he went from not being able to balance himself standing at all, to walking with the help of a cane alone. Barajas was known to his family as an independent man, always on his feet while working as an automotive technician, or at the gym, he said. So this injury and the havoc of it all was a shock to him and his family. “When an injury like that happens to you, your brain kind of plays tricks on you because you are built with warning mechanisms,” Barajas said. “When I stood up for the first time I literally felt like I was walking on a couple of basketballs or something. I had no stability at all. My brain would begin to tell me ‘You are gonna fall. You are gonna fall.’ So anything would freak me out.” It was that mental confidence that Barajas described as the greatest benefit of having access to the exoskeleton. Once his brain realized that he was stable enough to walk, those warnings and hesitations allowed him to move forward with the therapy, he said, with and without the device. Ekso GT is the first exoskeleton approved by the U.S. Department of Health’s Food and Drug Administration —

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FDA — for patients like Barajas recovering from most spinal cord injuries or those suffering the aftermath of a stroke. This doesn’t mean that it cannot be used for other injuries, Auer clarified, but that’s what the company is approved to promote it as. “Have we used it for other diagnosis? Absolutely, we use it for MS (Multiple Sclerosis), and Guillain-Barré, and traumatic brain injury,” he said. “All of those diagnosis we see great results. So there’s a lot of research going on to validate FDA approval for all of those diagnosis.” The device weighs about 45 pounds and accommodates patients between 5 feet to 6 feet, 2 inches tall and up to 220 pounds. There are certain qualifications to use it, such as not being pregnant or having certain surgical impediments, Auer said. Those who have not stood for a long time have to be on a standing program for at least three days and receive a bone density test to make sure there is no risk of fractures. Once the patient qualifies, the device tracks their progress by saving data such as number of steps and distance traveled. Therapists can also control how much help patients get from the suit, as it can fully complete a motion on its own or simply

provide stabilization and guidance. This in order to get the patient ready to control their own movements and not depend too much on the exoskeleton. Barajas began by using the device once or twice a week, and got to a point to where he was in it for about an hour a day, sometimes alternating between the device and crutches. “At first they would start me off with 20 to 25 steps, then it was 50 steps, then 75 steps,” he recalls. “I kid you not, I did that thing for a whole week, five days, every day. My therapy was an hour-and-a-half at a time and I would be in that Ekso suit it for an hour and 10 minutes of it.” From standing, to walking, to sitting down again, Barajas practiced it all. And even as he saw clear physical results, he said for him, it was the mental aspect that improved the most. “For me, it was the physical and emotional part of just walking and standing is what that machine helped me the most with,” he said. “You are somewhat back to normal. So there was no more fear of walking, no more fear of ‘hey you are going to fall.’ The warning mechanisms kind of shut off a little bit.”

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“It maintains body alignment, high repetitions and it’s functional and relevant to the patient.”

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H E A L T H

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ALTERNATIVE EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS FOR AT-RISK YOUTH STATISTICS ON AT-RISK YOUTH According to the National Center for Education Statistics, from 2010 to 2016, the high school dropout rate in the U.S. fell from 7.4 percent to 6.1 percent. In Texas, the dropout rate is much higher. One out of every four students in Texas fails to graduate, which translates to 99,960 students lost in the 2016-17 school year, according to the Intercultural Development Research Association. In the same study, Black and Hispanic students are also two times more likely to not graduate in comparison to white students. The Texas Education Agency has criteria that identify students who are at-risk of dropping out of school. The student has to meet one or more of the 13 criteria delineated. Some of the criteria range from not advanced from one grade level to the next for one or more school years; did not perform satisfactorily on an assessment instrument administered to the student; has been placed in an alternative education program in accordance with TEC §37.006; has been expelled during the preceding or current school year; and is currently on parole, probation, deferred prosecution, or other conditional release.

ALTERNATIVE SCHOOLS Over the course of the years, the school system has modified its curriculum in hopes of improving the quality of education for its students. One such example of this enhancement is the creation of alternative schools. Alternative schools were made to separate the students who were having trouble keeping up with the standards of regular schools or who were misbehaving for various reasons, 1999 study shows. Alternative school programs are implemented with the intent to address at-risk students’ specific needs another study. Additionally, that same 1998 study reported these programs are typically referred to as “second chance” programs. The way alternative schools have been managed has demonstrated varied results. There have been many instances where students lose their motivation or separate themselves further away from having educational aspirations the 1999 study shows. Additionally, students attending alternative schools may experience being treated as second-class citizens because of the negative public perception concerning alternative schools a 2005 study finds. That same study

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exploring perceptions of alternative schools highlighted that a student reported being advised against moving to an alternative school because “that is where all the people who can’t make it in the real world go”. Literature research reveals that U.S. alternative schools vary in terms of curriculum, and they are more flexible in their academic approach in order to cater to a student’s specific needs. As per Lehr, Lanner, & Lange’s nationwide study on alternative schools, they found the curriculum required for these programs also varied widely across states.

household and are of low socioeconomic status. The program involves students in innovative and outreach opportunities encompassing sustainability, including outdoor conservation, growing, and community outreach, a 2018 U.S. News story reads. Beyond the classroom setting, the high school offers extracurriculars that range from culinary classes, basketball, a robotics team, and a sustainability club. THE STUDENT BODY

• • • •

FOR EXAMPLE, SOME STATE LEGISLATION ADDRESSED: (a) required academic subjects (b) others addressed discipline procedures, and/or

Tier 3 alternative schools provide a remedial focus on the academic, social, and/or emotional needs of the child (1998).

Due to significant anecdotal evidence of the impact this program has had in the students’ lives throughout the years, Dr. Mercado’s Clinical and Multicultural Research Lab will seek to provide evidence of the effectiveness of program application on essential student outcomes in this at-risk population. The results of this evaluation may help in the development of similar future programs and may increase the quality and standard of the current program at Buell Central High School. Further, the study can shed light into the current mechanisms and approaches of South Texas alternative schools, and the risk and protective factors of its student body and aim to expand the current literature on at-risk Texan/Latinx students.

State policies often specify disruptive behavior, expulsion, or suspension as entrance criteria and many students attend alternative schools via mandatory placement rather than by choice 2009 research shows. Since the 1960s, alternative programs have grown to meet the needs of its student body a 2016 studies finds. Given that, for some students, these alternative programs often are the last opportunity the classroom setting has adapted to be smaller and more engaged with supportive methods for emotional and behavioral aspects of the student body.

References Available Upon Request (Co-authors include Dr. Mercado’s Mental Health Lab at UTRGV: Abigail Nunez-Saenz, Andy Torres, Jose Garcia, Paola Salazar, Maria Sevilla-Matos, Stephanie Arellano, and Joseph Alaniz)

A LOCAL INNOVATIVE ALTERNATIVE PROGRAM IN THE RGV

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Buell Central High School is an alternative school program in the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District and serves as one of nine high schools in the district. Located in Pharr, the Buell alternative program serves approximately 200 at-risk students who mostly come from a primarily single-parent

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Tier 2 alternative schools focus on the modification of behavior and are considered as a student’s “last chance” before being expelled

Consist of students with a history of probationary offenses and conduct problems

ARTICLE PROVIDED BY

ALFONSO MERCADO, PH.D., LICENSED PSYCHOLOGIST Valley Psychological Services - assistant professor Department of Psychology at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley | www.utpa.edu/psychology

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97 percent considered economically disadvantaged

CLINICAL MULTICULTURAL MENTAL HEALTH LAB: PROJECT BUELL

LANGE EXPLAINS THAT ALTERNATIVE SCHOOLS ARE CATEGORIZED IN DIFFERENT TIERS Tier 1 alternative schools may resemble magnet schools as they are schools of choice

100 percent categorized as minorities/Hispanic

*Data as per 2015-16 school year

(c) the availability of social services in their alternative schools (2003).

23 percent are female students


H E A L T H

MORE THAN SHYNESS Understanding Social Anxiety and Ways to Conquer It

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b y Ka r i n a Va r g a s One of the most common forms of anxiety disorders, social anxiety disorder is invisible to the eye. To those who suffer with it, it is a crippling fear that keeps them from participating in most kinds of social situations not for lack of want, but from the sheer fear of embarrassment or judgment from others. Social anxiety disorder, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, is “the intense anxiety or fear of being judged, negatively evaluated, or rejected in a social or performance situation.” It can be brought on by any number of risk factors, “including genetics, brain chemistry, personality and life events,” the ADAA states. It may be more common than you think. ADAA.org states that anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S. today, affecting 40 million adults age 18 and above (not including children and adolescents), or 18.1 percent of the population. Of those with social anxiety in particular, even though effective treatments are widely available “fewer than 5 percent seek treatment in the year following initial onset and more than a third of people report symptoms for 10 or more years before seeking help,” the ADAA says. This could be due to a number of factors, including mental health stigma, or discrimination against those with mental

health problems. According to mentalhealth.org, even though a large percentage of our population is affected with various forms of mental illness, “there is a strong social stigma attached to ill mental health, and people with mental health problems can experience discrimination in all aspects of their lives.” In fact, “nearly nine out of ten people with mental health problems say that stigma and discrimination have a negative effect on their lives,” mentalhealth.org states. Society has formed negative stereotypical views about mental illness and the ways that it affects people. This is the unfortunate reality for those with social anxiety disorder — a population that is already hyper-sensitive and painfully aware of judgment and rejection from others. This may make it more difficult for social anxiety sufferers to seek help, but help is available to those who look for it. At what point should someone with social anxiety disorder seek professional help? Robert Marez, a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner in the Rio Grande Valley, says it’s time to seek professional help when avoidance of people, relationships, and social situations is causing a significant level of impairment in one’s life. “A big part of social anxiety disorder is avoidance,” Marez

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said. “They’ll go to great lengths to avoid social situations, they seek jobs where they don’t have to be around people, they won’t go to school to avoid doing group projects or presentations to the point where they may end up failing classes, they’re unable to make friends or have intimate relationships with others.” There are several treatment options available. One of the most effective first lines of treatment, according to Marez, is cognitive therapy from a licensed therapist. “Cognitive behavioral therapy has been the only type of therapy to prove effective in permanently alleviating anxiety disorders and depression,” the Social Anxiety Institute states on its website, socialanxietyinstitute.org. The website also states cognitive therapy can cause “permanent changes in the brain’s neural pathways” to help turn irrational thinking into rational thinking and ultimately, effectively changing behavior patterns. Marez said in addition to cognitive therapy, another form of therapist-guided treatment is exposure therapy. “This involves a lot of active work for the patient. Their treatments will put them in uncomfortable situations that gradually increase in intensity,” Marez said. “The therapist will have them do exercises like calling a business to ask for the store hours, then going in person to talk to someone,

ADAA.org states that anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S. today, affecting 40 million adults age 18 and above.

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then building it up gradually with a lot of support.” Medication is another treatment option that is often used in conjunction with therapy. “There are FDA-approved medications for social anxiety disorder as well, like SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) that can be part of a treatment plan,” Marez said. "There’s a lot of scientific research that shows that these treatments are effective for patients with social anxiety disorder.” If you or someone you know is suffering from social anxiety disorder, “your primary healthcare provider is your best first line of defense,” Marez said. They will be able to address any concerns you may have and can point you in the right direction to take the next necessary steps.

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HEALTHY, ROMANTIC DINNER FOR TWO TURKEY MEATBALL PASTA pho to by Oma r D í a z

INGREDIENTS: ¼ pack of raw whole grain pasta (spaghetti) 7 oz ground turkey breast ½ piece of red onion ¼ cup chopped cilantro 2 cooked tomatoes 3 chipotle peppers 2 garlic cloves sea salt pepper Italian seasoning 3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS: 1. Cook the whole grain pasta in water with 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, the garlic cloves, and Italian seasoning

2. In a bowl, mix the turkey breast with the cilantro, ¼ piece of the red onion (finely chopped) and form the meatballs with your hands

3. Bring the pan to medium heat, add 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, 4. To make the sauce: blend the cooked tomatoes with the chipotle peppers, ¼ piece of red onion, sea salt, pepper and ¼ cup water

5. When the meatballs are cooked in the pan, add the sauce, bring to boil, and continue cooking for 10-15 minutes over a gentle heat

6. Serve 2 plates, each one with 1 cup of cooked pasta, drizzled with ½ tbsp of olive oil, and the half of the meatballs in sauce

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and then add the meatballs

7. Enjoy a dinner made with a lot of love this Valentine’s Day

RECIPE PROVIDED BY:

A N A K ARE N TORRE S Bachelor of Science (BS): Nutrition More recipes can be found on Facebook: @anakarentorresonlinenutrition

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LOOKING BACK ON 10 YEARS OF STARTING THE CONVERSATION b y Ro d Sa nta A n a | p h ot o b y J a m e s H or d

The drive home from San Antonio to the Rio Grande publication would have to be done during what was then Valley can be long and boring. For many, cruising alone being called “possibly the worst national economic crisis through endless miles of desolate ranchland creates since the Great Depression.” hours of mental gymnastics, including introspective “All I had was a name for the magazine,” he said. “I had “think time.” a vision for the Rio Grande Valley and decided that’s what But when Gabriel Puente made the four-hour trek it should be called. Rio Grande Valley, RGV, my vision, that in 2008, his mind was in a cold-sweat crisis. He was was it! RGVision.” consumed with paralyzing fears and doubts about his Ignoring, or maybe ignorant of, the national chorus future and whether he could pull off his plan to start a of doom-and-gloom economic experts, Gabe was business in the Rio Grande Valley. determined to start a publication Then, “clear as day, out of the that would focus on issues blue,” as he puts it, a voice he’s important to citizens of the Rio convinced was God interrupted Grande Valley in an effort to help Gabe’s prayers to soothe his the area grow. anxieties and extinguish his fears. 2008 also happened to be the “All I had was a name for “I had been thinking that I year Hurricane Dolly hit deep South the magazine. I had a wouldn’t be able to get this Texas. Making landfall on July 23, vision for the Rio Grande the storm caused widespread minor magazine off the ground,” said Valley and decided that’s to moderate structural damage, Gabe, the CEO and president RGVision Media, now celebrating what it should be called. flooding, and power outages. its 10th anniversary. Fortunately, Gabe’s brother, Frank Rio Grande Valley, RGV, “But that voice suddenly came Puente, owned roofing company my vision, that was it! down and said, ‘You’re right; you Puente Roofing in Harlingen RGVision.” are not going to do it. But I’m that was much in demand after going to do it through you.’” the storm. Calls from potential G a b r i el P u e n t e, CE O an d presiden t His negative thoughts vanished customers had fallen from a peak of R GV i sion M agazin e an d M edia instantly. of 120 per day immediately after the Until that moment, Gabe had storm, but there was still enough every right to be fearful. He had quit a high-paying business for Gabe to help out with. executive position with a publishing firm in San Antonio, “I was 28 years old, not heavily in debt, but no more had no savings to speak of, and no idea of how to buy his paychecks, so my brother let me stay with him and he next meal or continue paying his bills, let alone to start floated me for a few months while I tried to get RGVision a business. going,” he recalls. On a high wire without a net, he took a giant leap of While the odds were against him, on the positive side, faith and crammed all his earthly belongings in his car Gabe did have a lot going for him. He’d graduated from and headed home with just his vision of a magazine. UT-San Antonio and interned at Montemayor y Asociados, And to make things worse, his dream of starting a the second largest Hispanic advertising agency in the

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AT A GLANCE

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10 years of RGVision magazine, starting with the very first January/ February 2009 issue (top left).

nation at the time. “We worked with Modelo, American Airlines, the Chrysler Group, K-Mart, and others, so I got lots of great experience in advertising and marketing,” he said. “I had developed a huge interest in consumer behavior, the psychology of why consumers make the choices they make.” At 22 he’d been offered an executive position at a similar company in Atlanta, but decided against it. Instead, he worked at various jobs in San Antonio in retail and nonprofit, followed by a stint in Colorado. Then came the job offer that would provide the precise, hands-on experience he would need to start RGVision. “I was approached by a magazine publisher in San Antonio who was looking for an ad salesperson with the experience I had in marketing,” Gabe said. On this job, he became intrigued by the fascinating start-up stories his customers told him — to the point that his supervisor suggested he should spend more time selling, not listening to rags-to-riches stories. “But that’s how people do business,” Gabe said. “A customer likes the relationship that develops from swapping stories and they decide to do business with you. “In fact, it became easier to sell ads in the publication because I felt every customer I talked to had a story to tell.” Soon Gabe became obsessed with the idea of returning to the Valley to share his talents and experience in a way that would benefit the community. “It hooked me,” he said. “I couldn’t really think of anything other than starting a magazine in the RGV. So, I gave my two weeks notice and announced I was returning home to start my own thing. My boss, the publisher, was very supportive.” Gabe’s problem now was where to get the funds for a new magazine, not an inexpensive endeavor. “I just took another leap of faith,” he said. “Because of the financial crisis, businesses were cutting back on advertising. But I was used to working with people on

tight budgets. I drew up a list of Harlingen businesses and started calling on them.” Then Gabe met with the one businessman who would provide the initial boost in getting RGVision off the ground. “I came across Mr. Bob Duncan, of First Community Bank in Harlingen. I knew him because I’d played tennis in high school with his daughter, Lucy. But imagine his side of this encounter. He’s a banker, so he knows all about the financial crisis. Then here comes this young kid selling a new magazine.” Despite it all, Bob Duncan cut a check for $1,700 for Gabe’s new venture. “He paid for six months advertising,” Gabe recalls. “He said he trusted me and knew I was good for it. Integrity and business credibility are huge. And it’s always been my motto to under-promise and over-deliver. But now I had a check in hand. Now I knew I had to get this publication going! “At the time, that’s what people were buying from me: my word,” he continued. “So, September 2008 is when I started selling ads for the publication that would come

...It’s always been my motto to under-promise and overdeliver. G a b r i e l P u e n t e, CE O an d presiden t of RGVision M agazin e an d M edia

out January 2009. But as I visited each customer after the first issue came out, they all loved it!” Gabe said Duncan’s trust in him gave him the momentum to get other advertisers on board who loved the concept of RGVision and the business has continued to grow ever since. Five years in, with another leap of faith, Gabe began

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compiling a media team that has now grown to eight fulltime experts in various fields, a part-timer and an intern, all in the interest of helping both the staff and their customers grow. “I had customers who needed help with websites, others who needed help with social media or video,” Gabe said. “We now have those experts who are a part of a team that knows our mission and goals. And our goals are about providing our customers with the services they need to grow, not just selling more and more ads. It was time to invest in the business; I wanted to invest in people.” Gabe said it’s now not him but the team who is guiding the publication, which frees him up to share his marketing expertise with clients to help them with their marketing agendas, objectives, and goals. “Ultimately, it will be our customers who advocate for us,” Gabe said. “That’s been my business model and philosophy.” Ten years after that fateful drive through rugged South Texas ranch country, RGVision has been a resounding success, distributed at over 450 locations throughout the Valley as well as to readers online, all of whom are buying into the magazine’s mindset and philosophy of regionalism. Along the way, major decisions have been made on the magazine’s presentation, including the use of illustrated covers as opposed to other publications that sell front

page photos of people for the sake of vanity. “During my visits to the Valley when I was still living in San Antonio, I knew there was no publication here that promoted the people for their successes and complimented them for their growth,” he said. “RGVision has changed all that. “If we’re going to compete with Dallas and other large markets, we have to think of ourselves as one region collaborating, not individual areas fighting each other for a piece of the pie,” he said. In an industry in which local publications seem to rotate in and out of business in rapid succession, Gabe believes RGVision has endured because of an emphasis on ethics and clarity. “I think we’ve lasted as long as we have because of our integrity, our credibility and the focused efforts of our team. Ultimately, it’s a vision of our goals and objectives that is clearly defined and shared among our team.” As for the future, Gabe sees RGVision and RGVision Media growing for the benefit of all. “I just want to continue to develop leaders, and expand into a viable company that has triple the employees we have now so we can offer opportunities and career options to the citizens of the RGV in this particular industry. I want them to be successful, contribute to society, and be proud to call the RGV their home.”

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IT ALL STARTS WITH EDUCATION

A strong believer in education and how one teacher can make a lifelong positive influence on a student, CEO and president of RGVision Media and Magazine Gabe Puente said the 10-year anniversary gala to be held in February will benefit Teach for America and feature outstanding local educators. Among them will be Dr. Shirley A. Reed, South Texas College; Dr. Daniel King, superintendent of the PSJA Independent School District; Tom Torkelson, CEO of IDEA Public Schools; and Dr. Art Cavazos, superintendent of Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District. “Education is where it all starts,” Puente said.

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by So fia A le ma n Geovanna Alvarado’s foster parents were the ones who being that supportive, responsible, caring, and nurturing restored the power of family in her young life. “I ended individual who take on the parenting role for these up with a very loving foster family who restored trust in children, which plays a huge part in the children's lives.” me — I had lost trust with the people that I knew as my Circles of Care and other foster and adoption agencies parents because they destroyed the whole idea of what alike place the safety of children as their highest priority parents are supposed to be to you,” she said. “A lot of with “permanency” being the ultimate goal achieved. things that I value now are not things I would have valued Whether children return to their biological families or had I not grown up with my foster family … I believe God become legally eligible for adoption, foster families and brings everyone who crosses your path for a reason, foster agencies only want what will help keep the children and they were a big part of molding me into who I am. thriving in a safe environment. Without learning to love myself I would probably be out in While there are many children in need of a home, the streets or something.” Alvarado lovingly reminisced there are even less foster parents like the one Geovanna about her foster family from almost 15 years ago. described above. Hundreds of children in a year are Before being placed in foster care at the age of 9, circulated through foster families, and without enough Alvarado’s experience was dire. “I would end up like foster parents, some children have to live with families selling things on the street just to in distant cities across Texas, bring home money at a very young which leads to many difficulties age or be forced to steal things — for the child. I'm like digging through trash cans Some reasons that keep There’s a huge need for to find stuff to sell, and I mean no families from pursuing child should have to go through certification as foster parents care for children who are that. So when I came into foster is a combination of a lack in traumatic situations. care, my foster parents were really of information, the idea that We get referrals almost good providers. They were very working full time will hinder on a daily basis for good, loving people and so over their ability to parent a child, a removals. So we want time, they showed me that's what desire to pursue future goals, life with a parent who provides is waiting to become retired with to make sure that we like, you give them everything you no kids of their own in the can meet that need and would want your own children to home, or lack of support from what we need is more have.” one's extended family. foster parents.” According to the Department “There are people who want of Family and Protective Services to become foster parents and Anna A l v a r a d o, family h ome d e v e l oper an d case man ager for website’s regional statistics, there they have a desire to help other f o s te r homes with Circles of Care are over 500 kids across the Rio children in need, but a lot of the Grande Valley who have been times they’re waiting till they withdrawn from their family homes and are currently in have more time,” said Socorro Farias, a current foster foster care. parent in McAllen. “But actually I think the time is now. Anna Alvarado, family home developer and case There are shelters for children but those children could manager for foster homes with Circles of Care, a foster be in a home … If we prolong time, the perfect timing will and adoption agency in Hidalgo County, confirmed those never come because we're such busy individuals. So I numbers. would say to any person that is contemplating becoming “There's a huge need for care for children who are in a foster parent or an adoptive parent, these children just traumatic situations,” she said. “We get referrals almost want somewhere to call home, to be a part of a family, to on a daily basis for removals. So we want to make sure have normal family activities, and to receive support and that we can meet that need and what we need is more mentorship.” foster parents … It's really important that we have foster Other parents ready to take the leap into fostering, parents who are willing to provide a safe and nurturing but haven’t yet, will sometimes delay because they environment and able to meet the kids needs … Most kids struggle with the troublesome thought of loving a child that we've worked with have experienced a combination unconditionally with one day needing to say goodbye of different types of abuse and the foster parent's role is when they return to their biological families. “You still

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FOSTERING LOVE

Cou rt esy ph o t o o f t h e Sw a r in ge n f am i l y, 2015.

Cou rtesy ph oto of th e Swarin gen family, 20 18.

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After fostering Kamila for almost 2 years, Christy and Caleb Swaringen adopted her in October of 2015. Today, Kamila (age 5) now happily resides with her parents, two brothers, Nate (age 8) and Eli (age 3), and her 11-month-old baby foster sister in McAllen.

get attached during those months, which is a good thing. I think that's one of the things that people always say, ‘I don't think I could do it because I would get too attached’ and I always say, no, you should do it because you're going to get attached. That's exactly what the kids need, someone who's consistent, someone's who's there, someone who cares,” said Christy Swaringen, a foster and adoptive mom in McAllen. “It's successful when they go back with their parents and you're so happy for the children and happy for the parents as well. Even if the children become attached, they just love their parent no matter what and they need to be with their parents if it’s possible,” said Elisa Struthers, a foster mom of 12 years with over 90 children having been in her care. While getting reunited with a family member is often best, situations outside of the child’s control sometimes mean they will never return to their biological families. This means they become eligible for adoption and foster parents like Crystal Galvan, share the joy of committing a lifetime of parenthood with their foster child. “A triumph for us was actually being able to adopt our son and finalize it because we already felt attached to him and felt like he had already bonded with us and the rest of our family.” These stories of a victorious outcome highlight the dramatic impact every loving home could potentially show a child in need. “These kids are little and innocent and they need to know that the world is not horrible and cruel, and there are people who will help them, love them and will care for them … When they grow up, what they do with their lives, and how they treat others, will affect all of us in society,” Struthers said. And sometimes the life skills, confidence and love they learn with their

foster family carves different options in life. With some biological families having taken a path of crime or addiction, a life apart from that might mean a more positive route for future endeavors. “I think my life would be a wreck honestly. [My siblings and I] never knew my mom, we were living with my dad and step mom, and we were the poorest of the poor. You know, I honestly don't even think I'd be going to school if I was still there. I wouldn’t be living the righteous life I am now or be anywhere close to where I am,” said Virginia Ramirez, a 26-year-old mother and former foster child, who shared how living with people who restored value in herself and helped shape her life forever. “Despite the struggles I had, it was all God — I don't think I’d be as strong as I am now or the person I am without having to go through those obstacles. Just knowing the meaning of life now and knowing that for everything there's a purpose. I didn't have a mom but right now I have two.” Ramirez recalled her first and third foster families, who continue to play a vital role in her life to this day. Both Geovanna Alvarado and Ramirez agreed that to be a great foster parent, one should have a desire to intentionally provide safe refuge and invest time nurturing the children in their care. Parents who have a willingness to help children even if they don't get anything out of it is a plus, according to Geovanna. “I think if you have that passion inside your heart to provide a home for someone, then be a foster parent. I think if you're willing to not just instill love, but also guide the child. I think that would qualify someone for that … My foster mom would tell me, ‘I'm not here to replace your mom, my job here is to love you unconditionally like I love my kids, because you are worth it and because you are you,’” Geovanna said.

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Halving has a way of polarizing itself per context. A four-hour car ride sounds mitigating when compared to an eight-hour trip, yet losing a parent is anything but a sigh of relief. March 1, 1942, served as a transcendence of life when the unexpected loss of a father left a wife to care for nine children herself. Noe Pro was born minutes after his 50-year-old father’s death in the same hospital on that Sunday in March. A violinist and composer, Miguel Pro unknowingly bequeathed the gift of music to his son, a distributing factor manifesting the blanketed gem of success Noe Pro’s music has become. Noe’s musical debut was at the age of 9, singing on a radio show on KWBU in Corpus Christi. At the age of 16, Noe formed his first band and at 22 his stage success took off after becoming the lead singer and drummer of “The Blue Valiants,” an unorthodox combination for its time. After his addition and development with the band, “Noe Pro and the Semitones” was crafted and crescendoed itself to international recognition with tours across the U.S and a growing following in Mexico. Performing primarily English language rock ‘n’ roll in the ‘60s, the high demand of Spanish language music became a palpable attribute the band’s audience and recording deals from the late ‘60s on. With deals form Mercury, Pharaoh, and Falcon Records, Noe’s hits varied from romantic sways to rousing arrangements. The part-time commitment to music seemed to come with no regrets later in life. A family man and a businessman, success was at home waiting for him every day.

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“My brothers have always been involved in music. In fact, my older brother was the one that taught me my very first guitar chord, which was A-chord. From A-chord I went on to get the rest of them. I’d go to dances when I was 12 or 13 at a place called Galvan Ballroom in Corpus Christi, Texas and instead of going there to dance, I’d go sit next to the band and look at the guitar player to see where he was putting his fingers and I couldn’t wait to get home and try it to see what it sounds like. There was always something, every moment; music was always in my head, in my ears, and in my lips. I never stopped. I never stopped.”

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“So as much as I hate to say this, I didn’t really put my all into it. I mean I did when we were performing or when we were recording — I mean I gave it what I had — but as far as really being like some people who go out and starve themselves to make it, I never really did that. I was very lucky that the talent that I had would always pull me through. I decided that after that tour [in 1972] that I wasn’t going to play anymore because I was taking care of a bunch of grown-up … kids. That’s at least how I felt. That was 1972. That was the last tour I did.”

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“I always remember what my older brother used to tell me, advice that my father gave him and my other brothers, is that he said, ‘Never, ever leave the music, but never depend on it.’”

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STAYING SHARP Help Those Most in Need

b y Ka r i na Va r g a s | p h ot os b y Ra y Pe d r a z a Imagine you are walking through old downtown McAllen and you see a young homeless man sleeping on a bench. If you wanted to help him, where would you start? One Valley man has found a way to reach out to people like him. Former teacher and coach of 12 years Juan Salazar formed a Christian community outreach group in September 2018 called Stay Sharp. He and his volunteers donate their time, money, and resources to help the local homeless community, at-risk youth, prisoners, individuals on parole and other disadvantaged community members. Aside from mentoring and spending time with those in need, Salazar and his volunteers make it a point to show God’s love through their actions as well. On Saturday mornings, you can find Stay Sharp volunteers walking around downtown McAllen, handing out homemade breakfast tacos and coffee to the homeless community. “They’ll actually sit and talk with us about their struggles and it really gives us the opportunity to get to know them and minister to them,” Salazar said. The group’s mission statement is “giving hope to

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individuals, families, and communities through education, mentorship, and outreach services.” Salazar explained that aside from the religious aspect, the heart of what his group does is perform community service and provide mentorship for those in need. “It is faith based, but we don’t want to scare people away with the church and religious language. So [what we do is] basically just loving on people … getting them to see that they have something valuable within them to offer the world,” he said. The name “Stay Sharp” holds a special meaning for Salazar. He explained that his brother had gotten caught up with the wrong crowd, went through tough experiences, and ended up taking his own life in prison. “But he gets to live through us teaching others and sharing his story,” Salazar said. “There are always a lot of negative outside forces trying to mold us, but our job is to stay sharp in our values and convictions. We have to stay on guard, on top of our game, so that’s where the name originated.” Salazar’s passion has long been helping at-risk youth, and he has gotten to spend more time with these young people

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at Stay Sharp’s community center in downtown McAllen. through education,” Salazar stated. “Knowledge is key. I’d Located at 2001 W. Houston Ave., the building has served like to be able to offer a GED course soon.” as a safe place where community members in need can One of guiding principles Stay Sharp operates on is go to fellowship with one another, do activities like weight accountability. Salazar quoted Proverbs 27:17, “As iron training, conduct, and participate in bible study and church sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another,” as an services. example of how Stay Sharp members support each other. The building is currently open to the public 5 to 8 p.m.on “That verse is really how we try to operate. I can’t help Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Bible study for men someone if I'm not also being held accountable, so we all and women is held from 3 to 5 p.m Saturdays and bibletry to be that accountability partner for one another,” he based church service in both Spanish explained. and English is held 10 a.m. to 12:30 Looking to the future, Salazar p.m. Sundays. expressed that the outreach group “We have about 250 people using relies on community support to the center right now,” Salazar said. keep making a difference. So [what we do is] “We would like to be able to extend “We couldn’t be doing all that basically just loving on our hours soon.” we are in the community without people...getting them Aside from helping those on the the time, resources and love that “outside,” the other half of Salazar’s our volunteers give,” Salazar said. to see that they have heart lies with prison outreach for “I’m humbled and blessed by their something valuable adults, and juveniles alike. “We're support.” within them to offer the trying to get into the juvenile state jails For any community members world.” … we want to come up with a program interested in donating, the that would help these individuals in community center is currently Jua n S a l a z a r, Stay Sh arp prison,” he said. “What I encountered accepting donations of boxing Commu n ity Ou treach when I visited the prison was that equipment, large mirrors, canned there’s a lot of sentencing that’s just food, cold weather clothing, and way overboard [for the crime committed], so in this program, monetary donations to help sponsor Stay Sharp’s outreach we would like to act as advocates for law to help rehabilitate efforts. these kids, where they can have accountability.” “Our purpose has always been about giving back and we Salazar said he would like to create a parole system in have already been able to see those positive actions have which the parolees could report to the center and meet positive repercussions,” Salazar said. “I can only imagine with mentors or substance abuse counselors as well as be what the future holds.” provided with job interview and job placement assistance If you would like to help Stay Sharp Community Outreach to make sure they have the necessary tools to keep moving by making a monetary, time or resource donation, contact forward in the right direction. Juan Salazar at (956)467-3043 or at juan.salazar@ In addition to other avenues of support, Salazar onepowermotivation.com. Learn more about Stay Sharp and recognizes that learning is an important building block. ways you can make a difference at onepowermotivation.com. “I want to help empower these people, and one way is

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Your Rio Grande Valley

ADVENTURE GUIDE Explore RGV’s List of Featured Destinations by Explo re RGV & RGVi s i o n

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Explore RGV’s mission is to encourage the exploration of the Rio Grande Valley by highlighting its assets spreading across the four counties: Starr, Hidalgo, Willacy, and Cameron. The Explore RGV directory will put the cities of the Rio Grande Valley, whether rural or large, in the spotlight for locals and visitors to visit. Our intention is to give visitors and residents alike a greater appreciation of our beloved Rio Grande Valley, and to bring everyone here closer together. Explore RGV has compiled a list of the most visited attractions across the Rio Grande Valley. To view videos and more information on these featured destinations, visit www.GoExploreRGV.com. BASILICA OF OUR LADY OF SAN JUAN DEL VALLE NATIONAL SHRINE The Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle National Shrine is a Minor Basilica of the Catholic Church located in San Juan. It is also a national shrine under the direction of the Diocese of Brownsville. 400 Virgen de San Juan Blvd., San Juan, TX 78589 (956) 787-0033 | info@olsjbasilica.org | olsjbasilica.org

DOWNTOWN HARLINGEN (AND MURALS) Many larger-than-life-size murals brighten the streets of downtown Harlingen and decorate walls inside businesses. Most depict aspects of Valley history and culture. 209 W. Jackson St., Harlingen, TX 78550 (956) 216-4910 | downtownharlingen.com/murals EDINBURG SCENIC WETLANDS Edinburg Scenic Wetlands & World Birding Center is a 40-acre destination featuring walking trails for birdwatching and an educational center. 714 S. Raul Longoria Road., Edinburg, TX 78542 moliva@cityofedinburg.com | www.edinburgwbc.org

BENTSEN-RIO GRANDE VALLEY STATE PARK Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park serves as the headquarters for the World Birding Center. 2800 S. Bentsen Palm Drive, Mission, TX 78572 (956) 584-9156 | jzamora@missiontexas.us tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/bentsen-rio-grande-valley

ESTERO LLANO GRANDE Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco attracts a spectacular array of South Texas wildlife with its varied landscape of shallow lake, woodlands and thorn forest. Even beginning birders and nature lovers will enjoy exploring this 230-plus-acre refuge, which is convenient to all the Rio Grande Valley has to offer.

BROWNSVILLE MUSEUM OF FINE ART/LINEAR PARK This museum offers exhibits by local and international artists with programs for kids and adults. 660 E. Ringgold St., Brownsville, TX 78520 (956) 542-0941 | info@brownsvillemfa.org | bmfa.us

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3301 S. International Blvd. (FM 1015), Weslaco, TX 78596 (956) 565-3919 | javier.deleon@tpwd.texas.gov https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/estero-llano-grande

(956) 682-0123 | info@theimasonline.com theimasonline.org ISLA BLANCA COUNTY PARK Isla Blanca Park is located on the southernmost tip of South Padre Island and is the crown jewel of the parks system. Located within the park, there is over a mile of pristine beach along the Gulf of Mexico that offers an abundance of waterfront recreational facilities. 33174 State Park Road 100, South Padre Island, TX 78597 (956) 761-5494 | JEVega@co.cameron.tx.us www.cameroncountyparks.com/IslaBlancaPark

GRACE HERITAGE RANCH Grace Heritage Ranch offers unique educational tours of a 100-acre homestead located in Deep South Texas. They take you along for a fun adventure as we set off to inspire you with the wisdom of our forefathers. We will have an exciting time together as you get to interact with some very special animals. 27539 Old Alice Road, Lyford, TX 78569 (956) 230-6903 | brian@graceheritageranch.com www.graceheritageranch.com

IWO JIMA MONUMENT & MEMORIAL MUSEUM Harlingen’s most recognizable heritage tourism attraction is the Iwo Jima Monument. This massive structure is the original working model used by sculptor Dr. Felix de Weldon in his casting of the official bronze version in Washington, D.C. 320 North Iwo Jima Blvd., Harlingen, TX 78550 (956) 421-9234 | visitorcenter@MMA-TX.org

HARLINGEN ARROYO COLORADO A gateway to the entire World Birding Center network, Harlingen’s Arroyo Colorado is close to major highways and an international airport, but remains a quiet wooded retreat from the hustle of urban life. Connected by the arroyo waterway, as well as hike-and-bike trails meandering through the city, Hugh Ramsey Nature Park to the east and the Harlingen Thicket to the west anchor an important reservoir of nature in a fast-changing world. 1001 S. Loop 499, Harlingen, TX 78550 (956) 427-8873 | jlyssy@myharlingen.us www.theworldbirdingcenter.com/harlingen.html

McALLEN CONVENTION CENTER The McAllen Convention Center is a 174,000-square-foot multi-purpose convention center with a seating capacity of 3,500. Having opened in 2007, it hosts locals sporting events and concerts. 700 Convention Center Blvd., McAllen, TX 78501 (956) 681-3800 | lfernandez@mcallen.net www.mcallenconventioncenter.net

HILLTOP GARDENS Hilltop Gardens is a garden, farm, and Inn! It captures the eternal wisdom of aloe vera and allows you to truly experience the best nature has to offer. 100 Lees Lane, Lyford TX 78569 (956) 262-2176 | info@hilltopgarden.com www.hilltopgarden.com INTERNATIONAL MUSEUM OF ART & SCIENCE The International Museum of Art & Science is a museum located in McAllen. It is dedicated to exhibiting Latin American art, as well as educating visitors about science. 1900 W. Nolana Ave., McAllen, TX 78504

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MUSEUM OF SOUTH TEXAS HISTORY For almost 40 years, the museum has chronicled the heritage of South Texas and Northeastern Mexico, preserving its rich

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McALLEN PERFORMING ARTS CENTER McAllen Performing Arts Center presents a wide variety of nationally recognized productions of music, dance, and theater to the people of South Texas. 801 Convention Center Blvd., McAllen, TX 78501 (956) 681-3800 | lfernandez@mcallen.net

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history. The museum has been a part of the community since 1967. It first opened its doors as the Hidalgo County Historical Museum in the old Hidalgo County jail. Built in 1910, the old jail continues to be one the most important sections of the museum. 200 N. Closner Blvd., Edinburg, Texas 78541 (956) 383-6911 | info@mosthistory.org | mosthistory.org

tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/resaca-de-la-palma SABAL PALM SANCTUARY This 527-acre preserve is host to a wonderful assortment of birds and other wildlife and is home to one of the last stands of old-growth sabal palm jungle in the United States. Green jays and chachalacas frequent our feeders, armadillos rummage around our trails, and great horned owl calls often haunt the forest. 8435 Sabal Palm Grove Road, Brownsville, TX 78521 (956) 541-8034 | gsfinc@gmail.com www.sabalpalmsanctuary.org

OLD HIDALGO PUMPHOUSE (WORLD BIRDING CENTER) On a break from cross-border shopping excursions, visitors to this museum on the Rio Grande can learn about the steamdriven irrigation pumps that transformed Hidalgo County into a year-round farming phenomenon. They also can wander the museum’s grounds, where hummingbird gardens are planned, and where many of the Valley’s amazing bird species are regular visitors, as well. 902 S. Second St., Hidalgo, TX 78557 (956) 843-8686 | theworldbirdingcenter.com/hidalgo.html

SAN BENITO CULTURAL HERITAGE MUSEUM The state-of-the-art Cultural Heritage Museum houses three nonprofit organizations that share a passion to preserve and share San Benito’s rich history. These nonprofits include the Freddy Fender Museum, the Texas Conjunto Music Hall of Fame & Museum, and the San Benito History Museum. 210 E. Heywood St., San Benito, TX 78586 (956) 361-3830 tx-sanbenito.civicplus.com/249/Cultural-Heritage www.freddyfendermuseum.com/index.html

PORT ISABEL LIGHTHOUSE, PIRATE SHIP, & FISHING PIER Constructed in 1852, the Point Isabel Lighthouse was built to protect and guide ships through Brazos Santiago Pass and the barrier islands. In 1952, the lighthouse was opened as a state park and remains the only lighthouse on the Texas Gulf coast open to the public. 421 E. Queen Isabel Blvd. in Lighthouse Square, Port Isabel, South Padre Island, TX 78418 (956) 943-2262 | museumdirector@copitx.com portisabellighthouse.com

SANTA ANA NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge is a 2,088-acre National Wildlife Refuge situated along the banks of the Rio Grande, south of Alamo. 3325 Green Jay, Alamo, TX 78516 (956) 784-7500 | Christine_Donald@fws.gov www.fws.gov/refuge/santa_ana

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PORT MANSFIELD (KAYAKING, FISHING, BAY) Port Mansfield is a port and fishing community on the Laguna Madre opposite  Port Mansfield  Channel in northeastern Willacy County. 101 East Port Drive., Port Mansfield, TX 78598 (956) 944-2354 | portmansfieldchamber@pmchamber.com www.portmansfieldchamberofcommerce.com/joomla30

SEA TURTLE INC. This facility is a sea turtle education, research, rescue and rehabilitation center in South Padre Island. 6617 Padre Blvd., South Padre Island, TX 78597 (956) 761-4511 | seaturtleinc@gmail.com www.seaturtleinc.org

QUINTA MAZATLAN Quinta Mazatlan is now an urban sanctuary working to enrich people’s lives by sharing knowledge about birds, plants, and environmental stewardship in South Texas. Quinta Mazatlan and its WBC partners promote birding and conservation of Valley habitat, especially as it benefits numerous avian residents and neo-tropical migrants. 600 Sunset Drive, McAllen, TX 78504 (956) 681-3370 | chook@mcallen.net www.quintamazatlan.com

SPI BIRDING CENTER/WHALING WALL South Padre Island Birding Center is a beachfront nature area providing a birding boardwalk, interactive exhibit room and observation tower. 6801 Padre Blvd., South Padre Island, TX 78597 (956) 761-6801 | choward@spibirding.com www.spibirding.com VALLEY NATURE CENTER Valley Nature Center is a 6-acre park and nature preserve in Weslaco. Its focus is environmental education about the natural history of the Lower Rio Grande Valley. 301 S. Border Ave., Weslaco, TX 78596 (956) 969-2475 | info@valleynaturecenter.org www.valleynaturecenter.org

RESACA DE LA PALMA STATE PARK Resaca De La Palma State Park has birding in a 1,200-acre space with bike trails, observation decks, butterfly garden and tram tours. 1000 New Carmen Ave., Brownsville, TX 78521 (956) 350-2920

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NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS How to Keep Them Until 2020

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It’s the new year! As usual, people take this time to reflect on themselves and sometimes choose to make lifestyle changes that will positively impact their life. Some of us know the familiar feeling of enthusiastically signing up for the gym January 1, and anxiously questioning our seriousness come February when the membership has only been used a few times. Setting realistic new year’s resolutions and successfully implementing them into our lives is possible. According to Joshua Howard, motivational speaker and CEO of Speaker Corp, doing some strategic planning can make all the difference in keeping your resolutions until 2020. “A lot of people fail at their goals because they look at what aspect of their life they would like to improve but don't sit down to calculate what it's going to take in order to achieve it,” said Howard, who offered some simple solutions to executing practical goals in the new year:

2 KEY PRINCIPLES TO CONSIDER BEFORE SETTING NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS Like an architect, someone must consider their lives as a whole, not just one aspect of change they would like to make while ignoring the rest. Before setting ambitions in motion, consider what you want and what it would actually take to achieve it. 1. Price Examine how your goals will influence you emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually and lastly socially. Consider if you are willing to potentially impede any of these things and if your life change is worth it. “If people don't sit down and calculate the cost that each resolution is going to have, they’re going to start pulling from other resources within their life, and won’t have enough at the end,” Howard said. For instance, consider how much money, time, and energy will be sacrificed to acquire the goal.

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2. Personal Power How we carry out our plan shows the quality of the opportunity we would like to have. Portraying confidence in settings that will help us meet our goal produces seriousness. It’s another way to say “believing in ourselves.” For instance, having a goal of landing a supervisor position means taking your presentation seriously, pursuing the goal faithfully, but also knowing that it can absolutely be accomplished. 3. Philosophy “A philosophy is the unique approach to how we go about our business which influences our behavior,” Howard said. Our philosophy balances our exclusive system of values. Developing personal philosophy statements helps us to keep our priorities in order. These are all based on personal truths that add value to our lives and can guide us when caught between choosing how to spend our time, money, and talents. Some more common statements are “family first,” or when working out saying, “no pain, no gain.” These statements motivate us and impact choices we make. For example a father has a personal goal of becoming a bodybuilder, but doing so may disrupt how much time he spends with his children. If this man had a philosophy of “family first,” becoming a bodybuilder would curb his priorities. Having philosophies like this steers people to make hard choices and organize goals in ways that promote harmony. So despite the need for a little willpower and motivation to start a positive life change, the key to success lies in strategic planning and focus. With patience, confidence, and seriousness, you will accomplish your new year’s resolutions and celebrate in 2020! To obtain more motivational material to inspire youths in schools or employees in your company, contact Joshua Howard at josh@speakercorp.net, or visit www. howardspeaks.com.

THE THREE P’S OF SUCCESSFUL GOAL IMPLEMENTATION: 1. PRESENTATION 2. PERSONAL POWER 3. PHILOSOPHY

1. Presentation Presentation is the way we present ourselves to the world or represent ourselves in general. For example, a serious mechanic always makes sure his car is maintained and clean. Or an administrator dresses professionally to work every day. People have to ask themselves how they would like the world to perceive their seriousness, but more importantly, making sure they take themselves seriously, as well. Part of presentation would include “positive peer pressure.” “When I wanted to quit cursing, I presented myself to people as someone who did not curse — which is ultimately also presenting it to myself and that I'm serious about it,” Howard said. Another aspect of presentation is “symbolism.” An example of a symbol for wanting to change your diet is using golden silverware in your house. It says to your brain that your diet is “regal.” “Symbolism helps you to repeat things like a mantra and take what you’re doing seriously,” Howard said.

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2. Worth “After making sure all aspects of your life will be in harmony you decide whether meeting the goal is worth it,” Howard said. Now comes the real work of following through on your new year’s resolutions. 3 WAYS TO STAY FAITHFUL TO LIFE CHANGES According to Howard, there are important concepts to adopt in order to overcome the adversities of making life changes. He’s coined them as the “The Three P’s” of successful goal implementation.

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Jo s h ua Ho w a r d , m oti v ation al speaker an d CE O of Speaker Corp.

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A lot of people fail at their goals because they look at what aspect of their life they would like to improve but don’t sit down to calculate what it’s going to take in order to achieve it.


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ICE HOCKEY

THRIVING IN RGV

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b y Ir ene Wa z go ws k a | p h ot os b y O m a r D í a z

Ice, cold, skates? Not what immediately comes to mind in the Rio Grande Valley. But there’s a community of skaters and hockey enthusiasts who are hitting the rink and creating excitement about Ice Hockey and the unique environment it exists in. Bruno Arjona grew up playing ice hockey at Frio Grande Valley Ice Skating Center. He first joined the local Junior Killer Bees team at age 8, and now 15 years later is helping coach the team. His experience growing up playing for the team helped shape his childhood and enabled him to travel the world participating in various competitions. Bruno remembers that when the Killer Bees first came down to the Valley, it was something entirely new and “it was so unique and different than anything I’d ever seen.”

He says that there was excitement at every turn. The small close-knit community of ice hockey players became a second home for Bruno. His teammates were like family, and he traveled with them to compete in IIHF World Junior Championships in places like Bulgaria, Taiwan, Turkey, and New Zealand. His team placed third in two different championships, and the memories of his travels make Bruno forever thankful for having had the opportunity to compete. These days, in addition to coaching the youth teams, you can find Bruno playing in the McAllen Adult Hockey League. He plans on competing with the Mexico men’s national hockey team, and growing his skills in the sport. The excitement of ice hockey, the fights and physicality,

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and the sportsmanship, “when the bell rings you shake hands,” make Bruno “plan to play until my body will no longer let me.” In recent years there have been changes with the ice hockey teams, and now there are two Junior Hockey teams, the Killer Bees and the Texas Lawmen, who have helped re-spark the interest of kids. Bruno says that a lot of kids ages 8 to 11 are participating in the sport, more than he’s ever seen before. He believes that it’s “a really good sign for what’s to come.” Craig Lewis started playing ice hockey in Canada when he was 3. When he moved down to the Valley over 20 years ago, he saw a void. He started coaching in-line hockey in Harlingen, where his 14-year-old team won a national championship. The opportunity to develop a new skating rink came with the persistence of the City of Hidalgo, who secured grant money and a bank loan to build the Valley Ice Center. Once the rink was established, then the Killer Bees, a professional ice hockey team, was established. In its heyday, the center would bring in crowds as big as 5,600 and helped bring a whole new sport to the RGV. Craig became the president of the foundation that oversaw the Killer Bees, and they were able to use the money from the adult team to create and fund the youth hockey team. Overtime there was a shift in the ice hockey culture, as city teams dissolved it became more difficult for his team to travel. Craig recalls how “we had a year where there was no hockey,” but that now there is a junior team in McAllen, Wichita, Laredo, and Hidalgo. He says the biggest challenge that they face is that ice hockey is an

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There’s a community of skaters and hockey enthusiasts who are hitting the rink and creating excitement about ice hockey and the unique environment it exists in.

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expensive sport. In addition, the distance that the Valley faces to other parts of the state and country make it more difficult to travel for competitions. But despite any setbacks, the local team league participates every year in tournaments in Houston and San Antonio. He points out that there are a lot of players from Mexico, which makes the team even more unique. Craig says that “countrywide ice hockey is growing.” His hopes are that it continues to exist here in the Valley and adds that “it’s my form of exercise and entertainment.” There is a group of Winter Texans who play twice a week and it’s good to hang out and to workout. There are a lot of young players who play and enjoy it, including his granddaughter. For those who might not want to play ice hockey, but who are interested in skating recreationally, the Valley Ice Center has designated times when it’s open to the public. The center is also utilized for figure skating, available to rent for parties, and fieldtrips. You can view the schedule and learn more at www.friogrande.com/.

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‘EXERCISE COMPASSION’ Local Missionary Views Border Issues Through Eyes of Recent Immigrant

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b y Amy Ca s eb i e r

Alma Ruth understands immigration better than most — especially since she’s done missionary work around the world, witnessing firsthand the movement and struggle of people along many different borders. She’s also a recent immigrant to the United States, herself. Now, the mother of two is dedicating her time and effort to serving needs here, along the U.S.Mexico border, and abroad as a 21st-century missionary. “My perspective is shaped first and foremost by faith,” Ruth said. “Also, as an immigrant — I’m a very recent Mexican female immigrant who has served in a global context. I have lived in other parts of the world where immigration is an issue and I have seen people die because of it.” Ruth has served in Cuba, Honduras, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and other locations around the globe. “My type of service has been very different,” she said. “Traditionally, missionaries leave their country of origin. They go and live with the people in another country for long term. They try to make a difference for the people they’re serving.” That tradition is changing as time — and needs — shift. Ruth has had a hand in helping Mexican seminary students branch out throughout the world — part of the first generation of global Mexican missionaries. Ruth serves here on the border during the school year. In the summers, she looks forward to traveling and serving with her sons. “To finance my humanitarian services, I am seeking to become a social entrepreneur, to launch a blog and become an inspirational speaker,” Ruth said. Her website, Love Mercy, is in its beginnings, and features a link for donations. She also plans to

purchase and resell artisan jewelry from indigenous women in Southern Mexico to help fund her efforts — and support those jewelry-makers. Ruth recently attended an immersive training for clergy organized by the United Methodist Church — an experience she called “life-changing.” It featured tours of the border and a behind-the-scenes look at the Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley Humanitarian Respite Center, as well as talks by an immigration attorney, organizers of a nonprofit organization dedicated to combatting human trafficking, members of a group working in RGV colonias, and Sister Norma Pimentel, organizer of the region’s original response to the surge of immigrants and unaccompanied minors in 2014. “Like Sister Norma Pimentel told us, to be aware of human suffering, we cannot stop being human,” Ruth said. “I’m personally a follower of Jesus and He has given us two orders: to love God and to love our neighbor regardless.” Loving thy neighbor is quite literal when it comes to immigration in the Valley, Pimentel pointed out. “I think that sometimes we have the dream of going off to Africa or somewhere and really help these poor families and people we see sometimes on television,” she said. “We have them here in our own backyard, in our own community arriving daily and needing our help.” Immigration is a hot-button topic in both the RGV and beyond. Summer 2018 saw family separations of immigrants, as well as thousands of troops deployed along the border in the fall in response to a “migrant caravan” of Central American asylumseekers. But for Ruth, politics shouldn’t come into play when it comes to responding to humanitarian issues. “Politics and humanity are two different things,”

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R i o G r a n d e Va l l e y H u m a n i t a r i a n Re s p i t e C e n t e r

“Our main focus has always been a humanitarian response. It’s not political at all — it’s just simply focused on the families that are here in our community that need help.”

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“By the time they arrive at the Catholic Charities respite center, they’re tired, they’re hungry, they’re sick. Usually the respite center is the first place where they’re received with warm food, clothes, and a smile.”

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Alma Ruth

Ruth said. “I can have a very strong opinion about politics, but please don’t stop being a human being and feeling empathy for your human neighbor.” And politics never played a factor for Pimentel as she spearheaded relief efforts for the immigrants being dropped off at the bus station in downtown McAllen. “Our main focus has always been a humanitarian response,” Pimentel said. “It’s not political at all — it’s just simply focused on the families that are here in our community that need help.” Many are fleeing terrible circumstances in their home countries, Ruth observed. “They are not pursuing the American dream, which would be awesome, but they’re escaping a Central American nightmare,” she said. “I think we could handle it better instead of a militarized response.” Better responses might come easier if individuals could experience what immigration really looks like in the Rio Grande Valley, Pimentel said. “They should come and see,” she said. “It is important that they be able to see for themselves what the border is like and that our community here is not a war-torn country, where you should be afraid.” Ruth remarked that her friends in the Middle East often asked her if she was safe on the U.S.-Mexico border,

highlighting the disparity between outside perception of the region versus reality. “We actually are a community with a great compassion and care for strangers because for the most part, a great number of people here on the border are immigrants,” Pimentel said. “We understand the plight of the immigrant.” The United States has an opportunity to thrive in the global spotlight with its response to immigration right here in the Rio Grande Valley, Ruth said. “We can shine the light in the darkness and we can show the world what we’re made of,” Ruth said. “We can do that because we have more than enough in America. We have the best of the world here and we surely can handle immigration reform — if we want to.” Pimentel pointed out the need for a shift in attitude about immigration and the border, including the intentions of the families who cross it. “Yes, our borders need to be safe, and they are — we have Border Patrol doing their job,” she said. “But we must also address an immigration process that is not responding to our needs of today, of why these families are persecuted because of the criminality that exists in their countries. We must recognize them as refugees.” Being a religious institution has helped pave the way for Catholic Charities — and Pimentel — to be a force of nature

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“Exercise compassion toward your fellow human being. Let’s show them that we — you and I, immigrant or fifth-generation American — make America great because of our empathy, because of our compassion, because of our humanitarian efforts.”

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and shoes. Other needed items include hygiene products like shampoo, soap, shavers for the men, rubber bands for little girls’ hair, and food for the snack bags assembled at the center and sent on immigrants’ bus journeys to friends and family scattered across the country, waiting for their cases to proceed. “By the time they arrive at the Catholic Charities respite center, they’re tired, they’re hungry, they’re sick,” Ruth said, recalling what Pimentel told the clergy during the training about immigrants’ experiences. “Usually the respite center is the first place where they’re received with warm food, clothes, and a smile.” The dinner menu there can vary based on what volunteers bring, but one constant is coffee at breakfast — coffee no matter what. “I remember one time we had this little boy who said it was his birthday,” Pimentel recalled. “The father asked him, ‘what would you like for your birthday?’ ‘Una taza de cafe bien rica.’” She laughed at the memory. “That was what he would love for his birthday, a cup of coffee.” A cup of coffee. Clean socks and underwear. A smile. Bienvenidos. “Exercise compassion toward your fellow human being,” Ruth said. “Let’s show them that we — you and I, immigrant or fifth-generation American — make America great because of our empathy, because of our compassion, because of our humanitarian efforts.” Because of a calling to serve a need. “I think God has really wired us just right for everybody — when you see a family in crisis, a person hurting, suffering, it is automatic for us to want to help,” Pimentel said. “It’s very Christian. It’s also very American.” Learn more about Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley and the Humanitarian Respite Center at www. catholiccharitiesrgv.org/respitecenter/home.aspx. Learn more about Alma Ruth’s work at love-mercy.org/.

when it comes to the region’s humanitarian response to immigrants. But that doesn’t dictate who is allowed to take part in those efforts. “It doesn’t matter what faith or denomination you are,” Pimentel said. “It’s the simple fact that you feel called to help others who are hurting.” She added that people on all ends of the religious — and political — spectrum serve at the respite center, from retired nuns to groups from across the country. It comes down to who is called to serve, she said. “We need to check with Him early in the morning, when we open our eyes. That’s one thing that I like to do, is start with Him because I think there’s where He lines up people that He has in mind that He wants you to help,” Pimentel said. “We must be attentive to those people He puts before us in our day. I think that today the immigrant is someone who is here in our country asking for help. They need help in many ways.” That help comes in many different forms — helping immigrants contact their families to buy bus tickets, sorting out representation in court, or volunteering. On the front porch of the McAllen respite center, the doors and windows were thrown open on a sunny Monday afternoon to accommodate the flux of volunteers, donations, workers, immigrants, and cool breezes. “Bienvenidos,” Pimentel called to a line of immigrants waiting to enter the respite center, some wearing surgical masks. A young girl, mouth slack with exhaustion, leaned bonelessly against an adult. “Bienvenidos.” It’s the same greeting printed on a banner draped over the entrance. Pimentel sat in a chair on the porch, shaded by hibiscus in bloom. An elderly woman approached, voice quavering as she asked what she could do to help. She pressed a folded bill into Pimentel’s palm. The biggest need at the respite center, Pimentel said, is the simplest: socks and underwear. If nothing else, those who come to the center can have something clean to wear after they shower to act as a barrier to their dirty clothes

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A lma Ruth


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