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M ARC H/AP RIL 2 0 19 | VO LUM E 11 ISSUE 2

THE VALLEY’S NEST EGG Ecotourism, birding a feather in RGV’s cap amid perception, wall challenges.

RECYCLING

IT’S IN YOUR DNA

RGV’S BEST

McAllen’s recycling program unfazed by China’s environmental chaos.

DNA testing can change the way we view, treat our bodies.

The five top-voted trade professionals in the Rio Grande Valley.


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STAFF D O M I N I Q U E Y. Z M U DA GRAPHIC DESIGNER/ILLUSTRATOR

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It’s no secret that the Rio Grande Valley is home to a unique variety of wildlife. Our cover story takes a

distinct environmental responsibilities. In this issue, you will also read about McAllen’s recycling program in the scope of worldwide recycling concerns, the five top-voted trade professionals in the Rio Grande Valley, and insight on how DNA testing might change your approach to nutrition. Our mission is to provide our readers with quality content that shines a spotlight on the growth and successes of the RGV. Thank you for

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

Dominique Zmuda James Hord Barbara Delgado Silver Salas Gabriel Elizondo Jessica Flores

WRITERS

come with it. Our goal is to shed light on our region’s

CONTENT CONTRIBUTERS

home and the economic and political implications that

PHOTOGRAPHERS

closer look at how our special ecosystem affects our Sofia Aleman Irene Wazgowska Danya Perez Karina Vargas Rod Santa Ana Ana Karen Torres Roda Grubb Lori Houston

picking up this copy of RGVision Magazine. “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.” 1 Timothy 4:4 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 2 RGVISION MAGAZINE

74 ON THE COVER

74

THE VALLEY’S NEST EGG

Ecotourism, birding a feather in RGV’s cap amid perception, wall challenges.

30

TOP T RA DE PROFES S IONA LS The five top-voted trade professionals in the Rio Grande Valley.

4 4 FROM DIET TO HEA LT H C A RE

DNA testing can change the way we view, treat our bodies.

84

EDUCATION

44

BUSINESS

WHERE DOES IT G O? McAllen’s recycling program unfazed by China’s environmental chaos.

HEALTH

QUALITY OF LIFE

Languages of the World

Copy Zone 2.0

Trisomy Awareness

Magnificent Monarch Migration

pg 8

pg 26

pg 48

pg 62

Ongoing Support

Face to Face

Digital Rehab

Save a Life

pg 28

pg 50

pg 64

Mae’s Mission

Solution to the Struggle

Champions of Cosplay

pg 32

pg 54

pg 68

Having a Good Day!

Tropical Ceviche

Hike & Bike

pg 36

pg 56

pg 70

Hometown Heroes

Celebrate Recovery

Love Story

pg 38

pg 58

pg 80

Financial Focus

Good Habits to Adopt

pg 40

pg 60

pg 10 Flexible Options pg 12 Swing for Kids Golf Classic pg 16 A Healthy School/Life Balance pg 18 Piece by Piece pg 20 Students Find Their Voice pg 24

In the Business for Growth pg 42

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Hola

LANGUAGES

OF THE WORLD HCISD Announces Opening of World Languages Academy for 2019-20 School Year

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by A dr iana D o mi nguez

A new opportunity is coming in the 2019-20 school year for students to engage in multiple languages. Harlingen CISD announced the opening of a World Languages Academy at Vernon Middle School. “Our students need to be prepared to compete in a global economy. The number one language of commerce is Mandarin Chinese and Spanish is the second. There is a demand for individuals with command of two or more languages,” said Dr. Art Cavazos, Harlingen CISD superintendent. “The World Languages Academy will broaden perspectives in the classroom and create global thinkers by teaching students new languages, expose them to different cultures, and allow them opportunities to engage with students across the globe.” The program will feature small learning communities with the goal of developing multilingual and multicultural students who will be prepared to compete in a global economy. The World Languages Academy will be open to all incoming sixth-graders with the addition of a grade level each year and is a natural progression for students in the district’s Dual Language Academies to continue their language studies into their secondary school years.

“We started the Dual Language program back in 2013. Now those students are getting ready to go into middle school,” said Dr. Alicia Noyola, chief academic officer. “We want to continue to give them that opportunity to develop their literacy skills and their writing skills in another language.” These students will continue their study of Spanish and English by taking courses in both languages. Furthermore, students will have the opportunity to begin the study of a third or fourth language, including Mandarin Chinese. Additional language options are being studied, like American Sign Language, French, and German to be added in the future. Going above and beyond, the academy will immerse students into language and culture by allowing them to connect with students from other countries and offering international travel opportunities during students’ eighth-grade year.

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ONGOING SUPPORT

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Hundreds of Educators to Benefit from PSJA ISD’s New Teacher Mentors Program

Thanks to a $216,500 grant from the Meadows Foundation, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD — in partnership with the New Teacher Center — recently kicked off its New Teacher Mentor Program as part of the district’s efforts to ensure all new teachers are paired with knowledgeable and experienced mentors during their first years in the field. The PSJA New Teacher Mentor Program will provide high-quality training and support to veteran teachers to prepare them to be effective mentors. “We know that the first year of teaching for educators is crucial to prepare them for their career,” said PSJA Director for New Teacher Support Angela Salinas-Oviedo. “So we want to make sure that they’re skilled, have support, have the best tools and strategies, and that they have the best relationship with a mentor teacher to ensure they’re successful.” Principals and colleagues selected the first cohort of about 110 teacher mentors from across the district based on their outstanding effectiveness in the classroom. For Frank Borrego, an electrical technology teacher at PSJA Ballew Early College High School, the training was invaluable. “It’s great to learn how to be a mentor,” Borrego said. “It comes in handy because I’ve been teaching for seven years now and there is still a lot of new information that I

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“I’ve had the privilege of working with new teachers over the last seven or eight years and I can honestly say that I don’t know any other district in the Valley that supports teachers the way we do at PSJA ISD.”

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that PSJA ISD has this opportunity for teachers to learn even more through this extra professional development. We’re blessed to have this opportunity as a teacher and a mentee.” Mentors in each cohort will be strategically paired with a new teacher at their campus every year over the next five years. According to the PSJA director for New Teacher Support, by the end of the five-year program, the district estimates to have impacted over 1,000 educators. “I’ve had the privilege of working with new teachers over the last seven or eight years and I can honestly say that I don’t know any other district in the Valley that supports teachers the way we do at PSJA ISD,” SalinasOviedo said. “We have been so intentional with not only quality professional development and training, but ongoing support."

RGVISION MAGAZINE

need to learn. Helping a new teacher will help me become a better teacher.” While over the last several years PSJA ISD educators have received instructional coaching through a leadership coach, the New Teacher Mentor Program will take things to a new level by also providing training and resources to the mentors. “For the first time we can now train the mentor to ensure they also receive quality support and that we develop their leadership qualities as well,” Salinas-Oviedo said. “Coaching somebody else allows both the mentor and mentee to grow. So, in essence, we are multiplying leadership expertise.” Klarisa Espinosa, a PSJA alumna and sixth-grade ELA & Social Studies Teacher at Raul Yzaguirre Middle School, looks forward to growing as a leader and educator through the program. Espinosa was part of the first cohort of students to participate in the district's Early College Program and graduated from PSJA Memorial ECHS with 52 college credit hours in 2012. “PSJA ISD is one of a kind,” said Espinosa, who began her teaching career at PSJA ISD in 2015. “It’s amazing

MAR/APR 2019

Angel a Sa l i na s -Ovi ed o, PSJA director for N ew Teach er Su pport

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FLEXIBLE

OPTIONS IDEA-U Seeks to Be New Choice for College Degree Plans

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MAR/APR 2019

by Da n y a Pe r e z

What started as a way to try to re-engage IDEA Public Schools graduates who had dropped out of college is now an opportunity for anybody looking for a flexible way to attain a college degree. For over a year now, IDEA-U has been offering college degrees to those who might have left the traditional college pathway for any reason. Using a hybrid method of online courses and in-person guidance, the organization aims to expand its offerings from its former K-12 model to a college education. What made this latest venture possible for the charter school is a partnership with College for America — a division of Southern New Hampshire University — which offers online courses throughout the country and abroad. IDEA-U opened its doors to its first cohort of 54 students on Oct. 1, 2017. Of those students, 36 were IDEA alumni and 22 were local community members. Throughout its first year in existence, the institution served a total of 109 students, reaching the goal set by the memorandum of understanding signed with College for America. “It was originally a re-enrollment and recommitment strategy,” said Maria Esther Rodriguez Nguma, cofounder and director of IDEA-U. “We found that for a lot of IDEA Public Schools alumni who had not been successful (in college), it wasn’t really due to not being academically prepared. Life had gotten in the way. So many of our students had to contribute to their family’s

income so they were working either full-time or multiple part-time jobs.” It was due to these responsibilities that many of their students had either halted their college studies or not moved on to college at all, Rodriguez Nguma said, so they were looking for flexible options. They also realized this could be a good opportunity for people already in careers who were not able to move up do to the lack of a degree, including their own IDEA staff. The institution adopted the full College for America model in which the online courses are taken in a learn-asyou-go model. Students move through the coursework at their own pace while being asked to reach certain benchmarks. But they must also meet in-person at the IDEA-U centers with an assigned College Completion Advisor every week. “They have a great tradition and expertise in both higher education and online learning, so it was a perfect, perfect fit,” Rodriguez Nguma said. The degree plans are offered on a flat rate tuition of $2,750 per six-month term, and students can take as many credits as they can handle. The degree pathways currently offered include Associate of Arts degrees in general studies, and healthcare management and three Bachelor of Arts degrees: management, healthcare management, and communications. The institution is now in its second year of existence

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“We are certainly on track and we’ve seen the community really embrace the model and take ownership of their higher education journey.” Ma ria Esther Ro d r i guez N guma ,

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In the meantime, those interested in applying can go to idea-u.org and fill out an application online. Some of the requirements include having a high school diploma or GED, committing to spending 12 hours per week at IDEA-U, and agreeing to meet with a College Completion Advisor once a week. The school also conducts a four-week academic onboarding, or refresher course, in which students can see whether the program works with their schedule and lifestyle before any tuition is charged. “We call it academic onboarding and it’s meant to refresh their math and writing skills,” Rodriguez Nguma said. “They are learning how to be good online learners … after the four-week period, they are officially enrolled in College for America and they get an additional month of tuition and fees free. So they really have two months to figure out if the program is a good fit.”

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with about 150 students in the original Weslaco location and its first graduates — three with bachelor’s degrees and 16 with associate degrees who are now moving on to a bachelor’s. The growth came almost immediately as IDEA-U quickly expanded to Brownsville in August 2018 and San Antonio in November 2018. Each of the new sites serves between 50 to 60 students. The goal for this year is to have 400 students enrolled in total and to serve DREAMer students via a grant received in 2018. “We are certainly on track and we’ve seen the community really embrace the model and take ownership of their higher education journey,” Rodriguez Nguma said. In the future, IDEA-U hopes to expand to other areas of need throughout the Valley, considering the only two locations might still be far for most students.

MAR/APR 2019

c o - f o u n d e r a n d di r e ctor of ID EA - U


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E D U C A T I O N

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MAR/APR 2019

29th Annual

SWING FOR KIDS GOLF CLASSIC by Lor i H ou s t on Any golfer can tell you all the ways that golfing is good for you. It’s fun, it improves fitness, gets you walking outdoors, and relieves stress, but did you know that golfing is good for the community, as well? Spring is almost here and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Edinburg RGV are getting ready for its 29th annual “Swing for Kids” Golf Classic, an event that will not only offer an afternoon of fun and fitness, but will also help transform the lives children right here in the Rio Grande

Valley. The tournament is scheduled for May 10 with a 1 p.m. shotgun start at Los Lagos Golf Club in Edinburg. All the funds raised in the golf tournament will help provide programs for local children. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Edinburg RGV are dedicated to giving the youth in the community the best chance to grow, learn, and transform themselves into successful adults. The partnerships the organization forms with the youth, parents, schools, and other community members

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The 29th Annual Golf Classic gives the community at large a chance to make a difference in the lives of the young people who need it most.

other hands-on activities. For three consecutive years, club members have been state champions in the Zero Robotics competition. The 29th annual Golf Classic gives the community at large a chance to make a difference in the lives of the young people who need it most. “It will be a great Friday afternoon on the golf course at Los Lagos in Edinburg,” said Adriana Rendon, vice president of operations for Boys & Girls Clubs of Edinburg RGV. With the tournament’s 1 p.m. shotgun start, all the teams will tee off simultaneously from different holes. This allows everyone to start and end at the same time. With lots of prizes for teams and individuals, the event promises excitement and challenge for the players. But the best part is likely knowing that they’ll be helping improve the lives of local children. Sponsorship levels start at $250 for hole sponsorship and range up to $5,000 for platinum level, which allows four teams of three to play in the tournament. To take part in the fun and benefit Rio Grande Valley youth, sign up is still open. Contact the Boys & Girls Clubs of Edinburg RGV at (956) 383-2582 or email Rendon at arendon@edinburgkids.com.

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create academic enrichment opportunities that allow the students to graduate high school on time and be college or career ready with the skills they need to succeed. Developing healthy lifestyles is also a major component of the organization’s mission. Programs there promote fitness, nutrition, stress reduction, an understanding of healthy relationships, and an appreciation for the environment. Club leaders believe that a future generation of active citizens begins with building healthy habits. All of their teen members have abstained from marijuana use and 96 percent have abstained from drinking alcohol. Character and civic engagement is the cornerstone for creating a generation of world changers. The club members are developing leadership skills and engaging in planning and decision-making opportunities on a regular basis. The Youth for Unity program teaches a better understanding of diversity and combats bigotry, discrimination, and prejudice. A strong majority of the participants in the program have increased their ability to recognize bias, unfairness and stereotypes. The Club Service program is a partnership with National Service Americorps that recognizes members’ service and provides education awards based on volunteer hours. Over 19,000 young people are served at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Edinburg RGV sites located around the community. With over 6,500 registered members and more than 12,500 other children served, the organization tirelessly works to improve outcomes for the next generation. The golf tournament sponsorships will provide funds for enrichment opportunities like the STEMtastic Spring Break camp taking place on March 11-15 with programs focused on science, technology, engineering and math. The camp activities will create a fun hands-on science and technology environment for club members to excite them about pursuing careers in STEM fields. Many of club members have participated in STEM camps and

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A Healthy School/Life

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MAR/APR 2019

b y I r e n e Wa z g ows k a

We often talk about a healthy work/life balance in the professional world, but what about a healthy school/life balance? What are the challenges that kids and teens face with respect to balancing school with extracurriculars and even jobs? Eddie Lopez, lead counselor at Lamar Academy, dedicates his time to ensuring that his students work to create a balance with their academics, extracurriculars, and social life and to see the rewards of their efforts. As an International Baccalaureate school, his students have a rigorous course load with demanding classes that require many study hours outside of the classroom. His students “know by default that they will have a lot on their plate, and that in order to maintain enthusiasm and vigor for extracurriculars, that you have to know when to say ‘no’ to yourself,” he said. This means that sometimes they have to put clubs aside until they are prepared to participate in the club without feeling the pressure of their studies. Lopez likes to equip his students with time management tools, utilizing what he refers to as an “old school” method: a simple daily planner. Using a planner is something tangible that his students can use to write down weekly assignments, upcoming projects,

and extracurricular participation. “We want them to get balanced and organized through the tangible planner,” he said. What happens when time management becomes difficult balancing studies with extracurriculars? “It’s okay to let something go and maybe pick it up later, or put a pause because they need to work on homework and tutoring skills,” Lopez said. “They can then re-engage in the activity.” In addition to their studies, and participation in extracurriculars, some students also have jobs at fast food restaurants, bowling alleys, and places likes Barnes & Noble. For these students, Lopez reminds them they are a student first. It is important that their academics are not negatively affected by taking on too much and losing focus. He references the planner and how he encourages students to treat everything on their planner as a doctor’s appointment. “In adulthood, we might get charged a fee for canceling or missing an appointment,” he said. “Once [students] start doing that, they have a better idea of being committed to those appointments and time obligations.” When it came to pursuing employment, Eric Gonzalez, a senior at Robert Villa High School, decided to not

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In adulthood, we might get charged a fee for canceling or missing an appointment. Once [students] start doing that they have a better idea of being committed to those appointments and time obligations. Eddi e Lo p ez , l e a d co uns e l o r a t Lam ar Academy

Their tips for dealing with these stressors include:

• TAKE A DEEP BREATH:

Try taking a minute to slow down and breathe deeply.

• MANAGE YOUR TIME:

Plan ahead. Make a reasonable schedule for yourself and include time for stress reduction as a regular part of your schedule.

• TAKE A “ONE-MINUTE” VACATION:

When you have the opportunity, take a moment to close your eyes and imagine a place where you feel relaxed and comfortable.

Lopez says that parents are the first line of defense when they see their kids struggling. He makes himself accessible to both parents and students to help combat the academic pressures, because his goal is to see every student successfully graduate and pursue a professional path. “I also encourage students to develop the skill of ‘self-advocacy.’ For example, students might come from a middle school in which they are in the top percentile of the class and then enter a high school environment and feel ‘dumb’ if they ask for help,” he said. “One of the ways our IB kids academically succeed is by developing the skill of self-advocacy — learning how to ask for help. Developing this skill enhances the maturity of the student and also helps develop the skill as they enter the college setting.” Useful tips on setting yourself up for success at the high school level, including at each grade level, can be found here: https:// lamarcounseling.com/ For dealing with stress management: https://cmhc.utexas.edu/stress.html

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• CONNECT WITH OTHERS:

A good way to combat sadness, boredom, and loneliness is to seek out activities involving others.

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MAR/APR 2019

• Feelings • Thoughts • Behaviors • Physical

Share your feelings.

.

The University of Texas at Austin’s Counseling and Mental Health Center identifies the following stress signals:

• TAKE IT OUT:

@MCALLENPAC

RGVISION MAGAZINE

take a job at Chick-Fil-A. “The reason why I decided not to take the job is because it was before school started, and they offered me the job, but I declined because I thought about how I might not be able to balance my school and work,” he said. “I signed-up for more AP classes, wanted a social life and downtime, and a job would only make things harder.” In retrospect, he’s happy about his decision, even if it means he doesn’t have the extra funds for going to the beach or other activities. Even if students do their best in working to balance their schedules, there is still the chance of stress. So how do you handle it?


E D U C A T I O N

PIECE BY PIECE Robotics Programs Get Children Playing and Thinking Ahead

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MAR/APR 2019

by Da n y a Pe r e z

Keeping children busy during school breaks and weekends has evolved over time. Often, summer camp no longer means boat rides, bunk beds, and bonfires, but rather computer codes, robots, and challenges. Robotics classes and camps are popular not only among children but also teachers and parents who see the benefit in children having fun while learning skills that might actually translate into a career. In these classes, participants learn how to build a functioning robot, create code to make it perform different tasks, and even challenge one another in obstacle courses or battles. Part of the appeal is that robotics curriculum easily aligns with STEM classes, which focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Most school districts throughout the Rio Grande Valley have adopted classes that focus on coding and robotics or programs that run as after-school clubs. Many of these organizations now compete in annual challenges, such as the FIRST Robotics Competitions, and get to face teams locally, statewide, nationwide, and even globally. But for those looking to further engage their students

or children in these courses outside of school, there are organizations with all the tools needed to get them coding and building. The International Museum of Art & Science offers weekend workshops and school break camps that focus on coding and robotics. “Once they start, they just love it and they don’t stop,” said Claudia Martinez, director of education at IMAS. “We introduce them to what robots do, like the purpose of robots, so the idea of solving a problem. And this idea of problem solving is really important for what’s called 21st century learning, which our students are now, and problem solving is one of the top skills that workforces require.” The museum runs a scouts workshop program in partnership with Boys and Girls Scouts, as well as program open to the public that offer access to basic and advanced robotics practice, and, for the scouts, their coveted science and art badges. Sylvan Learning offers similar workshops mainly during the weekends and after school when partnering with local school districts.

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Other independent agencies such as Border Kids Code, Code RGV, and Reybotics also offer summer camps or partner with school districts to offer the programs. “STEM is growing and we want the student to learn all of the different things, so we are starting them young,” said Brenda Sanchez, program manager coordinator at Sylvan Learning. “Students build and program robots using Legos, for the lower grade levels. ... Not only do the students walk out of a program learning how to build and program, but learning the different vocabulary and the different pieces of it.” The program begins by using a free online website to teach the children the basics of coding through games. Things like how to create directions using coding will later translate into making an actual robot move. Teamwork and problem solving are the two major skills that students learn other than the technology skills — all while playing with robots. The robots, like the widely used Lego Mindstorm, tend to be simple in order to get beginning students engaged while still allowing them to get creative. These come with software to control the robot using tablets or laptop remotes. In many of these programs, students later move on to more complicated robots that can even complete challenges underwater — what’s known as SeaPerch Robots — or compete in more difficult challenges. Most challenges are performed in teams, but each student gets to highlight their abilities since they all

have a responsibility within the team. Once they go to competitions or challenges with other teams, they all get recognized for their own performance within the team. Most of the camps offered through school districts or through grants tend to be free of cost. But workshops offered through organizations such as IMAS or Sylvan Learning will come at a cost that varies according to the length of the program. Some of these programs, such as the IMAS workshops, are also available in both English and Spanish. At the end of the day, it is all about early exposure to career paths that children might not see themselves in yet. This exposure is especially important in areas like the Rio Grande Valley, which has a high population of Latino students. In the U.S. the STEM field is not yet representative of these communities, with only about 7 percent of Latinos employed in the field, according to a 2018 report by the Pew Research Center. “Introducing these simple challenges to the children, especially at a young age, and allowing them to work together to solve a problem, it gives them a sense of accomplishment,” Martinez said. “It gives them confidence that they can actually be engineers or in the science field, or be computer scientists. … We are trying to introduce the marine biology field and talk about how robots help to conserve water, and how they are useful for water treatment and things of that nature. So just expanding the field for them.”

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“Students build and program robots using Legos, for the lower grade levels. ... Not only do the students walk out of a program learning how to build and program, but learning the different vocabulary and the different pieces of it.” Bren d a Sa nc h ez , p r o gr am m a nage r c oo r di nator at Sy l v a n Le ar ni ng

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IDEA PUBLIC SCHOOLS IS PROUD TO ANNOUNCE THAT 100% OF THE CLASS OF 2019 HAVE BEEN ACCEPTED TO COLLEGE. We take pride in this momentous achievement because we believe a college degree is the most important steppingstone to success in life. This accomplishment is the culmination of our students’ hard work throughout their academic careers. Every one of our seniors will graduate from IDEA ready to excel in college and eventually seek out the career of their choice. In total, more than 1,080 seniors at IDEA applied to a minimum of six colleges or universities, making the Class of 2019 IDEA’s largest graduating class ever! Acceptances ranged from local and state schools like Texas A&M University and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley to prestigious and highly-selective schools like Yale University, Brown University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Way to go, Class of 2019! ideapublicschools.org


E D U C A T I O N

STUDENTS FIND THEIR VOICE AT PACE ACADEMY

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In a lifestyle dominated by technology, kids are spending less and less time interacting with people. Pace Academy has made it their mission to promote healthy interactions for children through the connections they make with each other and the other people on campus. One of the reasons so many of Pace Academy’s kids become more socially and emotionally developed is because they dedicate time to communicate with their students — it’s not just a delivery of information. It’s an interaction that teachers have with the students and it’s more than just academics. In order to thrive in a people-filled world, children must develop people skills. The only way to develop these skills is through interacting with peers, teachers, parents, and other community members. Pace Academy likes to guide their student body through conflict resolution, coping with disappointment and managing change. One example of how they advocate healthy communication between friends is encouraging healthy interactions on the playground, especially since at Pace Academy, there is more recess every day than at the average public school. This time to play includes at least one hour a day every day for every student. Pace Academy’s students have the opportunity to manage social situations that involve sharing, kindness, graciousness, showing compassion, and patience. Education is a journey and every child is given the support to

improve socially and emotionally. For the first year-and-a-half the school was open, Pace Academy had a teacher who taught children how to play. She taught them how to jump rope, how to hula hoop, how to organize games among themselves, and how to more equitably decide what game to play next. These were skills that children had never used before attending Pace — and skills that many kids still lack. In class there are always opportunities to help students grow. One favorite lesson that Principal Robin WilsonClipson remembers being posted on her refrigerator as a child, is: before you speak your words should go through three gates. Gate one: Is it true? Gate two: Is it necessary? Gate three: Is it kind? Sometimes growth for children includes them finding acceptable ways of saying “no.” Children sometimes find it difficult to express their wants because they are taught that good manners mean they must not be “sassy.” The desire should be for children to be both well-mannered and to have autonomy. Instead of saying “no,” teach children to kindly explain their desires. For example, “I’m too full to continue to eat, and I’m going to save this portion for later.” By implementing these simple aspects into their dayto-day activities, Pace Academy helps children find their voice and aims to develop competent, confident, and caring individuals.

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CEED CENTER FOR EDUCATION AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

MEMBERSHIP CATEGORY

Memberships include access to WiFi network, common area workspace, and multifunction printers. Locker rental available to members, additional $20 per month. FEE

(125 PRINTS or COPIES)

PRINTING

AFTER HOURS ACCESS

MAIL AND PACKAGES

COWORKER

$50/MONTH

Y

N

N

ENTREPRENEUR

$125/MONTH

Y

Y

+$50/MONTH

OFFICE SPACE

Office space includes a fully furnished office for one person, along with access to WiFi network, common area workspace, multifunction printers. Add team members for $50/month each. STARTING AT $450

Y

801 N. Bryan Rd. Mission, TX 78572 956.585.0040 • www.missionedc.com

Y

Y

M A N AG E D BY:

* Prices are for prepaid or recurring billing via credit card. Month-to-month memberships add $25/month. * Membership includes an allowance of 125 prints or copies. One print is one side of a page. Additional prints or copies are invoiced with monthly membership. * College students eligible for discount off Coworker membership, with proof of enrollment.


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COPY ZONE 2.0 A PIONEERING UPGRADE

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at the customer service counter, you can see the innovation as well as the same friendly faces,” Stevens said. When setting up the new location, the entire staff consciously worked to alleviate issues they had with the work flow in the smaller space. Everyone worked together and took ownership and pride in developing the new space, giving their ideas and opinions and helping it take shape. “When you see everyone working together to bring together a building as big as this one and make it work and function in the amount of time we did it, it is beautiful,” Stevens said. The additional breathing room inspires creativity as they go about their business, crafting ideas and concepts and producing them on paper. The professionals at CopyZone are now able to better highlight all the additional services they offer to local business and organizations. They are the only full-service variable data printing/mailing service in the area. Their updated intelligent software can handle mailing lists, mail merge, customization, printing, and postage. The program even alerts them if a recipient has a change of address or if the mail is non-deliverable. CopyZone provides local businesses and organizations a convenient way to expand their reach all in one place. The majority of the work, depending on the size and specifications, can be ready in one or two days. In some cases, it can be ready the same day. “We are a great partner during the political season since we can print and mail as easy as the next day,” Stevens said. The staff at CopyZone are proud to be the Rio Grande Valley’s one-stop source for all printing needs — from fullservice graphic design and traditional business printing to marketing materials, book publishing, and digital blueprinting. No matter what the printing project is, CopyZone and their state-of-the-art equipment has it covered.

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CopyZone has been around for more than 20 years in the Rio Grande Valley, but over the past year, the business has undergone some radical changes. It specializes in “on demand” digital printing services and can take care of all aspects of the job on the spot. CopyZone in McAllen is home to “The Beast,” a Konica Minolta AccurioPress C6085, which is the only printer in the Rio Grande Valley with the ability to print on 400gsm paper, make booklets, 48-inch brochures, and square fold, trim, and crease on the fly. A large part of the upgrades at CopyZone are technology focused, and it soon became apparent that they would need a new, larger location to better serve their customers. In midJanuary, CopyZone moved from their 6,200-square-foot 10th Street location to a new 7,600-square-foot location at 3701 N. Bicentennial Blvd. “The building were were in was a great location that everybody remembered,” said Pily Stevens, director of sales at CopyZone in McAllen. “However, it didn't have all the capabilities to be able to move forward with technology.” David Armstrong, president and CEO of Core Business Solutions, which acquired McAllen’s CopyZone, had a vision of what he wanted to do with this new location and how he wanted his customers to feel when they came in, Stevens said. He chose Corebuilt Construction for this project because he knew the company would be able to see exactly what his vision was and make it happen. The new location, in a brand new building, allowed them to utilize all the latest technology, including in their outside signage. “It is one of a kind, the only one that exists in the Valley,” Stevens said. The LED sign is blue and lime green, the new branding colors for CopyZone, which can be seen in the daytime as you approach the building. “But if you drive by at night, it’s pink, yellow, green, purple, and red. The colors change and can be programmed to do all kinds of things like fading in and out.” The unique signage and state-of-the-art equipment are all part of the mission CopyZone has taken on to show Rio Grande Valley residents that the region has all the latest technology and innovations. “From the moment you approach the parking lot and arrive

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b y Lo r i Ho us t on | p h ot os b y B a r b a r a De l g a d o


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

FACE-TO-FACE

PHILANTHROPY

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When It Comes to Giving, Volunteering Gets to the Heart of the Matter

GOOD FOR THE HEART IN WAYS YOU MAY NOT HAVE THOUGHT There’s an instant feeling of achievement when we volunteer because helping others helps us feel good about ourselves — and that’s OK. Everybody benefits from the effort. But the Corporation for National & Community Service — a federal agency that engages millions of Americans in service through its core programs (AmeriCorps and Senior Corps) and national volunteer effort — reports that over the past two decades, it has seen a growing

For some, the word philanthropy conjures thoughts of monetary donations through the use of trusts, endowments, and the like. But what if we began to also think of philanthropy in terms of time and talent rather than dollars and cents? Fortunately, that mindset has become a way of life for many. In fact, volunteers provide an extremely valuable service to worthwhile organizations that otherwise would suffer for lack of manpower. And in the end, everybody can enjoy the rewards — including benefits that go sight unseen.

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body of research that indicates volunteering provides individual health benefits in addition to social ones. The research is presented in a report titled “The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research.” The data in the report demonstrate a strong relationship between volunteering and health — those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who don’t. There’s also indication that those who devote a “considerable” amount of time to volunteer activities (about 100 hours per year) are most likely to exhibit positive health outcomes. When it comes to age groups, older volunteers are shown most likely to receive greater benefits from volunteering. GET STARTED If you’re interested, find volunteer work that fits best with the time you’re able to give and what you’re able to do. From reading to a child to delivering meals to seniors to driving nails or balancing books — and more — there’s a need for every skill set and available pair of hands. IF YOU MUST DEDUCT Along with the many intangible benefits of volunteering — like seeing the direct benefit of providing an organization with much needed people power — there is a tangible side, too. According to the IRS, certain expenses associated with volunteer work are deductible if the volunteer itemizes, such as those:

THE DOLLARS AND CENTS OF VOLUNTEERISM

$24.14

The latest value of a volunteer hour in 2017 — up 2.5% from 2016

8 BILLION

The number of volunteer hours committed to American nonprofits

$193 BILLION The total value of the time volunteers contribute to our nation

UPCOMING EVENTS SATURDAY MARCH 2

+ Drill Team Competition

SUNDAY MARCH 3

+ Wedding & Quinceañera Fair

SAT-SUN MARCH 9-10 + Saxet Gun Show

FRI-SUN MARCH 22-24

+ RGV Home and Garden Show

THURSDAY APRIL 4 + Taste McAllen

SUNDAY APRIL 7

+ RGV Wedding & Quince Expo

SATURDAY APRIL 13 + Sunset Live + South Texas Nationals

63 MILLION

The number of Americans who volunteer (close to the UK’s population of 66 million) Source: independentsector.org

SUNDAY APRIL 24

+ Administrative Professionals Day

FRIDAY APRIL 26

+ South Texas Comic Con 2019

SATURDAY MAY 11 + Sunset Live

SATURDAY JUNE 8

• Incurred while volunteering for a qualified

+ Sunset Live

• Not for volunteer’s personal, living, or family use Deductible examples include (but are not limited to): • Buying and cleaning uniforms • Travel, lodging, and meals Consult your tax professional for full details and guidance. Raymond James does not provide tax advice or tax services.

As featured in WORTHWHILE, a quarterly periodical dedicated to serving the clients of Raymond James advisors and aligned 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-0028 CW 11/18

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For More Info:

MC AC ON VE N T I O

NS

MCALLEN CONVENTION CENTER

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

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services

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• Unreimbursed expenses • Incurred only because of the volunteer

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charity


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TOP TRADE PROFESSIONALS OF THE RGV Top legal leader

by RGV isio n RGVision asked and you answered. The community identified their picks for top trade professionals in the Rio Grande Valley. These experts are innovative pioneers in their fields. We ranked your answers to create a list of the Valley’s favorites, including the top legal leader, the top culinary entrepreneur, the top innovative medical professional, the top state representative making a difference in our community, and the top developers promoting growth of the RGV.

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Top Culinary Entrepreneur Larry and Jessica Delgado house. wine. & bistro. Since house. wine. & bistro. opened its doors more than 10 years in the downtown entertainment district of McAllen, Larry and Jessica Delgado’s restaurant quickly became a local favorite. The fine dining establishment’s menu offers items like locally sourced, organic produce and beef, Compart Duroc pork, 100 different wines to enjoy by the glass, housemade pasta, and much more. Their emphasis on supporting small, locally owned businesses has helped build their brand to be the success foodies know and love today. For more information on house. wine. & bistro., contact the restaurant at (956) 994-8331 or visit the website at housewineandbistro.com. Photo by James Hord

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Jesse Gonzalez the J. Gonzalez Law Firm With a lifelong passion for helping people, Jesus “Jesse” Gonzalez has been serving the Rio Grande Valley community with quality legal representation for 18 years. J. Gonzalez has received awards from various national organizations, like the Best Lawyers Lawyer of the Year for his firm in the RGV on four separate occasions, lifetime charter membership to the exclusive Best Attorneys of America organization, and has been rated “Top 3 Personal Injury Lawyers” in McAllen from Three Best Rated. Additionally, he earned membership to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, a group that only accepts attorneys who win million and multi-million dollar settlements. Not only is the J. Gonzalez Law Firm nationally recognized for outstanding service and results, it is a household name in the RGV, known for its expertise in personal injury cases. Learn more about the J. Gonzalez Law Firm by visiting www.jgonzalezlawfirm. com or calling (956) 630-6700.


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After laying the foundation over 15 years ago through Regional Academic Health Centers in Harlingen and Edinburg, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine’s doors first opened for class in the summer of 2016. Providing the latest in innovative medical learning technology, UTRGV’s nearly threeyear-old School of Medicine has made a name for itself in preparing a highly skilled medical workforce for the Valley and beyond. Visit www.utrgv.edu/school-of-medicine or call (956) 296-1900 to learn more about the UTRGV School of Medicine.

Photo by James Hord

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rhodes enterprises, inc. Rhodes Enterprises, Inc. has been committed to the Rio Grande Valley since the company’s creation in the late 1990s. According to its website, Rhodes Enterprises is currently the “largest mixed-use developer of land in the Rio Grande Valley.” Known for their masterplanned communities like Tres Lagos in McAllen, Bentsen Palm Development in Mission, and Alliance River Crossing International Bridge Project in Donna, Rhodes Enterprises has set itself apart from the rest with innovative and efficient, yet aesthetically designed developments across the region. For more information, visit www.rhodesenterprisesinc.com or call (956) 287-2800.

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UTRGV School of Medicine

As a state representative for Texas’s 38th District, Eddie Lucio III has created waves of change for the best in the Rio Grande Valley community. Lucio has served since 2007 and has authored, co-authored, sponsored, and co-sponsored bills that have positively affected not only the RGV, but the entire state of Texas. According to his official website, some of Lucio’s most notable accomplishments include the development of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and the UTRGV School of Medicine, providing children with special needs access to quality health care, and meeting the need for quality water in Texas. To learn more about Texas state Rep. Eddie Lucio III, visit www.eddielucioiii.com.

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Top innovative medical professionals

texas state representative eddie lucio iii

Top developers promoting growth in the rgv

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Top state representative making a difference in community


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MAE’S MISSION The Greater Mission Chamber of Commerce’s Member Spotlight: MAE Power Equipment b y RGVi s i on | p h ot os b y O m a r Dí a z The Greater Mission Chamber of Commerce spoke with their featured Member of the Month, Ben Cavazos, owner of MAE Power Equipment in Mission. Cavazos discussed his business’s services, products, and the ways in which the Greater Mission Chamber of Commerce has helped MAE grow since becoming a member. Greater Mission Chamber of Commerce: What moved you the start your own business here in Mission? What do you value?

that’s the size of this building when I rented it for a while and then I purchased it and then I bought land all over the place. … We have about 12,000 square feet of buildings — the two buildings and storerooms and everything. The land is like 400 feet of frontage on Business 83. GMCC: Tell us about how many people you serve and the tools you provide. BC: We serve between 20 and 30,000 a year. Our customer base in tremendous. The radius we work with is from Zapata to the Island. 100-mile radius. So we’re able to keep busy. Our sales run somewhere between $3-and-ahalf and $4-and-a-half million a year. GMCC: Do you have a partner in your business?

BC: We’ve created a lot of jobs and right now we have 22 employees. We’ve probably been averaging at least 20 for the last 20 years … employees that work here and live in the community. GMCC: Tell us about your experience and when did you join the Greater Mission Chamber of Commerce?

BC: This is a corporation and my son Oscar has been with me since he got out of university. I sent him to school and got him smart first. He got a degree in marketing and accounting so he came in after college and became part of the company. The plan is for him to continue with the company. I tell him we have a responsibility to all our employees to keep this business going. I could just sell out and go, “forget about it,” but we’re going to keep it going and Oscar will take over whenever I get tired. I’m only 88, so I’m not tired yet. GMCC: Have you participated in any community events or given back to the community?

BC: When I needed a building to move to when I decided to open up a business, I came to Mission and paid my $25 yearly dues and asked the Chamber to find me a building. They tried but they didn’t find me a building, but I found this building. This was a building that was 30-by-60 —

BC: Always participated in. One of the main things we do is we are always in the Citrus Fiesta Parade. We have an entry in there and I’ve been a chairman of the parade and I worked with the Citrus Fiesta Board many functions. Currently we just run a float in there and I’m

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Ben Cavazos: When I was in the service, they sent me to school — an old electric school and I learned about small engines and what I’m in now. And when I got out of the service, I worked for someone for about two years and then decided I needed to be in my own business and I opened this up in 1954. I had $100 worth of tools and I borrowed some money from a friend. GMCC: Tell us a little bit about your business. How many employees do you have? What’s the size of your business? How many jobs have you created?

Featured Member of the Month, Ben Cavazos, owner of MAE Power Equipment in Mission.

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BC: When we hire somebody, we try to hire somebody that has some experience in this. We train them, the factory provides us with information to train mechanics, and we even send people to school sometimes, but most of the time, we train them in house. And we continually get information from our factories on service work to make sure we know how to repair all the equipment that we service. GMCC: What has been your greatest business accomplishment so far? BC: I was always interested in organizations. I started a Rio Grande Valley lawn mower dealer association back in the ’80s and it grew into a state association called the

say, “I had somebody apply the other day and I don’t have room for him.”

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Texas Service Dealers Association. Later, it grew into a national organization that was the Service Dealers Association, which was a National Association of Lawn Mower Dealers. I was president of the first organization and what I wanted to do was instead of our competitors — being enemies and all that — I tried to have meetings with them and get together. Instead of working against each other, let’s work together. And we did. And that’s the way we got the Valley association going, and then the state association and also the national. So it’s been a real asset. See my idea was, let’s get together so that we can share service information, share qualities of mechanics, and if I needed an extra lawnmower mechanic, I would call up one of my buddies in the organization and say, “Do you know of a mechanic?” and invariable they would

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not any of the boards right now. I think there’s younger people that have come up and taken my place, but we also helped the city in any way that we can. I have belonged to a bunch of boards like the Traffic Safety Committee and the Planning and Zoning Board and the Board of Equalization. I served on all those boards in all the last years. GMCC: Regarding your workforce development, you have 22 employees. Can you share how you have helped build them to be great leaders in the business?

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GMCC: Why did you choose the city of Mission to conduct business?

GMCC: What advice would you give other young entrepreneurs who want to create a business here in Mission?

BC: Well, I was born in Sharyland and after I went in the service and they sent me to school, I went to the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. The Army sent me to school there on this line of work — the small engines and the auto electric part. And when I got out, I worked for a place in McAllen. And he had a place similar to this, only smaller. And I worked for him for about two years and then I decided to open up here in Mission. I didn’t want to be in the same town where we had a competitor, so there was nobody here. GMCC: 65 years in business and creating jobs. Tell us about your life. Did you have your family in Mission?

BC: The first thing you have to do in the business is you have to like it. If you open up a business just because it sounds like a good idea and you’re not really knowledgeable about that business, you better stay out of it. I had the background from when I was 11 years old. I took my mother’s washing machine engine — we had a Maytag washing machine with an engine — and I took that engine and I put it on a bicycle. And I road that bike for four years from McAllen to Sharyland for school. And so that gave me a lot of training in repairing small engines. I wasn’t going to walk, so I learned to fix this engine. Later, the Army sent me to school because they recognized that I had an aptitude for mechanics. And then from there, they sent me to Alaska. I spent a year in Alaska. I had never seen snow. So after my time was up, I went to work for this company for about two years and then opened up here.

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BC: Oh yes. I said I was born in Sharyland, and when I worked in McAllen, I lived in McAllen for a while. And when I opened up the business here, I still lived in McAllen for about a year or two before I bought a home here in Mission. That was about 1958. And then I lived here ever since.

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Having a

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Good Day! Cultivating a Positive Attitude to Improve Work Performance

Did you know that watching just three minutes of negative news in the morning can increase your likelihood of having a “bad” day by 27 percent? Or that, conversely, watching just three minutes of positive news in the morning can increase your likelihood of having a “good” day by 88 percent? It’s true. In fact, research indicates it is critical we not only start our days with positive things but that we be proactive in maintaining a positive attitude throughout the rest of our day as a means of cultivating our personal wellbeing.

Maintaining a positive attitude has been shown to positively affect four specific areas of our lives: the psychological, the cognitive, the social, and the physical. Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson indicates that those who regularly practice having a positive outlook experience less anxiety and lower levels of depression, as well as increased hopefulness and self-confidence. These positive attitudes in turn improve cognition as they lead to setting higher goals and increasing energy to achieve those goals. They also promote resilience, proactivity,

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attitude within ourselves and others. Positive reframing, or, “looking at the bright side of things,” is the act of interpreting events in order to reframe them in a positive light. This action, over time, lends to improved attitudes and outlook. Positive priming, the act of starting an event with a good tone, fosters positivity in a manner similar to the example of starting one’s day with three minutes of positive news. Finally, positive influences as a means of combating negativity bias speaks to who and what we surround ourselves with. Do you surround yourself with people who build you up or tear you down? Do you watch television shows that encourage or discourage? How do you feel after spending a prolonged amount of time on social media? When employees participate in the above processes for improving their attitude, this affects their work performance by boosting morale and productivity and empowering them to produce creative solutions that contribute to company growth and success. Employees with positive attitudes are not discouraged by failure, but are instead resilient when confronted with challenges, and they use those challenges to propel themselves forward. Kairos Chaplaincy Services, LLC, can help your employees to overcome their negativity biases by helping them through these steps and more. For more information on how we can help your company, contact us 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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and situational awareness. Positive attitudes improve our social lives, as they foster trust and compassion, resulting in improved relationships, because people with positive attitudes tend to experience less conflict and enjoy being around people more. As a result, people enjoy being around them more, too. Positive attitudes have also been shown to have major impacts on physical health, as positive people tend to have lower blood pressure, lower heart rates, lower stress-related hormones, and stronger immune systems. Unfortunately, having a positive attitude does not come naturally. Psychologists note that we all experience what is known as a “negativity bias” — the tendency to pay more attention to negative events in our lives as opposed to positive ones. Because of this, we are more likely to remember insults and criticisms than compliments and positive feedback. Thankfully, there are some things we can do to combat this obstacle to our positive attitude. Researchers have discovered four things to help us shift our attention from the negative to the positive. These things are: gratitude, positive reframing, positive priming, and positive influences. Gratitude, simply stated, is the practice of noticing and appreciating what’s good. Noticing the good things in life, counting one’s blessings, and celebrating the victories of self and others are all gratitude practices that nurture a positive

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Maintaining a positive attitude has been shown to positively affect four specific areas of our lives: the psychological, the cognitive, the social, and the physical.


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Hometown

HEROES Veteran-Owned 5x5 Brewing Company Reading Loud and Clear at Mission’s CEED

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by A my C a sebie r | p h o to s b y Oma r D í a z

There’s something brewing at the Center for Education and Economic Development — the latest beers from 5x5 Brewing Co. The brewing company occupies part of the northwest portion of the CEED building. “The name stands for a military term based in communications, used mainly through World War II meant to denote signal strength and signal quality for radio signals — one to five, five being the best, so 5x5,” said Sean Downey, brand manager. “It also became known as everybody’s okay or everything’s okay.” Founders Matt Mazur, George Rice, and Downey all grew up in Mission. Along with longtime friend Matt Bowling, Mazur and Rice first dreamed of entering the craft beer world with a magazine. When that didn’t happen, they switched gears to a brewery — especially with Bowling’s homebrewing background. The trio brought Downey into the fold for his marketing and business chops. When the group was looking for a place to set up shop, it made sense to give 5x5 its start in the same city that gave them theirs. They decided to speak with Alex Meade and Daniel Silva — the former and current CEOs of the Mission Economic Development Corporation, respectively — about potential properties in the city. Meade and Silva offered them a spot at the EDCmanaged CEED building, a 55,000-square-foot coworking facility created to bolster entrepreneurship in Mission. After getting the green light, the group of friends and Mission EDC had to figure out the feasibility of brewing beer in a coworking facility, contending with the operation’s sounds and smells. As it turned out, though, it was feasible. Very. The brewery opened its doors officially in July 2018.

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“It was very, very a ‘stars aligning’ thing for us to find our way into the CEED,” Downey said. “It’s been great. The city and the EDC have put a lot of time and effort into helping us get up and operating.” Mission EDC has been just as happy to have 5x5 as a business tenant. "We were excited to have 5x5 join the CEED building because we have a passion for fostering entrepreneurship and 5X5 has a great story,” Silva said. “They bring another exciting aspect to the building." 5x5 showcases eight beers year round with militarythemed names like Hellcat Belle Red Rye Ale, Moore Field Blonde, and FUBARR. Five more brews are currently in the works. The brewing company’s seasonal beer, ORDNANCE Chocolate Orange Stout, was named the official beer of Mission’s Texas Citrus Fiesta, held in January. For now, the taproom is open from 4 to 10 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, and 2 to 10 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Every other Tuesday, Downey has hosted trivia night at 5x5, and different food trucks and live music are on regular rotation. The taproom isn’t the only place to try a taste — 5x5 is distributed at bars and restaurants across the Rio Grande Valley. “Our tap room really is our marketing portal to talk directly to consumers,” Downey said. “It’s great because we get instant feedback. They come in our place, they see where we make the beer, and they see how we make the beer, and they taste it, they love it.” Many patrons at 5x5 Brewing Co. express curiosity about the facility it’s attached to. “If we take them inside the CEED building, it’s kind of a totally different universe — I think it kind of blows their mind that something like us could live in an environment like this,” Downey said. “It is kind of fun to bring them in here, and then when they see what the CEED building is, they really get excited because a lot of these people also have their own small businesses or their own home businesses.” Downey’s happily markets CEED membership, which is open to freelancers, entrepreneurs, and small businesses, among others, because of the benefits 5x5 has experienced =there. “It’s been great,” he said. “It’s interesting because one of the beers we did, our 40MM Stout — we’ve known the people over at Jitterz for a while. With their presence here in the CEED, it made a lot of sense to try to co-brand and co-market us where I could.” Jitterz now roasts the coffee beans used in 40MM, a chocolate coffee stout. “Everybody loves it and we even put out together some coop mugs with both of our branding on it,” Downey said. “It’s

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been really well received. When people find out that there is actual coffee in our beer, they go, ‘oh wow.’ And we say, ‘and we have it locally roasted by Jitterz,’ they’re like, ‘oh my God, I love Jitterz.’” It all goes back to an emphasis on supporting local businesses. “If I can have those Mission companies and give them business, that’s what we’re all for,” Downey said. 5x5 has enjoyed its time at CEED, Downey says, but they may soon outgrow their space. “We don’t plan to be here forever,” he said. “Our goal is to find a very much larger piece of land to build. So we plan to build in Mission because, again, we grew up here, the city has been great to us, and we want to make sure we keep the business here as much as we can.” The plan was always for 5x5 to use the CEED building as a springboard, Mission EDC’s Silva says. “We understood from day one that this was a launching site for 5X5,” he said. “Our goal was to help them start up and then have them move into a larger location here in Mission. The space can then be used to assist a new venture that can benefit from the assistance." To read more about 5x5 Brewing Company, visit 5x5brewing. com. To learn more about the Center for Education and Economic Development, including information about becoming a member, go to missionceed.org.

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5x5 brewmasters


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

• More than one-third of all households report that they would feel an adverse financial impact within one month of losing a primary wage earner’s income, while nearly half would feel an impact in just six months. What’s keeping people from providing adequate insurance for their families? Here’s a sampling of the most common reasons: • “I just don’t want to think about it.” Let’s face it — like almost everybody, you probably don’t like to think about death. And consequently, you may well be inclined to postpone thinking about life insurance. But if you can just envision what your loved ones’ lives would be like without you, in terms of their financial situation, you will find it easier to address your insurance needs in a calmer, more analytical manner. • “I have other financial priorities.” You will always have financial obligations — mortgage or rent payments, car payments, credit card bills, student loans, etc. You can’t ignore these expenses, but ask yourself this: Do any of them really take priority over the future happiness and welfare of your loved ones? Since the answer to this question is obviously “no,” you will likely conclude that maintaining adequate life insurance is one of the most important financial moves you can make. • “I can’t afford life insurance.” If you think life insurance is prohibitively expensive, you’re not alone. In fact, 80 percent of consumers think life insurance costs more than it does, according to LIMRA and Life Happens, while nearly half of the “millennial” generation estimates the cost at five times more than the actual amount. In reality, some types of life insurance, such as term insurance, is highly affordable. • “I don’t know how much insurance I’ll need.” To determine an appropriate level of coverage, you’ll need to consider a variety of factors, such as the number and age of your dependents, size of your mortgage, spousal income, amount of employerprovided insurance, and so on. A financial professional can help you calculate the amount of protection you need. As you can see, none of the reasons listed above should really keep you from adding life insurance to your overall financial strategy. So, take action soon to help ensure that your wishes for your family’s future will become reality.

FINANCIAL FOCUS

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What’s Keeping You From Protecting Your Family’s Future? Think about your loved ones. What will their future be like? Can you picture them living in your house many years from now? Can you picture your children going to college? Can you picture your spouse or partner enjoying a comfortable retirement? These are all pleasant visions — but what if you weren’t in these pictures? If you were no longer around, you’d leave a gaping hole in the lives of your survivors. The emotional element would be tough enough, but the financial aspect — the permanent loss of your income — could be devastating to all the hopes you’ve had for your family members. Fortunately, you can help prevent this “worst-case” scenario from happening — if you have sufficient life insurance. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t — even when they recognize the need. LIMRA and Life Happens, two organizations that provide education on life insurance, report the following: • Only four in 10 Americans own an individual life insurance policy — although 85 percent say that most people need life insurance.

Edward Jones is a licensed insurance producer in all states and Washington, D.C., through Edward D. Jones & Co., L.P. and in California, New Mexico and Massachusetts through Edward Jones Insurance Agency of California, L.L.C.; Edward Jones Insurance Agency of New Mexico, L.L.C.; and Edward Jones Insurance Agency of Massachusetts, L.L.C. 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

IN THE BUSINESS FOR GROWTH Harlingen EDC Offering Retail Incentive Program to Draw Companies to City by A m y C a s e b i e r

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The amount of that percentage is reinvested into the business to help offset development costs, Garza explained. “Any restaurant or retail store or even a developer who is trying to attract restaurants and retail stores would be eligible to do an agreement with us subject to some eligibility rules and subject to some restrictions,” he said. “If they generate jobs, if they generate sales, if they make an investment in our community, if they get involved in the community, then we have a point system that we’re going to score these projects on. The higher the score, the bigger the rebate.” Companies interested in participating in the retail incentive program would know within a month whether they qualify for the rebate, as well as what level they qualify for, according to their score. And while the program is designed to help businesses locally, Harlingen itself stands to benefit. “It is also intended to bring about a renewed interest in Harlingen,” Garza said of the program. “There is an increase in sales tax, our population continues to grow, there is a demand for more retail services that would improve our quality of life, and so this is a way of making sure that our community is getting a better quality of life.” Those kinds of improvements mean a wider variety of choices for shopping and dining out for Harlingen residents — with an additional value for the Rio Grande Valley as a whole. “Residents from throughout the region can come to Harlingen and shop,” Garza said. For more information on the retail incentive program, visit the Harlingen Economic Development Corporation’s website at harlingenedc.com, call (956) 216-5081 or stop by the office at 2424 Boxwood Street, Suite 125 in Harlingen.

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Calling all businesses looking to expand, relocate, and grow. The Harlingen Economic Development Corporation recently announced a new commercial recruitment program designed to attract both local companies and businesses outside of Harlingen to establish themselves within city limits. “The reason why we came up with this retail incentive program is basically to try to entice new investment and new job creation in Harlingen,” said Raudel Garza, CEO of the Harlingen EDC. “For a long, long time, our focus has been on the larger retail projects.” Some of those larger beneficiaries of Harlingen EDC’s past incentive programs include businesses like Bass Pro Shops, Sam’s Club, LongHorn Steakhouse, and Candlewood Suites. Now, though, Garza and the EDC are taking aim at giving smaller companies a leg up in the community. “A lot of the local mom and pop shops that have been growing in the community haven’t really taken advantage of this program,” he said. “This program is really perfect for them.” The process for applying to the program is straightforward. The first step is submitting a letter of interest to Harlingen EDC. Then, the company would also share how many jobs would be created with their project, the salaries for those jobs, and an estimate of how much will be generated in sales. Harlingen EDC officials create a presentation based on that information. “We prepare the package, we submit it to our board,” Garza said. “If the board approves it, then it goes to city commission. And if city commission approves it, then you’ve got a rebate coming back at the end of your first year of operations and maybe even up to five years.” That rebate represents a percentage of the sales tax that the business generates.


H E A L T H

FROM DIET TO

HEALTH CARE DNA Testing Can Change the Way We View and Treat Our Bodies

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b y D a n y a Pe r e z

The world of self-care is quickly changing thanks to widely popular ancestry tests. And for those who are looking for something other than one-size-fits-all workout plans or diets, the answer might be in your DNA. Modern nutritionist Ruth Iduarte became obsessed with how users can turn these ancestry tests into a tool to help improve their health habits in a way that you couldn’t before. “A lot of things have changed in the way we see nutrition now,” she said. “Now we can incorporate technology along with genetics to personalize your nutrition and lifestyle.” What Iduarte is describing are nutrigenomics and epigenetics, some of the latest areas of nutriology that dive deeply into how our DNA’s single nucleotide polymorphisms, known as SNPs, affect our metabolism. “What people don’t know is that (SNPs) affect your metabolism by affecting the gene’s function,” she said. “Everybody has different versions of this … so there is not one diet for everybody.” These SNPs can predict the way somebody’s body absorbs nutrients or foods, Iduarte explained, as well as metabolic deficiencies to a vitamin or mineral and whether you are prone to certain diseases, among many other things. “This answers why people respond differently to chemicals in foods. For example, why am I sensitive to coffee? Why can he drink more coffee that I can? Why am I lactose Intolerant? ... There’s a reason why you need to

do a genetic test and use the technology that is actually available out there,” Iduarte said. Other than tracing your ancestry, these tests usually come with raw genetic DNA data that you can download and process in other systems. These will usually analyze your SNPs and tell you everything from personality traits, to exercises and medications that work better for you. One of these systems is called Preomethease, and it works like a Wikipedia of SNPs, giving you a lot of information on what your raw data means. “It creates a personal DNA report based on your data,” Iduarte said. “It’s years of research that people have made on these SNPs and those SNPs have a function and they work and they are always very accurate … it explains why you are the way you are.” A lot of this information might confirm things you have noticed throughout your life, such as the way your body responds to certain foods, exercises, or medications, and even insight into your sleeping patterns. The problem is that people tend to ignore these signs and go with cookie-cutter diets or exercise plans just because these worked for somebody else. Iduarte, for example, discovered that her body doesn’t respond well to a vegetarian diet, gluten, or antidepressants, and that she’s got a runner’s gene. She had never run long distances for exercise, but knowing that her body would respond well to this, she began doing it — and saw good results. “My genetic makeup is made for long distance running,”

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“Now we can incorporate technology along with genetics to personalize your nutrition and lifestyle.”

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R u th I dua rte, m o d er n nutr i ti oni s t

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“Now the whole game changes for everybody. The future is genetics and we are going to be treating people with nutrition and genetics in the future and that’s nutrigenomics.”

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Ruth Iduarte

she said. “So I come from ancestry where in a little town, they used to go get fish from the rivers very early in the morning and then they used relay runners to get the fish to the town. So that’s where I come from.” It all still falls in your ancestry, she said, and where you come from. Your tolerance or intolerance might have been caused by the living conditions of your ancestors and your genetic makeup will reflect those changes through the years. Having this hyper-personalized information will allow people to determine how to best shape their lifestyles to stay healthy. But they can also use these tools to seek help from nutritionists like Iduarte to help better shape those plans and take action. “This system can actually tell you how to prevent or what you are susceptible to,” she said. “So if you have a gene that you cannot metabolize fat very well, you are going to have a higher risk of Alzheimer’s in the future … you can start exercising, eating healthier, eating more Omega 3.” With the right plan, the possibilities of what you can find and what you can do to enhance or prevent certain things in your body are endless, she said. On the other hand, not paying attention to these signs could lead to very catastrophic consequences and health issues. Iduarte herself, for example, lost her hearing due to antidepressants. “Before I did my genetic testing, I didn’t know why I kept taking antidepressants and I kept feeling really, really bad,” she said. “I would go to sleep and my joints would hurt and I still had really bad depression for years. So my antidepressant caused me to lose my hearing due to all the toxicity. So later on when I did (the genetic

test), I learned I am not supposed to eat gluten. Gluten affects the brain and can cause depression, and I did not know that.” The genetic test allowed her to pinpoint the real cause of her depression and how to attack it without taking the antidepressants that were causing other health issues. This is just one example of some of the tools she has gained from this data and how this information, coupled with a health plan, can change the present and future of many other people. Those who have already purchased and completed one of these ancestry tests should already have access to this data file, and those interested in doing it should purchase even the cheapest test as long as it comes with the genetic raw data. Getting the SNPs report costs about $12 and will give you the already personalized list of your body’s genetic makeup. Iduarte did caution people not to freak out if they see their body is prone to illnesses such as cancer — as most people are — and to seek the help of experts if you have trouble creating a plan for yourself. Right now, there are not many experts focusing on nutrigenomics and epigenetics, Iduarte said, but an increase in demand might just turn that around considering the popularity of the ancestry testing. “Dietitians need to get on this very, very quick because this is the next thing,” Iduarte said. “Now the whole game changes for everybody. The future is genetics and we are going to be treating people with nutrition and genetics in the future and that’s nutrigenomics.” Ruth Iduarte can be reached at rgvyotequieros@gmail. com, and she offers classes in both English and Spanish.

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H E A L T H

TRISOMY AWARENESS:

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MORE THAN JUST A SYNDROME

DOWN SYNDROME (TRISOMY 21) Down syndrome is a genetic disorder that occurs when an individual has an additional full or partial copy of chromosome 21. Some of the most distinguishing characteristics of individuals diagnosed with Down syndrome are their distinct facial appearance, upturned eyes, and its comorbidity with an Intellectual Developmental Disability (IDD). Additional research reports Down syndrome as the most common genetic cause of an intellectual disability (Karam et al., 2015).

The public has created a phenomenon by raising awareness of different diseases or health-related issues. Whether it is to move one step closer to finding a cure or raising money to support patients with different health conditions, the amount of participation has increased. For example, the month of March is the National Trisomy Awareness Month, and World Down Syndrome Day is March 21. The month is dedicated to educating people who might be oblivious to the different types of trisomy conditions. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), people are normally born with 23 pairs of chromosomes, which totals 46 chromosomes. In some instances, individuals are born with an extra chromosome, which can be a strong indicator of having a trisomy condition and can lead to severe health conditions (NICHD Research Advances Understanding of Trisomy Conditions).

• 1 in every 961 (CDC, 2013) • IDD and developmental abnormalities (CDC, 2013;

DHHS, 2013) • Physical and organ abnormalities (DHHS, 2013)

EDWARDS SYNDROME (TRISOMY 18) Edwards syndrome is a chromosomal condition associated with abnormalities in numerous parts of the body. According to the National Institutes of Health, some distinguishing characteristics of Trisomy 18 include a small head, jaw, and mouth; and clenched fists with overlapping fingers (2019). Only about 5-10 percent of individuals diagnosed with Trisomy 18 live past their first year.

COMMON TYPES OF TRISOMY CONDITIONS: Trisomy can occur at any chromosome, but the most well-known trisomy syndromes occur at the 13, 18, and 21 chromosomes. In the state of Texas, rates of Trisomy 21 between 2010 and 2013 were reported at an approximately .15 rate (March of Dimes, 2019).

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participate in decisions that affect them, have meaningful relationships, vote, and contribute to society in many wonderful ways. Contributing to these positive factors include quality educational programs, a stimulating home environment, good health care, and positive support from family, friends and the community, which enables people with Down syndrome to lead fulfilling and productive lives (NDSS, 2019).

• 5-10 percent of births each year in the US (DHHS,

2013) • Severe IDD (DHHS, 2013) • Heart and organ abnormalities (DHHS, 2013)

PATAU SYNDROME (TRISOMY 13) The National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences describes Trisomy 13 as a “chromosome disorder with three copies of chromosomes in the cell body” (NIH, 2019). Some health related issues Trisomy 13 can lead to include low birth weight, cleft lip, and heart-related problems. Newborns with Trisomy 13 are sometimes born with extra fingers or toes (NIH, 2019).

•1 in 10,000 to 16,000 live births each year worldwide (DHHS, 2013). • Severe IDD (DHHS, 2013). • Physical and organ conditions (DHHS, 2013).

RISK FACTORS While risk factors for Trisomy 13 and Trisomy 18 have not been identified by research, a few predispositions have been identified for Trisomy 21. Predispositions include advanced maternal age, having already one child with Trisomy 21, and parents who are “carriers of the genetic translocation for Down syndrome” (Mayo Clinic, 2018). A DOSE OF POSITIVITY Learning that your child or relative has been diagnosed with a trisomy syndrome can be stressful. However, it is also important to focus on the positive aspects. Researchers surveyed parents of individuals diagnosed with Trisomy 18 and Trisomy 13 to get insight on their perspective and experience. Results were as follows: “Despite their severe disabilities, 97% of parents described their child as a happy child. Parents reported these children enriched their family and their couple irrespective of the length of their lives” (Janvier et al., 2012). While this population have a high mortality, a study by Meyer et al. showed evidence of increased survival of infants and children with Trisomy 18 and 13 who had more medical interventions (2015). According to the National Down Syndrome Society, the life expectancy of individuals with Down syndrome has increased through the decades. They stress that individuals with Down syndrome attend school, work,

(Co-authors include Dr. Mercado’s Mental Health Lab at UTRGV: Stephanie Arellano, Abigail Nunez-Saenz, Andy Torres, Jose

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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Garcia, Paola Salazar, and Maria Sevilla-Matos.)

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RESOURCES AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT Although there is no cure, a wide variety of different resources and centers of support exist in order to get the best medical attention and support for patients and/ or families. The most immediate way to seek help is through a family doctor, pediatrician, or counseling. Different support groups such as Chromosome Disorder Outreach (CDO), Hope for Trisomy, Support for Organization 18, 13, and Related Disorders (SOFT), and Unique Rare Chromosome Disorder Support Group, can be a great resource for trisomy patients/families (NIH, 2016). Trisomy.org and internationaltrisomyalliance. com provide general information, links to services, and other beneficial information for family members. Local sources include the Rio Grande Valley Down Syndrome Association, which seeks to provide support and promote the well-being of individuals with Down syndrome and their caretakers. For inquiries about state programs and services, call 2-11 or visit 211.texas.org. Other sources of help in the RGV include Tropical Texas Behavioral Health - IDD (http://www. ttcmhmr.org/ ) and Texas Health and Human Services Early Childhood Intervention Services to find a service/program near you at citysearch.hhsc.state.tx.us.


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H E A L T H

DIGITAL REHAB Investigating Social Media Addiction and Ways to Keep It in Check by Ka r ina Va rga s

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Many of us have picked up the habit of looking at our phones and social media accounts to check our notifications as soon as we wake up. It’s become as much a part of our daily routine as brushing our teeth. We scroll mindlessly through hundreds of posts every day, while commenting, liking, and sharing along the way. We prefer to not to think of the disadvantages of social media and over-reliance on technology because of how dependent on it we have become — whether as a source of entertainment, or just a platform we can constantly plug into to feel “connected” to others. The irony though, is the more “connected” we become online, the more disconnected we actually are in real life. For many of us, using social media may be an addiction that we never fully realized. STATISTICS According to Brandwatch, a social media monitoring company that provides live and historical consumer data on trends across the web, the internet has 4.2 billion users. Of those users, there are 3.397 billion active social media users. On average, people have 5.54 social media accounts and spend 116 minutes a day on social media. Social media users have grown by 320 million between September 2017 and October 2018, and that number continues to grow. Take a look at user numbers for some of the most popular social media platforms:

• Facebook: 2.271 billion • Instagram: 1 billion • Snapchat: 186 million daily users • Twitter: 326 million users • Youtube: 1.5 billion users The reigning social media giant, Facebook, has the largest presence

target their audience.

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engines succeed by identifying a good match between a user’s query and a relevant ad, which attracts a click. Facebook doesn’t have to do this in order to target their ads effectively, since they already know so much about their users. Social networks like Facebook collect a wealth of detailed information about their users. After all, the very purpose of a social media profile is to serve as an online archive of users’ personal information. While users may intend to use this information to network with friends, advertisers can use this information to understand and

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AD TARGETING Ever noticed eerily specific ads that are targeted to your interests or recent searches pop up on your social media platforms? This is carried out one of two ways. According to Clickable, a social media analytics company, search

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of all, with 68 percent of Americans having an account and 76 percent of users checking it every day. There are 60 million active business pages on Facebook and 5 million active advertisers on the platform.


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PRIVACY ISSUES In real (offline) life, people tend to follow and adhere to the norms of privacy. You don’t have to share any information you don’t want to, such as your birthday, age, address, interests, or relationship status. When you’re online, however, and want to join a social networking site, you must disclose your personal information in order to be accepted. Once you are an active user of their platform, your identity and interests essentially become public domain. They find out about your habits, your browsing history, where you go, what you do, and who you communicate with. Robert Marez, a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, says it’s important to keep the public permanence factor in mind before posting anything. “I see a lot of online social media bullying among my patients, as well as the circulating of private photos and the damage it causes,” he said. “If you come across [inappropriate private photos or abusive comments], it’s important to remember to report them before you delete them so you have evidence.

fabulous things and traveling to breathtaking destinations regularly. This can make us feel like we are inadequate or boring. We don’t want to be gripped by FOMO, or “fear of missing out.” This mindset is obviously detrimental to our mental health and outlook. According to Marez, these negative feelings can be especially prevalent among those with mental illness. “People with existing mental illness are at greater risk of vulnerability to comparing themselves to others on social media,” Marez said. “They already have low self-esteem and the comparison can validate the cognitive distortions they have.” Marez says hitting the unfollow button on certain accounts can have a positive impact on your mental state. “Delete or unfollow accounts that make you feel bad about yourself,” he said. REGULATING YOUR USAGE It may seem like common sense, but recognizing that limiting your time using technology is beneficial for your mental health is the first step in the right direction. If you’d like to be more mindful about your screen time usage, Apple now has a Screen Time tab in its Settings folder, which will provide you with a weekly report on how you’ve used your screen time. You can also set time limits for apps in which you’d like to manage your time. Giving oneself a social media time allowance is a great way to regulate your time online and prioritize real life over screen time. The Instagram app itself also has a new “Your Activity” section under its Settings tab that provides you with the same information in a weekly/daily report, including the option to set a daily reminder once you’ve reached your time limit you set for yourself in the app.

SOCIAL MEDIA ADDICTION According to a recent survey by the Royal Society for Public Health in the United Kingdom, social media has been described as “more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol.” Just imagine if you smoked a cigarette as often as you checked your social media feed. Most of us are not fully aware of how many times a day we pick up our phones to look at our social media accounts. Mediakix, an influencer marketing agency, states that over 210 million people suffer from internet and social media addictions worldwide. A U.S. study by the American Psychological Association found that adolescent psychological well-being (measured by self-esteem, life satisfaction and happiness) suddenly decreased after 2012. Adolescents who spent more time on screens and less time on non-screen activities had lower psychological well-being. Adolescents spending a small amount of time on electronic communication were happiest.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT • Research shows that social overload is stressful. Be selective about the posts you respond to. • Don’t let social media interruptions distract you from what’s really important. Ignore notifications, or if you can’t, simply turn them off. • Keep in mind that posts only show people’s “highlight reels.” It isn’t accurate or fair to compare your reality with others’ filtered fantasies. • Finally, find ways to interact with your friends in real life. Meet up for coffee or a day of activities, or just call them. When you want to catch up with those you care about, there is really no substitute for hearing their voice or seeing them face to face.

MENTAL HEALTH EFFECTS According to a recent survey of almost 1,500 teens and young adults by the Royal Society for Public Health and the Young Health Movement in the UK, Instagram is the most damaging social media platform on mental health. The image sharing platform causes high levels of anxiety and depression. This may be due to comparing one’s own reality with perfectly curated images of seemingly flawless people doing

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SOLUTION TO THE STRUGGLE Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Discusses Prevalent Issues in RGV Patients

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by Amy Casebier

You’ve started noticing changes in your child’s behavior. Your daughter must be reminded multiple times to complete tasks, and her room remains in a state of chaos. Or your normally outgoing son withdraws from friends and starts speaking negatively about himself more often. Their grades start falling, and their teachers are taking notice. What do you do? “Talk to your child,” said Dr. Delisa Guadarrama, child and adolescent psychiatrist at South Texas Health System Clinics. “Just ask how they’re doing and if you’re concerned at all, bring them to the clinic, bring them to their primary care doctor. They can do some screenings and then send them over to a psychiatrist or a therapist if they need further evaluation.” Guadarrama grew up in Edinburg and attended medical school at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. But it was back in her hometown where she discovered her passion for psychiatry while doing rotations at South Texas Behavioral Health Center. “I wanted to return to the Valley and work where I thought there was the most need,” Guadarrama said. “That’s been a focus of mine for the last couple of years.” She worked for two years at Tropical Texas Behavioral Health in Edinburg and Weslaco as a child and adolescent psychiatrist.

“We served a great deal of the population here, but there aren’t that many private psychiatrists or psychiatrists outside of that system that can see children and so I’m happy for this opportunity,” Guadarrama said of her work prior to her joining the team of South Texas Health System Clinics, which is the new name of Valley Care Clinics. This multi-specialty physician network is beginning the transition to the new brand as part of its realignment with South Texas Health System, which owns the inpatient behavioral health hospital next to the clinic. Not to be confused with psychologists, who provide testing and therapy for patients, psychiatrists like Guadarrama prescribe medication to help patients with their diagnoses. She also sometimes partners with therapists depending on the approach for different patients. The three issues Guadarrama sees the most often in her practice include attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, depression, and anxiety. Since these are conditions that affect children in all areas of their lives, Guadarrama often communicates and consults with both parents and teachers. “A lot of times the teacher’s the first one to say ‘hey, your child — they’re able to do their work, but they struggle a lot with problems with their attention,’” Guadarrama said.

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“We served a great deal of the population here, but there aren’t that many private psychiatrists or psychiatrists outside of that system that can see children and so I’m happy for this opportunity.” D r. De l i s a G u a d a r r a m a , ch ild an d adolescen t

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with their families and peers. It all comes down to recognizing when children need intervention. “So that’s what we start seeing — a difference in their ability to function — and that’s when we want to treat depression and anxiety in a child, when it’s affecting their home life or their academic success,” Guadarrama said. There are some things parents can do to try to prevent the situations that contribute to these conditions. “We really have to make sure that kids are falling asleep on time, that they’re getting up and eating a good breakfast — that their life at home is fairly stable,” Guadarrama said. And parents shouldn’t be afraid to seek help from someone like her. “I understand that a lot of parents are hesitant to give their child a pill,” Guadarrama said. “It doesn’t mean that it’s going to happen forever. Sometimes, a child just needs to be on medication for six to nine months until a stressor is resolved or until they learn to cope with certain situations.” Since children’s brains, emotions, and hormones are still developing and changing, Guadarrama added, situations that currently require medication might also change. Once symptoms are resolved and children express interest in taking a break from the medication, Guadarrama is supportive and attentive. Under her supervision, some children thrive, while others might later return to their medication. “All these symptoms can get better with medication,” Guadarrama said. “We want to make sure the child is set up to do the best they can at school and at home.” If your insurance does not require referrals, request an appointment with Dr. Delisa Guadarrama by calling (956) 383-3281. Otherwise, request a referral through your child’s primary care physician or pediatrician. South Texas Health System Clinics Child and Adolescent Psychiatry office is located at 2110 W. Trenton Road, Suite B, Edinburg, TX 78539.

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“ADHD — it affects their school functioning, their ability to learn and to do well in school. Sometimes, medication can really make a difference for that child.” Anxiety stems from stressors in a child’s life — mental or emotional strain centered around different situations that can manifest in behaviors like having trouble sleeping or reluctance to go to school. “Children sometimes show a lot more physical symptoms, especially when talking about anxiety,” Guadarrama said. “So they might complain of stomach aches or headaches or problems with feeling general fatigue when this is a child who didn’t have those symptoms before.” There is no one-size-fits-all approach to the children who come into Guadarrama’s office — a comfortable space with large windows and a shelf full of colorful picture books. “Sometimes a child comes in and discusses their symptoms and I think they might benefit more from counseling,” she said. “Other times, they come in and they are telling me many symptoms of their depression — things like poor energy, lack of sleep, lack of concentration in school, and even thoughts of hurting themselves. In that case, when something is so serious, we need to pair it with therapy, but medication may also be necessary to treat that child’s symptoms.” Stressors that can contribute to depression and anxiety in children are things that adults are also familiar with — social tension, pressure to succeed, and other situations. But some contributors to these issues haven’t been around for very long. “Some of the newer problems that we have are with media, technology, cellphone use,” Guadarrama said. “Some of the recent studies that have come out have shown that increase in cellphone use can cause increase in depression because of online bullying.” She also talks with some of her clinic patients about social skills affected by cellphone use — including the prevalence of texting versus face-to-face interactions

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p s y chiatrist at Sou th Texas Health System Clin ics


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TROPICAL

CEVICHE p h ot o b y O m a r Dí a z

INGREDIENTS: 7 oz of tilapia 1/2 red bell pepper 1/2 green bell pepper ¼ red onion ½ serrano pepper 1 cucumber 1 tomato ½ mango 8 key limes 1 cup of shrimp consomme ¼ cup of clamato juice lemon pepper garlic powder celery salt sea salt

DIRECTIONS: 1. Chop the tilapia into cubes. Put in a bowl and add the juice from the lemons. Season with the lemon pepper, garlic powder, and celery salt. Keep refrigerated.

2. Chop the bell peppers, onion, serrano pepper, cucumber, tomato, and mango in small pieces. Add to a separate bowl, and season

ingredients. Mix well.

4. Add the clamato juice and shrimp consomme. Continue mixing. Return the ceviche to the fridge for at least 20 minutes. Then it will be ready to serve. corn tostadas.

RECIPE PROVIDED BY:

A N A KA R E N TO R R E S Bachelor of Science (BS): Nutrition More recipes can be found on Facebook: @anakarentorresonlinenutrition

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5. Enjoy this delicious dish with whole wheat crackers or baked

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with sea salt.

3. Remove the bowl from the fridge and add the other chopped


H E A L T H

Celebrate

RECOVERY Celebrate Recovery Seeks to Help Change Lives Through Faith and Support

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b y D a n y a Pe r e z

What he thought was a church visit mainly to support his wife turned out to be a chance to change Juan Salinas’ perspective and lifestyle for the best. Salinas began attending the 12-step recovery program known as Celebrate Recovery in 2008, which merges steps taken by recovery programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous with eight biblical principals. And today he is Celebrate Recovery’s state representative based in the Rio Grande Valley. “I had heard about AA and it’s the same steps we go through, but it’s just that in AA they took away Jesus Christ — they talk about higher power but they don’t mention who,” Salinas said. “When you go to Celebrate Recovery and they do mention who that is, then you feel like, ‘You know what? I’m not alone.’” The program aims to help rehabilitate people with any hurt, habit, or hangup, as they call it. That includes

anybody with any type of drug dependency or addiction, depression, coping with losses, and any issue that keeps them from living a better life. For Salinas, it was anger management issues that were tarnishing his family and personal life to the point that he ended up in jail even as he was trying to start the program. That was the last straw for him, so he decided to ask God for a chance to get better and a pathway to do so, he said. “At that time, I had already encountered Christ and even as I was going through the steps, I actually fell in prison,” Salinas said. “At that moment, that’s when I encountered God and he gave me a verse, Jeremiah 29:11… he told me, ‘I have a better purpose for you, but you have to allow me to take over.’ I only spent one night in jail. That’s all it took.” Since then, his life and that of his wife, who also

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steps, but further connect it to biblical scripture. “Happy are those who know that they are spiritually poor,” Step 1 also states. Anybody interested in learning about the program is welcome to attend the church services or meetings, which take place Thursdays or Fridays, depending on the location, at 7 p.m. There is no requirement to attend a church service or meeting, but once somebody is interested on following the six-month recovery program, Newsome said they are required to sign up and participate with mentorship and support throughout the entire process. “You always need a mentor, someone who has overcome the stuff that you are going through, or somebody who has knowledge and insight,” Newsome said. “You walk with that person to help get that knowledge that you need.” For those not knowing whether the program is for them, Salinas said they can always just go in and see it for themselves before signing up. Once somebody knows that there is an issue or dependency keeping them from growing, he said it is always important to seek ways to try to overcome. “We are just serving the Lord and giving back. God will do the rest,” he said. “We give time. Time is something that we don’t get back. It’s something that a lot of people need. Time to listen. Time to cry. Time to just be there for them.”

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followed the program for her own issues, has been drastically improved, he said. The family relationship has gotten stronger: They are now married through church and are raising their three children under a much better family environment. “I went for moral support only, but at the same time it was both of us that had issues,” Salinas said. “Since 2008, I’ve been sober. I haven't drank, I haven’t touched tobacco. My anger, there are little things that trigger it, but I know how to control it. Our lives have changed around.” For Jessica Newsome, a former Border Patrol agent who now works full time as ministry leader at Celebrate Recovery, the religious aspect also gave her an added drive while attending the program herself. Newsome prefered to keep her story private, but said that having that understanding that they don’t have to go through the rehabilitation process alone that keeps many going and looking up to God for strength. “What I love about Celebrate Recovery is that it’s a judgment-free zone,” Newsome said. “Some people think that they have to be perfect and get themselves together before you come to church or before you get help and that’s not the way we do it. You come as you are and we just walk you to freedom in Jesus Christ and all of it is a process. It’s not overnight.” In the Rio Grande Valley, there are four locations: The Family Church, 2322 N. McColl in McAllen; Center Church, 4801 N. Cage Blvd. in Pharr; The Harlingen Church of Christ, 801 E. Harrison Ave.; and the Brownsville Community Fellowship, 2414 Central Blvd. The program started in 1991 at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. Today, it is offered worldwide at 35,000 churches, helping more than 5 million people so far, according to the program’s website. “We are part of a movement that is bringing the healing power of Jesus Christ to the hurting and broken,” the site states. The 12 steps that are commonly seen in other programs are present, such as admitting the wrong, believing there is a higher power to help resolve it, and make the decision to change. Step 1, for example, states, “Admitting that we are powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviours, that our lives had become unmanageable.” But through this program, participants also compare this step to biblical references, such as, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature for I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” (Romans 7:18). The eight recovery principles are also based on the 12

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H E A L T H

GOOD HABITS TO ADOPT How to Improve Your Life in Small but Beneficial Ways

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b y S of i a A l e m a n SELF CARE In order to meet the needs of the world around us, we have to be fully alert and able. A lot of our capability to tackle life's issues begin with making sure our own needs are met before reaching a catastrophic burnout physically, mentally, and emotionally. And there are four key components to doing so.

We are well into the new year and while hopefully some of us have kept our resolutions, there are others who may still be contemplating the differences they could adopt to truly make 2019 a more fruitful year. With self improvement buzzwords all over the internet like “mindfulness,” “hygge,” and “self-care,” people are looking for constructive and feasible ways to improve their life in small but beneficial ways. For those who decided not to delve into deep, life-changing resolutions, it’s not too late to adopt practical and easy ways to impact yourself and the community around you. Mike Wilson, Chief Operating Officer of CM Institute of Leadership in McAllen, shares these four small changes he has seen help to prepare his clients in leadership positions and can be applied easily to anyone's life.

DIET Diet can single-handedly affect every single aspect of self-care. Without the proper nutrients, our bodies will not function at an optimal level and will even impede brain function. If there’s no harmony in our gut, it’s unlikely there will be harmony outside of the body, either. While it may seem overwhelming to completely change our diets,

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HYGGE (pronounced hue-gah) According to www. hyggehouse.com, it’s a Danish word used to acknowledge a special feeling or moment. The concept encompasses mindfulness, meditation, detoxing, and the idea that taking the time to center yourself will lead to peace. One way to embrace hygge may include disconnecting from technology and reading a book or taking a walk in nature. Leaving your phone in the car when you meet with your friends is another way to disconnect from a screen and find connection through friendship. Adopting a daily meditation or prayer technique can also help keep your stress and anxiety down and promotes thankfulness. “You have to disconnect from the world and center yourself — be more focused and energized to tackle life's issues and everything else. If you don't center yourself, you can’t succeed. Or maybe you can succeed, but you will be overworked and stressed,” Wilson said.

BRING VALUE TO OTHERS It’s validating even to ourselves when we’re able to be an encouraging person, love others, and make sure our words bring out the best in people. Next time you have any interaction with someone, try to compliment them. “Build your reciprocity account and always try to do things for other people without expecting anything back,” Wilson said. SMILE, AND SAY THANK YOU According to www.psychologytoday. com, showing gratitude has been proven to open the doors to more relationships. People genuinely appreciate being around someone who’s grateful. Gratitude also improves physical and psychological health, and reduces aggression while enhancing empathy. It also reduces stress and improves sleep. “When you wake up in the morning, say thank you. Say thank you, God, thank you, wife, thank you, kids — just say thank you for every gift in your life. It’s not just for them. It’s for you,” Wilson said. Some of the most well-respected leaders in our area and around the globe embrace these qualities, providing evidence that following them would bring great success. “Success doesn’t always mean you want to be a millionaire, but you need to find out what your success is,” Wilson said. “A lot of people have the wrong mindset about life in general or about themselves, but you got to change your mindset to truly be successful — whatever that success may be.”

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To learn more about why Edward Jones makes sense for you, call or visit a financial advisor today.

www.edwardjones.com Member SIPC

Leonardo F Chang

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Part of feeling our best is making sure our intake of things in all aspects needs to be positive. Things like crude humor, movies, music, raunchy videos on the internet, or memes that base their humor on things like horror, ridicule, or violence actually negatively impact our minds in ways that are sometimes subconscious. “People think that's entertainment, but actually it's feeding your mind with negative stuff that really will actually impede the way you think about others and about life in general,” Wilson said.

Financial Advisor

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EXERCISE “If you exercise, it increases the oxygen intake to your body, thus you'll be able to function more in your work environment or your business,” Wilson said. Sometimes, it can be as simple as taking a walk at a nature center.

POSITIVE WORDS Using positive words is actually the first step to having a more positive outlook on life. Saying things like “I know my business will succeed,” instead of “I hope my business will succeed,” is actually a crucial step to meeting goals. Positive words also includes the words you use to describe yourself. If you’ve been saying things like, “I’m dumb,” “I’m so worthless,” or things of this nature, replace them with words that deflect that negativity and turn them into something uplifting.

MKD-8652B-A

making just one change can be life altering. Over time, the “one change at a time” approach will add up to a new, healthier you.


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Magnificent

Monarch Migration

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by Jo hn Brush

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City of McAllen Monarch Festival at Quinta Mazatlán from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on March 16.

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Scientists have often studied how monarchs make their incredible journeys, but there is still much to learn. We do know this, however: The North American monarch butterfly population has drastically declined — up to 90 percent — over the past two decades. These declines are thought to be in part caused by loss of milkweed and nectar plant habitat, along with the use of pesticides. There are ways to help the monarch, and national efforts like the Mayor’s Monarch Pledge are helping to spread the word. One of the easiest ways to help a monarch is by planting native milkweeds and native nectar plants in your yard, which also benefit all the other pollinators that are important for a healthy ecosystem. At Quinta Mazatlan’s upcoming McAllen Monarch Festival — scheduled for 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 16 — there will be opportunities to learn more about monarchs and to purchase native plants to make a difference in your own backyard. Hope to see you there, and long live the monarch!

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The monarch butterfly is thought to have been potentially named in honor of various kings, both real (King William III of England) and fictional (Danaus, great-grandson of the Greek god Zeus). However, one could argue that it could easily be called “monarch” because of its migratory prowess — the king of migratory butterflies. This beautiful orange, black, and white insect as a species can migrate vast distances, traveling from as far north as southern Canada down into Michoacán, Mexico — a trip that can span over 2,500 miles (or 80 million butterfly body lengths). To put this into perspective, a person of average height in the United States (roughly 5 feet 6.75 inches) would have to walk roughly 225,000 body lengths to reach San Antonio from McAllen. Unlike a bird, the monarch butterfly is incapable of making the round-trip journey in its lifespan; it takes multiple generations. The last generation of the summer, the over-wintering generation, is the one that makes the long southward migration to Michoacán, Mexico. It then takes three to four subsequent generations (each usually living less than five weeks) to complete the journey north.

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Save a

LIFE

Thinking of adding a furry family member to your household? Or perhaps you already have one and are ready to add another to your posse. You’d be in good company. 68 percent of U.S. households, or about 85 million families, own a pet, according to the 2017-18 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA). This is up from 56 percent of U.S. households in 1988, the first year the survey was conducted. The number of pet-owning households, however, doesn’t account for the number of adoptable dogs and cats waiting to be adopted from a shelter.

Pet Adoption Is Not Just Life Saving, but Rewarding by Ka r i na Va r ga s | p h o to s b y D o mi ni q ue Z mud a

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To better understand the amount of animals PVAC cares for, take a look at their 2018 data:

According to the Humane Society of Central Texas website, approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter U.S. shelters every year. Out of those, approximately 3.9 million are dogs and 3.4 million are cats. Each year, approximately 2.7 million animals are euthanized simply because too many pets enter shelters and too few people consider adopting from a shelter or rescue when seeking a pet. Rebeca Villanueva, director of Development at Palm Valley Animal Center, says that PVAC is working tirelessly towards its goal of achieving no-kill status for the RGV community. The public’s support, however, is necessary to continue taking the steps to achieve this. The City of Austin passed a No-Kill Resolution in 2010 and the economic results have been astounding. According to a study conducted by the University of Denver, the NoKill Resolution has saved Austin nearly $157.5 million as of October 2017. Villanueva said that one of the best decisions community members can make for their own pets is spaying and neutering them. “Increasing access to spay/neuter and wellness services for our community will bring about economic growth for our area and ultimately cost savings to our county and its municipalities while saving the lives of tens of thousands of animals,” she said.

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Adopting a pet has proven health and wellness benefits. Numerous studies show that the bond between people and their pets can increase health and fitness, lower stress, and bring happiness to their owners. University of Wisconsin-Madison pediatrician James E. Gern has conducted a number of studies that demonstrate having a pet in the home can actually lower a child's likelihood of developing related allergies by as much as 33 percent. Gern’s research — as published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology — has shown that children exposed early on to animals tend to develop stronger immune systems overall. Having pets also provides a great tool for improving your socialization skills, especially in terms of meeting and

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Interested in saving a life while gaining a new family member?

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Admitted and cared for 39,006 animals* Adopted 4,983 Transferred to rescue 12,893* Reunited with owner 2,145 Live release rate 52% Volunteer hours: 27,607.05 Pets sent to foster homes: 1,838 *Includes wildlife


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California recently became the first state in the U.S. to ban pet stores from selling dogs, cats, and rabbits unless they come from animal shelters or rescue groups. The Pet Rescue and Adoption Act was introduced by assemblymember Patrick O'Donnell and signed into law by then-California Gov. Jerry Brown in October 2017. The new law aims to tackle puppy mills or kitten factories, which operate with minimal to no regulation and “house animals in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions without adequate food, water, socialization or veterinary care,” according to a fact sheet for the legislation, A.B. 485. “Because pet stores are one step removed from the breeding of the animals they sell, store owners rarely know the breeding conditions of their animals,” the fact sheet stated. The statewide legislation is the first of its kind to get the ball rolling in the United States, but other states are setting out to take similar measures that will affect pet retail shops. O'Donnell said the law was a "big win for our four-legged friends" as well as for taxpayers, who he said spend more than $250 million a year to house and euthanize shelter animals. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals vice president for state affairs Kevin O’Neill stated in a recent interview that California’s legislation appeared to be the beginning of a trend, with other statewide measures being drafted or considered in Washington State, New York, and New Jersey. Although steps are being taken in the right direction, there is still a lot of work to do in order to tackle the homeless pet population and reduce the huge number of shelter residents and euthanized animals. When you are ready to consider adopting, fostering, volunteering time, or simply making a donation, remember the furry friends waiting at your local shelter and what it means to help a pet in need. You have the opportunity to save a life while improving your own. For more information on how you can help local animals in need, contact Palm Valley Animal Center at (956) 686-1141 or visit their website at pvactx.org.

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interacting with other pet owners. Although people may have a tough time putting themselves “out there,” pets can be the common denominator that helps them connect with others. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Health (NIH) have both conducted heart-related studies on people who have pets. Their findings showed that pet owners exhibit decreased blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels — all of which can ultimately minimize their risk for having a heart attack down the road. Another major health benefit that accompanies dog ownership is maintaining or losing weight with regular exercise from daily walks. Research by the National Institute of Health supports this. One study NIH carried out found that dog owners responsible for walking their pups are less likely to be obese than dog owners who pass the duty to someone else or those who don’t own dogs at all. For those who sometimes feel blue, pets are a great way to keep negative feelings of loneliness or depression at bay. Besides giving unconditional love, they also provide owners with a sense of purpose. Pets provide companionship, which can boost your overall mood, in turn improving your health. This is especially apparent among those who receive Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) or Pet-Facilitated Therapy (PFT). Many hospitals and nursing homes use these types of programs on a regular basis. These benefits, although wonderful by themselves, can become a win for both you and your potential pet if you consider the life-saving decision to adopt your furry friend from a shelter or rescue. The large number of euthanized pets could decrease exponentially if more people adopted from these places rather than a pet store or breeder. Pet stores that sell puppies or kittens usually get them from puppy mills or kitten factories, where dogs and cats live in cages that are far too small and the mothers are kept constantly pregnant until they can no longer breed — at which time they are put down. Buying a puppy or kitten from a pet store allows these inhumane practices to perpetuate. One state, however, is aiming to put these dog and cat factories out of business.

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Pets provide companionship, which can boost your overall mood, which in turn can improve your health. This is especially apparent among those who receive Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) or Pet-facilitated Therapy (PFT).


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CHAMPIONS OF COSPLAY Luna Valley Cosplay Group a Celebration of Friendship, Creativity

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b y Amy Ca s eb i er | p h o to b y G a b r i e l E l i z on d o

Most people put on costumes to hide their identity. But the five members of Luna Valley Cosplay suit up and find themselves in their characters, identifying with personality quirks, aspiring to certain traits, and finding a creative release from their day jobs. Jessica, Mimi, Eva, Victoria, and Leah came together as friends at Weslaco East High School. Their first cosplay experience was a Halloween costume competition with a few other friends, representing all of the characters from anime classic “Sailor Moon.” They lost the competition, but they gained a determination to find the right venue to showcase their handmade costumes. That’s how the five friends found themselves at Geekfest in Killeen. “I’m really glad that was the first con we went to together because they were so sweet to us,” Eva said. “I think it provided us the validation that we had been missing.” Luna Valley Cosplay came away with best in show, first place novice, and a newfound passion. They brainstormed branding, deciding on a name and logo to launch their social media presence. “We want to represent where we’re from even if we go to other places, and that’s how we came up with that name,” Mimi said of Luna Valley Cosplay. “We also knew that ‘Sailor Moon’ was always going to be special to us even if we’ve always done a lot of other cosplays.” Leah’s mother made her a Sailor Mercury costume during her sophomore year of high school.

“She passed away the same year we started doing the Sailor Scouts together,” Leah said. “So I was like, ‘why don’t we just do it the same way my mom did and we’ll just all put it together like that?’ We sort of used that as a bonding experience because I was going through a really rough time. I think just doing all of that and working on these costumes together brought us a lot closer as friends to help me through my rough patch.” “Mimi’s mom had passed the year before,” Victoria remembered. “Yeah, you know, as young adults, we were finding each other as a family more so than just friends,” Mimi reflected. Coming together as Luna Valley Cosplay became a multifaceted experience. The friends worked hard, meeting on a weekly basis to develop variations on their Sailor Moon repertoire, crafting everything and learning new skills on the fly —like sewing and sculpting. But those sessions were also spent laughing, reminiscing, venting, snacking. Playing video games. It was both an outlet from the norm and a way to balance themselves. “There was a whole year-and-a-half I wasn’t working. I was focused on school,” Jessica said. “I think doing this kept me from completely going over the edge.” The group continues to rack up accolades for their costumes as they attend more conventions together. They’ve met Linda Valentine, the voice of Sailor Moon herself — “She was like, ‘my babies!’ and we were like, ‘oh, my God!’” Victoria said.

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The friends are always thinking about what to do next. Some of their best cosplays together have been on whims — someone saying “what if” or “we should” while they’re just hanging out. They’re thinking about doing videos in the future, as well as what the future might bring for the next generation of cosplayers. “There’s a lot more kids now that are getting into cosplay, and I think that’s super awesome,” Leah said. “I hope that we can be a good example.” The prevalence of comics in superhero blockbusters and popular culture is also normalizing cosplay — and opening up doors. “People are seeing themselves more in characters because there’s more diversity in them,” Mimi said. “So now you don’t feel out of place dressing up as whatever character. You can identify with them.” Follow Luna Valley Cosplay on Instagram and Facebook: @lunavalleycosplay.

FAVORITE COSPLAY SO FAR

COSPLAY GROUP GOALS

COSPLAY INDIVIDUAL GOALS

Jessica: Shikamaru

Jessica: Avatar: The Last Airbender

Jessica: Lan Fan

Mimi: Sailor Venus

Mimi: Sailor Scouts as princesses

Mimi: Female Kylo Ren

Eva: Poison Ivy

Eva: Game of Thrones

Eva: Disney villain — possibly Ursula

Victoria: Sailor Mars (Super edition)

Victoria: Spider-Verse or women of Marvel

Victoria: Spider-Woman

Leah: Sailor Moon

Leah: Sailor Scouts as princesses

Leah: Skeletor

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One of the top moments in cosplay for the group? South Texas Comic Con 2018. “Last year they brought down Yaya Han, the international queen of cosplay,” Victoria said. “To even have a cosplay guest that level here in the Valley is amazing.” “Our eyes popped out of our sockets when we saw it,” Mimi said. “We’re going, life or death,” Victoria added, remembering their reaction to the announcement. Inspired by the opportunity to be judged by a cosplayer of Han’s status, they threw themselves into a new iteration of Sailor Moon — the eternal. Han gave them an honorable mention, remarking that she wished the convention would have group awards next year. She also gave the group signed prints as prizes. All five members of Luna Valley Cosplay will appear together at the Latino Comic Expo in Brownsville in March. Part of the group will attend McAllen’s South Texas Comic Con in April.

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L I F E

The Explore RGV initiative is putting the Rio Grande Valley on the map with their website and mobile app directory. Browse by location or by cateogry to plan the perfect itinerary. With spring in the air, this is a beautiful time of year to enjoy one of the many hike and bike trails across our four counties. Visitors and residents alike can use this helpful guide to explore the native flora and fauna the region has to offer. Happy trails! To view video footage or find more information on these locations, visit www.goexplorergv.com.

Hike & Bike

25TH STREET HIKE & BIKE TRAIL This Harlingen trail is paved and 4.1 miles long. Beginning at Hugh Ramsey Nature Park and traveling to 25th Street, it’s ideal for walkers and runners, bicyclists, and families. Harlingen, TX

Trails in the Rio Grande Valley

2ND STREET HIKE AND BIKE TRAIL

by Explo re RGV a nd RGVi s i o n

Take your family on a trip through the city outdoors to the hike and bike trails located throughout McAllen. Our linear parks are a great place to go running, jogging, skating, cycling, or walking with the entire family. The city encourages exercise and fitness opportunities for local families and visitors, so come enjoy a healthy workout with beautiful scenery. West Nolana Avenue, McAllen, TX

BELDEN TRAIL The Belden Trail is 1-mile long and connects Skinner Elementary with Praxedis Orive Jr. (Sunrise) Park on Palm Boulevard along a 10-foot-wide path made of concrete. The trail has lighting and benches and features bollards, or vertical barriers, at intersections to keep out cars and motorcycles. W. Third St., Brownsville, TX MAR/APR 2019

BENTSEN-RIO GRANDE VALLEY STATE PARK

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Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park is located at 2800 S. Bentsen Palm Drive south of the city of Mission in Hidalgo County in the U.S. state of Texas. It serves as the headquarters for the World Birding Center. 2800 S. Bentsen Palm Drive, Mission, TX

BICENTENNIAL HIKE AND BIKE TRAIL The Bicentennial Hike and Bike Trail is the ideal place for outdoor activity and exercise for the whole family. While enjoying this scenic 5-and-a-half-mile trail, you will pass the International Museum of Art & Science, McAllen High School, and a few other points of interest. It’s wheelchair accessible and fully paved. Bicentennial Bwoulevard, McAllen, TX photo by Jessica Flores 70


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DELTA LAKE PARK

then clean your catch at our fish cleaning station. 146 Park Road 46, Roma, TX

One of Precinct 1’s proudest accomplishments is the restoration and renovation of classic Delta Lake Park. Fully operational since 1997, the park has been recognized by the state of Texas for its scenic environment, nature, and quality park services. 28312 Farm to Market 88, Edcouch, TX

FORDYCE NATURE TRAILS Approximately 200 acres of native brush, rising slopes lush meadows and streams for nature and adventure enthusiasts. 1496 U.S. 83, Rio Grande City, TX

EAST LAKE TRACT (LRGV NWR)

FRONTERA AUDUBON

East Lake is a 1,700 acre tract nearly 5 miles west of Raymondville, Texas off of Hwy. 1761. This tract contains innland hypersaline lakes and provides excellent wildlife watching and nature photography opportunties. The hiking/ walking trails are accessible by foot only. Highway 1761, near Raymondville

Frontera Audubon is a nonprofit, urban nature park and birding hotspot in Weslaco, Texas (Rio Grande Valley), featuring the Historic Skaggs House. 1101 South Texas Blvd., Weslaco, TX

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 Texas 499 Loop, Harlingen, TX

EDINBURG SCENIC WETLANDS AND WORLD BIRDING CENTER Edinburg Scenic Wetlands have a 40-acre destination featuring walking trails for birdwatching & an educational center. 714 S. Raul Longoria Road, Edinburg, TX

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. 3301 S. International Blvd., Weslaco, TX

HEAVIN RESACA TRAIL (SAN BENITO RESACA) The Heavin Resaca Trail is a trail along the resacas that is 2.6 miles long. 143 South Reagan St., San Benito, TX

HISTORIC BATTLEFIELD TRAIL

Fish in the 84,000-acre Falcon International Reservoir, on the Rio Grande. Anglers mainly catch largemouth bass and channel catfish here. Access the lake via our boat ramp, and

Frontera Audubon

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The Historic Battlefield Trail is a safe 9-mile hike and bike path that runs south – north directly through the middle of the city. The rich heritage and history of the Rio Grande Valley is ensconced in this trail. 1 Event Center, Brownsville, TX

FALCON STATE PARK

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National Butterfly Center

LA FERIA NATURE CENTER

leads to a haven for black skimmers, stilts, avocets, and one of the largest concentrations of gull-billed terns in the United States. Look for them resting on spits of land, originally built as causeways to oil drilling pads. Today, the wealth is measured in bird life. About 10 miles northwest of Raymondville

La Feria Nature Center is a park with walking trails, observation decks for bird watching, a playground, and a butterfly garden. Rabb Road, La Feria, TX

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LA PUERTA TRACT (LRGV NWR) LA VISTA PARK TRAIL & FITNESS SYSTEM

La Puerta is a 4,000 acre tract that is three miles east of Rio Grande City, Texas on Hwy. 83. It represent semiarid barretal habitat and provides excellent wildlife watching and nature photography opportunties. The hiking/walking trails are accessible by foot only. There is a designated parking lot and informational kiosk. Rio Grande City, TX

Green space with a playground, picnic shelters & BBQ pits, plus a volleyball court & jogging trails. 100 W. La Vista Ave., McAllen, TX

LAGUNA ATASCOSA NWR Laguna Atascosa NWR is a protected area for ocelots and many migratory birds offering trails, kayak tours, and driving route. 22688 Buena Vista Blvd., Los Fresnos, TX

LA SAL DEL REY TRACT (LRGV NWR) La Sal del Rey, or “the King’s Salt,” is one of three naturally occurring salt lakes in South Texas. Sitting atop an estimated four million tons of salt, these hypersaline lakes are seven times saltier than the ocean. On Highway 186, 5 miles east of Interstate 69

LOS ENCINOS PARK TRAIL & FITNESS SYSTEM This is a great place to go running, jogging, skating, cycling, or walking with the entire family. Open 24 hours. 2900 Sarah Ave., McAllen, TX

LA SAL VIEJA TRACT (LRGV NWR) MISSION HIKE AND BIKE TRAIL

Hiking trails lead through and into small wetlands. Ocelots lay low in the brush, home also to bobcats, deer, javelinas and songbirds. A mile-long walk to one of the salty lakes

Bentsen Palm features a system of more than 10 miles of hike and bike trails that connect homeowners and visitors to

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Heavin Resaca Trail

nature. Thoughtfully designed to get you close to the area’s many species of birds and wildlife, our trails are one of the most popular attractions at Bentsen Palm. Open 24 hours 1414 S. Conway Ave., Mission, TX

11932 Jones St., Raymondville, TX

OLD HIDALGO PUMPHOUSE

PALMITO RANCH BATTLEFIELD Palmito Ranch Battlefield NHL, lies in the Texas Tropical Trail Region, which showcases the heritage, natural beauty, and rich culture of South Texas for the benefit and enjoyment of Texans and travelers. The last Civil War battle took place here. Brownsville, TX

NATIONAL BUTTERFLY CENTER The National Butterfly Center has more than 200 species of wild butterflies in a 100-acre habitat with trails, gardens & a pavilion. 3333 Butterfly Park, Mission, TX

PALO ALTO BATTLEFIELD NHP Palo Alto Battlefield is one of more than 400 national park units across the country. The park is unique because it is the only unit of the NPS to interpret the U.S.–Mexican War. 7200 Paredes Line Road, Brownsville, TX

NATURE TRAIL PARK IN LASARA 1-mile nature trail featuring park benches, a bridge and a wildlife observation platform for the community to enjoy.

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Visit this beautiful Monte Bella Trails park on the outskirts of Brownsville opened in 2007 this park is a wide open space. Enjoy beginner level 7 miles single track mountain bike course that runs counter-clockwise elevation 31 feet. There are also runners and hikers on this trail. This natural preserved park serves as a buffer between the rapidly growing, mostly residential west side of Brownsville and the Rio Grande River East – West Natural Corridor system. Monday -Sunday: sunrise to sunset 2555 West Alton Gloor Blvd., Brownsville, TX

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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 South 2nd St., Hidalgo, TX


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THE VALLEY’S NEST EGG

Ecotourism, Birding a Feather in RGV’s Cap Amid Perception, Wall Challenges by Amy Casebier Branded as the Magic Valley to attract people to the region in the early 20th century, the Rio Grande

meet the temperate,” said Roy J. Rodriguez, park interpreter at Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park and

Valley is actually ideally situated for more than a little ecological magic. Positioned on the 98th meridian — the 100th marks the midpoint of the country — and comprising overlapping habitats in a relatively small area, two major migratory flyways also bisect the Valley. “Here, east meets west, desert meets the sea, tropics

World Birding Center. “It has birds unique to the United States, found nowhere else except here.” There are 30 birds regarded as RGV specialties. And those species are among the 525 documented in the region, according to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department website. “That’s what’s so really fun for us as hosts of the

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BACKYARD BIRDSCAPES At 33 acres, the McAllen Nature Center is smaller than most nature centers in the nation and world. But the urban forest offers valuable resources for passing birds and other wildlife, Kersten says. It’s also an example of what people could do around their own homes, creating a mini-oasis for passing birds. As Resaca de la Palma’s Acevedo explained, RGV residents belong to the same ecosystem whether they’re hiking the trails at one of the region’s parks or having a barbecue in their backyard. And it’s a matter of considering the food chain, as well as various basic needs, when it comes birdscaping to make residential outdoor areas friendlier to birds, according to Barbara Storz, a horticulture expert who hosts a radio show and writes a newspaper column on gardening.

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Park in Mission, Edinburg Scenic Wetlands, Estero Llano Grande in Weslaco, Harlingen Arroyo Colorado, Old Hidalgo Pumphouse, Quinta Mazatlan in McAllen, Resaca de la Palma in Brownsville, Roma Bluffs, and South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center. Each of the World Birding Centers represents a rich variety of habitats — coastal, temperate, wetlands, desert, and more — and different amenities and programs. The moniker itself brought the ecotourism its organizers had sought, along with investment from Texas Parks & Wildlife and local cities, Bentsen’s Rodriguez says. But that wasn’t all that happened. “The value of these birding centers is those environmental educators, the interpretive services,” he said. As a part of this effort, organizers develop programs that have measurable positive outcomes. “What we’ve done at these birding centers is create environmental

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festival is to see people see their first green jay for the education opportunities for all the schools.” first time, or their first Altamira oriole,” said Tamie Bulow, At Resaca de la Palma, educational programs can even registrar for the annual RGV Birding Festival. “Even great- be tailored to complement curriculum currently taught in tailed grackles — as obnoxious as they are to us who live the classroom. Last year, the park began waiving fees for down here — when people come down here, it could be children during school field trips. All of it is in an effort to the first time they’ve ever seen that bird. help residents realize the value of the parks — and their “If you look at it through those eyes, it’s an amazing role in those same spaces across the region. bird — that huge, long tail and that loud, booming voice, “We try to educate them about the types of habitats and the squawks and up all night.” Bulow laughed. we have in the park that can also be found in their own “Somebody’s happy to see that bird.” backyards or just around their The convergence of so many neighborhood,” said Lauren birds in one area send birders Acevedo, park administrative winging to the Valley. Both casual, officer at Resaca de la Palma. backyard birders and listers — “That’s one of our main goals birders who collect cumulative — to try and get them to sightings of different species on understand how important the “Providing for nature “life lists” — have plenty to do and area is and why we protect and and not interfering with see in the region. preserve it.” nature is possibly our “If they want to see those 30 Even as the region’s World greatest challenge.” species, they need to come here to Birding Centers draw birders the Rio Grande Valley,” said Tiffany and outdoor enthusiasts to Kersten, recreation supervisor for their respective parks, other B a r b a r a St or z , h orticu ltu re expert the City of McAllen and an avid operations are looking to ignite birder. “It’s definitely a hotspot.” interest in the outdoors on a Birding brings serious money to smaller scale in the community. the Rio Grande Valley in the form of ecotourism — $463 The McAllen Nature Center, 4101 W. Business 83, offers million annually, by Texas A&M University’s last count. both free admission and free programs, including weekly But with challenges coming in the form of public bird walks, among others. The accessibility of the nature perception and border wall construction, Valley birding center brings in a different demographic. enthusiasts and nature officials have work to do to “We get a lot of people coming in actually who aren’t engage and educate visitors and residents alike on the really necessarily nature lovers to begin with,” said area’s ecological importance. Tiffany Kersten, recreation supervisor at McAllen Nature Center. After families enjoy her park, she refers them to WORLD-CLASS WORLD BIRDING CENTERS others, including the World Birding Centers. “I see us as Texas-sized marketing coined the term “world birding center,” a designation now shared among nine nature the gateway site to birding in the Rio Grande Valley.” It’s a big testament to the power of small spaces. parks in the region: Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State


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EARNED ANNUALLY IN THE RGV FROM ECOTOURISM

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“We not only have to plant grasses for seeds and shrubs and trees for berries, but we need to put in plants that will be host plants for butterflies,” Storz wrote in an email. “Then, we must step back and avoid any use of pesticides when the plants appear to be covered in caterpillars and trust that the birds will find them. Providing for nature and not interfering with nature is possibly our greatest challenge.” Looking to attract more birds in your backyard means planning for year-round shelter, nesting, and water, Storz added. To learn more about utilizing backyard spaces, World Birding Centers and other parks offer booklets and programs about native plants. Storz also recommends taking a tour South Texas Master Gardener Educational Garden in San Juan for more insight. “A home gardener can add a native tree that will host birds, like Texas Ebony or Cedar Elm, and then look for shrubs, grasses, and wildflowers that can expand support for birds,” she wrote.  No backyard for birdscaping? No problem. Even limited space on patios for container gardens can be utilized to draw in more birds. “Apartment dwellers may support butterflies and hummingbirds with flowering plants on their patios,” Storz wrote.  Native salvia and native turk’s cap attract butterflies and hummingbirds, and songbirds sometimes stop over in succulent gardens during their migration. “If everyone did that in each of their backyards, if everyone planted a couple of trees and a couple of shrubs, we could completely change the scenario here in the Rio Grande Valley in terms of birding,” Kersten said.

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as much as some people want it to get developed, are there going to be places for these birds and other wildlife to live?” he asked. “That’s always kind of on our minds because it’s really nice to have places like Estero and Bentsen to go, but the concept of an urban forest — making sure our cities and towns have enough trees to sustain wildlife — is a big thing.” An urban forest like McAllen’s Quinta Mazatlan is just one example of the numerous opportunities for cities to embrace conservation. “It’s kind of neat because in the Valley, there’s over 20 nature centers that have staff and programs from Falcon [Lake] to South Padre Island,” De Leon said. “In every town, you’re not really farther than a 20- or 30-minute drive from your local nature center.” Getting people excited about nature when they visit McAllen Nature Center is one of Kersten’s favorite parts of her job. It’s also a great way to engage interest in conservation. “About 12 acres of our forest have never been cut over, which is fairly rare even a lot of the other nature centers now,” she said. “They’re pristine.” Visitors to the McAllen Nature Center can see the area as it was 100 to 200 years ago — essentially a time capsule to what the region used to look like prior to development. But even thriving state parks Estero Llano Grande and Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley grew to what they are today from former agriculture fields. “It’s a testament to habitat restoration,” Bentsen’s Rodriguez said. “As long as it’s not under concrete, you can replace pretty much a lot of the stuff that used to be there.” Conservation efforts include both preserving the land for the wildlife that need it as well as educating RGV residents on what it takes to be good stewards. “These folks are coming to our parks, they’re learning about the native habitat, they’re learning about the value of the habitat and the things that live in it,” Rodriguez

CONSERVATION IS KEY Cities in the Valley are expanding. But growth shouldn’t come at a cost to conservation and the region’s natural assets, says Javier De Leon, park superintendent of Estero Llano Grande State Park. “If we look at the Valley in 50 years, if it gets developed

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THE BARRIERS TO BIRDING Bulow and the RGV Birding Festival are trying to take steps to manage public perception of the region while offering alternative approaches. Some early efforts include offering festival field trips farther north of the border to reassure skittish visitors. But one of the Valley’s most storied sites, Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park, lies right on the Rio Grande. For $1, the Bentsen family signed over the nearly 600 acres to the Texas Parks Board in 1944, the Texas Parks & Wildlife website states. The site opened officially in 1962, and is the Valley’s oldest state park as well as the headquarters for the World Birding Centers. Bentsen is also in the crosshairs of border wall construction, as are other nature parks along the river. “If places like the National Butterfly Center and Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park get divided by a wall and the clear cutting that’s associated with it, that is

“...It’s really nice to have places like Estero and Bentsen to go, but the concept of an urban forest — making sure our cities and towns have enough trees to sustain wildlife — is a big thing.” Ja vi er D e Leo n,

Es te r o Ll a no Gr a nde Sta te Pa r k , p ar k s up e r i nte nd e nt

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THE VALLEY’S NEST EGG When a particularly special bird shows up in the region, people want to know about it. That’s what the Lower Rio Grande Valley Birding Hotline — rgvbirds.blogspot.com — is for. Birders post sightings, news, and tips for hotspots around the area. It’s not just for local birders. “The people that have the money and the time, they’ll fly down from Chicago to Harlingen, spend the night in Harlingen, maybe,” said Estero’s De Leon. “Or if their flight gets here at 2 or 3, zoom over to the park try to see it, spend the night, and then fly back the next day — just so they can have that bird on their list.” De Leon recalled the excitement surrounding a 2014 sighting of a female red-legged honeycreeper in his park. The songbird is rare, most commonly found in Central and South America. Though it was spotted on Thanksgiving Day, by late afternoon, birders from around San Antonio

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flocked down. By Friday, other Texan birders had arrived, and national birders landed in the area by Saturday. Flights, car rentals, hotel stays, food and retail purchases, and the jobs those activities support and create, add up. And of the $463 million annually that ecotourism brings to the region, the Harlingen-based RGV Birding Festival nets about $2 million. The festival celebrated its 25th anniversary last year with 600 participants from 41 states and six countries. The dates for this year’s event are already set: Nov. 6-10. Most of the birders who keep careful track of the species they’ve seen and crave adding new species to that life list eventually make their way to the Valley. The festival is prepared for them, offering dozens of field trips across the region led by professional guides and organizing seminars headlined by experts, luminaries, and people with good stories to tell. It’s a superlative experience, according to the feedback organizers receive. “Most people, if you took a raise of hands, you would find that many people have been here as many as 15 times,” Bulow said. “The average is probably anywhere from four to six times people have returned just to the festival. Then they’ll come down on their own at a different time of year.” Bulow has been with the RGV Birding Festival for three years, but a new challenge has recently emerged for her position. “For the first time, I’ve fielded questions from people prior to registration about ‘is it safe to come down there?’” she said. “People that have been here before had no qualms, but the new people we were reaching out to, trying to recruit to come down to our festival — they were really sensitive to that.”

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said. “They’re starting to see the connection and the responsibility they have toward the resource and I think that has changed the way people think and the way people behave.” The RGV Birding Festival accepts donations to fund conservation projects that study Harris’s hawks and redcrowned parrots. “Raising money for local projects sustains our mission for conservation in the Valley, supports scientific field research, and bonds our attendees with the Rio Grande Valley,” Bulow said. Conservation is key for many reasons, but for Bulow, all efforts crystallize into one important point for the RGV’s ecotourism industry. “The bottom line is they come to see the birds that are in the Valley, and if those birds aren’t here, we’re going to have some problems,” she said. “Our festival would be meaningless if we don’t have those birds here.”


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just going to devastate a lot of bird populations,” Bulow said. “That just makes me sick in my heart. I have no other words.” Many people are concerned about the impact the border wall will have on wildlife, including loss of habitat and effect on movement. The ferruginous pygmy owl, for example — an RGV specialty bird — flies just under 5 feet above the ground, researchers from the universities of Arizona and California-Berkely found in 2009. And with only 23 percent of flights above 13 feet, it’s a species that would struggle with flying over a wall. “Until construction begins at the park and a wall is actually built, [it’s] premature for me to say, with any certainty, what the impacts will be to operations, resources and visitation,” Josh Havens wrote in an email. Havens is the Communications Division director and primary spokesperson for Texas Parks & Wildlife. It’s an official line repeated by many other officials at state-run parks in the Valley. But whatever the future may hold for these sites, Bentsen’s Rodriguez was certain of one thing. “I can tell you that we are here and we’re not going anywhere,” he said.

WORLD BIRDING CENTERS Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park 2800 S. Bentsen Palm Drive (FM 2062) Mission (956) 584-2858 Edinburg Scenic Wetlands 714 S. Raul Longoria Edinburg (956) 381-9922 Estero Llano Grande State Park 3301 S. International Blvd. (FM 1015) Weslaco (956) 565-3919 Harlingen Arroyo Colorado (Hugh Ramsey Park) 1001 S. Loop 499 Harlingen (956) 427-8873 Old Hidalgo Pumphouse 902 S. Second Street Hidalgo (956) 843-8686

RESOURCES

Quinta Mazatlan 600 Sunset Drive McAllen (956) 681-3370 Resaca de la Palma State Park 1000 New Carmen Blvd. (off Hwy. 281 or FM 1732) Brownsville (956) 350-2920

RGV Birding Festival https://www.rgvbf.org/ Birdscaping Tips For tours of the Master Gardener Educational Garden in San Juan, contact the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension office at (956) 383-1026.

Roma Bluffs (956) 849-4930 South Padre Island Birding & Nature Center 6801 Padre Blvd. South Padre Island (956) 761-6801

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McAllen Nature Center https://www.facebook.com/ McAllenNatureCenter/

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A TRIP, A RING, & DESTINY CALLING

identifiable moment, I’ve got a rash between my thighs. I feel like I’m bleeding and I keep checking my leg to see if the rash is starting to bleed.” Both are hot and sweaty, hungry and cranky, but Rick is still determined to do the deed — kneel before his princess. “We walk to the exact point and I know she’s not expecting it,” he said. “I call to her, ‘Come over here. Let’s take a picture.’” “Let’s find a restaurant then get some flip-flops,” she replied, heading for the main street. “There’s nothing specialhere.” “We’re already here, a historical landmark. Let’s take a selfie!” Denise continued even as Rick made a final plea. “Really! It can be special for us!”

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The plan for the man who lives with no plan was set. Rick Portillo and the love of his life, Denise Gunnoe, were traveling with her parents, John and Petra, to Cochem, Germany, to visit Petra’s ailing mother and sightsee. Rick’s plan? Sometime during the trip, when Denise wasn’t expecting it, he would find a romantic spot with stunning scenery, an easily recognizable area so as to be able to return with children and grandchildren, gently kneel before her, take her hand and pop the big question. Having convinced Denise, his girlfriend of almost two years, that a proposal would definitely not be happening during this trip, he had spent over a month designing and making ready the ring he would give to his princess. Now, the ring tucked snugly and safely behind his wallet in a tiny plastic bag, he began the journey. Not what would be called a good traveler, tending toward motion sickness, Rick found himself in the backseat of the rental car winding through the majestic German mountains clinging desperately to the contents of his stomach, his face a mask of death. “I didn’t sleep well on the flight,” Rick said. “I’m tired, hungry, and sleepy. I’m totally sick but, not wanting to complain, I stay quiet. While everyone else is admiring the scenery, I’m wondering how long it will be before we get there. It was an hour-and-a-half that felt like two weeks long.” At last Denise’s mother turned and saw the ghastly cast to his face, asking him how he felt. Too weak, sick and tired to hide it any longer, Rick admitted he wasn’t feeling well. Switching to the front seat saved him for the rest of the ride to Villa Tummelchen, a lovely bed & breakfast-style hotel, tucked directly into the mountain side in Cochem. Since their luggage was lost, they settled into the hotel and decided to visit Cochem Castle after lunch. “I was hoping the time might be in the castle,” Rick said.

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“At the highest point of that castle, I would walk up to her and propose.” However, not only was a large part of the castle not accessible to visitors, neither was the top level, top floor, or the lookout tower. “Only the main gate had a romantic look. The rest of the castle looked like ugly rock. I thought, ‘no.’ It just didn’t feel right,” Rick remembered. “I still felt the effects of the motion sickness. We smelled and hadn’t showered or changed. We didn’t have clothes even if we had. So we spent the rest of the day and next finding clothes, resting up, visiting Petra’s mother, getting our bearings for the rest of the trip.” Day three began with high hopes for Rick that this would be The Day. He and Denise had planned a short trip over to visit Koblenz, where Denise was born to her mother and military dad. “I knew this would be The Day. It was where the Moselle and Rhine Rivers meet, a spot defined on maps everywhere,” Rick said. “My plan was to have us go to this exact spot and there I would propose. It was perfect!” Rick had looked at the map and guesstimated the walk from the train station to Deutsches Eck, the German Corner, to be about a mile. They would casually walk along one river until it met the other, arrive easily at Deutsches Eck and he would propose. Off they went. “The city was beautiful, the streets impeccable. I was totally enjoying the walk.” Rick and Denise were relishing this re-telling, breathing in that memory of the city air as their story unfolded. Then reality began to unfold. “We were wearing brand new clothing, which hadn’t been washed. The underwear and shorts are stiff and starchy.” “As we walked, my shoes didn’t fit right and I was getting huge blisters on my heels,” Denise said. “It was also longer than we expected, maybe 3 miles.” “It took over an hour to get there,” Rick said with a grimace. “By the time we get to the Moselle and the Rhine, that exact


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“The only thing on my radar was food and flip-flops,” one — no Denise, John, or Petra. Denise said. “He had convinced me a proposal was out of “I think I’m being punked but right before I panic, I find the question so I wasn’t even thinking along those lines.” Petra and learn what happened,” Rick said. “I think to myself, Rick remembered thinking, “Oh, my goodness, this woman ‘Denise doesn’t even realize what she missed.’” does not realize what’s in store for her. She’s about to get The day in Cologne ends and they arrive back at their hotel proposed to and she’s giving me attitudes!” and get ready for dinner. Having a little time before meeting Reining in again, they finished their day. her parents for dinner, Rick and Denise decide to finally take No proposal. Petra’s advice and check out the backyard of the hotel, which Day four arose, as did Rick’s hopes for yet another attempt she’d repeatedly told them was so breathtaking. at a proposal. Today would be a trip to Cologne and the There they found a stupendous view of mountains, the magnificent Cologne Cathedral, a World Heritage Site and Moselle River, the little town laid out before them, the castle easily found on a map. Rick formulated his new plan. on the hill, and a lovely bench sending romantic messages “I discover we’re able to take the spiral staircase to the into the air. Rick fought through clammy hands to tug open very top and see the whole city and the tiny plastic bag, take out the ring, countryside,” he said. “Perfect! We’ll go and kneel down. up to the top and I’ll propose there.” “My voice is choking up, my throat Rick fought through After buying their tickets, they is closing, and as I slide down beside clammy hands to tug began the climb and Rick checks his her, my right knee lands on a pebble open the tiny plastic pocket, ensuring the ring is where it that sends a piercing, sharp pain up bag, take out the ring, my spine, but I’m thinking, ‘Too late. belongs. About 80 percent of the way and kneel down. up, they come to a landing for viewing I’m all in,’” Rick recalled. “I’m kneeling and benches for resting. Here Denise on this pebble, reach out, and she’s not decides to stop, discovering a new fear even looking at me. She’s looking at the of heights. All of Rick’s pleading doesn’t budge her. pictures on the camera.” “Baby, you’re going to miss it. It’s the perfect place,” he Knowing it was now or whenever, Rick said the words told her. “You’re going to love it! You don’t know what he’d practiced. you’re missing.” “Love, would you be my princess forever?” Seeing nothing would move her, he decides to run up, take “Are you sure?” a picture to show he’d made it, come back down, get her and He had done such a superlative job of convincing her the climb back down. proposal wouldn’t happen on this trip that she didn’t believe Meanwhile, John comes to the landing and teases his it was actually happening. daughter until she agrees to climb up. Arriving at the top The deed was done, the truth was told and a resounding they find no Rick, who had not been allowed back down the “Yes!” was finally heard. way he came, forced to take another spiral staircase back Rick and Denise were, at long last, engaged. to the landing. Upon reaching the landing again, he finds no

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L I F E

Where Does It Go?

Environmental experts say between 1.5 and 2.5 million tons of plastic flow from rivers into the oceans every year. This ocean plastic tends to gather in various locations around the world, including one massive patch of plastic in the Pacific between California and Hawaii that’s twice the size of Texas. Regardless of how isolated in the world, there is virtually no area on earth where marine wildlife isn’t dying of digested plastic. And lots of it, including water bottles, is plastic that can languish in nature for over 500 years. To make matters worse, China has tossed the U.S. into an environmental chaos. After years of being the world’s largest importer of recyclable material collected by municipalities with recycling programs, China suddenly announced it would no longer import “foreign garbage.” The announcement was made in 2017 and took effect in January 2018. For many cities across the country that relied on China, their recycled goods are ending up in local landfills. Despite the futility, some of these cities are hesitant to tell their residents to stop recycling for fear they may never do it again should conditions change. Cities caught in the chaos are scrambling to find solutions. Some are shopping around for new buyers in developing countries. Others are stockpiling their recyclables in hopes that China will change its mind. Many cities in the U.S. that once made money from their recyclables are now paying processing centers to take it off their hands.

McAllen’s Recycling Program Unfazed by China’s Environmental Chaos

MAR/APR 2019

by Ro d Sa nta Ana

RGVISION MAGAZINE

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MEXICO HELPING MCALLEN AVOID CHINA’S CHAOS The largest and only recycling program south of Corpus Christi and San Antonio is in McAllen, which has so far avoided the dilemma facing so many other municipalities. That’s because McAllen sells most of its recycled goods to Mexico, which to date has

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The city of McAllen began its recycling program in 1994 and eventually phased in all sectors of town by 1997.

• Aluminum and metal containers • Paper • Cardboard • Glass • Plastic #1 and #2 (the thickness of water

bottles and detergent jugs, respectively.)

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residential home,” Alonzo said. “To help inform residents about what does and does not go into the blue containers, we used a combination of television, radio, school presentations, and tours of both the old and new recycling facilities.” Over the years, adjustments and improvements were made to all phases of the city’s solid waste and recycling process, including the move toward automated trash trucks with compaction mechanisms that eliminated the use of costly 18-wheelers making runs to landfills, and others. “In 1999, the city commission approved the construction of the recycling center we now have at Nolana and Bentsen Road,” Alonzo said. “It was completed in 2000 and its been highly efficient and effective as we went from a six-day collection cycle to a fourday collection with same-day service of both garbage and recycling bins.” Education has been key, Alonzo said. “The education efforts through the Recycle Right program has helped decrease container contamination in the recycling waste stream and increase tonnage of recyclable material received at the Recycling Center,” she said. Alonzo said the city has clearly identified the following material that is accepted at the center:

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RECYCLING STARTED SLOWLY, MODESTLY IN MCALLEN The city of McAllen began its recycling program in 1994 and eventually phased in all sectors of town by 1997. Alonzo became involved with the program in 1998. “The first conveyor belt for sorting recycled goods in McAllen was actually the old baggage handling conveyor that was tossed out in 1994 when the city remodeled their airport,” she said. The City of McAllen went from no recycling program to a highly efficient program that is environmentally friendly to the community, helps increase the quality of life for citizens, and improves solid waste management for the city and its residents. But the success of the program took years of work and lots of fine-tuning.

“One of the first challenges was to educate the public on how to properly use the blue recycle containers provided to each

RGVISION MAGAZINE

continued to buy in quantities they’ve been buying for years, according to Elvira Alonzo, Public Works director for the City of McAllen. “We’re blessed; our recycling program has not been impacted by China as was feared,” she said. “Fortunately, Mexico is still receiving our recyclable goods, but cities in central and north Texas who found it cheaper to ship to China have really been impacted.” With a glut of recyclables, prices have plummeted. “We may be impacted in the future by pricing,” Alonzo said, “but for now we’re still selling our material. It’s still getting out.” Alonzo said McAllen’s proximity to Mexico and relatively cheap shipping costs have helped the local situation. “San Antonio and Austin continue to recycle, but some cities in the state have now proposed doing away with their programs,” Alonzo said.


L I F E

FROM THE BRAIN TO THE PLANET Today, Xyleco’s 70 scientists and engineers in Washington are burning through those millions to scale up production. They are transforming corn cobs from local farmers by blasting them with electrons and combining that with a secret enzyme to produce energy-rich sugars. “We’re making products that will resolve some of the world’s biggest problems, to protect the environment and our health,” Medoff said. He predicts the sweetener, which tastes like sugar, will help reduce obesity and diabetes because it’s low in calories. Since oral bacteria can’t feed on it, the new sweetener will not cause tooth decay. And in time, it will help eliminate artificial sweeteners found in Diet Coke and many other products. Medoff said his ethanol will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent to begin the shift from fossil fuels. It has the potential to replace as much as 30 percent of the world’s production of gasoline, corn-based ethanol, and jet fuel. “We’re making our ethanol in a sort of still,” he said, “which is basically alcohol to drink or to put in your car … or both. And it can be dispensed at gasoline pumps without having to make any equipment changes.” And the plant-based plastic, or bio-plastic — as opposed to petroleum-based plastic now in wide use — will disintegrate after its usefulness. Medoff told 60 Minutes he thinks traditional plastic should be outlawed. “All it’s doing is accumulating and destroying the oceans,” he said. Members of Xyleco’s board of directors include some of the top minds in science, industry, and government. Said one, “Medoff is another Thomas Edison, a genius. He’s not a scientist, but he has many of the attributes a good scientist has, including confidence in himself and in his work.” As the multi-billion dollar company stretches itself to increase production, Medoff is convinced, as always, that he’ll accomplish his self-imposed task of saving the planet.

THE FUTURE OF PLASTIC MAY BE SELF-DESTRUCTIVE New technology from the mind of an 81-year-old, not recycling, may soon begin to choke off the world’s accumulation of plastic, sometimes called a world plague. Marshall Medoff, a Massachusetts businessman with no scientific education or background, has achieved a scientific breakthrough that had perplexed the best scientists for at least a century. Medoff has developed a method of releasing sugars found in all the Earth’s abundant plant life. By doing so, he’s created three products that he says will save the world, including a new plastic designed not to last. Featured recently on 60 Minutes, Medoff showed off the three products from his company, Xyleco: a clean-burning ethanol with the potential to make a dent in the world’s petroleum market, a sweetener low in calories to improve human health, and a new plastic that can be programmed to self-destruct in anywhere from three months to several years. The amateur scientist began his mission of saving the world 25 years ago when he decided to stop global warming. Medoff sold of his businesses, ended personal relationships and spent 15 years in a warehouse poring over scientific material and testing ideas. He told 60 Minutes’ Lesley Stahl that he knew there was an untapped source of energy in inedible plant life that decades of research by the brightest minds and institutions had failed to access. “It’s everywhere and nobody has managed to use any of it because they couldn’t get at it,” he said. Medoff finally came upon the novel idea of reversing electron accelerators to free up the sugars in biomass. He began receiving patents for his work and began attracting top scientists and hundreds of millions of dollars from investors.

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Alonzo said the constant fine-tuning and streamlining of the city’s recycling program has resulted in an efficient, sustainable program of great benefit to its citizens. “The City of McAllen’s recycling service allows us to save money on city operations while giving back to the community by providing a healthier environment,” she said.

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