March / April 2021 - RGVision Magazine

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M ARC H/AP RIL 2 0 2 1 | VO LUM E 13 ISSUE 2

Built toLast

Longevity, value, and togetherness at Lacks 86th anniversary. THE AMERICAN DREAM OF EDUCATION Superintendent reflects on Harlingen CISD legacy, retirement.

VACCINE DISTRIBUTION COVID-19 vaccines in the Valley.

FAMILY, FOOD, PHO Le Pho House rises amid pandemic.


EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

BISD supports Early Childhood Educaaon for school readiness with our Pre-K Programs! Our mission is to ensure that our BISD students get a firm foundaaon with skills to be curious, confident and successful learners! Early literacy opens the door to higher learning.

Enroll Today! • PK children participating gain up to __one year of additional learning;

• Parents are engaged in parental __involvement activities at each school;

• Scheduled activities focus on __developing readiness skills for reading __and math;

• Campuses provide extended day __activities for our young learners based __on need;

• Children will participate in our food __services program to address their __nutritional needs;

• Pre-K 4-year-old Programs are offered __full day at all 34 elementary school __sites for all students;

• Pre-K 3-year-old programs are offered __full day at 18 elementary school sites __and half day programs (A.M. or P.M.) at __14 elementary school sites.

• Established curriculum follows the __state’s Pre-K Guidelines, state __resources, and CIRCLE Progress __Monitoring Assessment which __ensures a solid foundation for literacy;

• All BISD teachers are Early Childhood __Certified.

• All safety guidelines are followed.

To enroll your Pre-K child and for more informaaon, contact the individual BISD campuses or visit the BISD website at www.bisd.us.

1900 Price Road,Brownsville, Texas 78521• Ph: 956.548.8000 | www.bisd.us |


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

S O F I A A LEM A N CONTENT MANAGER/WRITER

DA N T E T U EX I DIGITAL MANAGER

K ELS EY G A R C I A CERTIFIED DIGITAL MARKETING AGENT/WRITER

GAB E P U EN T E PUBLISHER/CEO

M A R K PU EN T E VIDEO PRODUCTION LEAD

WA LD O PA LO M A R ES

1 Corinthians 12:25-27 "That there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it." PUBLISHER'S NOTE If you are interested in receiving issues delivered to your home, please go to RGVisionMagazine.com/Subscribe or send us an email at info@ rgvisionmagazine.com to subscribe to RGVision for $6.50/month. 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 450 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.

Harlingen CISD South Texas College Brownsville ISD Sergio Contreras Leonardo Chang Dr. Alfonso Mercado

James Hord Jason Garza Norma Hess

WRITERS

CONTENT CONTRIBUTORS

Although it may be tough to find positive stories through the traditional media outlets many of us have gravitated towards over the past few years, RGVision magazine has consistently been able to cover uplifting and inspiring stories around local businesses, healthcare providers, education and culture. Over 10 years, RGVision has been the source for local stories that have educated and inspired our region and other areas across the state who visit us online. In this issue, despite the many challenges businesses have faced, we visit with the Lacks executive team for the cover story “built to last.” Read what has attributed to the success of Lacks over 86 years of being in business as they overcome difficult times. Thank you for picking up this issue and please share this with a friend. Stay informed, stay educated, stay inspired!

PHOTOGRAPHERS

VIDEO PRODUCTION

Amy Casebier Josie M. Barrera Rocio Villalobos Nathaniel Mata Jose De Leon III Ashley Berrones Valerie Jackson Steven Hughes Octavio Peralez Francisco Ortiz Jr.

For editorial comments and suggestions, please send emails to info@rgvisionmagazine.com. For advertising information, please call us at 956.431.0103 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 2021

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VOLUME 13 ISSUE 2 RGVISION MAGAZINE

30 ON THE COVER

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BU I LT TO LAS T

Longevity, value, and togetherness at Lacks 86th anniversary.

EDUCATION

Global Thinking pg 8 Goals & Patrols pg 10 Women in Information pg 12 Student Success pg 14 Game On pg 18 Sit & Stay pg 20 'The World is Your Classroom' pg 22

BUSINESS

A Social Dilemma pg 24 Financial Focus pg 26 Ask RGVision pg 28 Shop Sustainably pg 36 A Hitch in Getting Hitched pg 38 Solar Energy pg 40

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T HE A M ERIC A N DREA M OF EDU C ATIO N

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VAC C INE DIS T RIB U T ION

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FA M ILY, FOOD, PHO

Superintendent reflects on Harlingen CISD legacy, retirement.

COVID-19 vaccines in the Valley.

Le Pho House rises amid pandemic.

HEALTH

Self-Harm & Suicide Awareness pg 42 The Clear Experience pg 44 Bundles of Joy pg 48 Draw the Line pg 50 Moving Out of Bad Habits pg 54 Sharing Knowledge pg 56

QUALITY OF LIFE

Magnificent Monarch pg 58 Protecting Earth Every Day pg 60 Ramadan pg 64 Lobo Del Mar pg 66 Laughing Out Loud pg 70 You, Yourself pg 78

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RGVISION ADVISORY BOARD

Each and every member of our advisory board charges RGVision with growth and commitment within our business development, social engagement, and editorial efforts. Through their feedback and contributions, RGVision will continue to help tell and share the Rio Grande Valley’s stories and extend the invitation to join the conversation. M A R I T Z A ES Q U EDA

J AV I E R D E L E O N

R O B ER T D U N K I N

ED D I E LU C I O I I I

R E N E A. F LO R E S

BY R O N J AY LEW I S

B I LL M A R T I N

M A RK P E T E R S O N

A N D R EA R O D R I G U EZ

F R ED S A N D OVA L

TO M TO R K E L S O N

V ER O N I C A V ELA W H I TAC R E

S A B R I N A WA LK ER H ER N A N D EZ

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GLOBAL THINKING HCISD’s Austin and Houston Elementary Schools Officially Named International Baccalaureate Schools

Austin Elementary and Sam Houston Elementary began their candidacy phase to become International Baccalaureate (IB) Schools in 2018. On Dec. 2, 2020, the two HCISD campuses officially met all program requirements and were authorized as IB schools. “IB schools develop students who know how to think critically, collaborate, know the value of teamwork, have an ability to analyze, and are independent thinkers,” HCISD Superintendent of Schools Dr. Art Cavazos said. “I am incredibly proud to add IB schools to the list of choices for our parents, and I commend all the teachers and staff that made this monumental achievement possible.” Typically, the process of being named an IB school takes about three years, but after two years of preparation in the candidate phase of the program, Austin and Sam Houston elementaries obtained success. After final verification visits and approval of their applications for authorization, the schools received positive reports and commendations for the work being done. “These last two years of the authorization process have been a great learning experience,” Austin Elementary fifthgrade bilingual teacher Claudia Padron said. “Everyone made it a personal goal to reach the top. We’ve worked

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“The Board and I congratulate Sam Houston and Austin Elementary on this historic announcement. IB will help our students become global thinkers, contribute to our community, and help build a better world.”

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harder than ever during this time. Every administrator, teacher, and staff member has gone above and beyond to provide our children the best learning experience through the IB World School lens.” The process of transforming into an IB school has allowed for innovative teaching and learning experiences. “A lot of the learning happening in my classroom is a perfect combination of what our district’s curriculum covers, students’ inquiries, and local and global factors,” Padron said. “In other words, our students are making connections with the world around them. We will continue to strive and work hard to provide our students the best educational IB learning experience and become a model IB campus.” The IB Primary Years Program offers a multilingual approach and rigorous curriculum that is focused on developing active, caring, lifelong learners who demonstrate respect for themselves and others. “At the beginning, we didn’t know what the outcome would be with all the changes we had to make into our teaching, but the changes have brought positive outcomes to our school, students, and our community,” Sam Houston Elementary pre-K teacher Jocelyn Solis said. “We used transdisciplinary teaching that was engaging, relevant, challenging, and allowed students to be able to construct their own meaning. Our students have become critical thinkers who are caring and reflective of their own learning. We have all been very dedicated to providing that rigorous and high-quality education for our students. It has not been easy, but we have made it happen.” The International Baccalaureate Organization works diligently to make sure that authorized IB schools are following the program as required. They will continue to visit both IB schools at regular intervals. “The Board and I congratulate Sam Houston and Austin Elementary on this historic announcement,” HCISD board president Eladio Jaimez said. “IB will help our students become global thinkers, contribute to our community, and help build a better world.”

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GOALS & PATROLS

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STC Grad Student’s Law Enforcement Future Coming Full-Circle

Between shifts at Walmart, where he worked as a cashier to relieve pressure on his hard-working single mother, a teenaged Nestor Espino set his sights on two long-term goals. The first, earning a college degree, seemed like a necessity. The second, a career in law enforcement, seemed like destiny. And while he may have gotten the order wrong, he managed to make good on his plans last fall, earning his bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership — 13 years in the making — from South Texas College. “I did the expedited, competency-based program — 11 full courses in a year,” said Espino, who accelerated his degree through STC’s Educational Pathways for Law Enforcement Professionals program. “I think I’m one of many that have proved the point: South Texas College makes it possible, makes it reachable.” A veteran Border Patrol agent with three children of his own, Espino hopes his dedication will set a tone for college and career success in the same way his mother and grandmother did for him. And even as he makes plans to pursue a master’s degree in public administration at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in 2021, he’s quick to reflect on the anachronistic achievement of his “second” goal, likewise boosted by the dual influence of his mother and STC. “I grew up crossing the border in Starr County, and I remember my mom told me when I grew up, she wished I could be in uniform,” said Espino, currently employed on the intelligence side of operations. “I’d see the guys in green … how dedicated they were. It

looked prestigious.” That reverence remained, and when faced with a chance to fulfill his mother’s prophecy, Espino decided to combine his high school-era goals. “That’s when I switched to law enforcement,” he said, his heart set by then on a career with either Border Patrol or Texas DPS. Meanwhile, he had moved on from Walmart to work as a bank teller and T-Mobile sales representative. It was an easy decision at the time: No more driving directly from the night shift to an 8 a.m. class, plus he’d be earning more to support his wife and family. But a full-time day job meant less time to commute to college, and with his mother’s ever-present advice echoing in his head, he made the decision — this time much more difficult — to leave STC and launch 100 percent of his efforts toward his career. “My mom always would tell me: ‘Things are just going to be a little bit harder. Don’t give up, everything is possible,’” Espino said. “My kids were young — it was wise to take a break and focus on my career.” Years later, his wife and children would return the favor, patiently supporting Espino as he pulled 50hour weeks at work before isolating in his room “for hours studying and not coming out.” And just as they had cheered on the day he passed his Border Patrol agent’s exam, they were there to celebrate his STC graduation. “A lot of this is possible because of my family,” Espino said. “They put everything in perspective.” As a Roma High School graduate, Nestor recalls all those individuals who positively impacted his

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• Customs and Border Protection Officers: $62,950

MARCH/APRIL 2021

• Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers: $62,950

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Hinojosa says it’s an opportune time to set a foundation at STC. Espino’s Border Patrol Academy Training is one of seven educational pathways available for college credit at South Texas College — others include Criminal Investigation, Peace Officer Training, and Field Operations. “Not only are they able to obtain college credits for their academies, but they are also able to complete their degrees 100 percent online,” Hinojosa said. “We are transferfriendly and readily available to assist our students.” Visit https://bt.southtexascollege.edu/law-enforcement/ pathways.html for details and eligibility information for the Educational Pathways for Law Enforcement Professionals program. Have questions? Contact Maricruz Hinojosa at (956) 872-6749 or via email at mhinojosa@southtexascollege.edu. SERVING SUCCESS. LAW ENFORCEMENT PROFESSIONALS ARE EARNING MORE!

• Intelligence Analysts: $82,120 • Law Enforcement Supervisors: $86,810 • Emergency Management Directors: $83,340 *Avg. annual salary, Texas (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

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life. He credits his high school teachers, coaches, and administrators for always encouraging him to continue his education and aspire for more. For his extended family at STC, Espino’s success is a shining example of the power of dedicated support. From flexible, competency-based programs to a student-first philosophy promoted by faculty and staff, STC provides a launching pad for working adults like Espino, offering support not unlike a surrogate household. “It cannot go unmentioned that a strong family support system is always helpful,” said Maricruz Hinojosa, coordinator of College Connections at STC and an important component in Espino’s journey. “I know Nestor counts on the support of his mom, wife and kids, who are proud beyond measure.” Hinojosa has seen stories like Espino’s before. A courageous, persistent person quitting college to be there for their family … before later invoking the very same grounds to return. “It’s ironic to think that the same reasons he stopped going to school years ago have now become the main motivation to continue and complete his degree,” she reflected. For Espino, though, it was more of an issue of timing. Through a co-worker, he caught wind of the Educational Pathways for Law Enforcement Professionals program, which promised credits toward a degree for coursework he had already covered in basic academy. Suddenly, his original high school goal was not only “totally doable,” but, with hard work, less than a year from completion. In addition, he says, he thrived under the encouragement and assistance of always-accessible faculty like Organizational Leadership Instructor Dr. Sandra Trevino and support staff like Hinojosa. “STC gave me the opportunity,” Espino said. “Maricruz was the map. The guide for us to go and move forward … Dr. Trevino just made it understandable. “South Texas College has all the tools, everything to offer.” No doubt Espino’s freshly minted bachelor’s degree is a testament to his dedication and persistence. But it’s also a front-of-the-line pass to bigger opportunities in law enforcement. With a master’s degree, he says, he’ll open doors to supervisor positions, moving up the chain of command in Border Patrol or even beyond. “It’s going to come back and connect with what I’m doing right now,” Espino said. “My degree will allow me to be more prepared.” With average salaries climbing, and law enforcement careers slated to expand at a faster-than-average rate,


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degree of applied science in the networking specialist program will be qualified to enter the IT workforce immediately after. Credits earned throughout the degree plan may also be transferred to continue to study at the next level: Bachelor of Applied Technologies in Computer and Information Technologies. Teniente is all too familiar with students feeling unsure as they think about the career they want to pursue. She understands doubts and questions may arise. “At times, you feel like maybe you're being held back, but it's just a matter of pushing forward,” she said. “Be determined to reach whatever goal you're looking for.” Well aware of the stereotypes that come with careers in this type of field, she stresses that they could not be further from the truth. “For any females who might be contemplating getting into the Information Technology field, what I would say to you is go for it!” Teniente said. “Get rid of those doubts. There's nothing that can stop you — it is there for the taking.” Under the Network Systems Associate of Applied Science, students gain knowledge in numerous skills. The program starts off simple with business productivity software and evolves into advanced skills in computer networking, preparing individuals with the skills necessary to succeed in the field upon graduating. Puente believes the best decision she could have made was return to school and continue her education. There is so much more to gain by going back, she says. For her, it was important to be a role model for her son by staying in school and getting good grades. “I would say to the women who feel this is a more male-dominated field, if it interests you, go for it and just keep going,” she said. Just as Puente continues to learn and persist through the program, she recommends that others do the same. Her biggest inspiration? Her son. “It's paid off, especially if you have kids,” she said. “I’m going to keep persisting for my son — for my future and for his.” Learn more about these exceptional programs and essential careers at South Texas College by visiting bt.southtexascollege.edu/persist. Funding was provided through the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board with Carl D. Perkins Basic funds.

WOMEN IN INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY Breaking Past the Barriers

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by RGV ision

When it comes to any field under the STEM umbrella (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), men make up the majority of the workforce. Over time, more and more women are turning to these male-dominated fields and breaking past barriers to prove that a career is not specific to a gender. South Texas College continues to provide its students with a quality education to continue to ensure their success. Information technology is just one of the avenues available in its curriculum. As technology continues to evolve, STC IT assistant program chair Angelita Elizondo Teniente encourages others to pursue a career in information technology. “Technology is everywhere, so your chances of finding a good career or a good-paying job is very likely in the information technology field,” she said. “The two main focuses that we have here in our program would be the network systems and the information systems.” Students at STC can benefit from pursuing a career in this field and receiving a certificate or associate degree in their desired area of focus. After taking time off school, IT network specialist Emily Puente is proud to have returned to school to pursue a degree in information technology. Puente highly recommends STC and its programs. “I think STC is doing a really great job,” she said. “The professors know what they're doing, they’re very nice and very helpful, and they know their material.” Information technology is a promising field with many different facets. Students receiving their associate

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“At times you feel like maybe you're being held back, but it's just a matter of pushing forward. Be determined to reach whatever goal you're looking for.”

CERTIFICATES Computer and Information Technologies Specialist Certificate Information and Network Systems Certificate Computer Applications Specialist Certificate + Online Cybersecurity Specialist Certificate Multimedia Specialist Certificate

A n g e l i t a E l i z o n d o Te n i e n t e,

I T assistan t program ch air at Sou th Texas Col l ege

Funding has been provided through the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board with funds received from the Carl D. Perkins Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century (Perkins V) Act of 2018

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ASSOCIATE DEGREES Information Technology Specialization: Information Systems Associate of Applied Science Information Technology Specialization: Cybersecurity Specialist Associate of Applied Science Information Technology Specialization: Network Systems Associate of Applied Science

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STUDENT SUCCESS 18 Brownsville ISD Schools Named to Educational Results Partnership Honor Roll

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by Brownsville ISD Some important facts about the ERP Honor Roll are that it is the only award given in collaboration with business leaders, it includes graduation and dropout rate data, and it establishes a higher bar of performance than any other award. “Brownsville ISD did not apply for these awards,” Gutiérrez added. “Our results led them to us and because of our accomplishment, we will be featured on the ERP Honor Roll website. We are thankful for the hard work of our students and teachers.” Schools that receive the ERP Honor Roll distinction have demonstrated consistent high levels of student academic achievement, improvement in achievement levels over time, and a reduction in achievement gaps among student populations. For districts with high schools, the ERP Honor Roll recognition also includes measures of college readiness. To access the ERP Honor Roll, visit www.edresults.org. To learn more about Brownsville ISD, visit www.bisd.us.

Eighteen Brownsville Independent School District schools were named to the 2019–20 Educational Results Partnership (ERP) Honor Roll for their high achievement in student success. The program, sponsored by the Campaign for Business and Education Excellence, is part of a national effort to identify higher-performing schools and districts that are improving student outcomes. Brownsville ISD is one of 300 public school districts in Texas to be recognized. The 18 schools that were named are Benavides Elementary, Breeden Elementary, Brite Elementary, Brownsville Early College High School, Egly Elementary, Garden Park Elementary, Gonzalez Elementary, Keller Elementary, Longoria Elementary, Manzano Middle School, Ortiz Elementary, Paredes Elementary, Pena Elementary, Pullam Elementary, Putegnat Elementary, Sharp Elementary, Vela Middle School, and Yturria Elementary. “We are honored to be recognized by educational and business leaders through the ERP Honor Roll,” said Dr. René Gutiérrez, BISD superintendent of schools. “We are continually striving to increase academic achievement and improve educational outcomes for all of our students. Our teachers and administrators are fully committed and we are thrilled to see their hard work and dedication produce such positive results.” The 2019-20 Honor Roll is developed by ERP, a nonprofit organization that applies data science to help improve student outcomes and career readiness. ERP maintains the nation’s largest database on student achievement and utilizes this data to identify higher-performing schools and districts.

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THE AMERICAN DREAM

OF EDUCATION Superintendent Reflects on Harlingen CISD Legacy, Retirement

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When Dr. Art Cavazos was young, his family helped him realize that education was much more than going to school five days a week. Instead, it was a powerful tool for change. “Education was our way out and was a conduit to accessing the American dream,” he said. It’s the same inspiration that steered many of Cavazos’ decisions during his eight years as superintendent for Harlingen CISD. Including the time he spent teaching, he’s been with the district for 20 years. Dr. Alicia Noyola will take the helm as HCISD’s new superintendent when Cavazos retires this year. “The district is in an incredible state,” Cavazos said, reflecting on the timing of his retirement. “It’s in a trajectory that will continue to do great things for kids. We’re financially stable, we’ve transformed the system, and as I studied that, I felt it was time to step away.” Cavazos has overseen some of Harlingen CISD’s most formative transformations, many of them sparked from his own personal experiences. “My mother was a cafeteria worker and a library aide before she passed,” he said. “So we did a lot of work in transforming our libraries here in Harlingen to make them the epicenter of learning at every campus since it’s the largest classroom. It actually became the conduit to move us to a digital district.” This early emphasis on change for the better prepared the district when perhaps the biggest change of all occurred: adapting to COVID-19. “School systems should be organic. They should mold to what’s happening today,” Cavazos said of being responsive to the pandemic. “The system was ready for that because they didn’t have to settle in and go through a change — we’ve been in change mode for years. There are many districts that look to Harlingen in how we’re embracing the pandemic.

That was a proud moment because you don’t know how much you’ve learned until you actually have to use the skills in a crisis.” Other notable moments Cavazos said he was most proud of during his tenure as HCISD superintendent include:

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"I am blessed more than I deserve. I have had an incredible journey here in Harlingen CISD. My allegiance and my commitment to ensure we continue to promote the value in education is unwavering, and that’s what I intend to do moving forward."

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“Overall, the challenges we had to overcome was we needed to create a school system that was responsive to all different types of students,” he said. “If we were truly going to tap into the talents and passions of kids, we had to transform our school system.” After June 30, Cavazos officially retires. However, that doesn’t mean he’ll stop advocating for education as the American dream. “I am blessed more than I deserve. I have had an incredible journey here in Harlingen CISD,” he said. “My allegiance and my commitment to ensure we continue to promote the value in education is unwavering, and that’s what I intend to do moving forward. “Education is an underpinning to this great country and I’m going to use all my influence to continue to promote the importance of education. It is our responsibility to make certain we get it right for the children.”

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• Focus on early literacy that saw HCISD 30 percentage points ahead of the state average in kinder readiness • Highest graduation rates in the district’s history • 12 specialty schools to provide opportunities for students to pinpoint their passions • Two international baccalaureate elementary schools One international baccalaureate middle school • Transition academy to provide an educational setting for special needs students


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GAME ON Local College, High School Sports Bounce Back from COVID-19 by Nathaniel Mata

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When it comes to your to-do list, put your future first.

Sports is an activity and industry that conferences,” Conque said. “Decisions are was hit particularly hard due to COVID-19 made really at the conference level.” restrictions and the complexities surrounding Changes include less time in shared locker the contagious virus. rooms, increased testing — especially when The higher the league, the more funds and traveling — and what Conque and staff call resources to implement safety measures a “soft bubble” to limit exposure to non-team — like the playoff bubbles the National personnel as well as a limited capacity for Basketball Association and National Hockey UTRGV games. League put into place in fall 2020. In high school sports, the task is At the university interscholastic and high completely different. These coaches rely on school levels, it becomes much tougher to encouraging players to do the right thing for put streamlined rules in place. But schools their teammates. in the Rio Grande Valley have risen to the McAllen High School girls soccer coach occasion and resumed or even completed Patrick Arney says that explaining the seasons under unique COVID-19 conditions importance of personal responsibility goes and mitigation strategies. a long way for student-athletes who saw UTRGV Director of Athletics Chasse the 2020 season get canceled due to the Conque explained the decision-making pandemic. In 2021, the season is taking Leonardo F Chang process and the “village” of support and place under different circumstances. Financial oversight available on campus thatAdvisor supports “I’m telling their girls to stay within their N 10thatSt Suite 40 the sports programs and4500 community large. ‘soccer bubble’ — their families and soccer Mcallen, TX of 78504-0241 “It goes back to March and April 2020 players on the team,” Arney said. “Try to 956-630-0241 as we started to realize that COVID was not a limit contact with others. I talk about the flash in the pan and this was something that importance of staying safe so we don’t we were going to have to cope with for a long have to postpone or cancel any games. time,” Conque said. “It really starts with our It’s their season and they remember that it campus — with UTHealth RGV, our school got canceled last year. This year we can do of medicine. The services, the council, the something about it, but we got to be smart medical opinion and advice that we’ve been and stay safe.” able to honor through that relationship UIL soccer along with other winter and and partnership has been a huge piece of spring sports like track & field, baseball, and our puzzle.” wrestling were postponed and then canceled Vaqueros athletics competes in a for high schoolers in 2020. conference with teams across the western Mario Ribera is the head coach for the and midwestern U.S. girls soccer team at Sharyland High School. “There’s a lot of governing bodies involved “They need to have love for what they do and — the CDC of course and the NCAA Chief dream big,” he said of keeping the players Medical Officer Brian Hainline has put safe this season. “That will keep them away out quite a few papers and guidelines to from parties and gatherings.”

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C ha s s e Conque, U TR GV d i r e cto r o f ath l etics

Leonardo F Chang MKD-8652B-A

“It really starts with our campus with UTHealth RGV, our school of medicine. The services, the council, the medical opinion and advice that we’ve been able to honor through that relationship and partnership has been a huge piece of our puzzle.”

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When it comes to your to-do list, put your future first.


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S I T & S TAY Dog-Training Fundamentals Instills Obedience at Home

“If you are not in harmony with your dog — if you

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are not in the best mood or have stress — do not train your dog; do not touch your dog,” Tovar said. “Take some time to reset your mind, then do your training. Dogs sense what we are feeling with our tone of voice.” Tovar adds you do not have to enroll your dog in professional training courses in order for it to learn obedience. But if you do not have the time or patience, that is the best route. At PSPK9, the trainers teach using a clicker. Tovar recommends buying one if attempting to train at home, as the consistent sound allows for rapid learning. “It is kind of like a marker for the dog,” he said. “They learn, ‘this is what they want me to do — sit, lay down.’ It revolutionizes the training and expedites it.” For most dogs, each command is followed by a treat. For dogs not interested in treats, Tovar says you could teach them using a ball or another toy. It is about “selecting the right drive” and using positive reinforcement. With certain breeds that do not care for any type of reward and are not eager to please, the training period typically requires extra time. The basic commands he recommends all dogs know include come — which Tovar says is the most important — down, or sit, and heel. “The heel command basically means for the dog to walk at the owner’s left side at a comfortable pace where they can both take a nice walk and enjoy the environment,” he explained. When a dog can follow commands, he adds, it makes for a wonderful and pleasant companionship. “Imagine a nice trained dog you can take out in the morning,” he said. “You have got your routine. You put the leash on the dog and instead of it pulling you out the door you tell it nice and calm, ‘heel.’ “Or you take your dog jogging and meet a friend and you tell your dog to sit. You can shake that person’s hand and once that person is gone, you go back to a nice walk. It is such a beautiful thing.”

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Joseph Anthony Tovar found his calling for training dogs more than 35 years ago while working in law enforcement, which led him to open his own training business in McAllen: PSPK9. PSPK9 specializes in training police service dogs but also works with civilians’ pets. As “valuable members of the family,” Tovar says it is crucial to fulfilling dogs’ needs and requirements through proper training. “Every responsible pet owner should have some type of obedience because it allows the dog’s behavior to be redirected,” he said. “Without obedience, all you have is a wild animal and you are going to be miserable.” He adds a pet’s behavior is determined by the owner and behavioral problems such as ripping things up or digging holes in the backyard are a result of inadequate attention and discipline from their human. While the training for service dogs is a bit more rigorous, he says the fundamentals are the same and dogs learn through three principles: repetition, association, and consistency. Tovar says anyone can train their dog without professional help if they are willing to dedicate as little as 15 minutes a day consistently for three to four weeks. “That is the ideal time for the person to commit to the dog and say, ‘let’s do five sits, six downs’ — four sets a day,” he said. Although the ideal age to begin training is at 2 1/2 months, in cases where you adopt an older dog or have an older, untrained family pet, it is never too late for them to learn. “When you begin with a puppy, they are like a sponge and are eager to learn and please their owner,” he said. “Any dog can be trained; it may just be a little more strenuous.” One mistake to avoid is attempting to begin a training session when upset, as you will not have success.

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‘THE WORLD IS YOUR CLASSROOM’ Homeschoolers Give Advice to Other Parents for Pandemic Distance Learning by Amy Casebier

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She suggests being flexible and patient while treating every moment as a learning opportunity. This includes everything from having intentional conversations in the car on the way to the grocery store to incorporating math lessons in Lego play sessions or baking projects. Finley wove trips to local parks and the beach into her kids’ curriculum, spending the week learning about alligators before visiting a sanctuary, example. “We don’t have to follow this textbook style of learning,” she said. “The world is your classroom. You can just pick and go.” That flexibility and freedom also come with moments of grace and humor for Finley and her family. Many parents get frustrated when they don’t remember the kind of facts and skills necessary to help their kids with their schoolwork. “As you’re teaching your kids, you’re also redeeming your education,” Finley said. “You’re learning together. We challenge each other because they’re like, ‘Mommy, what is this?’ or ‘why does that happen?’ And I’m like, ‘hold on a second — I need to go research.’ It doesn’t need to be stressful.”

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During the throes of the pandemic, parents had to grapple with keeping their families safe — and helping their children succeed in distance learning from home. Many struggled with the added challenge. But for parents like Lisa Finley and Amber Friesen, who chose to homeschool their children, the transition was simple. “If anything, I felt like it was kind of a smooth season for us in the sense of the learning part of it,” said Finley, who teaches her second-grader, kindergartener, and preschooler. “The only thing was that our activities were canceled.” Friesen, who currently teaches her son kindergarten and supervises her third-grade daughter’s distance learning, curbed biweekly trips to the McAllen Public Library at the start of the pandemic. Otherwise, “everything for us has stayed very normal,” she said. They both acknowledge just how difficult it has been for others to suddenly transform home into school. “When you’re at school, it’s time to learn, but when you’re at home, this is where you play,” Finley said. “I feel like for a child who isn’t used to learning at home, if you’re trying to recreate the public school system in your home, it’s going to be really detrimental to your relationship with your child. It can just weigh on them. Just love on your kids. Make it fun. Be there for them.” Local homeschoolers were uniquely positioned to excel as school districts across the Rio Grande Valley shuttered in-person learning and moved to virtual learning. In fact, Finley’s friends reached out to her for advice when they were figuring out on the fly how to keep their kids on task. “It was nice being able to help the moms that found themselves in this situation,” she said. “I was able to see a lot of friends make the decision to go ahead and homeschool their kids.” Friesen advises parents to remember that just as every child is unique, so are the ways they learn. “If you have no teaching background whatsoever and you’re saying, ‘oh my word, I can’t do this,’ you can,” she said.

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B U S I N E S S ARTICLE PROVIDED BY

Sergio Contreras President/CEO RGV Partnership

A SOCIAL DILEMMA Texas Should Support Small Business Partnerships with Digital Platforms, Not Hamper Them For many years, the RGV Partnership has been successful in the pursuit of our mission, but 2020 hit our region hard. The pandemic brought extended lockdowns, business closures, and a major public health crisis. Our region experienced much loss and our way of life forever changed. Our healthcare infrastructure was pushed to the edge and the small businesses that fuel our economic engine faced serious financial hardship. As we turned the page to 2021, there was hope as vaccinations are being administered. The total outlook for the new year looks promising, but it is fragile. When the reality of the pandemic hit and the lockdowns became prolonged, companies had to quickly pivot to survive. Many businesses adjusted operations and adapted to the new social-distancing standards by relying on online tools and e-commerce platforms such as Google’s Ads and My Business suite. Companies leaned into social media advertising and other communication tools to keep customers up to date on changes to business hours and how they could continue to buy products or services. Those that were able to quickly switch to an online business model were the ones that had a fighting chance to make it through. Tech companies like Facebook stepped up to the plate, offering $100 million in cash grants and

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At the Rio Grande Valley Partnership, we work diligently every day to ensure our region is a place of opportunity, working to bring new business investments and create opportunities for Valley residents and our local economy. Our mission is “to be the catalyst for prosperity in the Rio Grande Valley.” That is why we participate in events with Texas leaders, host virtual events to keep our community connected and informed, partner with private and public organizations, and advocate for the interests of our business community.

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tech companies will have to waste time defending themselves in court. Paxton is hampering our efforts to bring our economy back stronger and help our friends through this unprecedented time. This lawsuit will needlessly tie up essential resources to help businesses and could cost Texas taxpayers as much as $43 million in a time when Texas faces a pandemic-induced budget deficit. How is this a good deal for Texans? Instead of suing these companies, shouldn’t our state work with them to get us through this pandemic? Shouldn’t Texas continue to work alongside them on projects like bringing broadband to our region to create opportunities for more Valley residents? That would make the most sense, but right now, our attorney general is actively working against our own best interests. The economic outlook for the RGV is improving and we are resilient. But as one of the hardest-hit regions in the state, where unemployment reached 17 percent in May 2020, we need to be looking for any and all solutions instead of stepping on our own toes. Now more than ever, we need to work alongside companies like Google and Facebook to help our small businesses through and ensure there is economic prosperity for all as we emerge from this pandemic.

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ad credits, while Microsoft set up an information hub to help small businesses navigate the uncertainty. Google, meanwhile, started the Grow with Google Small Business Fund and posted free tutorials on how to use online tools to grow and learn to code. As 2021 continues, we need to set a strong foundation for our small businesses to rebound and spur growth in our economy — as these companies have helped us do. That is why it is difficult to understand the reasoning behind the lawsuits our own state is pushing against companies like Google, which has been essential in providing tools and resources to help small businesses through the pandemic. In December, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit against Google, alleging that the company worked with Facebook to corner the online advertising market. This would be a major scandal if it had any merit. But it does not. Instead, it is threatening our small businesses and our Texas economy. Even Texas leaders are warning against actions like Paxton’s. The reality is that if Texas continues to pursue lawsuits like the one against Google, the tools and resources these companies have provided that have been a lifeline in a time of desperate need could be in jeopardy. Instead of focusing on helping our small businesses,

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B U S I N E S S ARTICLE PROVIDED BY

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

FINANCIAL FOCUS

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How to Respond When Risk Tolerance is Tested

future results, every historical market decline has been followed by a recovery.

When you begin investing, you’ll generally assess your comfort with risk, as your investment choices will be guided at least partially by your risk tolerance. But once you actually experience the ups and downs of the market, this tolerance could be tested. Risk tolerance may appear less bothersome in the abstract but seem quite different in reality. For example, you might initially think you wouldn’t be fazed by shortterm market downturns, no matter how severe. However, when the financial markets really decline, as they did when the pandemic struck in March 2020, you might find yourself being more concerned than you thought you would be. Before you change your investment strategy, it's important to understand the potential tradeoffs. By limiting your downside risk by investing less aggressively, you may also limit your upside potential. You might need to change your strategy in other ways, such as saving more or working longer. That said, the tradeoff involved in reducing your downside risk may be worth taking, if it helps you cope better with wild market swings, as the best strategy may be one you can stick with through the inevitable ups and downs of the markets. Because market fluctuations are a normal part of investing, here are some additional suggestions that may help you focus on your long-term strategy:

• UNDERSTAND THATTHE DOW ISN’T YOUR PORTFOLIO. When the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the other major market indexes such as the S&P 500 fall precipitously (or shoot up), it makes headlines. But the Dow and the S&P 500 only track the performance of large U.S. companies. While their performance may be an indication of the U.S. economy, they aren’t going to track the results of your portfolio, which should ideally include a personalized mix of large-company stocks, smallcompany stocks, international stocks, bonds, government securities, and other investments. • KEEP YOUR EMOTIONS OUT OF YOUR INVESTMENT MOVES. The market will fluctuate constantly — but you should always try to keep your emotions in check. Excess exuberance when the market rises, or extreme despondency when the market falls, can lead you to make poor decisions. Specifically, we may buy when we feel good (when the markets are up) and sell when we feel badly (when markets are down). Your heart and your emotions may drive your financial goals — creating a comfortable retirement, sending your kids to college or leaving a legacy for your family — but when you invest for these goals, you should use your head. Your risk tolerance is a key part of your investment strategy. But by taking the steps described above, you can gain a broader understanding of how risk fits into your overall picture — and a better understanding of yourself as an investor.

• LOOK PAST THE IMMEDIATE EVENT. While the market’s pandemic-driven fall was sudden, its recovery was also fairly quick. Eight months after its March meltdown, the market had regained all the lost ground and reached a new record high. During the midst of what appears to be a real threat to your investment portfolio, it can be difficult to anticipate a more favorable environment. Yet, while past performance can’t guarantee

This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor. Edward Jones, Member SIPC

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ASK

RGVISION:

AN UPDATE Traditional Content Marketing to Make a Comeback

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b y R GV i s i o n Marketing strategies for social networks are and always have been the fundamental guide for effectively positioning a brand or business on the world wide web. Thanks to the relative flexibility of social networks in terms of paid campaigns, many businesses have been able to stand out from their competitors and launch effective, wide-sweeping brand awareness and lead acquisition campaigns. This is not necessarily because of the quality of their content, but because of the budget with which they drive their campaigns. Pay more money, get more results. That’s how it’s been for the past several years on social media platforms, search engines, and other platforms where ads are shown. However, that reality has changed this year, and online marketing has been turned on its head thanks to one company, Apple. Apple is the precursor of future trends, and it won’t be long until other tech companies follow suit. The company has changed its privacy policies in its iOS 14 update in 2020. The new policy applies stringent privacy protection for iOS users, which will severely limit access to consumer behavior data for online platforms. This makes the reach of digital ads slim to none. Paid social and search advertisements go back to being a shot in the dark. The most influential social networks like Facebook and search engines like Google have openly criticized the new update. Facebook for Business advised its business users on Aug. 26, 2020, with the following: “Given the impact the policy will have on businesses’ ability to market themselves and monetize through ads, we’re sharing how we’re addressing iOS 14 changes and providing recommendations to help our partners prepare, while developers await more details on this policy.

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the amount of ads solicited to the masses, businesses need to return to traditional media to be sure that their advertisements are shown where you want and where you know they will be seen. The solution is to position your brand organically in order to remain relevant in your market and to still be able to attract and maintain customers. At the end of the day, content marketing is still just as effective — if not more — when it comes to meeting these goals. As a content-driven publication, RGVision helps our clients with traditional marketing in areas such as in print ads, magazine articles, billboard design and placement, and radio and TV spots. To learn more about advertising in 2021, give us a call at (956) 566-6598 or send us an email at info@rgvisionmagazine.com. To read more about Facebook’s stance on Apple’s new policy, go to https://bit.ly/2Zjw9aM.

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First, we will not collect the identifier for advertisers (IDFA) on our own apps on iOS 14 devices. We believe this approach provides as much certainty and stability that we can provide our partners at this time. We may revisit this decision as Apple offers more guidance.” What do these changes mean for you and your business? It’s simple. If you have been relying on paid online ads to help your content reach more eyeballs over the past few years, it’s time to reconsider your gameplan. Without access to users’ privacy settings, businesses will no longer have the ability to collect information on their target audience. This makes it more difficult to reach them, making traditional media a great option for business. We want to let our previous and current advertisers know that because iOS (and Android likely to follow) has put these stringent privacy policies in place to reduce


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ph o t o by Wa l d o Pa l o m a r e s

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BUILT TO LAST Longevity, Value, and Togetherness at Lacks 86th Anniversary by Sofia Aleman | photos provided by Lacks

Le e A a r o n s o n , CE O at Lacks Val l ey Stores

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“It was important for us to establish really strong relationships with the people that worked with us, both the people that worked for us and our vendors. We have developed friendships with all those people."

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and couldn't get rubber, so we started selling appliances. We also sold bicycles. I remember my first bicycle was a Lacks flyer — just a red bicycle with our logo.” Aaronson remembers using carbonless paper with red ink to formulate purchase orders into a giant book. “We would merge red, white and pink purchasing orders, and make multiple copies by hand,” he said.

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It’s not often a furniture store is considered a pillar of the community, but Lacks has done it successfully for 86 years. Serving the Valley through community outreach, superior customer service, and the highest quality furniture in the region, it’s no question as to why they’ve had such long lasting success. When Sam Lack, founder of Lacks, first opened his store’s doors in 1935, he never dreamed his business would see the advancements it has seen today. Lee Aaronson, CEO at Lacks Valley Stores, reminisces having grown up with Lacks and witnessing the transformation of the store from a tire shop and automotive supply store to selling home goods after World War II. “I cannot remember a time when Lacks wasn't a part of my life,” Aaronson said. “During World War II, we couldn't get tires


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Now the CEO, Aaronson began his career on the cash register in his teens. He attributes the growth he sees in Lacks today to the core values the company has always embraced, including, “building relationships, honesty, and being happy,” he said. “It was important for us to establish really strong relationships with the people that worked with us — both the people that worked for us and our vendors, whom we’ve developed friendships throughout the years” Aaronson said. Creating friendships is just one way Lacks builds on its relationships. Making sure to run a business that was equal and enjoyable to every party was a priority for its founders and continues today. “It was always important to my father that every relationship be good for both parties. If it's not a good relationship for our customer, then they won't come back and shop with us. If we don't have a good relationship with our employees and they're not treated fairly, they'll find someplace else to work,” Aaronson said. “If we are dealing with our vendors and we don't make sure that they're making money in the deal, then they won't sell to us anymore. So it's about building relationships that are fair and honest.” Kris Karr, Director of Communications at Lacks, agrees that the company is “people centric.” Being family-oriented has contributed to the company’s thriving longevity. Karr, who’s been with the company for 22 years, recalls being personally mentored throughout her position as advertising manager. “Because of that support, it made me feel so loyal to the company. They helped me grow professionally and nurtured me,” she said. “I'm very, very thankful, and I'm not the only person within our company in which doors have

S a m La ck o p e ns f i r s t s tor e i n M c A l le n o n Mai n & Be a um ont St.

O u r f o u n d e r, S a m Lack

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S a m La c k 's s o n in - l a w M y l e s A a r o n s o n b e g in s h e l p in g r u n t h e b u s in e s s

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M y l e s p ur cha s e s the We s la co s t o r e f r o m Sam & be gi ns hi s o w n ex p a n s i on p r ogr a m Bu il d-A-Bear E ven t 20 0 8

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Secon d M cAl l en l ocation open s on Bu sin ess 83 & 15th Street

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Brown svil l e store open s on Boca Ch ica Bou l evard

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N ew store is bu il t in Wesl aco. M y l es Aaron son h ires Al M offitt as a store man ager at th e Wesl aco l ocation

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V i da Ve r d e F e s t iv a l , Ear th D ay 2012

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F u rn itu re Sh owcase store open s on N . 10 th St. in M cAl l en

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Lacks General Manager, Alfred F. Moffitt III, M y l es Aaron son retires after 38 pu rch ases years of service E din bu rg & M ission stores from Stan l ey Lack

The legacy continues. Seth Aaronson, Lee's son, becomes the Chief Marketing Officer after joining the family 14 0,0 0 0 sq. ft. business in 2012

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Gal l eria store open s in M cAl l en

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Launch of HARP & FINIAL Collection in McAllen

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been opened. Lacks has always had a culture where we've supported our employees and helped them advance within the company.” One of Lacks’ main core values is family: “We support each other — here we are family first and foremost.” For Karr, that saying entails what life is all about. “It’s about family, we have each other’s backs by supporting each other through the ups and downs. We not only have our family at home, but we also have our extended family at work, the Lacks family. Every day we do our best — for our children, our community, and the customers that come in and shop with us,” she said. “It's important to us that we make the world around us better, healthier, and filled with happier people. This type of atmosphere benefits all of us.” Lacks gives back by advocating for issues that heavily impact the communities they serve. That includes support of the Boys & Girls Clubs, local Food Banks, the American Cancer Society, diabetes foundations, holding academic chairs at UTRGV, and underwriting STEM programs. Everything that matters to people in their circle matters to the Lacks leadership team. “We're committed to enriching our communities by giving back, supporting fundraising events and working together with organizations that are helping people in need. And we have fun! We do things that other companies don't do to celebrate who we are,” said Karr. Every year Lacks celebrates their employees for their outstanding performance by giving away recognition awards at a company meeting. During the gathering, individual team members are recognized for their efforts during the previous year. It’s a time to come together to acknowledge and celebrate each other’s hard work and dedication to Lacks.


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Th e co m p any cha nge s i ts na m e t o La cks Valle y Stor e s , Ltd.

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“We have ‘All-Stars’ and we award the biggest loser, who is a person who lost the most weight that year,” said Aaronson. “It's just a chance for all of us to be together and honor all the people who were successful the prior year— It’s my favorite event that we have on an annual basis and it's fun to see how many people are connected by our business.” It’s easy to tell that the staff at Lacks don’t view their employment as “just a job,” because of the connectedness they find by spending time together outside of work. Aaronson says one of his fondest memories of the company event was enjoying a “Pig-nic” together with an award winning pig. “We closed all the stores, had a picnic, and everyone in the company was there, plus their families,” said Aaronson. “We set up a carnival for everybody and had a talent show. So we spent the day just having fun together--It was wonderful.” While enjoying fellowship is important for the Lacks team, this year’s ceremony was interrupted by the pandemic. Aasonson says the company had never endured anything like it. And although COVID-19 took the company by surprise, problem solving and maintaining composure was something Lacks quickly adopted. Lacks prioritized their employees' health and shut down for six weeks in spite of being deemed an essential business. “We didn’t want to take a chance of having our stores being a place where people could get COVID-19,” Aaronson said. “Even though that didn't allow us to sell anywhere near what we needed to sell in order to cover all of our expenses, we just took the loss so we could make certain we weren't spreading the disease.”

S y l v ia a n d M y l e s' s o n Le e A a r o n s o n becomes the c o m p a n y 's c h ie f exe c u t iv e o f f ic e r

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Th ir d G a l l e r ia store opens in La r e d o

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La c ks General M a n a g e r, A l f r e d F. M o ff it t I I I , r e t ir e s a ft e r 38 years of s e r vic e

Rel ay for Life

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Updated F u rn itu re Sh owcase model open s in Vicctoria

Lau n ch of Lacks' n ew E -commerce site

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But like gold after being refined by fire, Lacks emerged stronger after meeting the challenge the pandemic presented. “What was amazing about this is we had to change so much of our procedures — everybody had to do things differently,” Aaronson said. “But they all pulled together to help each other. I'm amazed at what happened. We made our company better.” According to both Aaronson and Karr, people continued shopping at Lacks because consultants make their best effort to serve each customer personally, honestly, and fairly. Shoppers enjoy the consultants’ availability and the incredible store selection. With promises kept for deliveries and the highest quality furniture in the Valley, Lacks customers never stopped trusting their shopping experience. Seth Aaronson, Chief Marketing Officer and son of the current CEO, wants to keep the company — and his family’s — legacy continually moving forward. “My vision is to continue to hold on to our core values of being family-oriented, and continue to push the style and the look and feel of our stores to the forefront, so that we are the best furniture store in our market — and we are the place that offers the best service for our customers,” he said. As a lasting and recognized Valley household name, Lacks promises to continue to put their community first. “We feel we have the ability to understand our customers better than a lot of our competitors because we are local — unlike some of the national competition,” Seth Aaronson said. “That allows us to really offer a more tailored experience. That's more in line with our customers because we are a part of the community.”

Lacks open s its 12th store in Corpu s Ch risti

2019 T h e l egacy con tin u es. Seth Aaron son , Lee's son , becomes th e Ch ief M arketin g Officer after join in g th e famil y bu sin ess in 20 12

Lau n ch of HARP & F I N I AL Col l ection in M cAl l en

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The legacy continues. Seth Aaronson, Lee's son, becomes the Chief Marketing Officer after joining the family 2020 business in 2012 The legac

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Seth Aaro son, beco Chief Mar after join business

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SHOP S US TA I N A B LY Local Thrifting Helps Preserve Planet

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b y Va l e r i e J a cks o n While shopping for new clothing, have you ever considered the following questions: Who actually makes this product? How does this fabric affect the environment? Do I really need this? How long will it last? Whether these are questions that have crossed your mind or not, it is important to note that the fashion industry produces more harmful carbon emissions than the aviation and shipping industries combined. In fact, the apparel industry accounts for 10 percent of global carbon emissions total, according to The World Bank Organization. Fast fashion has contributed to these numbers greatly. This is due to the mass production of low-cost, poorquality, disposable clothing. Polyester, acrylic, rayon, and nylon are just a few of the least sustainable fabrics, taking anywhere from 20 to 200 years to decompose. As trends come and go, clothing is produced at high rates and disposed of even faster. When these garments arrive at the end of their life, they are not donated. Instead, they

either go to a landfill or get incinerated. To avoid adding to this ever growing pile, it is crucial to shop consciously and strive to make ethical decisions each day. We can help our community and shop at local secondhand vendors such as Lazarus Vintage, Bulto Boys, and others to not only support our community members, but to also contribute to a much larger cause: preserving our planet. Jose Nerio, also known as “Chema,” owns Bulto Boys. He describes himself as a “vintage collector, reseller, and T-shirt nerd.” He has been reselling for about six or seven years, and opened his business officially four years ago. “I am extremely thankful that the RGV has supported me, my business, and my ideas,” he said. “The RGV vintage scene has been small for a really long time, but I feel like as times are changing, the RGV has become more open to secondhand and vintage clothes.” Lazarus Vintage is another secondhand shop that the RGV has embraced since 2018. Owner William

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MONEY

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MAY NOT GROW ON TREES BUT ERI KNOWS WHERE TO FIND IT

With over 25 years of experience, Educational Research Institute (ERI) have written, secured, and managed more than $430 million in public and private funds.

ERI — We Grant Your Success!

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ERI writes GRANTS and has secured over 430 million dollars in funding!

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for sustainable fashion that can be sourced locally,” he said. “Each garment starts off being examined for stains and blemishes to be corrected. Often, if stains can’t be removed, the garment will be set aside for dyeing — where the customization and experimentation happens. It’s really exciting stuff for me personally. Sometimes items with significant rips or tears will be sent off for repairs, but soon that will be done inhouse.” Bulto Boys can be located on the following platforms: Website: https://bulto-boy.myshopify.com/ Instagram: @ghosttownvintage956 Depop: @chemanerio Grailed: @ghosttownvintage Lazarus Vintage can be found on/at the following locations: Instagram: @lazarus.vintage Brownsville Farmers Market (9 a.m. to noon every Saturday)

1710 North Ed Carey, Harlingen, TX (956) 365-4100 | (956) 365-4300 www.erigrants.com

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Tex Jiménez finds joy in not only helping the environment, but establishing connections along the way. “I get to share an enjoyment for this niche passion with my community on all levels, whether it’s historic or aesthetic,” he said. “If people can walk away with more info, a good conversation, or just being happy with their purchase, then I am happy.” While Lazarus Vintage and Bulto Boys have each established an impressive following within the last few years, sustainability remains a priority. “I source from different thrifts, buy wholesale, go to garage sales, go to flea markets, and I buy locally, as well. I try my best to get new clothes everyday,” Nerio said. Jiménez incorporates a twist when purchasing inventory for Lazarus Vintage. “A sustainability-centered mindset can be applied to many areas of one's life and we are actively pushing to showcase options


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A HITCH IN

GETTING HITCHED COVID-19 Challenges RGV Venues, Vendors by Amy Casebier

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Andre Roman jokingly asked his now-wife, Karen, to marry him over her choice of sweet potato fries for his side item during their first date in 2015. In just a few years, though, they made the engagement official — and scheduled their wedding for June 20, 2020. They had no way of knowing that they’d set the date for the middle of a pandemic. “We were already so deep into the wedding planning and paying off our vendors there was no way we could get our money back or change to a smaller venue,” Karen recalled. Andre was living and working in London at the time. “Him being in Europe, he saw the surging cases before we did. We knew it wasn’t going to disappear by the fall. Our vendors were giving us the option to postpone to October, November, and we just knew it wasn’t going to be any different.” They reduced their guest list, made peace with fewer people in a large venue, and dealt with tightened restrictions ahead of their special day. “We knew we were going to have people missing, but in the end, it wasn’t about the big party,” Karen said. “It was about him and I getting married, exchanging vows, and having our marriage blessed.” COVID-19 wove itself into the story of their wedding — right down to Karen standing in a long line trying to buy hand sanitizer as wedding favors at a time when it was impossible to find personal protective equipment on shelves. “Looking back, in spite of everything, it was perfect

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“We’re following guidelines. There’s been constant level of responsibility or a sense of duty not only to my community but also the pressure of letting people know I’m doing the best I can with the current guidelines and restrictions.”

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hors d’oeuvres during cocktail hour, and encouraging couples to hire someone solely in charge of sanitizing surfaces throughout the gathering. But smaller weddings mean less profit for King and The Bryan House — and working even harder to make that income. It’s one of many difficulties that persist through 2021. Kairos Coffee Catering, founded by Gabriel Sanchez and his wife in 2017, also suffered during the pandemic. In March 2020, Sanchez started receiving calls that, one by one, all of the weddings his business had booked needed to be postponed because of the pandemic. “We’re still waiting on some,” he said. Prior to that, Sanchez estimated that Kairos had served up lattes, mochas, cappuccinos, americanos, and hot chocolate to more than 100 weddings. Sanchez pivoted in response to COVID-19, delivering coffee and doing drive-by events rather than waiting on the postponed events that his businesses depended on to survive. “Our business has grown — it’s really flourished even in the middle of the pandemic,” he said. In spite of the current challenges, Sanchez anticipates a bright future particularly as restrictions ease and vaccines begin. In fact, his business is all about the perfect timing. “We’re a Christian business — ‘kairos’ is a Greek word and it means the appointed time of God,” he said. “We just believe that ultimately it was God who appointed us to this business — to be a part of people’s lives and to be a hope and blessing.”

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in its own way,” she said. “I don’t regret the decisions that were made. It’s looking brighter for future brides and I’m sure if we had waited, we would’ve had a more normal wedding. We’re embracing it and, in the end, it worked out and we’re happily married.” The pandemic had a ripple effect on couples trying to get married and the venues and vendors that help make that possible throughout 2020. State and county rules limited the number of people who could gather, and safety protocols dictated the need for social distancing and mask wearing. The wedding industry took a hit. “It did hurt us,” said Ariel King, owner and manager of The Bryan House in Mission. This historic venue hosts a variety of events — weddings chief among them. “Even though it was hard for me, it was harder for others.” New regulations forced many traditional event venues to shutter. King did her best to offer couples a safer — if smaller — option to tie the knot. “We’re following guidelines. There’s been a constant level of responsibility or a sense of duty not only to my community but also the pressure of letting people know I’m doing the best I can with the current guidelines and restrictions,” King said. “People are still going to get married. Life has to go on.” To adapt, she started offering customizable all-inclusive packages that utilized local businesses like catering services and musicians. King also revised every detail to ensure maximum safety during each event, including capping the number of people seated at a table, nixing servers carrying around trays of traditional


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SOLAR ENERGY Despite Decrease in Air Pollution, Renewable Options Still Necessary

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b y J o s e De Le o n I I I

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According to the World Health Organization, air pollution is a global issue that kills millions. Air pollution creates respiratory and heart diseases that kill an estimated 7 million people worldwide every year, the WHO stated. In developing nations such as Afghanistan, nearly 5,000 people died from air pollution in 2020 alone, the Afghanistan

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Solergy is a McAllen-based company owned by Frank and his daughter, Nasim. The company provides residential and commercial solar installations in Texas. “The average household produces an average of 14,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. By going solar, you can reduce that by 3,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per year per kilowatt annually,” Nasim explained. Aside from a reduction in one’s carbon footprint, Frank and Nasim said a huge motivation for most homeowners in converting to solar is the savings. “Depending on the size of your solar panel system, you can see savings from $50 to $150 per month,” Nasim said. “As traditional energy costs continue to rise around the country, solar energy prices continue to drop. By installing solar, you can now produce your own electricity and shield your home from electricity rate hikes. The primary reason solar energy has become so popular is that it puts more control, and therefore more confidence, in the hands of homeowners.” Solergy, which was founded in 2014, pointed out that several entities are supporting homes to switch to solar energy. California, for example, is requiring all newly constructed buildings to have a solar energy system installed to produce its annual kilowatt usage. Houston also passed a similar ordinance in 2016 that requires all newly constructed single family homes, townhouses, and condos must have a roof with a surface of at least 600 square feet oriented to the west or the south to make it easier to install solar panels. “Currently, the federal government offers a tax credit to homeowners and business owners who go solar,” Frank said. “Those who have tax liability can deduct 26 percent of their system cost from their taxes before the tax credit expires in 2022.” For more information on Solergy, go to www. solergytexas.com or call (956) 777-0744.

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health ministry said in January. Despite the issue of air pollution, the world actually saw less of it in 2020, scientists say. That, however, caused its own set of problems. A January 2021 report from NASA found that 2020 tied 2016 as the warmest year on record. The increase in warm weathers created several climate phenomenons such as melting sea ice, sea-level rise,and extreme weather events. NASA noted that two major events led to the warmer temperatures: the Australian wildfires that burned 46 millions acres of land during the first several months of the year, and the COVID-19 pandemic. “With more people working from home, staying home, and driving less, these actions actually reduced particulate air pollution, giving many areas across the globe cleaner air. However, this also caused more sunlight to reach the air,” NASA noted, saying that the Australian wildfires sent smoke and other particles into the sky, creating the warming that “could be significant.” The warm temperatures create more carbon dioxide than normal, making scientists urge people to turn to renewable energy to decrease one’s carbon footprint. A local business also thinks renewable energy is the only way to improve the planet. “Solar energy is the power of the future,” Solergy Texas co-owner Frank Shayegan said. “I believe as the trend of going solar continues to increase, more municipalities will begin to implement ordinances that will require homeowners to produce at least 50 percent of their energy needs by solar. We currently rely on fossil fuels like coal and natural gas to get their electricity. By switching to solar power, you can dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions — particularly carbon dioxide — and make a positive impact on the environment and public health.”

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H E A L T H

SELF-HARM AND

SUICIDE AWARENESS: RGVISION MAGAZINE

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What to Look for and How to Help thoughts of committing suicide. • Approximately 48,000 individuals die by suicide every year. Psychological treatment given by mental health professionals like psychologists or psychiatrists has been found to be an effective treatment for suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Treatment may focus on addressing and treating suicidal thoughts and behaviors directly but can also focus on self-harm specifically. A common intervention method to treat individuals at high risk of suicide or non-suicidal self-injury is dialectical behavior therapy. It is common for suicidal thoughts and behaviors to co-occur with other mental disorders such as depression or borderline personality disorder.

The month of March is Self-Injury Awareness Month, and it is intended to raise awareness of warning signs associated with self-harm as well as diminish the stigma surrounding it. Even though self-harm is commonly associated with suicidal thoughts and behaviors, it is also possible for an individual to engage in non-suicidal self-injury. Even if self-injury is non-suicidal, there is still a risk of suicidal behavior. The facts below emphasize the prevalence of suicidal thoughts and behaviors in today’ssociety: • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and the third leasing cause of death in youths. • There is one death by suicide every 12 minutes. • In the U.S., 4.8 percent of adults have reported serious

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In this case, the mental health professional will modify treatment to address the mental illness as well as the risk of suicide. Other types of treatment include medical and educational treatment. SELF-HARM AND SUICIDE: RISK FACTORS There is no singular reason as to why an individual engages in self-harm or suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Several risk factors associated with self-harm and suicidality include, but are not limited to: • History of mental illness • Previous suicide attempts • Family history of suicide, violence, or abuse • Serious illness • Stress from a job, family, significant relationships, etc. • Suicidal behaviors from family members, peers, or media • Age — individuals 15 to 24 years old or over the age of 60 are most at risk for engaging in suicide-related behaviors

you are attempting to unlock the box, you give yourself time to remind yourself not to self-harm. • Seek help: Talking to a mental health professional can aid in reducing the urge and desire to engage in selfinjurious thoughts and behaviors.

SELF-HARM AND SUICIDE: RED FLAGS Certain behaviors may indicate that someone is engaging in suicidal or non-suicidal self-injury. Being aware of these red flags can help determine if you or someone you know may be in need of help. Some red flags may include: • Feeling hopeless • Withdrawing from family and friends • Change in eating habits • Talking or thinking about death often • Extreme mood swings • Alcohol, drug, or substance abuse • Giving personal possessions away • Risk-taking behaviors

Resources: Tropical Texas Behavioral Center: (956) 289-7000 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255 Self-harm crisis text line: text HELLO to 741741 Emergencies: 9-1-1

SELF-HARM AND SUICIDE: COPING STRATEGIES Engaging in self-injurious behavior can be an attempt to cope with psychological distress, often caused by life’s stressors. There are healthy alternative coping options to replace the act of self-harm, such as: • Release energy or tension: Go for a walk or the gym, do yoga, pop bubble wrap, or squeeze a stress ball. • Create something new: Write a poem, draw a picture, vent in a diary, take photos of things you like. • Start something new: Read a book, take up a new hobby (gardening, sewing, skateboarding), start a new TV show, cook something you’ve never made before. • Relax: Take a bath or shower, paint your nails, take a nap, or meditate. • Keep things you may use to self-harm locked away: As

Co-authors include Dr. Mercado’s Mental Health Lab at UTRGV: Amanda Palomin, Andy Torres, Pablo Ruiz, Sandra Chapa,

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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Stephanie Navarro, and Maria Sevilla-Matos.

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MESSAGE TO THE PUBLIC Choosing to stop suicidal or non-suicidal self-injury is an uphill battle that requires a lot of commitment and support. If you or someone you know has shown signs of mental distress, self-harm, or suicidal tendencies, do not wait to seek help. If you or a loved one require help for self-harm or suicidal thoughts and behaviors, reach out to the crisis lines and resources listed below.


H E A L T H

THE CLEAR EXPERIENCE Invisalign vs Mail-in DIY Aligner Kits: What’s the Difference?

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by Steven Hughes | photos by Norma Hess roots of your teeth, checks to see if you need space in between teeth, because if you’re using online aligners, you won’t know if you need additional treatments to help straighten your teeth better.” According to Bautista, shifting teeth with periodontal disease when a patient's gums aren’t healthy, can make tooth and jaw problems worse. Utilizing Invisalign under the supervision of a dentist keeps your teeth safe as your smile straightens. "[Invisalign] has been around for a few decades now," said Dr. Suliman Salman, Board Certified Orthodontist at Rodeo Dental & Orthodontics. Salman said that Invisalign’s aligner technology to straighten teeth is at the forefront of orthodontics and he’s proud to be using it at Rodeo Dental. “The fact that you’re getting the Invisalign aligner is a big deal,” he continued. “They do have some patents on technologies that are just not available anywhere else. … That’s why I love working with Invisalign.” A doctor recommended that Amy Garza, an adult Rodeo Dental patient, use Invisalign. Although she didn’t need to fix her smile, she needed the treatment to address issues with her jaw. “It was something [that] I preferred because, you know, being an adult, you don’t like to see braces,” Garza said. “It’s pretty discreet.” Matthew Sandoval, a teen patient, has had a better experience with Invisalign than braces. His teeth wouldn’t hurt while eating

It's dinnertime, and the aroma of food fills the air. Once you sit at the table, you’re tempted by a mouth-watering range of steamy dishes. The first bite is full of flavor — with an unexpected and unwelcome spike of pain. Additional chewing turns a yummy dinner into a grating ordeal. After trying to eat, talking hurts because of the sharp pain in your jaw. By bedtime, you’re exhausted, but it’s difficult to sleep because you’re having trouble breathing. This scenario can occur due to problems with your teeth or jaw. But thankfully, Rodeo Dental has been helping patients with all types of dental irregularities, and continues to do so with their Invisalign treatment. Invisalign is a clear mouth guard that adjusts to the patient as needed. Though braces continue to be an effective form of orthodontic treatment, Invisalign does the same job while also allowing for cleaner teeth, removability, clear smiles, and no need to change your diet. But while dental aligners similar to Invisalign can be purchased online, it’s essential to have personalized aligner management and individual care that only a trained orthodontist can give. “When you come to the office, the doctor gives you a treatment plan. A lot of times when you order online, there are a lot of occasions when you don’t know if they’re doing the right job. If you have a short root [in your teeth] and using online aligners, you can actually lose your tooth,” said Juan Bautista, a dental assistant at Rodeo Dental. “When you come to Rodeo Dental, the doctor checks the

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“The fact that you’re getting the Invisalign aligner is a big deal. They do have some patents on technologies that are just not available anywhere else. … That’s why I love working with Invisalign.”

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D r. Sul i m a n Sa l ma n , an orth odon tist at Rodeo Den tal & Orth odon tics

often lacks medical oversight. Invisalign only works with certified orthodontists. Getting Invisalign treatment through a dental office keeps the patient’s health in mind. "If you get that [online] product, [it] might work for you, it might not," Salman said. "There is a risk for it causing you harm, too." Garza says she prefers coming to Rodeo Dental for her treatment because she can speak with an orthodontist in person about any questions she might have. “My doctor here has been able to coordinate a lot of concern that I had with my dentist and formulate a treatment plan that has been most beneficial for me,” she said. “I don’t think I would have gotten the same type of improvements or adjustments that I needed if I had done one of the online ordering [systems].”

when using Invisalign. “I remember when I had braces, when I took them off, my gums were all swelling because I wasn’t able to clean them,” Sandoval said. “[Invisalign is] a better option than braces.” According to Invisalign’s website, the aligners can treat overbites, crossbites, gap teeth, open bites, crowded teeth, baby and permanent teeth, and crooked teeth. “People will come and ask, ‘does this work for me?’” Salman said. “To be honest, it’s for anyone.” The orthodontist added that everyone’s teeth move at different speeds. In his experience, the average treatment takes six to nine months to complete. Salman’s primary concern is that when people order similar clear aligner products online, the experience

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Your Hospital, Your Delivery Care You Can Trust When you want to combine high-quality care with a compassionate childbirth experience, let Valley Baptist embrace you and your newborn. Our trusted physicians and experienced nurses are with you from the weeks of prenatal care to checking-in for your delivery and then receiving postpartum care and access to resources for you and your little bundle of joy. Compassionate communication with an unparalleled experience is key to how we care for you and help create those special moments for you and your little miracle!

Social Distancing

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Learn more at ValleyBaptist.net/Services/ Gynecology


H E A L T H

BUNDLES OF JOY Caring for New Mothers and Babies is a Team Effort at Valley Baptist by Amy Casebier | photos by Mark Puente

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For many members of the obstetrical team at Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen, offering excellent care to pregnant women, new mothers, and their babies is personal. “I’ve always known that I wanted to take care of babies — and then I had an experience with my own pregnancy where I had rushed back [for an] emergency C-section,” said Blanca Pumarejo, a registered nurse at Valley Baptist. “I had no clue what was going on, why I even went back, what the situation was. At that point, I made the decision that I wanted to be that nurse to educate my patients, to tell them why everything’s happening. I wanted to be there for my mamas.” Thorough and compassionate communication is key to how the team works together to care for patients in the obstetrics department, educate new mothers on how crucial breastfeeding is for their baby’s healthy development, bring in expert neonatologists for support, and provide comprehensive overall care. “I couldn’t do anything I do without my team,” said Leighann Villines, a labor and delivery nurse at Valley Baptist. “We’re a family. I depend on them, they depend on me. If I need help with a patient, I know that I have the support.”

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taking care of patients with the highest degree of care, but also being compassionate.” That extends from the weeks of prenatal care women receive, to coming into the hospital to give birth, to receiving postpartum care and access to resources for their new baby. “We tell them they can call us at any time if they have questions about their baby,” Garcia said. “We’re always available for them.” These factors are among the biggest that may influence expectant mothers to choose Valley Baptist to have their baby — a big decision to make. “We understand that these patients are anxious and nervous and some of them are sick. They’re treated like you would your own sister or your own mother,” Cantu said. “The nurses show empathy toward these patients. They offer warm, friendly care.” Helping mothers and babies is more than a job for this team. And for Torres, it’s a true passion and calling. “After all this time — 27 years — I still enjoy what I do,” he said. “After thousands of deliveries I’ve done, I still get emotional about it. I still get excited about being part of people’s family.”

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That high level of care hasn’t wavered even in the face of a pandemic. “Our patients should feel comfortable coming here,” said Mary Garcia, Valley Baptist clinical director. “We have a separate area for our COVID patients. We make sure that we provide protective equipment for the patients and for ourselves.” The expectant mother is still allowed to have a support person with her during the delivery. And the facility’s hallmark practice of trying never to separate mothers and newborns continues. Valley Baptist has maintained many safety protocols since the start of the pandemic to keep its patients and their families safe. “It’s the little things like hand washing, face masks, social distancing … those are important no matter what anybody tells you,” said Dr. Ruben Torres, medical director of Valley Baptist’s Maternity Services. “Valley Baptist does a very good job about screening individuals — including doctors, personnel, administration, and patients — that come through the front door. I tell people I feel safer in Valley Baptist than I do in most supermarkets.” Though COVID-19 may cause additional anxiety in women who are already nervous about giving birth, the Valley Baptist team continues to make the moment as special as possible. “It’s a magical moment that is cherished by families,” Torres said. “I think Valley Baptist remembers that — they do a good job in these troubled times.” The medical center continues to be on the forefront of care, especially when it comes to implementing the best possible technology and practices for patients. “For years, Valley Baptist has been known as an excellent hospital — lots of integrity, always trying to keep up with the latest studies,” said Dr. Uvaldo Cantu, chief of staff. “The mission for Valley Baptist is not just

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H E A L T H

DRAW THE

LINE Setting Boundaries at Work and Home Essential for Healthy Relationships by Amy Casebier

“Don’t mix your personal life with your work life,” said Jessica Murph, a local licensed marriage and family therapist. “Just like you clock in and clock out for work, you need to clock out. And once you’re done with work, you are done. Just like they say ‘you leave work at the door,’ that’s kind of impossible if you’re working from home.”

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If you worked from home for any length of time during the pandemic, you probably noticed just how easily the line between your job and your personal life blurred. Setting up your workstation at the kitchen table just made it easier to slip back into professional mode after dinner to try and get ahead before the next day.

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“Every decision you make, you have to ask yourself, is this helping me, is this nourishing me, or is this hurting me?” Jessica Mur ph , a loca l li ce ns e d m ar r i age an d f am i ly the r a p i s t

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Drs. Andre and Anessa Acuña

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5216 S. Jackson Rd Edinburg, TX 78539

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jealous tendencies, codependency, or narcissistic behavior. Take, for instance, the division of labor. Passive communication might be requesting that your partner wash the dishes instead of expecting them to complete the task. Aggressive communication would be shouting about the dishes always piling up in the sink. And when the boundaries are enforced and understood properly and the communication flows well? “Some great examples would look something like not even having to have the conversation of things that need to get done — both partners are just on it,” Murph said. “Someone shouldn’t have to tell the other person that they need to wash the dishes. This is something that you do for each other. You’re sending a very positive message to the other person, which is ‘I love my home, I love my life, I love you. This is not an obligation. This is something that I want to do because it feels good — because I want you to feel good.’” Prioritizing yourself and maintaining your boundaries can enhance all of your personal and professional relationships. “Understand and realize and actualize that you are number one in your life. Not your kids, not your husband, or your wife, or your work. You,” Murph said. “Every decision you make, you have to ask yourself, is this helping me, is this nourishing me, or is this hurting me?”

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Putting in extra hours at work — particularly if they’re off the clock — robs you of other things. “You have to ask yourself, is losing your self-care, spending less time with your family, getting sick all the time — is all that worth it?” Murph asked. Whether you’re working at home or in an office, it’s important to establish boundaries as you do so. “You can’t blame another person for violating your boundaries if you never set those boundaries,” Murph pointed out. “You need to know what your boundaries are. We all know when we’re being pushed too far and we need to communicate that.” That includes reinforcing your commitment to not be contacted about work matters after business hours — and being respectful of other colleagues’ time in the same way. But if you’re already struggling with establishing boundaries with your manager and coworkers? “Work is likely not the only place where that behavior is happening,” Murph said. “It’s most likely happening in other areas of their life.” Examine how you communicate and function in your relationships with spouses, families, and other loved ones. Some warning signs that your boundaries might need a little work can include overly passive or aggressive communication,


H E A L T H

VACCINE DISTRIBUTION COVID-19 Vaccines in the Valley

The path out of the pandemic is through a vaccinated population. But getting doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines from manufacturing plants into the arms of RGV residents has proven just as difficult as slowing the spread of the virus. The necessity of two doses for maximum efficacy of the first two FDA-approved vaccines is an added twist. The first way to get a vaccine was through local hospitals like Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in Edinburg, Knapp Medical Center in Weslaco, or Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen or Brownsville. A limited number of doses were available per site and healthcare workers had first priority. That’s where problem number one arose. Not all healthcare workers opted to get the shot initially, citing misinformation and other fears as reasons to wait. Vaccination events started in early December at large medical centers and eventually

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by Nathaniel Mata

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January caused a bottleneck in access to the vaccine. Those interested needed to be eligible and have the available time to register in-person — and then additional time to get the shot. Online registration was introduced in mid-January. While vaccine administration is decided at the state level, a change of leadership in Washington, D.C., also reshaped distribution efforts. President Joe Biden promised 100 million shots in 100 days, enacted the Defense Production Act, and expanded the state's ability to mobilize the National Guard — including at a Starr County site. While the beginning of the vaccination phase was slow, a new push for materials, supplies, and personnel is welcomed news in the Rio Grande Valley. The cooperation between city and country governments as well as private hospitals, public high schools, and even fire departments shows the colossal effort to turn the tide of a deadly pandemic that has taken the lives of thousands of Rio Grande Valley residents. Vaccines are the way out of tight restrictions and economic hardship that COVID-19 has caused locally and more doses are on the way.

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were administered with county and municipal help at fairgrounds, arenas, and other locations. “Community vaccination clinics” became the preferred way to distribute vaccines without the need for a medical facility. This meant staffing sites like the Mercedes Livestock Show Grounds, Edinburg’s Bert Ogden Arena, McAllen Convention Center, Harlingen’s Casa Del Sol, and similar spaces. Then there was the pesky issue of who has access to the COVID-19 vaccine and when. Medical personnel and frontline first responders were the first tier 1A, but in less than a week in Texas, the second tier, 1B, was added to the list of eligible people. Tier 1B in Texas, because these plans differ by state, includes seniors 65 and older and those with underlying chronic conditions. Some of these issues like obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and heart disease, are very common in our region and most are impossible to visibly detect. This threw another wrench in the process with people becoming frustrated because of accessibility issues. Limited supplies in December and

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H E A L T H

MOVING OU T OF BAD

HABITS RGV Therapists Advise Residents on Embracing Healthy Goals

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by Kelsey Garcia

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“What benefits will come from eliminating or reducing this habit? If this habit was eliminated, what would improve in their life and how would they feel?” It’s after this point that the breakdown of bad habits can take place. It can take a while for habits to form, so it makes sense that it takes a while for them to be broken, as well. “Sometimes breaking a bad habit is done by replacing it with a new healthy habit, such as when someone has an addiction to alcohol, one may leave this habit and replace the time they spent consuming alcohol with time in the gym,” Burkott, Chelf, and Gutierrez explained. “Some factors to take into consideration that may influence the amount of time it would take to change or eliminate a habit is the amount of time one has had this habit, environmental factors, support system or lack of, level of motivation, etc.” The three therapists gave some helpful tips for staying on track to work toward better habits. These included advising their clients to make a daily log of when they engage in the habit they want to create as well as identifying the feelings or situations that trigger them to engage in their old, unhealthy habits. They explained that it’s important for people to work on changing their own mindsets and even rewarding themselves after successfully sticking to a habit for a certain timeframe. “Try to take it one day at a time,” the team advised. “Being realistic with your expectations is important, as setting unrealistic or high expectations may create disappointment.” Sometimes, a habit can become an addiction — whether or not typically addictive substances are involved. “Addiction can cause physical symptoms such as withdrawals for a drug/alcohol addiction or cause certain feelings such as irritability, anger, depression, and anxiety. Some other common addictions include but are not limited to gambling, sex addiction, shopping addictions, excessive exercise, and pornography. An individual should seek professional assistance if their concerns are causing significant distress or impairment in their social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.” The New Leaf team left off with this final word of encouragement: “Changing habits is difficult but not impossible. Remember you are not alone, and many people struggle with changing habits. Surround yourself with a strong support system and seek professional help, if necessary.”

It’s already March, and by this time many people have typically already abandoned their New Year’s resolutions. Why is it so difficult to stick to resolutions? It’s not easy even during an average year, but throwing in a pandemic and lockdown makes it even more challenging. Thankfully, the Rio Grande Valley has licensed therapists to help everyone get back on track, break bad habits, and create healthy ones. One mental health community clinic located in Brownsville offers counseling for individuals, families, couples, and groups both in person and virtually. Michelle Burkott, M.Ed., LPC-Supervisor, Sylvia Chelf, M.Ed., NCC, LPC, LCDC, and Nikole Gutierrez, M.Ed., NCC, LPC, LCDC, of New Leaf Counseling shared their insights on habit formation trends during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic as well as ways for locals to recover. “We have seen an increase in certain trends since the start of the pandemic. Some of these trends include increase in substance abuse, unhealthy eating and sleeping patterns, decrease in physical activity, and lack of motivation, across all ages, socioeconomic status, and genders,” the team of therapists said. What makes something a habit, and what makes it a good or bad habit? Burkott, Chelf, and Gutierrez explained that a habit is a tendency to repeatedly engage in a specific action or behavior. “A habit can be something that is hard to give up, something done on a daily basis, and can cause certain emotions if one is not able to engage in their habit,” they said, mentioning that when life changes happen or during stressful periods of time, people can become vulnerable and more susceptible to unhealthy habit formation. Some habits can be positive because they have healthy benefits. The therapists listed daily meditation, exercise, or a regular cup of green tea as examples. “Other habits can be negative that have negative consequences in one’s social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning, which are a cause for concern,” they said. The three therapists explained that people often go to New Leaf Counseling or other mental health clinics because their habits and negative patterns keep them from being happy and successful — or from reaching their full potential. “Acknowledging and being aware of a bad habit is a start in the right direction,” the New Leaf team said. Knowing the reasons why a person engages in certain activities — and why they want to change the habit — is very important for being able to change their behavior.

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H E A L T H

SHARING KNOWLEDGE,

EXPANDING HEALTH

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Doctor’s Physical Therapy & Sports Institute (DPTSI) by Nathaniel Mata | photos by Mark Puente Dr. Andre Acuna and Dr. Anessa Acuña, co-founders of Doctor’s Physical Therapy & Sports Institute (DPTSI), have dedicated their physical therapy careers to bridging the gap between physical rehabilitation and athletic performance. “After several years of combined work experience, extensive education, and numerous specialized certifications, we have found the formula that connects our community to our physical therapy industry. Not only do we help clients in the postsurgical and post injury care, we also provide them a world of sports performance, injury prevention, occupational training, and medically supervised exercise,” Dr. Andre Acuña said. The DPTSI clinic, located at 5216 S. Jackson Road in Edinburg, was created under one vision: to

give patients “the results you want and the care you deserve,” according to its website. Staying true to this gold standard, DPTSI therapists have successfully helped many clients recover from injuries and postsurgical care. Assisting clients reclaim their lives, by getting back to their normal activities was a passion for Dr. Andre Acuña. “We were often asked by our patients if they could continue exercising under our guided care at our physical therapy facility, but we were unable to fulfill those wishes due to space constraints and patient privacy restrictions — until now,” he said. DPTSI FIT is established under one vision, “purposedriven movements for optimal functional results,” its website reads. At their, newly renovated, DPTSI FIT location located on 9120 N. 23rd St. in McAllen,

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rehabilitation options such as cupping therapy, quick stretch adjustments, dry needling, soft tissue massage, and other wellness options. “We understand the importance of promoting blood flow, relaxation, pain mitigation, and health and wellness along with your fitness and weight-loss journey,” Dr. Andre Acuña said. “We want our community to have a holistic approach to wellness and health care, but also feel like they are getting the best possible care for the most affordable cost.” The clinic also affiliates with local strength and conditioning coaches as well as nutrition and dietician experts to integrate tailored plans into clients’ health and fitness goals. Drs. Andre and Anessa Acuña hope their type of practice will spark a wave that fitness gyms and training facilities will want to emulate: incorporating medically guided exercises into every gym goer’s journey to health and wellness. “We need to do better for our neighbors who have failed to find that perfect program to assist them in their weight loss and fitness journey,” Dr. Andre Acuña said. “For those who have become frustrated and have lost hope due to their bad experience, we want you to know that we are here to help you get back on track, safely! Exercise is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ concept and when starting a fitness program, it is important to identify the unique needs for your body. This is something we as physical therapists and movement experts can help you to identify — and prevent any injury from occurring.” For more information on Doctor’s Physical Therapy & Sports Institute, go to http://dptsi.org/ or call (956) 205-2704.

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you will find a functional fitness gym open to anyone looking for medically guided exercise with science-driven workouts and proven results. “We are available to tailor any given workout to a person’s specific needs without the generalized ‘cookiecutter’ approach that you may find elsewhere,” Dr. Andre Acuña said. Onsite, the team offers members the In-Body 570 composition analyzer, a functional movement screen, and the ability to participate in any circuit-based, smallgroup classes that have heart-rate monitoring and calorieburn tracking. “You can also download our free DPTSI FIT app from your app store and create a free profile to experience the great options our integrative app and gym has to offer,” Dr. Anessa Acuña said. DPTSI FIT’s circuit-based classes are structured around the core fundamental movements of squatting, lunging, hip hinging, posterior chain muscle activation, trunk rotational and anti-rotation stability, shoulder mobility, and lateral agility motions. Every class is structured around these fundamental movements and includes variations and progressions of each movement. Classes include proper guidance and usage of kettle bells, barbells, dumbbells, self-powered endurance machines, medicine balls, battle ropes, and much more. “We also offer mobility and yoga classes focused on a combination of multiple methods of stretching, muscle pain release, foam rolling, and movement quality improvement to promote improvement of posture and biomechanical motions,” Dr. Andre Acuña said. DPTSI FIT provides a one-stop shop for your body’s recovery and rejuvenation needs by providing alternative

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MAGNIFICENT

MONARCH MIGRATION living less than 5 weeks) to complete the journey north. 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 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 benefits all the other pollinators that are so important for a healthy ecosystem. Follow Quinta Mazatlán on social media for learning opportunities including programs like designing gardens for birds and butterflies, garden walks, native plant sales, and more. Hope to see you at Quinta Mazatlán in McAllen — 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, I would 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 can migrate vast distances, traveling from as far north as Canada to 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. Unlike a bird, the monarch butterfly is incapable of making the round-trip journey in its lifespan. Instead, the migration takes multiple generations. The last generation of the summer, the overwintering generation, is the one that makes the long southward migration to Michoacán. It then takes three to four subsequent generations (each usually

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by Quinta Mazatlán, Urban Ecologist, John Brush

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Gladys Porter Zoo Director Explains Significance of Conservation by Nathaniel Mata | photos provided by Gladys Porter Zoo Dr. Patrick Burchfield has worked at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, a worldwide focal point for wildlife refuge and conservation, since 1971. As Earth Day approaches, he spoke about how the Rio Grande Valley’s zoo is reminding humans that the holiday is about every living being on our shared planet. “It’s not just saving endangered species — it’s saving our species,” Burchfield said. “Hopefully the younger generation is more enlightened than my generation has been.’’ The climate crisis is of increasing importance in media, politics, and business, but a warmer and

more polluted planet is undesirable for everyone and everything. “Humans tend to not get excited about things until it becomes a catastrophe, but we’re long past that,” Burchfield said. With city populations on the rise, coupled with constant urbanization and suburbanization, fewer people are able to access open or green spaces. Burchfield said that puts heightened importance on regular educational strolls at the zoo from a young age. “Zoos are the eyes to nature for most young Americans — unlike 50 years ago, when we were

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“Large or small, each animal has a very critical impact on our survival. So anything we can to keep ecosystems intact we have to try.”

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anything we can to keep ecosystems intact we have to try.” The zoo specializes in captive breeding strategies for rare and threatened species, including the Philippine crocodile, Jamaican iguanas, and protection and research for countless other animals. “One of the lessons that those of us who work in biology and conservation have learned: In order to try to protect an ecosystem, we need flagship, ambassador species like tigers or elephants or golden lion marmosets from the Amazon … things that people can make a sentimental or emotional attachment with,” Burchfield said. When asked if individuals need to be doing a lot more or if large companies had more responsibility to change actions and behavior, he said both are necessary. “Here in Brownsville we used to have a plastic bag ordinance and people got used to the fact that they would take a multi-use bag and use it,” Burchfield said. “All of the plastic bags blowing around town disappeared. Those same plastic bags get into our food chain and into the ocean. Plastic is a problem down to the cellular level. Anything we can do to save resources is a help.”

primarily an agricultural system,” he said. “Now we are primarily an urban society and lots of kids in major cities have never experienced nature. It’s our responsibility to try to enlist young people to become stewards of what’s left of our environment and restore things back to a sustainable level.” The long-term impact of taking away natural habits is still unclear, but a worldwide ecosystem means we still feel the ripples. “We’re all part of a very complex food web and ecosystem worldwide, so any aspect of that breaks down has a domino effect,” Burchfield said. “Pollutants that we put into rivers, which go out into the ocean, that creates dead spots or dead zones. There’s a huge one at the mouth of the Mississippi River … that’s a 120-mile arch where nothing can grow. Everything that we do that affects the environment affects each and every one of us and all those animals that live in all those ecosystems. “We’re just not wise enough to know what any loss of any one species represents,” he continued. “Large or small, each animal has a very critical impact on our survival. So

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RAMADAN Muslim Community of RGV Inviting Community to Learn About Ramadan by Rocio Villalobos 64


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“This is the month in which the Quran was revealed, so we make sure we make a connection to the book, read, understand, and listen to it, and we fast from one hour before sunrise until the dusk,” Farooqui said. “Its purpose is to learn to discipline. Allah has said you have to fast; this is the commandment in Quran and every Muslim qualified should.” Fasting is one of the five pillars of the faith. The others include declaring their faith, praying five times a day, zakat (giving to the poor), and making a pilgrimage to the city of Mecca Mohamed adds they are used to the fasting, in which not even water is allowed, and do it out of love. “We’re OK with people eating and drinking in front of us and understand they’re living their own traditions and culture,” Mohamed said. “We’re not imposing ourselves on people.” If interested in learning about the tradition, both men welcomed everyone to join them in the practice. But if people do not want to fast, they are also welcome to join practitioners in their first meal of the day before fasting begins, which takes place an hour before the sunrise. This meal is called suhoor; iftar is its counterpart to break the fast after sunset. “We’re trying to build these bridges in different ways and invite non-Muslims see us, see we have nothing to hide, and that we’re doing something very good for ourselves and for the community,” Mohamed said. “We’re always inviting people and want them to come here because they will learn a lot of things about us. We know we’re different and appreciate we’re different.” Throughout the pandemic, the Islamic Society of South Texas has stepped up to help those in need by giving out boxes of essentials.

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When Mohammed Farooqui moved to the Rio Grande Valley 36 years ago, there were no mosques. He and the four other Muslims he knew would meet at one of their homes on Fridays to study the Quran. Years later, they helped build the first mosque in Weslaco and today, there are several places of worship in both Hidalgo and Cameron counties. “From four or five Muslim families back then, we should have at least 300 to 400 families now,” Farooqui said. He said the growth is due to both migration as well as people converting. One recent new member of the Muslim RGV community is Saad Mohamed, who moved down from Novia Scotia to teach physics at UTRGV. Mohamed has memorized the Quran and most often leads the prayers at the Islamic Society of South Texas mosque in McAllen, which doesn’t have an appointed imam. Farooqui and Mohamed say anyone interested in learning more is welcome to stop by for their 8 p.m. Friday prayers. “Most Muslims here are American citizens, are working as professors and engineers, and are very productive and active in the community in a positive way,” Mohamed said. “I always tell people that if you want to know about us, ask about us. Don’t hear about us. When you hear about someone, you may hear a lot of misconceptions.” Additionally, the Muslim community usually hosts two major festivals a year open to anyone. One is after Ramadan and the other after the time some Muslims complete their pilgrimage to Mecca. Whether these celebrations will be held this year is tentative due to the pandemic, but Ramadan is approaching in April and may serve as another opportunity to connect with the community.

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FACES IN THE VALLEY:

LOBO DEL

MAR

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by Jose De Leon III | photos by Mark Puente

For the Buntin family, business is a family affair — literally. Over the last four years this large family has made the beautiful South Padre Island their home in the amazing state of Texas. “It’s a family-owned and -operated restaurant that we opened after falling in love with SPI,” said Brandy Buntin, co-owner of the cafe. “My dad’s roots run deep from Texas plus some of my brothers and sisters were born here and it’s always been a dream for the entire family to return. While visiting the island a few years ago, Brandy said his family found an outdoor café, a diamond in the rough, that they saw the potential and the need of beautifying the area for the local community. Now named Lobo Del Mar Café.” The name Lobo Del Mar, is Spanish for Sea Wolf and was the name of the boat the Buntin family owned while in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. Lobo Del Mar, located at 204 W. Palm Street in South Padre Island, specializes in waterfront dining, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. “We’re a familyoriented business who want to attract family groups to the area. All ages are welcome, and we invite all to enjoy the bay in our restaurant/bar on the open-air deck.” Seven nights a week there is live entertainment from local artists. On Wednesday’s entertainment is Fam Jam, in which the family has a night to showcase their talents of music and dance they’ve learned from their travels around the globe. Every evening hats come off and hands over hearts as bagpipers pipe the sunset showing salute to God, country and support to our troops’ home and abroad.

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“We’re a family-oriented business who want to attract family entertainment to the area. All ages are welcome, and we invite all to enjoy the bay in our restaurant/bar in the open air deck.” B r a nd y B u t i n , Lobo del M ar co-own er

temporarily to deter public gatherings during the spread of COVID-19. “We would like to thank our local, valley and traveling customers for support.” Stated Brandy. “We really try to promote other businesses along with ours,” Brandy said. “We’ve always been very successful with running our own businesses, but our success comes from working with other businesses and we really want to pursue that. Working together with other companies creates a sense of unity where everyone wins when we work together. It makes people feel like the island is one big family and most visitors that come down here feel the same.”

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The 200-foot dock at Lobo Del Mar is also home to SPI Excursions, a tourism business that offers parasailing, banana boat rides, fishing, jet ski rentals, sunset cruises, and more. Many other local companies like fishing guides work out of here as well. The dock is also open for boaters to dock and dine on the bay. Brandy noted that business was booming during Lobo Del Mar’s first few years. “And then we had to close for the pandemic,” he recalled. “But business quickly resumed right after we were allowed to reopen while following mandates put in place.” Like other businesses, Lobo Del Mar was ordered to shut down

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LAUGHING OUT LOUD April Fool’s Day Pranks by Some of Our Readers b y F r a n ci s co O r t i z J r. April Fool’s Day, also known as All Fool’s Day is traditionally celebrated every year on April 1. The butt of people’s jokes often are meant to ridicule, humiliate and trick the ones we love the most. And generally... it is hilarious. But how did April Fool’s Day come to pass? Allow me to enlighten you:

The Copper Kipper, in search of a rare booty, a stone known as the “Belovian Ruby.” He reached a port, the Dirty Dinghy, and entered a pub where he told tales of the gem hidden in a land known as “Boulder Rocks.” In the corner drinking alone was a fisherman who overheard the tales. The fisherman, known as Clemons April, told the captain he knew not only where this land was, but had long ago heard where the gem was located. It was north of the port. He told the captain that the

The Adventures of Captain Peg-Leg and Clemmons April or the Origin of April Fool’s Captain Peg-Leg, a pirate, began traveling the seven seas with his crew on the ship,

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Here are some of RGVision’s readers favorite pranks And for their safety and reputation they’ll remain anonymous. • “Last year, I pranked my kids with frozen milk in their cereal for breakfast.” • “One time, I put a scary image of a shark with its mouth wide open on the toilet--my family would pick up the seat cover and get scared.” • “My favorite prank was having about ten good friends message my husband repeatedly asking about a “burro” he had for sale on craigslist--HE WAS SO CONFUSED. Then annoyed. Then started to suspect me. He even called his mom to tell her how crazy it was. My friends were all messaging me the conversations. They were full of intricate questions about ‘the burro’ and I had to read them in a different room because I couldn't stop laughing! To this day I have not told him it was me.” • “Once I glued the toilet paper roll, so my family had to tear it apart to get enough pieces to wipe themselves.” • “I changed the ringer on my husband's phone to a song he really hated. It went off during a meeting...he never shut it off until he realized it was his phone. I never did that again.” • “I had been dating a guy for about 2 months when I spent the night at his house. It was going to be April 1 the next day and I decided to pull a prank. I took chocolate pudding to his house and hid it in a ziploc baggie in my purse. The next morning I went to the restroom and yelled that I needed toilet paper. I didn’t open the door so he had to shove little sheets under the crack of the door. When I grabbed the t.p. out of his hands, I smeared some chocolate pudding on his fingers. He freaked out and

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started yelling, ‘its poop, its poop!’ Thankfully we’re still together.” • “Me and four friends were in high school smoking pot at a friend’s house. We had rolled up three little “doobies.” We smoked one in the backyard and lit the second one right after. Then all of a sudden one of my friends looks behind the house and jumps the fence and he's like, ‘Oh my gosh! Guys, guys!’ And we're like, ‘What?’ He's like, ‘[The hosts] mom is here! What do we do?’ And so I was running around the backyard with a half-lit joint and I'm like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God!’ I’m running in circles because I'm super high and freaking out. And my friend yells, ‘just eat it dude!’ So I eat this lit joint, then I grab this other joint out of my friend’s hand and yell, ‘We’re not going down!’ And while I’m in the process of officially swallowing the last one, my friend yells, APRIL FOOL’S! I think we beat him up after that. Just kidding.” • “My dad’s family lives in Dallas. He was about 60 years old when I pulled this joke. I called my cousin in Dallas while she was at work. I said ‘Hey [Cousin],my dad is planning to fly over there and visit you guys, he’s probably going to get on a last minute flight today.’She was so excited and told me about taking the rest of the day off from work. She asks me, ‘what airport is he going to be at?’ And not having done my research on the names of the airports I said, ‘oh the one that’s close by...which one is that?’ She says, ‘Oh, SouthWest Airlines?’ ‘Yea, SouthWest, that one,’ I said. She continues to ask for the specific details until finally I tell her, ‘When Dad gets there you’ll recognize him because he’ll be carrying a sign.’ All confused, she asked, ‘a sign?’ I said, ‘Yea, it’s going to say April Fool’s!’” Thank you to our readers who participated in this article. Happy April Fool’s Day!

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land was treacherous and he had not dared to go himself. He drew up a map for the Captain detailing where the precious stone was hidden. The pirate Captain wasted no time and voyaged for six days. Once there, he eagerly walked the paces in the map. Starting from a large dead oak, he began walking north for fifteen paces, thirty-six to the west, fifteen paces south, and then thirty-six paces to the east. There he began digging, he and his crew dug for six months but found nothing. Captain Peg-Leg then set back to the port in search of Mr. Clemons April, but once he reached the port he saw a large, lavish ship which must have been three times the size of the Copper Kipper. Emblazoned on the magnificent ship's side was its name, the “Belovian Ruby.” On the ship walked its new captain, Captain Clemons April. It was the first day of a new month, and Captain April fooled him. April Fools! That’s not how the celebration began. According to a “reliable source,” no one actually knows the true origins of April Fool’s, but it won’t stop us from hoaxing our loved ones for years to come.

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FAMILY, FOOD, PHO Le Pho House Rises Amid Pandemic by Josie M. Barrera | photos by Jason Garza

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Pam says the pandemic brought them closer together, The pandemic has brought on hardships among business owners throughout the Valley. While some were as this was the first time in years they were all under the same roof again. crushed by the challenges, others were born from them. She had been living and working in Dallas for the past In a little nook on the frontage road in Weslaco now few years, brother Randy Le was living in Hawaii where he stands a space created out of pure demand for homemade Vietnamese by pho fanatics all over the Valley. Owned and was originally stationed for the Army, and sisters Amber operated by the Le family, Le Pho House is a Vietnamese and Amy Le were in Weslaco, taking a semester off college restaurant whose main focus is bringing some of that to pursue personal projects. “I was very career-driven and focused on my work, so I delicious goodness to the Rio Grande Valley. “Our focus is on serving delicious quality homemade traveled a lot and was rarely ever home,” Pam said. “Mom Vietnamese food with great hospitality,” said Pam Le, was always at work. We would only be together as a family eldest of the Le clan. “I’ve traveled a lot and may be biased, during holidays and occasionally plan trips to go to Hawaii to spend time with Randy.” but mom’s pho is my favorite. Everywhere I go, I always Mid-March 2020 came around, everything suddenly talk about my mom’s pho. It’s so delicious.” Pho is a Vietnamese noodle dish made up of a light, came to a halt, and the coronavirus was threatening the herbal broth and rice noodles — something that is near livelihood of those in our region and beyond. Two weeks and dear to owner and cook Hoa Le’s heart. Combine that later, businesses began closing their doors because of the state-mandated lockdown. love for pho and serving others Families were urged to spend time with a family full of ambition and together in close quarters — the Le humility and you have yourself family among them. a restaurant with a menu full of Spending so much time at “Our focus is on flavor and delight. home due to stay-at-home orders, Le Pho House offers pho serving delicious they did a lot of brainstorming and with chicken, beef, seafood, or quality homemade vision painting of what kind of life a vegetarian option as well as a Vietnamese they would like to live. spicier, heartier version of pho food with great “We were all at a low point since called bun bo hue. In addition to hospitality. we had no income coming in and pho, Le Pho House also offers overloaded on bills that needed Vietnamese iced coffee and Pa m Le, Le Ph o Hou se to be paid,” Pam said. “One night savory side dishes including fried while we were all eating pho, we rice, egg rolls, and spring rolls. had an idea of selling mom’s food “Our menu is very simple to collect enough funds to at least because we focus on quality rather than quantity,” Pam said. “Beef pho and bun bo hue pay our bills. “We decided to just focus on what we’re good at, are our most popular soups, and Mom’s famous fried rice work together as a family, and make this dream of hers is a must try!” Their spring rolls are filled with rice noodles, cilantro, come true.” Hoa is no stranger to a strong work ethic and is happy cucumbers, pork, shrimp, and lettuce, wrapped with rice paper, and served with Hoa’s special peanut sauce. to have passed these values along to her children. Her dream of owning a restaurant is now a reality and she is The egg rolls are made up of pork, shrimp, taro, jicama, doing what she loves most — cooking while her kids step mushroom, carrot, garlic, and a special blend of seasoning and spices in a crispy fried wrapper served with lettuce in to help with the rest of the business. “I make the food. Whatever else is needed, we work and cucumber — and a side of chili fish sauce. “I’m really happy to share [my food] with all the people,” together as a family to do it,” she said. “It makes me so Hoa said. “Everybody loves it and I’m just happy. I don’t happy to cook and have the customers enjoy the food.” Where they are now compared to the family’s humble mind cooking all night — I just love it.” Prior to the pandemic, the Le family was going on about beginnings are like night and day. Pam said they started making pho out of their home April 2020, and eventually their daily lives. the demand for the dish was larger than what they could Hoa, a single mom of four, was working long hours at a nail salon as she had been for the past three decades. Her provide out of their home kitchen. They knew they had kids were living in separate corners of the country, working to expand. “Cooking from home, we were very limited to what we hard in their careers and personal projects.

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moments, but it’s ultimately been very rewarding.” While 2020 was truly a challenging year, the Le family is grateful for the support and love they’ve received as well as the opportunity to be able to serve the community. “We’ve been getting so much support on social media with positive reviews,” Pam said. “Our favorite is when people dine in and share with us how amazing Mom’s cooking is and they’ll be back with their friends and family. “Since Mom is working hard in the kitchen, we tell her all of these positive feedbacks and it puts the biggest smile on her face. We wish everyone could see that.” If you’re ever in the mood for a hot bowl of fresh pho made by Hoa herself, keep Le Pho House in mind. Open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, the restaurant has become a favorite for diners all over the Rio Grande Valley. “Never in our wildest dreams did we ever think we would actually have a family restaurant — especially during these unpredictable times with a world pandemic,” Pam said. “Thank you for believing in us and growing with us.” Le Pho House is located on N. Westgate Drive in Weslaco. To stay updated on all things pho, follow them on social media: @lephohouse on Instagram and Facebook.

could do with the small kitchen space we have,” Pam said. “Our garage became a storage for supplies as well as our living room and dining room. “We had boxes of ingredients and containers in every corner of our home. The community really encouraged us and, as a family, we believe that we have potential to grow Le Pho House.” Eventually, they found a physical location to start doing curbside from early August. This helped cut back on the time spent bagging orders, loading the car, and awaiting their customers to arrive at designated pick-up locations. From Sept. 23, to Dec. 2, 2020, they focused solely on curbside orders from their newfound space — and held their ribbon-cutting ceremony the first week of December 2020. Since then, Le Pho House has expanded beyond curbside services to also offer a dine-in option, always following CDC guidelines and orders from Hidalgo County for overall safety. The restaurant has grown a significant amount in a short timeframe. “Family is everything,” Pam said. “Being together, working together, growing a business together has its challenging

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You, Yourself

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You, Yourself. You use apologies as though they were an infinite currency, Even when they aren’t needed you give them freely to charity, I’m not trying to blame you for that. Just saying that you should save some in case one day you find you need one… but have already given away too many. You could give yourself more, because in terms of currency in emotional support we both know you’re pretty poor. I use apologies as a limited resource mostly because for me they are, And while the majority of things I buy with them is your forgiveness, I have an obsession with keeping some pocket change, so I never really give as much as I have. And for that even though it is out of character I have to have it said. I am sorry. Sorry to be adamant. Sorry to sometimes be the gate between you and yourself. Sorry to push you in the direction I hope is best, but that is the job I gave myself when I promised myself to you. I just want you to rest easy. To see yourself in a mirror and praise yourself for simply existing, but I know it doesn’t work that way. It isn’t that simple… so I’m sorry. I will loan you my change in the hopes that you can buy from yourself forgiveness, the release of all hope for a better past because you deserve it more than anyone I know.

Bio: “I'm Octavio Perales, a spoken word poet also known as Mod-J that's "Your Modern Jesus," the host of "The Human Condition" a poetry, philosophy, and art podcast featured online at RGVTitanRadio.com. THC (The Human Condition) interviews local artists about their craft and takes a look at their personal philosophies. As spoken word artist I prefer long winded dragged-out "poetic conversations" to have you, the audience leave with a need to take an introspective look at oneself, possibly learn something you didn't know before or just to hear me rant about life experiences; I also like to write short personal pieces and express my inner thoughts on my Instagram @yourmodernjesus about love, life and mental health, also a good way to get updates on THC and RGV Titan Radio."

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sometimes serves as unwanted.

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Because when I look in a mirror, I always want to see you in it with me. And praise your existence because to me it serves as a blessing, even if to you yourself it

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And I wish I could just show that to you.


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


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