July /August 2022 - RGVision Magazine

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J ULY/AUGUST 2 0 2 2 | VO LUM E 14 ISSUE 4

Matt’s Building Materials

R ising from the A shes

Owners vow to rebuild the original Pharr location and reopen in 2023. p.28

MAKING AN IMPACT

STARBASE TOURISM

Attorney Deborah Cordova holds passion for helping region advance and flourish. p.36

Boca Chica's connection to SpaceX spurs growth and tourism in the Valley. p.40

NURSING SHORTAGES Doctor shines spotlight on nursing shortage he experienced at four area hospitals during COVID-19 pandemic. p.56


ENROLL TODAY!

PK children participating gain up to one year of additional learning. Established curriculum follows the state’s Pre-K Guidelines, state resources, and CIRCLE Progress Monitoring Assessment, which ensures a solid foundation for literacy. Scheduled activities focus on developing readiness skills for reading and math. Pre-K 3-year-old programs are offered full day at 34 elementary school sites and 8 elementary sites are in collaboration with NIÑOS Headstart.

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

Pre-K 4-year-old Programs are offered full day at all 34 elementary school sites for all students. 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. Parents are engaged in parental involvement activities at each school. All BISD teachers are Early Childhood Certified. All safety guidelines are followed.

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

1900 E. Price Road, Brownsville, Tx. 78521 (956) 548-8000 | www.bisd.us



CHOOSE HARLINGEN FOR BUSINESS!

• Valley International Airport has three new destinations and leads as the largest airport in the region • United Launch Alliance, located in Harlingen, has launched more than 145 satellites into orbit • Award-winning educational institutions located in Harlingen create a qualified talent pipeline that strengthens our workforce • Harlingen collected just over $16.8 million in adjusted sales tax – an increase of 11.9% compared to 2020! • From road, rail, air, and water, Harlingen’s accessibility keeps businesses connected

Visit us at Harlingenedc.com to learn more about Harlingen. Come grow your business here!


LIVE LIFE TO THE FULLEST! At Rio Grande Comprehensive Upper Extremity Center, Dr. Ross Chapel is committed to changing and improving patients' lives through comprehensive orthopedic care. Our highly advanced orthopedic surgery practice is proud to serve the Rio Grande Valley. Make your appointment today!

SPECIALIZING IN • Minimally invasive rotator cuff repair • Shoulder replacement • Reverse total shoulder replacement • Carpal tunnel • Cubital tunnel • Dequerveins Tenosynovitis • Dupuytrens disease • Trigger Fingers • Tennis Elbow • Medial epicondylitis • Trauma and fractures of the shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand!

DR. ROSS CHAPEL orthopedic surgeon

FOR MORE INFO VISIT US AT www.upperextremityspecialist.com | (956) 992-0404 222 E Ridge Rd, Suite 106 McAllen, TX 78503


RIO GRANDE VALLEY CHAPTER

WE BUILD THE VALLEY Experience the priceless advantage of RGV AGC membership. THANK YOU TO OUR 2020 RGVAGC BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Noel Munoz President

Michael Montalvo Treasurer

Tre’ Peacock GC Director/ State Director

Jason Eberle Associate Director

NM Contracting LLC

Holchemont Ltd.

Peacock General Contractors Inc.

Eberle Materials Inc.

Jorge Gonzalez Past President Tri-Gen Construction LLC

Alfredo Garcia Vice President Noble Texas Builders LLC

Kevin Bennett GC Director Vaughn Construction

Thomas Bennett Associate Director Aguaworks Pipe and Supply

Gilbert Enriquez Alternate State Director E-Con Group LLC

Joey Trevino Executive Director RGVAGC

Rio Grande Valley Chapter of AssociatedGeneral Contractors of America 6918 West Expressway 83 Harlingen, Texas 78552 | Phone: 956-423-4091 | Fax: 956-423-0174 RGVAGC


DR. FILIBERTO RODRIGUEZ

Get a

LEG UP

on Summer! Signs of vein disease may include: • Spider veins • Varicose veins • Swollen feet and ankles • Leg heaviness • Restless legs

Ask about our financing options

Dr. Rodriguez and his team are committed to patient safety! Call 956-622-4755 to make your appointment today.

www.rgvcosmetic.com 3 1 3 1 W. Freddy Gonzalez Dr. Edinburg, TX 78539


RGVISION

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

DA N T E T U EX I DIGITAL MANAGER

ELI S A G A R C I A DIGITAL MARKETING EXECUTIVE/WRITER

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.

J AC O B M EN D O Z A VIDEOGRAPHER/PHOTOGRAPHER

PSJA ISD Brownsville ISD Sergio Contreras COSTEP Dr. Alfonso Mercado Quinta Mazatlán

James Hord Barbara Delgado Emiliano Peña

WRITERS

Matthew 14:30 "But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!" Focus on the Goal and understand the underlying circumstances with unwavered dedication. In my 14 years as CEO and Founder of RGVision, this is something I have been accustomed to, leading this ship in its successful journey during some rough patches in recent years. If you are an entrepreneur or founder, you may have been tempted by the sirens in the business world calling for rapid growth and scaling to meet that "B$" number or others meeting that mark. As in verse above, once we lose focus on the very thing that matters most in life, we begin to lose our footing. This philosophy can apply in business; as we tend to get distracted in competition, we begin to lose. Competition is good, but it is not intended to drive the purpose behind what we do. In this issue, you will find many different stories of individuals who pursue their passion in their ability to provide our community with their talents. We hope you are encouraged, inspired, and educated reading this issue. Continue to follow us on LinkedIn and our other social media platforms for stories about the Rio Grande Valley and the individuals who are changing it for the betterment of our future.

VIDEO PRODUCTION LEAD/PHOTOGRAPHER

CONTENT CONTRIBUTORS

PUBLISHER/CEO

WA LD O PA LO M A R ES

PHOTOGRAPHERS

GA B E P U EN T E

Rocio Villalobos Nathaniel Mata Bryan Kirk Katie Goodman Selene Guerrero Brianna Bullion Elsa Cavazos

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

VISIT OUR WEBSITE

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TABLE OF

CONTENTS 2022

56

VOLUME 14 ISSUE 4 RGVISION MAGAZINE

28 ON THE COVER

28

MATT’S BUILDING MATERIALS RISING FROM THE ASHES

Owners vow to rebuild the original Pharr location and reopen in 2023.

36

36

M A K ING A N IM PAC T Attorney Deborah Cordova holds passion for helping region advance and flourish.

TA RB A S E TOU RIS M 4 0 SBoca Chica's connection to SpaceX spurs growth and tourism in the Valley.

56

EDUCATION Inspiring the Future pg 10 Taking the First Steps pg 12 Riding Into a Stronger Career pg 14 Preventing the Summer Slide pg 18 After School Theater pg 20

BUSINESS Energy is the Future pg 24 A Strategic Location pg 26

NU RS ING S HORTAG ES Doctor shines spotlight on nursing shortage he experienced at four area hospitals during COVID-19 pandemic.

HEALTH Culture and Mental Health pg 44 Team Impact pg 46 When Care Can't Wait pg 54 Safety First pg 58 Dr. Nolan Perez pg 60 Summer Fun pg 64

QUALITY OF LIFE Shredding in the Burg pg 66 The Call of the Forest pg 70 Connecting to the Past pg 74 Intertwining Cultures pg 78 Stronger Than Ever pg 80 Going for the Goal pg 88

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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.

RO B E R T D UN K I N

J AV I ER D E LEO N

M A R I T Z A ES Q U EDA

R E N E A. F LO R E S

J UA N A . G A R C I A

B Y R O N J AY LEW I S

E D D I E LUCI O I I I

D R . R EN E I . LU N A

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

SAR AH SAGREDO HAMMOND

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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INSPIRING

THE FUTURE

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PSJA ISD Hosts 2022 State of the District, Highlights Accolades and Achievements for the Year

The Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District (PSJA ISD) recently hosted its 2022 State of the District with over 300 attendees, including district leadership, principals, directors and event sponsors. The new State of the District Report was released during the event held in the Region One Education Service Center's Conference Room, highlighting the district's continuing efforts and most recent achievements and accomplishments during the 2021-2022 school year. "As a district, we have endured so much these past few years — constantly shifting based on needs brought by this pandemic,” PSJA School Board President Ricardo "Rick" Pedraza said. “But one thing is for sure. We have prevailed, and we are stronger than ever. “This could only have happened through collective impact. It is not one person or group of people that have made this success possible; it is all members of our PSJA Family." PSJA ISD leaders showcased efforts aligned to the district's Strategic Direction pillars: Leadership Growth, Effective Teaching & Learning, Student Support, and District & School Climate. Included in the many accomplishments

this school year, health and safety remained at the forefront, providing three high-quality learning options for students, administering more than 50,000 COVID-19 vaccines to the community and continuing to provide competitive salaries for employees. "As we have learned since the start of the pandemic, educational institutions have been the guiding light,” PSJA Superintendent Dr. Jorge L. Arredondo said. "Our district has led our community with safety protocols, resources, and education. “Our teachers and staff have shown the world how resilient and innovative we can be and that no matter what comes our way, we continue to do what is right for our students and families." During his address, Dr. Arredondo also announced the recipients of the inaugural Elementary and Secondary Principal of the Year Awards, which serve to recognize the important effort of campus leaders across the district in student success and performance. The honorees, Michelle Fox-Cardoza from Berta Palacios Elementary in South Pharr and Dr. Lizette Longoria from Audie Murphy Middle School in North Alamo, were selected by a committee

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"We thank our entire PSJA team for their commitment to our students and families, as well as our event sponsors for their continuous support of student success," said Dr. Arredondo. Proceeds of the event will go to the PSJA Education Foundation to continue to fund student scholarships and teacher grants. To read the full 2022 PSJA State of the District Report, visit www.psjaisd.us/ stateofdistrict.

.

2022 Sp i r i t of PSJA Stu den t Profil es.

our PSJA community. In addition to sharing the highlights of the past year, PSJA ISD leaders are looking forward to the future. The PSJA Literacy Impact for Excellence (LIFE) strategic plan was announced and is scheduled to launch during the 2022-2023 school year. PSJA LIFE is a sustainable strategic literacy plan that will create a districtwide literacy blueprint across all content areas for academic success.

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based on proven leadership, success during their tenure, and overall student, staff and community sentiment. "All of our principals are the best of the best," Dr. Arredondo said. "We thank them for always going above and beyond to serve our students and staff. We could not be where we are now without their leadership and support for student learning. Congratulations to our much-deserving first recipients of this award!" The six 2022 Spirit PSJA Student Profiles were also recognized and highlighted during the 2022 State of the District and were presented with Superintendent Scholarships of $750. The Spirit of PSJA Student Profiles features students who demonstrate excellence in academics, athletics, fine arts and community service. The program provides an opportunity to recognize PSJA ISD high school students who have made outstanding contributions and accomplishments to the district and

JUL/AUG 2022

P SJA IS D P r in c ip a l o f the Ye a r H ono r e e s , Mi che lle Fox- Cardoza from Berta Pal acios E l emen tary in Sou th Ph arr an d Dr. L izette Lo n g o r ia fr o m Au d ie Mur p hy Mi d d le School i n Nor th A lamo, were sel ected by a committee based on proven l eadersh ip, su c c e s s d u r in g t h e ir te nur e, a nd o v e r a ll s tud e nt, s taf f, an d commu n ity sen timen t.


E D U C A T I O N

TAKING THE FIRST STEP TOWARD A

BRIGHTER FUTURE Brownsville Residents Can Receive Training for In-Demand Occupations Through Brownsville ISD’s Adult Continuing Education Programs b y Roc i o Vi l l a l o b o s | p h o t o s p r o v i d e d The transportation of goods is an essential service that keeps the country running. And the overwhelming majority of U.S. freight — 72.5% — is transported by trucks, according to American Trucking Associations. More than 3 million drivers are employed in this industry nationally, and job sites list tens of thousands of open positions for CDL drivers throughout the country. Through its Adult Continuing Education programs (ACE), Brownsville ISD offers transition classes, career pathway classes, and certifications for in-demand industries to local individuals interested in improving their quality of life through a stable, well-paying career. Anyone 17 and up with a government-issued photo ID and residing in Cameron County can qualify for an ACE program and

enroll at no cost to them; the program is funded primarily through Federal and State grants. Most recently, the district introduced a program for students to earn a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) certificate, which offers multiple career options, including a long-haul truck driver, local truck driver, bus driver, dispatcher, and truck driving instructor. Brownsville ISD is the only school district in the Valley to offer such a course. Reyes Rivera serves as director for ACE and said the first step to a better future is wanting it. "All they have to do is want to get one of these certifications and we'll provide them with all the support that they need," Rivera said. "When they walk in the door for registration, we guide them through the process.

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B r o w n s v il l e ISD's f i r s t gr adua ti ng clas s to r e c e ive t h e ir Co m m e r ci a l D r i v e r 's Li ce ns e.

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"These students have really good skills to offer already because they're already working, so just seeing them take that step to earn a certification and become more employable in higher-paying fields is extremely rewarding," Rivera said. ACE students are not left on their own once they graduate. Through its career navigator and partnerships in the community, BISD helps bridge them to employment. "We can help them fill out their application to whatever company they're interested in and then connect them with employers so they can get an interview," he said. "Whenever anybody wants to come in and learn about our services, they can walk in and automatically begin the registration process. We look forward to welcoming them." The next registration window for ACE programs opens in August. For more information, call 956-548-8175, visit bisd. us, or contact Rivera at ririvera@bisd.us.

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“Once they're in class, they see they're in an environment with people who are in the same situation, and that helps to build a team environment and get them back on track for school." In addition to receiving CDL, Microsoft Office, welding or phlebotomy training, and more, students may also earn their GED and learn English through the ESL classes offered. Rivera said the majority of enrollees are the heads of their household and working full time, which is why BISD offers both morning and evening classes — each with a class size of more than 15 students. "It's a win-win for the students," he said. "There's a lot of growth happening in the trucking industry, so drivers have many opportunities to work with different companies and make a better living for themselves and their families." He adds getting to play a part in the transformation of lives is the part of his job he most enjoys.

JUL/AUG 2022

Most recently, the district introduced a program for students to earn a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) certificate, which offers multiple career options, including a long-haul truck driver, local truck driver, bus driver, dispatcher, and truck driving instructor.


E D U C A T I O N

RIDING INTO A STRONG

CAREER Automotive Technology Program at STC Continues to Build Experienced Mechanics

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by N a tha niel Mata | ph otos b y Ja c ob Mend oz a Almost everyone drives cars to get around. Personal vehicles, work vehicles, and even public transit. South Texas College is committed to training and preparing the next wave of automotive technicians, mechanics and specialists to keep the wheels turning. “Career and technical education basically is providing the skills to students to an industry that is expanding, and there is a big need for them,” STC Instructor Roberto Hernandez said. The need is here, and so are dedicated students within the program who are expanding their knowledge and career potential in the Automotive Technology program. “I got interested in it because growing up our cars ended up breaking down, and I didn’t know anything,” said Stephanie Guerra, a student in the program. “We would get stranded at the mall or at the gas station. We didn’t know what to do — even if it was a simple cable that was disconnected or a terminal. That’s what interested me.” Another student, Faith Villanueva, always had an interest because it was part of the family. “I also just had an interest in cars,” she said. “Ever since I was little seeing my dad work on the cars, I just always liked to be asking questions and seeing what they were doing.” A big part of the program is linking students with actual decision-makers and companies in the field that can offer internships and employment opportunities. “We provide opportunities to students — graduating and current — by working with the local advisory committee from the automotive industry,” Hernandez said. “They provide internships, maybe apprenticeships or some type of work-related skill while they’re still learning and being able to work at the same time.”

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Natasha Del Barrio is the CEO of Bert Ogden Auto Group. Her dealerships have been working with STC students for years, and she complimented the quality of autoworkers that the program produces. “We have been so phenomenally impressed with the quality of individuals that we received out of their automotive technology program,” Del Barrio said. “We’ve been so impressed with how they’ve allowed us to partner with them. The students that come to work with us are high quality.” Instructor Ricardo Garcia also explained the importance of students getting hands-on experience in these opportunities. He talked about the opportunities for students to work on large pieces of construction machinery. “There are companies out there that want to help students become interns and get better training when they go into the field,” Garcia said. “They’re going to be working with vehicles and heavy construction equipment. “It would help the students a lot, because for a fact they’re going to be getting the experience; and they’re going to be pushed to learn more and not get nervous when they’re actually working with these big pieces of equipment.” Villanueva spoke about being a woman in the field that is male-majority but is slowly changing over time. “There’s not a lot of females that pursue this career,” she said. “If you like it, do it. Don’t be afraid to try it. If you have a passion for it, just pursue it. It doesn’t matter if you might be afraid of what people will say.” She also talked about the longevity of the position and the constant need for people to enter the field. “Automotive techs are very important,” Villanueva said. “I feel like there’s never going to be enough of us. There are a lot of cars — everyone needs a car. There are not enough people that know about it.” South Texas College provides services to special needs students, such as ASL interpreters in class, to help learners. The program offers different levels of education including Occupational Skills Awards, certificates and associate degrees. Prospective students can visit southtexascollege. edu/academics/automotive/ or call 1-855-Go-To-STC. Supported with THECB Perkins Basic funding.

“There’s not a lot of females that pursue this career. If you like it, do it. Don’t be afraid to try it. If you have a passion for it, just pursue it. It doesn’t matter if you might be afraid of what people will say.” Fa i th Vi l l a nueva ,

S o u t h Texa s Colle ge s tude nt

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PREVENTING THE

SUMMER

SLIDE

Local Library Promotes Literacy with Summer Reading Program b y B r i a n n a B u l l i o n | p h o t o s p r o v i d e d b y P h arr M e m o r i a l Li b r a r y

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Libraries and other agencies across the Rio Grande Valley are working to promote literacy during the summer by hosting summer reading programs in an effort to prevent the “summer slide.” The summer slide is the phenomenon in which schoolage children lose at least 20% of the knowledge they gained throughout the school year during the summer. Children who read throughout the summer are less likely to experience the summer slide, according to Scholastic’s Kids & Family Reading Report. Argelia Castillo has worked as a children's assistant at the Pharr Memorial Library since 2018. "The best way to prevent summer slide is by continuing to exercise our brains," Castillo said. "As our children keep growing, we hope their knowledge from the summer program allows the reading, vocabulary and grammar learned during the school year not to be lost — but to grow or be maintained." The Pharr Memorial Library is amongst the several local libraries that will host a summer reading program during summer 2022. This year, its Summer Reading Program theme is "Oceans of Possibilities." The program will run from June 6 to July 10. Children will write book reviews to test their reading comprehension, which helps them practice their reading comprehension skills while they are not in school. "The Summer Reading Program helps children learn to enjoy reading and understand that they have every capacity to have fun and learn simultaneously," Castillo said. "We notice a change in their intellectual growth without them realizing that they are learning. “The opportunity to read above their current or advanced level allows the student to maintain their knowledge or

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advance intellectually. It is a way for students to interact with other children and show a love of reading." The Pharr Memorial Library Summer Reading Program will also be offered to teens and adults — led by Carlos Alvarez, reference supervisor. "It gives them something to do during the summer," Alvarez said. "In the two, almost three months that the students are not reading, they can lose a lot of knowledge. As a library, we strive to prevent that. We also work closely with PSJA ISD to make sure that their students are reading and that they have access to their summer reading books here at the library." Encouraging children to read during the summer often helps children who are preparing for a new school year ahead of them. "Most of the children who come to the library have their minds racing over the summer," Castillo said. "It's nice to see their enthusiasm for reading. Their imagination grows, and many times I am surprised to see their growth. “I sincerely feel that continuing to read and grow allows for a smooth and well-prepared entry into the next school year. The time they take to read during the summer will never be wasted. When we read, our minds grow along with our imagination, allowing us to enjoy and connect with the book characters." In addition to the Summer Reading Program, the Pharr Memorial Library will also be offering various classes for children throughout the summer, including Art Class, Toddler Time, Story Time, Music Class, Acting Class, Super Saturday and Sunday STREAM. These classes will give children the opportunity to collaborate and learn with each other. "Ideas are shared while meeting other children in the library, helping the community grow,” Castillo said. “It's a way to enjoy the summer studying without feeling like you're learning in a classroom. Learning will never be in vain.” Under the direction of City of Pharr Library Director, Adolfo Garcia, the Pharr Memorial Library has served many children with their Summer Reading Program over the past few years. This summer, the library will host four class sessions on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, and one class session on Sunday — all of which will have a 30 student maximum. Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday programs will have no student limit. The Summer Reading Program is at no cost to the public. Visit the Pharr Memorial Library Facebook page to learn more.

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AFTER SCHOOL

THEATER The Boys and Girls Club Taking Steps to Uplift Children Throughout the Rio Grande Valley b y Ka ti e G o o d m a n | p h o t o s p r o v i d e d and sports on any given day.

The Boys & Girls Club of McAllen serves

While

more than 12,000 kids within the community

they

offer

many

programs

annually through its festivals, after school

throughout the year, their summer camp

programs, summer programs and various

begins to create some waves. The McAllen

projects. About 400 children come through

club was the first club in the nation to provide

their doors for after school programming

a summer theater program, which began

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four years ago. Children get one month to prepare for the play and one month to perform. According to Chief Development Officer Yirla Gonzalez Nolan, more than 300 people attended last year’s play. Summer camp is hosted from June to August for $185, with an additional $50 for those who wish to participate in theater. The extra $50 covers the cost of practice, outfits, makeup and hair. Grants and donations cover the remaining cost, providing children who have the desire to act the ability to do so regardless of income. If you're looking for a family-friendly summer activity, the children of The Boys and Girls Club will perform Disney's The Little Mermaid Jr at the McAllen Performing Arts Center (700 West Houston, McAllen, Texas 78501) on Tuesday, July 26th. The showing for community groups will take place at 2 p.m.; the show opens to the public at 7:30 p.m. Tickets may be purchased at the box office. Summer

enrichment,

like

this

one-of-a-kind

theater program, can add value to a child's life in many ways. "Our programs are researched and evidencebased,” Gonzalez Nolan said. “In a program like this, kids do better — not only in school, but socially. Many times we forget that a child can be very successful in school, but once they go off to college, they’re on their own and they still have to interact socially." Kids involved in theater have the opportunity to pick up valuable social and speaking skills, and will learn various techniques for memorizing their lines. Gonzalez Nolan encourages kids ages 6 to 17 JUL/AUG 2022

from all over the RGV to take advantage of the enrichment programs offered by the Boys & Girls Club made possible through generous support from the community. “We tend to believe that most of the donations come from big corporations, but really the ones that make the most difference are those smaller, long-

.

term donations from the community,” she said.

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“The way we're able to impact change in our community is through our community helping us." To learn more about the theater program, donate or sign up for one of their programs, visit www. bgcmcallen.net.

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Break with Tradition

Dare to be Different and Discover the Potential of a Non-Traditional Career. Programs Offered. • • • • • •

Ad vance d M a n u fa c t u ri n g Tech no lo g y Aut om ot i v e Te c h n ol ogy Co nst ru c t i on S u pe rv i s i o n L aw E nf orc e me n t HVAC Fire Sci e n c e a n d M O R E

Benefits of Non-Traditional Careers. • • • •

Increase d Wa ge s E co no mi c S e l f-S u ffic i e ncy A dvance me n t Pot e n t i a l C reat e O pport u n i t i e s f o r Future Generatio ns

Talk to your counselor or visit us at: so utht ex as c o lle g e . e d u / p e r s i s t



B U S I N E S S ARTICLE PROVIDED BY

Sergio Contreras RGV Partnership Board Member

ENERGY IS THE

FUTURE OF THE RIO GRANDE VALLEY The Rio Grande Valley Remains a Crucial Player in Ensuring that Energy Moves Across the World

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JUL/AUG 2022

b y Ser gi o Contr er a s , R GV Pa r t n e r s h i p B o a r d M e m b e r Texas is a nationally known leader in innovation, which should not surprise anyone living here. We’ve enabled our communities to boldly go into the future by leveraging homegrown ingenuity and commonsense public policy solutions that allow Texans to solve the problems they face. These actions are among the many reasons our economy is prosperous, and why thousands continue to move here every year. You’ll find that same prosperous spirit and vast economic potential in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV). As a critical trading hub between the United States and the rest of the world, we must reconsider the sources of

energy we use to foster new growth far into the future. Doing so means we have to lean into our strengths. With the growing geopolitical climate, the RGV is prepared to continue its prosperous path as state, national and international leaders increase their renewable energy portfolios. Focusing on all-of-the-above energy solutions will set us up for success in meeting today’s demands and expanding our energy leadership. The RGV already demonstrates an aptitude as an extensive wind energy producer and a prime exporter of liquid natural gas. This all-of-the-above energy generation is the most reliable,

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With the growing geopolitical climate, the RGV is prepared to continue its prosperous path as state, national and international leaders increase their renewable energy portfolios.

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JUL/AUG 2022

We need a renewal of this much-needed tax relief, which will ensure the RGV remains the jewel for producers, job creators, economic engines, and energy investors. Out of necessity, this reduction should help make renewable energy successful across the state and country, including RGV counties, and add to the expanding list of new wind and solar projects. Texas is already the national leader in energy production, and the RGV remains a crucial player in ensuring that energy moves to the places it needs to go. While our communities are key players in the transition of goods, services and fuels, we need to ensure that economic development investments are not simply moved from point A to point B without our people benefiting. That is why we must remain steadfast in our support of all-of-the-above energy solutions and ensure that the economic potential of renewable energy is brought to the Rio Grande Valley.

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resilient, and economically fruitful path for the RGV and beyond. This principle is already paying dividends — from exporting LNG directly to European countries, to running our local businesses on resilient technologies (including solar, wind, energy storage, and hydrogen). We are taking the necessary steps to ensure grid reliability and security, and renewable energy is already creating lucrative, well-paying careers for Texans in the RGV. For example, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for wind turbine technicians across Texas is projected to grow 68% from 2020 to 2030, whereas the average growth rate for all other occupations is 8%. As companies choose to move to regions that can meet their renewable energy quotas, the downstream economic growth of this infrastructure cannot be understated. By focusing on all-of-the-above energy solutions, Texas will create more jobs and increase economic opportunities for workers and businesses alike. We must ensure that the RGV remains competitive in securing critical land rights for clean energy producers. Our most significant obstacle remains the crushingly high property tax rates that continue to rise when paired with expansive population growth. This issue was previously addressed by Chapter 313, which expired this year and would have kept these taxes in check, putting land acquisition for manufacturing on an even playing field with other states.

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A STRATEGIC LOCATION

FOR BUSINESS

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Overweight Corridors in Rio South Texas Facilitate Efficient Cross-Border Trade It’s no secret the Rio South Texas region plays an essential part in North America’s supply chain. With four major interstate corridors carrying commercial trucks with raw materials, manufacturing components and consumer goods between the United States, Mexico and Canada anchored in the region, Rio South Texas is a key logistics hub. A traditional challenge in cross-border trade is divergent regulations between countries — truck weight limits, for example. In the U.S., the standard weight limit for trucks is 80,000 pounds, but in Mexico the weight limit surpasses 120,000 pounds for some common truck types. Traditionally, when a truck enters the U.S. from Mexico, load sizes at the Mexican limit must be broken down across multiple trucks to meet U.S. weight limits. So, in some cases, the load of one truck abiding standards for the Mexican weight limit would be cross-loaded onto two other trucks, which would carry the load into the U.S. This means it would require up to two extra trucks, two extra drivers and additional people to move the cargo. Traditionally, it takes a lot of time and money to comply with the divergent weight limit regulations between countries. Fortunately, for companies operating in Rio South Texas, overweight corridors can be found throughout the region and these corridors aid in expediting cross-border trade. Trucks at the Mexico weight limit are allowed to travel on designated U.S. roads on a permit basis so loads don’t need to be cross-loaded at the border, which

makes moving goods much more cost effective and time efficient. With cost and time optimized, supply chains can operate more smoothly. And this not only applies to trucks crossing from Mexico into the U.S. These overweight corridor permits also allow trucks on the U.S side of Rio South Texas region to be loaded to Mexican weight limits, thereby allowing businesses to maximize efficiency of transportation for products headed into Mexico as well. These overweight corridors are available in multiple parts of the Rio South Texas Region to connect international bridges with major industrial parks, as well as key logistics assets, such as the Port of Brownsville. Among many other factors, these overweight corridors make Rio South Texas an easy and convenient place to do business and prime example of how the Rio South Texas region provides common sense solutions to facilitate business activity by reducing costs and operational complexity. The Council for South Texas Economic Progress (COSTEP) is an organization that is focused on advancing regional prosperity through the addition of a strategic framework for economic development. To learn more about Rio South Texas, visit costep.org.

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M AT T ’ S B U I L D I N G M AT E R I A L S

RISING FROM THE ASHES Owners Vow to Rebuild the Original Pharr Location and Reopen in 2023 b y B r ya n K i r k | ph oto s b y J a co b M e n d o z a a n d p r o v i d e d was part of life for me, my brothers, and sister. I worked there through junior high, high school and college, and so did my siblings. It was just part of who we were as a family.” The store opened in 1967 and was originally called Valley Cash & Carry Building Materials. The store, which had stood for more than 50 years, wasn’t equipped with the modern fire suppression technology that is common in newer retailers. In the days that followed, many of the employees at the

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It’s been more than six months since the original Matt’s Building Materials in Pharr burned to the ground in a devastating New Year’s Day fire. Firefighters from more than a dozen agencies battled the blaze for more than 12 hours but were unable to save the iconic structure. Hours later, piles of smoldering rubble and ash lay scattered where the historic family business had once stood. “My dad worked there for more than 50 years, and I grew up in this business,” said co-owner Isaac Smith. “It

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amount of support from the EDC and the programs they have to offer,” Smith said. “They could have easily said no, but they know our business means a lot to the city.” While city leaders are firmly behind the return of Matt’s Building Materials, there is nothing anyone can do to alleviate the high costs and scarcity of lumber and building materials. Smith said they were able to order some of the materials several weeks after the fire that they knew they would need to rebuild. That's when they learned the materials were backlogged a year and wouldn’t be delivered until January 2023. They have had to source providers locally to keep the project on track. “This is a little out of our realm,” he said. “We sell lumber and building materials. We aren’t general contractors by trade.” Some of the materials Smith said they’ve been able to source locally include materials for metal buildings, concrete for foundations, and A/C services that Smith said they can’t provide for themselves. To do this, Smith said they’ve relied on a lot of planning to ensure the materials arrive, and input from local general contractors and loyal customers with a construction background. This type of source has helped them find and hire subcontractors and locate some of those hardto-find materials. “We’ve been kind of preparing, planning and placing orders that we need to place on items that are hard to

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Pharr location relocated to Matt’s locations in San Benito and Palmview while the Smith family got to work planning to rebuild the Pharr store. “There’s obviously a lot that has to get done when you are talking about a project this size,” Smith said. “These types of projects usually take years to plan. But, obviously, time is of the essence and we need to get this done quickly.” There remain obstacles to be overcome. There are numerous meetings with architects and designers, along with the soil testing and surveying work engineers are doing to ensure there aren’t issues before the foundation for the new store is poured this fall. Smith said they are waiting on engineering reports so they can present final plans to the city and get the green light to start building. “We’ve already met with the city several times to make sure this gets done as quickly as possible,” Smith said. “We’ve had some really productive meetings, and as far as the red tape goes, we’re really fortunate they are working with us. “There are programs that are set up for new businesses, and they are going to treat us like a new business.” Smith said city leaders, including Mayor Dr. Ambrosio Hernandez and members of the city commission and the Pharr Economic Development Corporation have even agreed to participate in some of the off-site costs, such as landscaping. “We’ve been very fortunate to have a tremendous

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get and hard to come by,” he said. “We are just having to plan, which means we have to be on our toes, be aware of product delays and be better at what we do.” Although there is not an official timeline, Smith said they are shooting for an official groundbreaking around Labor Day. That target date hinges on how long the engineering process takes, and how long it takes to receive those reports so Smith can make his final presentation to the Pharr City Commission. So what can customers expect? Smith said the new 55,000-square-foot store location will be about the same size as before, but with higher ceilings that will allow for more products to be stocked vertically, and make it feel a bit more open. “We are going to be a lot more efficient with the space we have,” he said. “We had so much wasted space before, and we always talked about how we could make the space more efficient. “Aside from closing down and gutting the store, there really wasn’t a feasible option. Now, we have that option to be more efficient.” The newest Matt’s will also be the anchor store inside a strip center they plan to use to lease space to other retailers. “People will think we built a bigger store,” he said. “It’s not going to look that way on paper, but it’s going to feel

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that way. A lot of people are excited. “I don’t know how many people have told me they are anxious to see us back up and running. There’s a lot of anticipation.” Smith said the ordeal of the fire and the rebuilding process has been a humbling experience for everyone involved in the business. It also enhanced the company’s “community first” philosophy of treating everyone with respect and building relationships that helped make Matt’s Building Materials the local go-to for DIY projects. Smith said he wants loyal customers to know that nothing has changed and that they can expect the same level of service and that same “homey feeling” they always felt when they walked through the door. “The old Matt’s was a place where people felt at home,” he said. “When we build this store back, we want to make sure we keep that theme. We don’t want them to have the box store experience. We want them to have the Matt’s experience.”

"The old Matt’s was a place where people felt at home. When we build this store back, we want to make sure we keep that theme. We don’t want them to have the box store experience. We want them to have the Matt’s experience."

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Is a a c Sm i th ,

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Making an Impact Attorney Deborah Cordova Holds Passion for Helping Region Advance and Flourish

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the continuation of development and growth," she said. "You have to be passionate about what you do to be successful. What keeps me going as an attorney is being able to represent my clients to the best of my ability by resolving issues – whether it's a partnership dispute, a contract, a real estate closing or an estate matter. I truly enjoy helping others." Cordova is a founding partner at Walsh McGurk Cordova Nixon, PLLC and specializes in real estate, corporate law, estate planning and probate. In addition to her work, she serves on various boards relating to education, women and children, including Texas Women Lawyers, State Bar of Texas Women and the Law Council, Girl Scouts of Greater South Texas, Junior Service League

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Family has always been high among Deborah Cordova's priorities; she grew up in Mission as one of two daughters among eight siblings in total. When the time came for her to pursue a career, she decided to utilize her skills in numbers and attended St. Mary's University School of Law to contribute to her family's business. This year, Cordova marks 20 years in practice as a transactional attorney – a career that has allowed her to work with her family, help other small businesses, represent individuals and give back to the Rio Grande Valley. "'I always envisioned returning to the Rio Grande Valley to contribute to my community and experience

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"I'm hoping newly licensed attorneys are able to see they can also be a successful attorney while being involved and making an impact in the community. It has been an instrumental change to see more women practicing transactional law and also involved in our community by serving on boards and councils."

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of Mission, Teach for America – RGV and others. When deciding whether to get involved with another organization, Cordova first ensures it aligns with her values and that she can make a meaningful contribution. She recently completed a 14-year term on the Boys and Girls Club of Mission Advisory Board — a full circle moment for her as she and her siblings partook in a Boys and Girls Club as children. Beyond the local impact she helps create through her involvement in nonprofits serving a single city or county, Cordova also sits on state and regional boards, including St. Mary's University School of Law Alumni Board and recently completed her three-year term as Director on the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors. One she holds especially dear to her heart is the Rio Grande Valley Partnership Chamber of Commerce, which she has been involved with for 13 years and became the first chairwoman in the organization's, at the time, 68-year history. There have since been two other chairwomen. "We focus on healthcare, education, economic development and transportation – regional issues that are important to the RGV," Cordova said. "The RGV Partnership is a vital component to the region because all four counties come together to collectively voice what is important to our region as a whole." She shares her parents, Oscar Cordova and Casilda Cordova, have been her biggest role models throughout her life and it's through their strong work ethic and family commitment she witnessed and had instilled in her that she has been able to achieve her own successes. Most recently Cordova was recognized in the New York Times as a 2021 Power Lawyer. In 2020 and 2021 she was recognized as a Lawyer of Distinction. Also in 2020, she was recognized as a Woman of Distinction by the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce under the "Professional" category. In 2017, she was a recipient of the Rio Grande Valley Walk of Fame by the City of Hidalgo and in 2016 was awarded for her outstanding community service as Woman of the Year on behalf of the citizens of

Mission. Between 2007 and 2015, she was recognized as a Texas Rising Star. "You look up to your role models and they help motivate and shape you into the best person you can be," she said. Similarly, she hopes to set an example for young professionals in the RGV. "I'm hoping newly licensed attorneys are able to see they can also be a successful attorney while being involved and making an impact in the community," Cordova said. "It has been an instrumental change to see more women practicing transactional law and also involved in our community by serving on boards and councils." Over the years she has been practicing, she said it's been fulfilling to see these changes. As much as she values serving others, Cordova said she also practices self-care. Since her work carries into evenings and weekends, she grounds herself each day by rising each morning at 4 a.m. for an active workout and enjoys a moment of solitude. "My self-discipline, accountability, and consistency sets me up for the rest of the day and the rest of the week," she said. "Getting that hour and a half to myself of working out and clearing my mind allows me to start analyzing what my workday is going to look like and what events I am able to participate in. "So, when it's time to get to the office, I'm ready to go." For others interested in making an impact in their community and looking for a place to start, Cordova recommends researching local organizations and reaching out to its board members. "Ask them, 'what's the mission? what's the purpose? what's the vision of the organization?'" she said. "And if that fits well within what you want to represent and what you embody, then I recommend to start by first serving on a committee. "It's extremely important to get involved because that is the only way that not only the legal community, but our region will continue to prosper."

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STARBASE

TOURISM Boca Chica's Connection to SpaceX Spurs Growth and Tourism in the Valley

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b y B r ya n K i r k | p h o t o s b y J a m e s H o r d South Padre Island has long been the premier destination of tourists and spring breakers seeking fun in the sun and saltwater therapy that can only be found at the beach. But tourists who have a keen interest in space exploration and interplanetary travel are also finding their niche at the SpaceX Starbase in Boca Chica, where, it seems, the next generation of American space exploration is being created. So, what is Starbase and how do you get there? Starbase is the facility where billionaire Elon Musk and his SpaceX team are building the next generation of rockets and space capsules to travel to Mars or other celestial bodies. According to a blog published in December, visitors to Starbase are able to see some of the rockets under construction. Tours are not allowed, and most of what space enthusiasts may see will likely be from the roadside

or across the bay with a pair of binoculars if they are testing one of the rockets. Regardless, if you build them, they will come. Teresa Rodriguez, senior marketing and communications manager for the South Padre Island Convention and Visitors Bureau, said while a majority of tourists come to the Valley to enjoy the beaches, they are aware of those tourists who visit the region specifically to see Starbase. "SpaceX is a wonderful backdrop to the City of South Padre Island, which brings something unique and exciting to the destination with its history-in-the-making aspect of space travel,” she said. “Our visitors come to enjoy the beautiful beaches that South Padre Island is known for, and to explore the variety of things available to do and see while they are here. "SpaceX is another element we have to offer our visitors — especially those particularly intrigued by the growing interest in space tourism. The last launch from SpaceX

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anytime there's a rocket launch, it's a big deal." Krupala said he recently listed a home in Port Isabel that has a direct sight line to the SpaceX launch site, where the new homeowner has an unobstructed view of any rocket launch. Although Krupala said he has never personally seen a SpaceX launch, he and his wife have heard the earth shaking rumble of a launch when they launched a test rocket last year. "It was about five miles from where we were, and it was incredibly loud," he said. "I have a friend who has taken video from his deck." Krupala believes Starbase and SpaceX will not only continue to help generate tourism, but will also have a positive impact on the local economy. "People who have friends who live here are going to want to visit SpaceX,” he said. “They are going to want to see Starbase and see what is happening there."

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Boca Chica was in 2021. We look forward to watching the project grow to become a more important part of our tourism offerings in the future." Brandon Krupala, a real estate professional in South Padre Island, said SpaceX and Starbase are not only drawing more tourists to the Valley, they are also having a positive impact on the local real estate market. "I have seen a lot of inquiries from people who are moving here specifically for SpaceX, and I have heard from others who responded by coming to the area after Elon Musk sent out a tweet urging people to come to Cameron County," Krupala said. Krupala, who is part of a real estate team that includes his wife, Audrey, said his team has worked with several SpaceX employees who have come to the Valley and helped them find their new home. "It has definitely made an impact and it has definitely been a buzzword," he said. "Anytime there is testing or

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H E A L T H

CULTURE AND MENTAL HEALTH Understanding Ataque de nervios

What is culture? The way we bond and connect with others, gender expressions and sex orientations, our foods and cuisine, our entertainment — ranging from music to tv shows to the magazine we read — our language and political and spiritual beliefs (or lack of thereof) all influence our mental health. They help us understand ourselves, each other and the world around us. These cultural factors also shape how we express or

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experience mental health symptoms, ranging from day-today stress to traumatic experiences. In fact, there are many culture-bound syndromes in which certain cultural groups experience the same “syndrome,” which is unique to such groups. One example is ataque de nervios, which is an expression of distress reported by predominantly Latin American and Hispanic individuals. It can happen in up to


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hand, if you frequently experience distress or a difficult time with these symptoms (or any other), please consult with your healthcare provider. OTHER CULTURE-BOUND SYNDROMES Nervios, unlike ataque de nervios, refers to heightened worry and emotional distress during difficult periods of time. People experience dizziness (mareos), vertigo, headaches, crying and difficulty concentrating. The nervios can be long lasting, unlike the ataque de nervios, and are also means of the body and mind to express distress. Per the Center for Substance Abuse and Treatment, susto is another idiom of distress that occurs when a person experiences an intense stressful or fearful situation. The person feels strong feelings of sadness and general sickness. Susto can have various names like “espanto” or “perdida del alma.” The latter translates to “loss of the soul,” which reflects the intensity of the fearful emotions. People with susto may also experience difficulties sleeping or bodily aches. MESSAGE TO THE PUBLIC Distress is a normal part of life, and healthy expressions of it can be a helpful way to cope. If you are feeling distress related to ataque de nervios, its symptoms, or any other mental health concern, we encourage you to seek help from your healthcare provider. You can reach out to the resources below for help or to learn more about culture and mental health. RESOURCES Learn more about ataque de nervios: verywellmind.com/ataque-de-nervios-2671733 Mental Health Resources: Texas Tropical Behavioral Health Crisis Hotline: 1-877289-7199 Lifeline prevention number: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) (Co-Authors include Dr. Mercado’s Mental Health Lab at UTRGV: Andy Torres, Frances Morales, Amanda Palomin,

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one out every 10 Hispanics living in the U.S., and up to one in every three persons in Latin America, according to the 2009 study “Ataque De Nervios as a Marker of Social and Psychiatric Vulnerability” published in the International Journal of Social Psychiatry. Ataque de nervios can look very different from person to person and may include: • Shortness of breath • Heart rate or chest tightness • Crying spells • Intense fear or worry • Brief loss of memory • Trembling • Dizziness • Faint-like symptoms • Loss of control • Temporary blindness or tunnel vision • Feeling as though reality is distorted, or feeling outof-body experiences Not all that experience ataque de nervios experience all these symptoms; and experiencing some – or all – of these symptoms does not necessarily indicate ataque de nervios. Some of these symptoms may be related to other mental health problems. Furthermore, ataque de nervios can help an individual cope with distress, as some people feel better after the attack is over despite its strong effect on mood amid its presence. Why do we experience ataque de nervios? Culture appears to be one reason why people experience ataque de nervios. This does not mean that any culture is to be blamed for ataque de nervios (or any mental health problem), rather that our culture constantly shapes the way we experience every day and major life stressors. There are other reasons that can cause ataque de nervios. For example, during the attack, some people may strongly fear the attack itself and develop a fear of having future ataques. In turn, they may avoid doing or thinking about things, events, people or settings that caused the first ataque de nervios. Unfortunately, this is not a helpful strategy as it can cause future ataque de nervios to be even stronger. Nonetheless, there is still much work needed to find all reasons that cause people to experience ataque de nervios. If you occasionally experience ataque de nervios or its symptoms, be reminded that these are normal bodily and mind expressions of distress or fear. On the other

Alfonso Mercado PH.D., Licensed Psychologist Valley Psychological Services - Associate Professor Department of Psychology at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley | www.utpa.edu/psychology

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TEAM IMPACT Educating and Providing Access to Care Opportunities in the Local Community b y N a th a ni el Ma t a | p h o t o s b y J a co b M e n d o z a

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and their patients and employees are their number one priority. Q. What is the most challenging part of being a Community Outreach Partner? OROZCO: The most challenging thing about working as an educator is that sometimes some people do not give you the opportunity to talk to them or listen to them and it is very difficult to help them. Q. How do you motivate yourself on a daily basis? OROZCO: Through knowing that I'm making a big difference in the community every time I can help someone. Q. How do you continue to improve as a Community Outreach Partner? OROZCO: BY staying positive and learning new things to continue helping the community. Q. What suggestions can you give to new Community Outreach Partners? OROZCO: Suggestions to new educators is to stay positive and not get discouraged — because there will be times when people don't want to pay attention to you. And never lose that passion to help the community. Q. How does your personality shine through this role? OROZCO: What stands out the most about my personality in what I do is that it truly brings out my desire to help people and what people like the most is my way of connecting with them, that they see that it is genuine and that I am there to help them.

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Rodeo Dental is dedicated to providing the community quality with dental care. Rodeo’s outreach group called Team IMPACT educate at schools, form partnerships with local businesses and infuse the community with good energy and vibe. Team members on Team IMPACT are known as Community Outreach Partners. Community Outreach Partners, Ana Orozco and Amanda Gomez sat down to answer questions about their role and why it’s important to Rodeo Dental’s mission. Q. What makes your role special? ANA OROZCO: I can help the entire community, both children and adults by giving children educational presentations, sharing how to take care of their teeth and reminding adults of the importance of going to the dentist every six months. Q. What is the best part of being a Community Outreach Partner? OROZCO: It is that every day I have the opportunity to meet different people with different needs and that I am here to educate and help them. Q. Why did you decide to become a Community Outreach Partner? OROZCO: Because I am fascinated by helping people and here I have the joy of being able to do so. Q. What do you enjoy about working for Rodeo? OROZCO: I like working for Rodeo because Rodeo has great values and they are very dedicated to helping the community,

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Q. How do you apply Rodeo Dental’s core values on a daily basis? AMANDA GOMEZ: I apply Rodeo’s core values by making sure every patient gets the utmost quality care and always leaves with a huge smile on their face. Q. What has been your biggest contribution as a Community Outreach Partner? GOMEZ: My biggest contribution as a Community Outreach Partner would be making sure that each and every patient or potential patient understands the importance of quality dental care. Q. What is your philosophy towards your job? GOMEZ: My philosophy towards my job is always to learn and give my best so that no one goes without quality dental care, one child at a time. Q. What role does technology play in the daily activities of a Community Outreach Partner? GOMEZ: Technology has a huge role; it's a great advantage. We use an actual tablet to send and receive information so our patients get exactly what they need. Q. What does being a Community Outreach Partner look like on a daily basis? GOMEZ: My Community Outreach Partner role on a daily basis is to always be very sharp and just do the best that I can to make sure people feel very comfortable while they speak to me. Q. How important is the vision of the company? GOMEZ: The vision of the company is very important. We need to always be on the same page in order to ensure great success for our patients. Our vision is one of a kind — always wanting more for our patients. 48


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MIXER

Latinas In Progress

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Radisson Hotel McAllen Airport 2721 S 10th St, McAllen, TX 78503 Join RGVision from 6 to 8 p.m. for a business mixer! The event will honor Deborah Cordova and benefit Latinas In Progress Scholarship Program. Tickets are $25, which covers entry, appetizers, one complimentary drink, and great networking opportunities! For more information visit us online at www.facebook.com/rgvisionmagazine/events/


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WHEN CARE CAN’T WAIT Count on South Texas Health System’s Freestanding Emergency Departments

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When rushing to the hospital to seek treatment for critical and emergency care at full-service emergency rooms, people are often faced with long wait times. In recent years, hospital-affiliated freestanding emergency departments (FEDs) have been opening in the Rio Grande Valley and across the country. These facilities make medical treatment much more accessible to patients seeking rapid, quality care. South Texas Health System (STHS) recognized the need for FEDs and in 2015 began opening freestanding emergency departments in South Texas. Remaining true to their motto, “We are where you need us to be,” STHS has continued to bring quality emergency care to patients throughout South Texas. “Our freestanding ERs are customer-focused in terms of being easily accessible and providing rapid treatment,” said Universal Health Services (STHS’ parent

company) Vice President of Emergency and Urgent Care Doug Matney. Matney works with 20 FEDs across the nation, including the six of STHS located in the Valley, which form part of the South Texas Health System Trauma & Critical Care Institute. “All of our freestanding emergency departments are open 24/7, year-round and they are always staffed with a physician on duty and at least two registered nurses,” he explained. “We also offer full diagnostic services.” The full diagnostic services, which are also available on outpatient basis, include full laboratory service, imaging services, including CAT scans, ultrasounds, and X-rays, preventive screenings and athletic physicals. Patients are guaranteed these services will be done on-site, and the information is provided to the inhouse physician or referring doctor for review, diagnosis, and treatment,

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and laboratory services including thyroid exams, men’s and women’s health checks, diabetes screenings, sports physicals and other wellness panels. All sites offer X-rays and CAT Scans and the Mission and Weslaco sites offer mammography and bone density screenings, with the Weslaco site also offering MRIs. “Our priority at all of our STHS facilities and FEDs is getting the patient comfortable and taking care of the immediate medical care condition as efficiently as possible,” Matney said. To find an STHS FED near you, visit SouthTexasHealthSystem. com/ER.

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if necessary. All of this is usually completed within two hours or less, Matney added. This appeals to those patients who need to be seen after hours or who don’t want to wait between appointments. The goal, Matney said, is to immediately register a patient, place them in an exam room, take their vitals and treat and diagnose in the same room — and do it all in a timely manner, two hours or less. Located in the “primary draw” areas near hospitals and in periphery areas that reach the edges of South Texas, all six FEDs are chest pain ready, meaning they are certified in chest pain management. On average, the FEDs see 50 to 60 patients per day. “Meeting a national standard like this (Chest Pain Certification) really raises the bar in terms of what is expected and places FEDs on par with the same level of care one would expect at a full-service hospital,” Matney said. “In terms of FEDs, we had the first two in Texas to become Chest Pain Certified, which were the facilities located in Mission and in Weslaco.” The Mission and Weslaco FEDs are also Acute Stroke Certified and can provide immediate care for strokes — including through the use of life-saving medications — then transport patients to STHS’ Comprehensive Stroke Center at South Texas Health System McAllen. The STHS facilities also provide outpatient diagnostic

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NURSING SHORTAGES Doctor Shines Spotlight on Nursing Shortage He Experienced at Four Area Hospitals during COVID-19 Pandemic

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b y B r y a n Ki r k Nurses are the backbone of any hospital or clinic, and they are often the first face that critically ill or injured patients see when there is a medical emergency. But what if there weren't enough nurses to gather the necessary information for medical treatment and to be that critically calm presence for the sick, hurting, or dying? Dr. Rene Luna, who practices obstetrics and gynecology in McAllen, fears that hospitals in the Rio Grande Valley could be experiencing the early stages of this right now. “Is there a healthcare crisis? Yes, but it was already here before COVID-19," he said. "There was a shortage of doctors before COVID-19 and a shortage of nurses before COVID-19." According to Cindy Zolnierek, CEO of the Texas

Nurses Association (TNA) in Austin, the shortage of nurses in every phase of the healthcare industry began between 2001 and 2003, which prompted the TNA to work with state lawmakers to establish the Nursing Shortage Reduction Program in 2003. The program incentivizes schools to increase the number of nursing candidates to graduate. Zolnierek said there are a number of factors contributing to the nursing shortages statewide, which include the number of baby boomers retiring and the increase of people moving to Texas from out of state. However, the impact and lingering effects of COVID-19 have also taken their toll on the nursing profession. "The border counties and those counties in the Valley have been those most affected by the nursing shortage," she said.

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“The proper solution is increasing the supply of nurses through support for nursing education, providing appropriate compensation and improving nurses' working conditions."

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Workforce Studies, the number of registered nurses working in the RGV increased by 26.1% between 2010 and 2019. In February, the TNA and the American Nurses Association joined forces and called on congressional lawmakers to address these shortages. "The unprecedented demands of the pandemic place nurses in extremely difficult positions as they work too many hours, see higher acuity of care, face staffing challenges, and experience increased workplace violence," Zolnierek said. "The nursing workforce is straining under the weight of the pandemic, and nursing turnover and staffing shortages are widely reported. “The proper solution is increasing the supply of nurses through support for nursing education, providing appropriate compensation and improving nurses' working conditions." Zolnierek said the nursing profession still attracts a lot of candidates who want to make a difference, but as many as 10,000 each year are turned away because there isn't space for them due to not having enough hands-on clinical experience. Other issues that should be addressed, Zolnierek said, include the lack of retention of experienced nurses, scheduling and professional support, and the assurance of a safe working environment.

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The pandemic only made things worse. Dr. Luna — who not only runs a busy private practice, but provides services to patients at four area hospitals — said it was "all hands on deck" when COVID-19 began ravaging the local population. Healthcare professionals worked tirelessly during the pandemic and the long hours and near-constant exposure to seriously ill patients and death began to take its toll. "We had appropriate PPE, however we were in direct contact with the very sick COVID-19 patients almost every second of the day," Dr. Luna said. "As time went on, and the pandemic went on, people began getting fatigued from the long hours…There was physical fatigue and mental fatigue that came from seeing people die all the time." The constant exposure to COVID-19 patients meant that many of those frontline nurses would themselves become sick from the virus. Some of them didn't return to nursing when they recovered, others who could retire did and others who'd become physically and mentally overwhelmed simply left the profession. "We are still feeling the effects of this shortage two years after the start of this pandemic," Dr. Luna said. Despite the ravages of the pandemic, the nursing profession has endured more than 20 years of chronic and cyclical shortages. According to data from the Texas Center for Nursing

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Ci nd y Z ol ni er ek , CEO o f th e Texas N u rses Association (T N A) in Au stin


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SAFETY FIRST Equipping Your Child with Tools and Knowledge to Respond to an Emergency

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b y Ro ci o V i l l a l o b o s All year long kids look forward to summer. It's a time for them to have fun, make memories and forget about homework for a while. However, a recess from school does not mean their learning has to be put on pause. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, spending time outside boosts a child's physical health, increases their engagement, reduces stress, and is beneficial for their overall development. As the world is emerging from a pandemic that limited peer interactions, it is essential for parents to encourage their children to spend time outdoors. But first comes safety. South Texas Health System Children's Pediatric Critical Care Specialist Dr. Alvaro Donaire-Garcia said, there are some major dangers kids can face this season, and it's best for parents and guardians to start with preventative measures. To combat dehydration, kids should stay inside when the heat index reaches 100 degrees, wear light colors and

breathable fabrics and drink plenty of water. If a child suffers from seasonal allergies, stick to indoor activities on days with elevated levels of airborne pollen. Keep your grass trimmed, which makes it less likely to release pollen. Also, encourage a child to shower and change clothes when they finish playing because their clothing may be covered in allergens. Remind a child to be mindful of where they roam to avoid a snake encounter or bug bites. Still, accidents happen. It's important from an early age that parents begin to equip their children with basic first aid skills so they may effectively respond and get the right help in an emergency. "As soon as kids are able to identify that someone is in danger or distress is a great time to start," he said. "Kids should be aware that things can get bad in no time. So, when they are able to intervene when someone is in trouble, those few minutes — even few seconds — can really change that individual's outcome of recovery."

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least able to call 911. Cuts and scrapes from bicycle riding or playground play are also among the most common summertime injuries, which for the most part, Dr. Donaire-Garcia said, can be treated with a basic first aid kit that includes bandages, gauze, hydrogen peroxide, antiseptic wipes, and a hot and cold pack. "If it's something more serious, they can at least help to control the damage in the meanwhile until the hurt individual may be evaluated in an emergency room," he said. Beyond the skills children can learn at home, Dr. Donaire-Garcia also encourages they enroll in professional training, such as a CPR course, Heimlich Heroes, and Stop the Bleed. "Early identification of when someone is in trouble can really save their life," he said. "Always try to find opportunities to teach a kid from early on, and as they reach maturity, they can be even more active in potential resuscitation opportunities." Local schools, community centers, and hospitals commonly offer free trainings to the public. For additional resources to help keep your child safe this summer and teach them independence, Dr. Donaire-Garcia recommends visiting the CDC, the American Red Cross, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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Dr. Donaire-Garcia recommends parents and guardians begin by teaching the warning signs of a medical emergency — difficulty breathing, chest pain, nonstop bleeding, choking, dizziness and seizure. "Those things can be easily taught and tested by visual aids," Dr. Donaire-Garcia said. "Sit down with the child and explain that hands to the neck could mean someone is choking, how it may look when someone is about to faint. "Animated videos also go very far with kids. If they see a cartoon of what it looks like when someone is about to faint and then come across a real-life scenario, they know how to help because they saw their favorite superhero or some character do it." Kids do save lives. Dr. Donaire-Garcia shared he's familiar with multiple cases in which a child has recognized another child that was drowning and gotten them help. While there are certain activities in which children may not require supervision or older children can be trusted, swimming is one of the most accident-prone activities. "Teens can lose their attention very quickly," he warned. "Even a minute underwater can be lethal for a kid, so I would strongly recommend an adult or lifeguard over a kid. But if a teen is able to identify the warning signs and stay off their phone, this can be helpful." While it may not be until kids are a little older that they can themselves perform a lifesaving action, they are at

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DR. NOLAN PEREZ Providing Healthcare, Striving to Improve Education and Opportunities to our Growing Community

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his time and efforts to volunteering on various boards. He serves on local and state boards to improve the healthcare system and believes those changes happen through education. “I would not be a physician today if it were not for a teacher,” he said. “An educator is the most noble profession and makes all other professions possible.” Dr. Perez recalls it was his high school chemistry teacher who helped guide him toward figuring out his career path. He took his teacher’s advice to heart. After returning from serving in the U.S. Navy as a physician, he completed his residency and GI fellowship and opened his private practice in Harlingen. “I was profoundly impacted by my mentors and decided that I wanted to also help mentor students,” he said. It was during that time that Dr. Perez began his public service in education. In 2010, he was asked to serve on the Harlingen CISD board of directors. Since then, he has served as president of the HCISD board for two terms, during one of which (in 2019) the board received Board of the Year by the Texas Association of School Boards. He has been involved in building specialty schools that are higher education focused, improving literacy programs and early childhood education, and developing important partnerships with higher education. Those partnerships have led him to become involved at the state level. He currently serves with the Holdsworth Center, an organization that helps support public education leadership and works towards strengthening leaders in public education. In 2015, he was appointed by Governor Abbott to Texas Woman’s University Board of Regents, then appointed to University of Texas System Board of Regents in 2019, then reappointed to UTS BOR for a six-

Dr. Nolan Perez has been serving the community as a gastroenterologist (GI) since 2007. In this time he has grown his practice, Texas Digestive Specialists (formerly Gastroenterology of South Texas). The practice first opened in Harlingen and has since expanded to Brownsville; there are now plans to expand to the upper Rio Grande Valley. The comprehensive group is made up of 12 doctors and 13 advanced care practitioners who see pediatric and adult patients and perform both routine visits and surgeries. The most common surgical procedures at Texas Digestive Specialists are colorectal and bariatric surgeries. “We saw that a lot of our patients needed the help of a surgeon, and we wanted to provide the highest quality of care to our patients,” Dr. Perez said. “We found it worked best to integrate our practice with surgeons.” Dr. Perez takes pride in serving his community and providing valuable and quality care, always striving toward providing the highest level of care to his patients in a timely manner — especially important in a region underserved, not just in terms of GI specialists, but in overall healthcare. “Texas, in general, ranks 48th per capita out of the number of physicians in the United States,” Dr. Perez explained. “There are only two other states worse than us. Furthermore, the RGV is even worse in the number of physicians per 100,000 people.” This lack of care means the growing community is grossly underserved. Patients often face delayed care and become hospitalized due to not receiving timely treatment, or must seek medical care outside of the area. Dr. Perez is working towards changing that. He does not just serve as a physician; he has also dedicated

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“We saw that a lot of our patients needed the help of a surgeon, and we wanted to provide the highest quality of care to our patients."

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year term in 2021. In these roles, he has learned how to better adapt his business to meet the needs of the community and, in turn, find ways to improve education to open more opportunities for the Valley’s talented students. He believes in educating students to strengthen and meet the needs of our workforce. Working as a team on various boards, Dr. Perez has made great strides and is seeing the great opportunities being afforded to students through the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s many programs and affordable tuition. He added that he hires many advanced care practitioners who have graduated from UTRGV and other UT-system schools. “I am really proud that UTRGV has made education so attainable,” he said. “We see what they have done with schools like UTRGV Harlingen Collegiate High — this is a university campus embedded in a school district. “We will continue providing opportunities connecting learning to employability in order to change the lives of these students and increase their quality of life.” Dr. Perez attributes his successes in the betterment of the community and growing his business to more than 30 medical providers and 100 employees to his support system. His wife Sandy Nolan helps him run their business and their two children, Nolan Jr. and Natalie, are both following in their dad’s footsteps and attending UT Austin. “I have spent a great deal of time away from my family to serve on these boards, but I am proud to give back and very proud to help provide opportunities to this region through my services” he said. “I am blessed to work on these teams and serve in this way.”

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Dr. N o l a n Pe r e z , gastroen terol ogis


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SUMMER

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Local Dermatologist Shares Ways to Protect Skin During Summer by Elsa Cavazos

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Summer is here and with it comes fun under the sun. However, certain seasonal activities, such as going to the beach, tanning and water sports can cause more harm than good. Increased temperatures lead to an increased risk of sunburns and, ultimately, an increased risk of skin cancers and premature aging of the skin. This is especially true in the Rio Grande Valley and surrounding areas, where our proximity to the equator leads to hotter temperatures. Sarah Kim, a local physician assistant (PA), shares the best ways to protect our skin while also having fun. Kim has been practicing under dermatologist Dr. Oscar

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"I would say sunscreen is something we should do all year. However, it is especially important in the summer. You should also avoid sun exposure during the hottest part of the day, wear sunprotective gear such as hats, and remember to reapply sunscreen as recommended." Sa r a h K i m , p hys i ci a n a s s i s tan t

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One common concern is blemishes, spots and hyperpigmentation. Kim reiterates the importance of using sunscreen to help prevent and stop the progression of blemishes. She also recommends treatments such as Intense Pulsed Light Therapy (IPL), which can improve the color and texture of the skin within a few sessions. When it comes to tanning, Kim said the beauty industry has made it easier to get a beautiful glow without harming our skin. "There are so many ways that you can get a tan safely — with self-tanning lotion and bronzer, for example,” she said. “You just have to test and trial to see what products will work for you. I'm not telling people not to enjoy activities of life, right? Be outside, enjoy the sun, but just be more aware. “I can see that more people are taking care of themselves and really wanting to seek out help, in large part due to social media and access to information. While you can still have fun and enjoy the sunlight, act responsibly in order to maintain a beautiful, youthful complexion and reduce your risk of skin cancer. People forget our skin is the largest organ in the body, and it's the first line of defense against bacteria, chemicals, and toxins. The bottom line: our skin protects us, so we must protect our skin."

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Sotelo in McAllen for two years. She was drawn to dermatology because healthy hair, skin, and nails is important both medicinally and aesthetically. Kim advised it’s best to use a mineralbased SPF 30 sunscreen on a daily basis. "I would say sunscreen is something we should do all year,” she said. “However, it is especially important in the summer. You should also avoid sun exposure during the hottest part of the day, wear sun-protective gear such as hats, and remember to reapply sunscreen as recommended." Sunscreen protects against all three of the most common skin cancers: squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma and melanoma. Additionally, ultraviolet rays from the sun penetrate into the skin, where they damage the elastic fibers that keep skin firm and cause wrinkles to develop. UV rays are also responsible for age spots and hyperpigmentation on the hands, face and other sun-exposed areas. As for other suggestions, Kim said it all depends on a person's personal skin goals. "When my patients come to see me, the first thing I ask them about is their skincare concerns and goals," she said. "Then, based on their concerns, I’ll make a skincare routine for them."


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SHREDDING IN THE BURG New Edinburg Skatepark Serves Veteran Skaters and New Beginnings

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on his board since he was 13-years-old, making plenty of friends along the way. He was a part of a local skate crew known as Majer that made videos documenting their fun and adventures. The channel racked up millions of views and helped put RGV skating on the map. “Even the one on Sprague [SkatePark at Bicentennial Park], I was there when it opened,” De Leon said. “This new park is a huge step up compared to the older one. This one is all concrete, so it doesn’t rust out or wear down like the other parks do.” He believes that as skating goes stronger into the

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SkatePark at South Park, Edinburg’s newest attraction, officially opened on April 13. But even before the city gave the green light, skateboarders, inline skaters and roller skaters were putting wheels to the pavement to enjoy what is officially the largest skatepark in the Rio Grande Valley. According to the City of Edinburg website, the park sits at a whopping 12,000-plus square feet, and the design incorporates sections for beginner, intermediate and advanced skaters. Robby De Leon, 27, is a native of Edinburg. He’s been

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“I learned to skate in my driveway by watching a lot of videos and stuff. About six months into it, I thought I don’t feel like this jam skating (pretty much dance moves on roller skates) is working for me. I want to go to the skate park.” The rest is history and Almaraz now spends many of her mornings at the park learning new tricks and getting more comfortable as part of the skating scene. “It’s just different compared to the parks around here,” she said. “It’s something we really don’t have down here. I like that they have different sections. “Going into the bowl is a lot scarier when you don’t know what you’re doing. There’s an area next to the bowl that if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can learn to drop in.” Despite only having a few years under her belt, Almaraz is already paying it forward and helping other skaters. “I was there a couple weeks ago and a younger girl was skating around, and she came up to me and asked if I could teach her how to drop in,” Almaraz said. “I’m still learning myself, but I tried my best to help her out. “When I first started, I wanted to be alone because I didn’t want to fall in front of people. But then you start meeting the people there at the same time every day and make friends. I prefer skating with people now. It’s boring when you’re alone.”

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limelight and public eye, it’s good to see the growth worldwide trickle down to our local community. “To me, it shows the scene is growing,” he said. “Skateboarding is growing, the blade scene is growing — just the extreme sports scene in general. “Skating was in the Olympics and it’s definitely bringing in a lot more. We don’t really have shops or events down here, so hopefully this park can help do that for the Valley.” Officials with Edinburg’s Parks and Recreation Department said they went to their first skate park with a pen and paper to take notes and listen to the needs and wants when planning for the new spot. “We talk about serving our community and taking care of our residents, and this is one way to do it — quality of life,” said Edinburg Mayor Ramiro Garza Jr. during the ribboncutting event. “We’re a growing community and we need amenities like this.” Something special about the park at South Park is the ability for skaters of all skill levels and experience to give skating a go. Ashley Almaraz, 33, of San Juan has gotten back into skating recently. “I picked up roller skating in August 2020 just to skate around,” she said. “When I was a kid I had rollerblades, but during the pandemic I wanted to pick up a new hobby; I was bored.


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The Benefits of Native Trees in Cities

b y Col l een Hook , Ma na ger o f Q u i n t a M a z a t l a n | p h o t o s p r o v i d e d

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THE CALL OF THE FOREST

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Today more than half the population lives in cities. As cities grow, so does the need for forests to help counteract the impact of growing cities. Native trees bring health and happiness to people and wildlife. By 2050, more than 6 billion people — twothirds of the world’s population — will live in cities and we will need forests even more. As air pollution becomes a major health risk, city trees can serve as filters, removing pollutants from the air. Trees also help control temperatures. Cities are slowly being dominated by concrete and cement — absorbing the heat and making it warmer. Trees placed in cities can provide shade and are known to cool the air by as much as 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Providing children and families access to forests encourages physical exercise in the great outdoors.Taking a walk in the woods is a great way to recharge one's batteries by reducing stress. Forests also provide experiential and field-based learning opportunities for youth in the Rio Grande Valley. Around the world, we are losing millions of trees daily as our population continues to grow. In order to reverse this trend, the value of trees must be better understood. Start by taking a walk in the woods and connecting to your natural heritage. Visit Quinta Mazatlan in McAllen, which is open Tuesday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursday evenings. Listen for the call of the forest!

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10 BENEFITS OF TINY FORESTS IN CITIES 1. Beautification 2. Cleaning the air 3. Supporting birds and other wildlife 4. Useful for medicine & research 5. Improving human health 6. Mitigating urban flooding 7. Increasing property values 8. Cooling homes, streets and cities 9. Improving the quality of life by attracting businesses, families and tourists to the region 10. Native Trees are sacred

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CONNECTING

PAST TO

PRESENT Mission Historical Museum Features Over a Century of Local History

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by Rocio V illa l ob os | ph otos pr ovi d ed History is happening every day — and often in our own backyards. Learning about local history helps people gain new perspectives and develop greater appreciation for the community in which they reside. While you can’t simply pick up any textbook to learn about your city, you can visit your local museum. The Mission Historical Museum has been chronicling the stories of Mission and western Hidalgo County since 2002. Situated in the heart of downtown Mission off of Doherty ave., the museum is historical in and of itself. One of the museum’s buildings is a former sheriff’s office and another a post office. Each contains many original elements from their previous use, including vaults, secret tunnels and second story viewing ports from which postal inspectors could guard against theft. Exhibits Coordinator Geoffrey Alger has helped curate the museum to what it is today — a timeline of the people and culture of Mission since its founding in 1907 to the present. “We have collections with photographs and artifacts and through research we set up the framework and decide upon the collections and where everything fits,” he said. “There’s plenty to study and you can just about find out about every year.” A few of the museum’s focuses include the founding of Mission, the Moore Air Force Base opened in the 1940s, the citrus and vegetable industry, cinema and a local minor league baseball team. It also features a dedicated Military Room containing uniforms, photos and memorials paying tribute to fallen servicewomen and servicemen from World War I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Global War on Terrorism. Alger said while Winter Texans and tourists are always

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“We have collections with photographs and artifacts and through research we set up the framework and decide upon the collections and where everything fits. There’s plenty to study and you can just about find out about every year.” G eoffr ey A lger, exhi b i ts coor d i na to r

welcome to the museum, it is curated for locals to enjoy. “I think we’re getting more and more locals discovering — or rediscovering — what we have here,” he said. “We’re here so they can appreciate their own history. When people visit they’re often surprised by the amount of history Mission actually has because you don’t learn about it in school.” A newer exhibit they’ve introduced that has captured local interest is “Summer of ‘66.” The exhibit features photos taken across areas of Mission selected to be part of an urban renewal project in July 1966 alongside photos of those spots today. This exhibit opened in May and Alger said many of the visitors have been

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able to recognize the original photos — whether by the street they grew up on or a relative’s home. “These photos were never meant to be seen by the public, necessarily, but I found them in our collection and thought they were really cool because a lot of them had people in them,” he explained. “It’s like a snapshot in time. In most cases the buildings are now completely gone, but some of the buildings or homes are still around. One visitor was very moved because he recognized his mother’s cafe.” When it comes to defining history and what will be remembered, Alger said it’s all subjective. “Yesterday was history and even though


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helps parents instill an appreciation for their community into a child early on. “It's like exploring nature,” he said. “ If you want to teach a child about nature, you start with your own backyard because it's the closest; it's the easiest. And that's what they're going to relate to. “If you want to go out and learn about history, it's right here. We’re part of Mission and want Mission to be part of us” The Mission Historical Museum is open from 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and the second Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Admission is free. For more information and to view online exhibits, visit their website missionmuseum. org.

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most people don’t think about it that way I certainly do because I’m always collecting stuff,” he said. “It’s better to collect it now than wait 20 years and try to find it. “We tend to focus more on the older stuff, but I like to bring it up as much as I can to the present. I always like to connect the past to the present because it’s an ongoing thing.” One example is the COVID-19 display featured in the museum’s timeline. When the pandemic emerged, Alger began collecting newspaper clippings, test kits and other memorabilia. Whether or not a person has much of an interest in history, Alger said they’ll enjoy visiting the museum and discovering all it has to offer. He adds it’s a great family activity and

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Museum of South Texas History and Village in the Valley Promote Education and Celebrate the Community b y E l s a Ca v a z o s | p h o t o s p r o v i d e d

To be able to maintain the essence of what South Texas really is, it is important for the Museum of South Texas History to have staff who understand the true identity of the area. The museum was established in order to remember people of traditions and lessons that are both culturally enriching and sentimental. CEO Dr. Francisco Guajardo is an ultimate example of how growing up in the Rio Grande Valley can help — especially when it comes to accurately portraying what it is like to be from the Valley.

Dr. Guajardo was raised in Elsa, Texas, a small town in Hidalgo county. Because he knows what living in the RGV is like, the way he cares about it and its portrayal shows. "I care deeply about northeastern Mexico as well,” he said. “It's part of the shaping of my own identity and my own, I think, worldview. I have, at a very personal level, a deep vested interest in what this place is and how this place is talked about. "This is a place rich in history. But what that richness means, I think, needs to be kind of explored, because it's a

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lot and so many stories. But I happen to think that within that kind of bed of stories, there's so much there that really shapes and defines who we are as a people, and it looks pretty good.” In a way, the museum serves as a vehicle to teach younger generations what it means to be from the RGV, as well as the deep-rooted history the region has. But also, to teach them who they can be and to choose their own narrative. Co-Founder and Co-President of Village in the Valley (ViVa) Dr. Theresa Gatling, said she has felt out of place in the RGV where only a small percentage of the population is African American. Dr. Gatling made a commitment to increase representation. "What really compelled us to do so was that there were more parents talking to us about their children saying 'I don't know who I am,'" Dr. Gatling said. "What we're doing is connecting the black community — elevating and uniting the black community — while connecting the cultures of the Rio Grande Valley. We have a podcast where we talk about different cultures.” Both she and Dr. Guajardo, discuss the importance of the interconnection with other cultures. But without the knowledge, there is not a way to help children find their own way and feel represented. Dr. Guajardo shared the stories of local RGV families who were part of the Underground Railroad that helped freedom seekers, or runaway slaves, cross the Rio Grande into Mexico, where slavery was illegal. According to him, it was, in a way, used to escape. Many mixed families arrived in the Valley during those times and created a culture many do not know about. Dr. Gatling agreed it is important to tell these stories because of the intertwining cultures. She added how historical landmarks such as the Bethel Memorial Garden are unknown. "It was one of the first African American churches here in McAllen,” she said. “The church it was dilapidated was destroyed and torn down many years ago back in the 90s.” On June 11, ViVa held a fundraising gala to award high school seniors with scholarships. Dr. Guajardo served as a keynote speaker. Overall, the purpose of ViVa is to not only elevate the Black community in the RGV, but also promote education and celebrate it. The museum goes in hand with the sentiment, reminding people in the Valley there is no one size fits all for identity.

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At the age of three, Ramsey Ramirez was reading comic books. Born and raised in Sullivan City in the 1980s, Ramirez did not have access to the array of comic book stores we have today. Still, he'd find used, beat up issues at his local supermarket that fueled his love for comic books — specifically Marvel's Spider-Man. Today, it comes as no surprise that he is the owner and director of South Texas Comic Con (STXCC), an annual pop culture convention in McAllen. Ramirez first hosted South Texas Comic Con in 2014 and has continued to share his love of comics, superheroes, video games, authors and celebrities with Valley residents ever since. Prior to bringing a comic con to the RGV, Ramirez regularly traveled to conventions in Chicago, Dallas and Houston with his friends. When planning another trip to a convention, Ramirez said offhandedly to his friends, "Wouldn't it be nice if we didn't have to drive?" And so began the inception of STXCC. Initially, he thought the convention would attract a couple of thousand people, however, STXCC has hit groundbreaking numbers in recent years. A total of 19,000 tickets were sold in 2019, and after taking a hiatus in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, the convention came back stronger than ever in April 2022 with 21,000 tickets sold. Despite just executing the 7th annual comic con, Ramirez said planning a convention is "pretty complicated." "I was going to be able to dress up as Lex Luthor and hang out with my comic friends," he explained. "And that wasn't the case; that ended up being a lot of work. And so there's a lot of logistical work involved. “There was, especially in the beginning, a lot of having to convince agents and celebrities that this area wasn't full of crime. This area didn't have the best reputation, despite it being a safer place than most. But as more celebrities came, they spread the word. We built up that rapport with celebrities, with the agents, and were able to get past that. But it's a lot of logistical challenges." From coordinating 30-plus guests, itineraries, advertising, and "a million other things," fans of the convention may think several people are behind the scenes planning each detail. On the contrary, Ramirez and his significant other Marla Villarreal organize about 90% of the convention, which is generally planned one year in advance. The remaining 10% of aid comes to play on the day of the event from paid staff and volunteers. “Booking guests and celebrities has definitely gotten easier as we've established ourselves," Ramirez said. "It

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used to be about trying to figure out which celebrities have multiple agents, some are theatrical agents, some are appearance agents. So, it's kind of been trying to figure out who the agents are, and then contacting them and then trying to convince them that we're a viable show." At this year's STXCC, which took place from April 22 to 24, guests had the opportunity to meet and hear from influential individuals within pop culture, including writer and former Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter, cast members of AMC's The Walking Dead: Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs), Simon (Steve Ogg) and Tobin (Jason Douglas), and the iconic voices of Sailor Scouts: Sailor Moon (Linda Ballantyne), Sailor Venus (Cherami Leigh) and Sailor Mars (Katie Griffin). Most recently, Ramirez welcomed nearly 3,800 attendees at South Texas Gamers Expo on June 18 and 19, which featured gaming and anime voice actors, cosplay contests, celebrity and fan panels and opportunities to partake in arcade tournaments and casual gaming. "I try to create a convention to gather like-minded people,” he said. “This one is big with gamers and anime fans, and also with competitive eSports and tabletop game competitors.” Anime fans can look forward to October 1 and 2 as STXCC will host its third Anime Fiesta. Having first welcomed the convention in 2019, the event doubled its attendance in 2021 to reach a record number of 10,000 attendees. "Anime Fiesta got to the point where we needed more space at the convention center," said Ramirez of the 2021 event. "So, for this year, we did rent out the full convention center for Anime Fiesta to make sure we have enough space for everybody to be comfortable." As STXCC prepares for another eventful year welcoming thousands of dedicated fans, Ramirez said the one thing he enjoys the most about the conventions is watching the highlights after the event is finished. "It's great to see both kids and parents having a blast meeting their favorite celebrities," Ramirez said. "There are people that enter the cosplay contest who work for months on their handmade costumes. And they're so intricate and amazing. “When all of that comes together it signals to us that we have had a successful event." To purchase tickets, visit southtexascomiccon.com or head to the secret base located at 801 Pecan Blvd, McAllen, TX 78501.

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The RGV FC Toros USL soccer games have been a longtime favorite pastime for the residents of Edinburg. Not many people realize the Toros provide entertainment for the Rio Grande Valley and offer a pathway to bigger dreams for young soccer players. One of those soccer players is 17-yearold Duilio “Zurdo” Herrera, a homegrown player who just signed his first professional contract with the RGV Toros while still in high school; his contract is what is known as a USL Academy contract, which retains amateur status for the player to provide the future opportunity to pursue an NCAA career if desired. The oldest of seven kids and originally from Reynosa, Mexico, Herrera has played for the academy for five years and was scouted as a young player in a 7v7 league. “To finally be able to sign at a very young age is something unreal to me, and it’s something me and my family are very proud of,” Herrera said. Although Herrera is no stranger to playing the game, he explained that his time with the academy has positively impacted his soccer career. “I didn’t know much about the techniques and strategies,” he said. “Playing with the academy leveled up my soccer. We have these amazing high class coaches that not only teach you how to play, but how to move when you have the ball — which is the most important thing. “Seeing how my soccer career has grown and how it was back then, I definitely thank the academy for all the skills I know to this day.” The Toros recently restructured their academy by joining the MLS Next League, which is excellent news for the youth soccer players of the Rio Grande Valley. Soccer academies are great for many reasons apart from upping one’s soccer game. Both USL and MLS Next academies, like the RGV FC Toros, give young stars exposure they cannot get elsewhere. Through the academy, Herrerra has had the opportunity to play against top-tier professional teams including CF Monterrey of Liga MX. Herrera said he had never imagined

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the possibility of playing a world-class team from Mexico. “Being able to play those small minutes and getting an assist, it was unreal,” he said. “Even though we lost, I was really happy.” Despite the exposure and signing with a professional team at a young age, Herrera has a great head on his shoulders and has his sights set on pursuing an education in physical therapy while continuing to foster his soccer career. He keeps close tabs on his grades off the field, but still makes time for watching movies and listening to Bad Bunny’s new album. An academy coupled with a professional team also provides a unique opportunity for young players to truly see themselves as a professional athlete one day.

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Representation matters. Herrera offers advice to kids who one day would like to be in his shoes. “Always have a dream,” he said. “If you dream and don’t put in the work, your dream will never come. So you have to work for it; give it your all in your life. Whatever you do, you have to give it 100%.” Moving into the season, Herrera plans to give it his all for himself and his team. “I want to give my all to the team and to the coach and do what I need to do to help my team win and get into the playoffs,” he said. As a former MLS player for the Colorado Rapids and San Jose Clash (now known as San Jose Earthquakes) Technical Director and Assistant Coach Rafael Amaya is part of what makes this academy unique. Coach Amaya shares the importance of education as being part of a well-rounded athlete. “The game is 90 minutes, but an education is life-long,” he said. “Our players must maintain a 3.0-plus GPA to participate. We have to make sure they’re not missing school or struggling at school. “Our mission is to give back and support their development both academically and with soccer.” Players come from all over the RGV to participate in the MLS Next Program. Many players drive up from Brownsville multiple times a week to take part in what the academy has to offer. This academy offers travel, insurance and exposure, as kids are afforded the opportunity to play other MLS Next clubs tied to major league soccer clubs across the nation. Players also work towards their coaching license, so when they have reached the end of their academy career they can even use their talents as a coach. “We’re not only developing future players, but the future coaches and directors that will keep this program going,” Coach Amaya said. Many kids from their program have been able to leverage their soccer abilities to pursue an education at schools including The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, University of the Incarnate Word, Southern Methodist University, Houston Baptist University and others. For more information on the RGV FC Toros’ MLS Next Academy, visit rgvfcyouthacademy.com. Footnote: As of the date of interview for this article, there have been two new RGV FC Academy players who have signed USL Academy contracts and joined the Toros main roster: Jose Angel Luna, a 16-year old from Weslaco and Gael Gonzalez, an 18-year old from Palmview. This brings the total number of rostered USL Academy players — all native to the Rio Grande Valley — to three.




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