July / August 2024 - RGVision Magazine

Page 1

Special Delivery

Dr. Rene I. Luna and staff provide world class expert healthcare to women in the Rio Grande Valley p.34


A pediatric therapy center founded by three remarkable women. p.38


Radio and television throughout the Rio Grande Valley. p.74


The local gaming scene boasts one of the world’s best. p.80

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Matthew 5:16 “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

As the warmth of summer graces our beautiful Rio Grande Valley, it is with great excitement and pride that we present to you the July/August 2024 issue of RGVision Magazine. Each edition is a journey, and this issue takes a deep dive into the life and achievements of a remarkable individual in our community, Dr. Rene Luna, MD.

Dr. Luna is not just a physician; he is a visionary whose commitment to healthcare excellence and patient advocacy has significantly elevated the medical landscape in our region. His story is one of dedication, innovation, and compassion— qualities that resonate deeply with our mission here at RGVision. Through his work, Dr. Luna exemplifies what it means to serve, heal, and inspire.

This issue, enriched with inspiring articles and enlightening features, aims not only to tell stories but to celebrate the very essence of what makes our community extraordinary. From groundbreaking medical advancements to heartwarming tales of personal triumph, we strive to bring you content that uplifts and educates.

As we step into the bustling days of summer, let us take a moment to reflect on the stories that shape us. Let’s embrace the power of knowledge and the strength of our community ties. We hope this issue, featuring Dr. Rene Luna, MD, inspires you to seek out and celebrate the everyday heroes among us. Thank you for your continued support and enthusiasm. Enjoy the read, and here’s to a summer filled with inspiration, growth, and community spirit!


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 copies across the Rio Grande Valley. The RGVision office is located at 100 E. Nolana Suite 130 McAllen, TX 78504.















Cynthia Ybarra

James Walker

Port of Brownsville

Sam Garcia

Dr. Gina Rinehart

Valley Baptist Medical Center

John Brush

Elva M. Cerda

Claudia Chanin


Bryan Kirk

Rafael Mendoza-Farias Jr.

Bill Hill

Caroline Waldrip

Thom Denton

Maria Gamba

Steven Hughes

Bárbara Delgado

James Hord

Aaron Garcia

Juan Cantu

Jaime Villarreal

Josh Elias

Pablo Coronado WRITERS

Gladys Porter Zoo

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.



2024 VOLUME 16 ISSUE 4


Dr. Rene I. Luna and staff provide world class expert healthcare to women in the Rio Grande Valley. SPECIAL DELIVERY


Ensuring Safety & Security

pg 10

Upholding Campus Safety

pg 12

Record-Breaking Streak

pg 16

Commercial Buildings

pg 20

Search Engine Optimization

pg 22

Improving with Technology

pg 24

Empowering Our Community

pg 28


A pediatric therapy center founded by three remarkable women.


Radio and television throughout the Rio Grande Valley.


The local gaming scene boasts one of the world’s best.


Maternal Care

pg 42

Braces Treatment

pg 46

Excelling in Othopedics

pg 50

Unleashing Confidence

pg 52

The Nest

pg 54

Oncology Navigation

pg 56

Life After Dark

pg 60

Building Community

pg 64

Joys of Travel

pg 68

Wildlife Experiences

pg 70

Home-Building Industry

pg 76

Drought Dries Up South Texas

pg 82


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.



PSJA ISD Continues Enhancing Its School Safety Arsenal

Back-to-school preparations are underway, and health and safety remain a top priority at Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD (PSJA ISD). With the support of a $8 million grant, PSJA ISD leaders have continued numerous actions and made ongoing investments to ensure school safety is at the forefront during the 20242025 school year.

As the second-largest school district in the Rio Grande Valley, serving over 30,000 students and more than 43 campuses, PSJA ISD continues to seek ways to provide safe and secure environments for all students and staff.

Among the latest investments and enhancements are the establishment of a new PSJA ISD School Safety & Security Center in Alamo, the incorporation of the PSJA Guardians, the installation of shatter-resistant window film districtwide, and the implementation of NightLock devices at all campuses. Additionally, PSJA ISD has invested in an advanced weapons detection system

through Evolv Express that uses artificial intelligence and sensor technology to detect threats.

According to PSJA ISD Chief of Police Rolando Garcia, these are part of the many efforts taken districtwide to keep schools safer and empower teachers to bring the focus back to education so that learning, development, and the well-being of children are at the center of the school day.

"At PSJA, the safety of our students and staff is our top priority. We exceed typical school district standards by enhancing the training of the PSJA Police and Security Department," shared PSJA Chief Rolando Garcia. "Our officers engage in continuous training on various topics, including injury response, crisis negotiation and weapons handling, to ensure they are fully prepared for any situation."

With over 30 years of experience in law enforcement, Chief Garcia helped establish PSJA ISD's first police department during the 2019-2020 school year, setting a

high standard for safety and security within the district.

As part of these efforts, the district opened its first PSJA ISD School Safety & Security Center in Alamo in the spring of 2024, now serving as the new headquarters for the PSJA Police and Security Departments. The facility is equipped with the latest tools and equipment, including a centralized Command Conference Room and a Training Room for the district’s Police & Security staff. The partnership between PSJA and various law enforcement agencies highlights the district's commitment to comprehensive safety training programs conducted in this new facility.

Launched at the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year, the PSJA Guardian Program has significantly strengthened the district's safety measures by stationing armed, trained officers at all 27 elementary schools to ensure the safety and security of students and staff. These Guardians work closely with the PSJA Police Department, participating in joint operational tactics and planning. They must undergo rigorous psychological evaluations and background checks, obtain licenses to carry certifications, and complete extensive training.

"When PSJA undertakes new initiatives, they are carried out with strategic planning and purpose," said PSJA Superintendent Dr. Alejandro Elias. "Our commitment to protecting our students and staff is unwavering. They are our priority and we are committed to enhancing safety and security measures at all schools."

PSJA ISD's safety arsenal includes NightLock devices on all classroom doors, providing effective barricades during an emergency. Through the latest implementation of shatter-resistant window film at all campus and facility windows, PSJA ISD aims to further delay entry through glass doors and windows, giving law enforcement more time to respond.

"We want our parents to know that when they choose to enroll their children at PSJA ISD, we take that trust very seriously and are doing everything we can to provide safe and secure learning environments," said Superintendent Dr. Elias.

PSJA ISD is an open enrollment school district welcoming pre-K through 12th grade students living anywhere in the Rio Grande Valley. Registration is still open for the 2024-2025 school year.

To learn more, visit psjaisd.us/whypsja.


Advanced weapons detection system.

Installing Night Lock devices in the doors of all classrooms districtwide.

Currently in the process of protecting windows and doors of all buildings with shatter-resistant film.

Enhancing Video Surveillance for schools and district facilities; and Districtwide launch of STOPit, an anonymous online reporting tool for students, staff, and parents.

Visitor screening and registration through the Raptor Visitor Management System at all schools.

Campus checks and inspections by PSJA ISD Police K9 Officers.

Adding District Safety & Security Committee that includes tri-city law enforcement representatives, parents, staff, and School Board Members.

Continuing the use of Crisis/Emergency Response Teams at every campus.

Training of staff on campus safety procedures.

Hands-on training for PSJA Police and Security Department officers on numerous topics such as weapons, crisis negotiation, injury response, and active shooter, to name a few.

Increasing the number of PSJA Police Officers.

Scheduling Mandatory Drills.

Districtwide Interior & Exterior Building Safety Audits.

Developing Campus Threat Assessment Teams.

Establishing access control procedures with single access points, locked instruction room doors, and exterior door locks.

Installing Stop the Bleed kits in all classrooms districtwide.

For more information on PSJA ISD’s school safety efforts, visit psjaisd.us/safety.


Texas Southmost College's Hybrid Security Model and Award-Winning Emergency Preparedness Efforts

Rescue Task Force (RTF) members assembled during the full-scale exercise (FSE) on March 1, 2023, comprising law enforcement officers and paramedics. It marked the first inclusion of an RTF in such an exercise within the local area.

One of a college's most crucial responsibilities is ensuring the security of its students, faculty and staff. It requires significant effort from public safety experts who analyze situations, develop plans, coordinate exercises and maintain constant vigilance to uphold campus safety.

Texas Southmost College (TSC) Trustees and Administration used strategy-based experience to create an interagency community-based policing methodology. This hybrid security model includes local, state, and federal law enforcement along with a private security company. The methodology includes the use of an incident command system (ICS) to organize, train, and equip all stakeholders on emergency response to the college.

To test the efficiency of communication between these entities, TSC Emergency Management Coordinator Nathan Flores led a full-scale multijurisdictional active attack exercise with surrounding local, state, and federal partner agencies. In recognition of his leadership in these exercises, Flores received the Statewide Collaborative Community Partnership Award of the School Safety Spotlight Program from the Texas School Safety Center.

"Nathan's dedication to emergency preparedness is superlative," said Keila Tuttle, Safety and Risk Management Director of Operations. "He strives to ensure the college and all stakeholders are prepared for any emergent situation. His level of dedication is depicted in the full-scale exercise Nathan led. He spent countless hours planning and coordinating not only the

Texas Southmost College Emergency Management Coordinator Nathan Flores chaired the roundtable discussion during the tabletop exercise (TTX) on July 13, 2022. The exercise involved a diverse group of community stakeholders who participated in both the TTX and the subsequent full-scale exercise (FSE).

full-scale exercise but also the planning meetings with law enforcement that led to the execution of the fullscale exercise."

"In this event, we planned to assess our communication, coordination, and incident command system, and although every agency participating has their own response plan, the goal was to assess our inter-agency response overall," Tuttle continued.

After countless hours of gathering input from participating internal and external community partners and incorporating guidelines from the nationally recognized Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program, Flores analyzed the information and used it to develop the active attack exercise. It was a collaborative effort, beginning as a tabletop exercise involving discussions with senior agency leadership and stakeholder planning, where he collected additional information and viewpoints.

“As the emergency management coordinator, a

campus-focused active attack training exercise is a transformative opportunity for like-minded internal and external stakeholders regarding the overall safety enhancement of our campus community," Flores said. "I had the wonderful opportunity to facilitate the active attack tabletop exercise and the subsequent active attack full scale exercise which exemplify the power of a collaborative community partnership.”

"Through this exercise, both TSC and first responders gained valuable insight into the strengths and areas of improvement for all," said TSC President Dr. Jesus Roberto Rodriguez. "The exercise made for a stronger response from the college and community in the event of a catastrophic emergency. Without our community partners dedication to the collaborative execution of this project with the college, the ‘area of improvement’ would have gone unnoticed, leaving the college vulnerable. Our response to emergencies is stronger because of the college and our partners’ efforts."

During the full-scale exercise (FSE) on March 1, 2023, role players from the FSE contact team represented six responding entities who engaged with the attacker. It marked the first local instance of contracted security and law enforcement personnel being integrated together into such an exercise. Before the exercise, both groups had undergone Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) or similar training.


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Port of Brownsville Climbs to Top 50 Ranking for Cargo Movement in U.S.

by Port of Brownsville | photo provided

According to unaudited reports, traffic at the Port of Brownsville recorded robust vessel activity in 2023, with 2,561 vessel calls, signaling a 46% increase from the previous year's total of 1,754.

The Port of Brownsville's record-breaking streak continues as it rose to 50th position in the nation among 150 maritime ports for the movement of waterborne cargo, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 2022 Annual Report.

Throughout 2022, the port's waterways handled 9.1 million tons of cargo, an increase from 2021's 8.9 million tons. The new numbers pushed the port from the 55th position to the 50th on the list.

This upward trend continued throughout 2023 as total cargo tonnage at the port rose to 17.8 million tons, up 17% from 15.2 million tons in 2022, according to unaudited reports for FY 2023. Waterborne cargo accounted for approximately 12.3 million tons, while non-waterborne cargo totaled 5.5 million tons.

Leading commodities at the Port of Brownsville include steel, liquid bulk products, wind energy components and various aggregates. Traffic at the port recorded robust vessel activity in 2023 with 2,561 vessel calls, signaling a 46% increase from the previous year's total of 1,754.

"Climbing to the 50th position of our nation's top maritime ports is a major accomplishment. These larger cargo volumes mean big business for the region and the State of Texas," said Interim Port Director and CEO William Dietrich. "As we anticipate continued growth, we are committed to enhancing our infrastructure and expanding future opportunities at the port."

Strategically located at the intersection of key shipping lanes linking the United States and Mexico, the port has been a vital gateway for international trade since it opened in 1936.

Currently underway at the port, the Brazos Island Harbor Channel Improvement project will deepen the 17-mile-long Brownsville ship channel from 42 to 52 feet to accommodate larger vessels with heavier loads and enhance navigational safety. Also, the port's 118-acre industrial business park, currently in its construction phase, is attracting diverse industries, strengthening its commitment to bring good-paying jobs to the region.

Furthermore, Rio Grande LNG's 984-acre facility at the port is in progress. The development entails natural gas liquefaction for export to international markets, promising significant economic benefits for the region, state, and nation. The construction of this facility alone is expected to create over 5,000 jobs in the area and is projected to provide an increase in gross domestic product, estimated to reach $6 billion in Cameron County, $23 billion in Texas, and up to $35 billion across the United States, according to the company.


The Port of Brownsville is the premier ship recycling and ship-building port in the United States and a rising player in the energy sector. Rio Grande LNG's facility is under construction, marking the largest capital investment in the state. As the only deep-water seaport directly on the U.S.-Mexico border, the Port of Brownsville spans 40,000 acres, making it the country's largest land-owning public port authority. It transships more steel into Mexico than any other U.S. port.

As the major multimodal transportation hub for the Rio Grande Valley and northern Mexico, the Port of Brownsville supports significant investment opportunities and job creation. Port activities contribute over $2 billion to the regional economy, $3 billion to the Texas economy, and result in more than 51,000 jobs statewide.

For more information, visit portofbrownsville.com.




Insights from Sam Garcia, an Architect in South Texas

In today's competitive business landscape, creating commercial buildings that balance aesthetics, functionality, and budget is essential. As an architect with years of experience in South Texas, I've learned that designing cost-effective commercial buildings requires a blend of creativity, strategic planning, and deep industry knowledge. Here's how architects can achieve this balance while delivering high-quality, budget-friendly designs.


Incorporating energy-efficient architectural design is one of the best ways to ensure long-term cost savings for clients. This involves integrating intelligent technologies and sustainable materials that reduce energy consumption, such as:

· Installing solar panels for renewable energy

· Incorporating passive solar design to maximize natural light and heat

· Utilizing high-quality insulation materials

· Choosing energy-efficient HVAC systems


Selecting suitable materials is key to minimizing costs while maintaining structural integrity and visual appeal. Sustainable, locally sourced materials reduce transportation costs and align with eco-friendly building standards like LEED certification. Common, cost-effective materials include:

· Pre-engineered steel frames

· Recycled concrete or brick

· Composite cladding panels


Prefabricated and modular construction methods can significantly reduce project timelines and costs by minimizing on-site labor and waste. Designing modular

Tres Lagos Community Center.

components in the architectural planning stage allows builders to create standardized sections that can be efficiently assembled, leading to quicker project completions.


Space efficiency is crucial in commercial architectural design. Optimizing layouts to reduce unnecessary square footage while maintaining functionality can save clients on construction and operating costs. Key space-saving strategies include:

· Open-concept layouts that maximize usable space

· Multifunctional rooms that serve dual purposes

· Strategic positioning of core facilities like bathrooms and kitchens


Building Information Modeling (BIM) and virtual reality walkthroughs are powerful tools for refining designs and identifying potential issues before construction starts. By streamlining the architectural design process through BIM, architects can reduce change orders and delays, thus saving clients time and money.


Effective collaboration with engineers, contractors, and clients is not just a process but a cornerstone of successful

architectural design. Regular communication and mutual understanding not only minimize misunderstandings but also prevent costly changes down the line. As a South Texas architect, I've found that maintaining strong relationships with local contractors leads to efficient coordination during construction. Architects can make their clients feel valued and integral to the design process by emphasizing the importance of each stakeholder's role.


A commercial building designed for adaptability can help businesses expand without costly renovations. This includes:

· Open floor plans that can accommodate layout changes

· Movable partition walls

· Scalable infrastructure for future technology integration

Architects can design cost-effective commercial buildings by leveraging energy-efficient technologies, modular construction, and space optimization. Emphasizing collaboration and long-term planning ensures clients receive structures that align with their financial goals while remaining sustainable and functional. With the right architectural design strategies, any commercial building project can succeed within budget.

Tres Lagos Amphitheater.


What is the Role of SEO in Web Design

In the fast-paced digital age, having a well-designed website is crucial for any business aiming to establish a robust online presence. However, a stunning design alone isn’t enough; it must be complemented with effective SEO (Search Engine Optimization) strategies. The synergy

between design and rank ultimately drives traffic and ensures a website’s success. In this blog, we will explore the essential role of SEO in web design and provide valuable insights for those researching and learning about this critical aspect of digital marketing.


SEO, or search engine optimization, enhances a website to improve its visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs). When web design and SEO intersect, they create a powerful combination that enhances user experience and boosts a site’s ranking. Integrating SEO from the beginning of the web design process is crucial to ensure the site is optimized for users and search engines.


User Experience (UX): Good design is fundamental to user engagement. A website that is easy to navigate and visually appealing keeps users on the site longer, reducing bounce rates and signaling to search engines that the site is valuable.

Mobile Friendliness: With the increasing number of mobile users, having a responsive design that works seamlessly across all devices is essential. Mobile-friendly websites rank higher in search results, as search engines prioritize sites that offer a good user experience on mobile devices.

Site Speed: A website’s loading time significantly impacts user experience and SEO. Slow-loading sites frustrate users and are penalized by search engines. Optimizing images, using efficient coding practices, and leveraging caching techniques can improve site speed.

Navigation: Intuitive navigation enhances user experience by making it easy for visitors to find what they need. Clear, well-structured menus and internal links help users and allow search engines to crawl the site more effectively.


URL Structure: SEO-friendly URLs are short, descriptive, and include relevant keywords. They help search engines understand the content of the pages and improve clickthrough rates from the SERPs.

Schema Markup: Implementing structured data, or schema markup, helps search engines better understand your site’s content.

This can lead to rich snippets in search results, enhancing visibility and click-through rates.

Website Builder with SEO: When choosing a website builder, looking for one that supports SEO is essential. Features such as customizable meta tags, alt text for images, and integrated analytics are crucial for optimizing your site.


High-quality, relevant content is the backbone of effective SEO. Design elements should highlight and structure content to make it easily readable and engaging. Integrating keywords within the content is essential for improving search engine ranking without compromising the user experience.


Meta Tags: Title tags, meta descriptions, and headers are vital components of onpage SEO. They provide search engines with information about the content of each page and influence click-through rates.

Alt Text: Optimizing images with descriptive alt text improves accessibility and enhances SEO by providing search engines with additional context.

Internal Linking: Effective internal linking strategies help distribute link equity throughout the site and make indexing pages more accessible to search engines.


SEO is not a one-time task; it requires regular updates and maintenance. Design tweaks, content updates, and technical optimizations should be part of an ongoing SEO strategy. Tools like Google Analytics and Search Console can help monitor performance and identify areas for improvement.

Integrating SEO into web design is essential for creating a visually appealing and highly functional site. Businesses can ensure longterm success in the digital landscape by prioritizing design and rank. Whether you are a seasoned professional or just starting your web design and SEO journey, understanding these principles is critical to building a robust online presence.


As digital technology evolves, internet service providers must maintain a balance between implementing the latest innovations to maximize service capabilities and preserving affordability for the consumer. Amongst the contemporary internet delivery technologies are fiber optic and advanced wireless systems. Older wireless systems and cable internet delivery make up the industry's outgoing but still commonplace systems.

VTX1, a South Texas-based telecommunications company, is dedicated to ensuring the technological evolution of the region's internet capabilities through the improvement of delivery systems. In 2023, the company began the deployment of Tarana ngFWA (next-generation fixed wireless access), an advancement in wireless communication technology that provides faster and more reliable internet service.

The need for this technology emerged with the COVID-19 pandemic and the increased strain on internet provider service as world functions shifted online.

"As the demand for broadband grew and the pandemic put the internet on high gear, we began to see its limits being pushed. Two things needed improvement. The bandwidth or speed needed a dramatic increase," said Sebastian Ivanisky, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at VTX1.

The new Tarana technology is revolutionary for its ability to operate in areas with signal interference and impediment. Traditional wireless-based internet service is troubled by its inability to function in the presence of obstructions. This means that the transmitting tower and the receiver that receives the tower's signal must have a direct, unblocked path between each other.

"If your home or business was surrounded by trees, then your chances of getting reliable services went down," said Ivanisky.

However, with Tarana's wireless system, scattered and distorted signals can be reassembled, providing highspeed wireless internet of up to 400 Mbps (megabits per second) in places where reliable internet service was once unavailable due to obstructions.

"Tarana equipment is able to sound the environment and cancel out bad signals from good signals. Even signals that are bouncing on objects like billboards or buildings. It is able to reconstruct all these pieces of signal from different sources and put it back together.

We have begun to use it as our standard wireless deployment and we have yet to find an area where we can say it is not needed," said Ivanisky.

Despite its investments in technology, VTX1 strives to create accessible, priced internet services. The company does so by determining which internet delivery method is the most appropriate for an area.

"We primarily focus on fiber optic and fixed wireless service. The choice to make one technology available over the other comes down to feasibility. The most common factor affecting the decision is customer density. Most typical deployment involves running fiber along the main areas of a community, like downtown. Followed by locating fixed wireless equipment on a tall structure or

tower nearby in order to serve the more rural areas or residences outside the city limits."

Since fiber is typically the most capable but expensive technology to install, its use is most justifiable in populous, concentrated urban areas with a large consumer base that makes the price of the service affordable. However, in broad areas with a scattered population, fixed wireless technology that can easily reach a vast number of consumers becomes the most appropriate, maintaining affordability.

"We believe in using the right tool for the right job. There is a strong push for fiber-only networks in today's market. Mainly driven by the availability of government funding. It is easy to operate an expensive network when someone else is footing the bill. That's not to say we would not take advantage of funding, especially when this allows us to pass the savings on to our customers. But fiber in lowdensity areas is too expensive, and we don't believe it is the best use of tax dollars."

In the years to come, VTX1 aspires to continue using technological innovations to best serve South Texas and provide competitive internet coverage.

"VTX1 is committed to stay on the cutting edge of technology. We were one of the firsts in the country to roll out Tarana, and we plan to continue ahead of the curve," said Ivanisky.

"VTX1 is committed to stay on the cutting edge of technology. We were one of the firsts in the country to roll out Tarana and we plan to continue ahead of the curve."
Sebastian Ivanisky, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at VTX1

Board-certified Obstetrician & Gynecologist

Board-certified Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery

Hospital Privileges

• Doctors Hospital at Renaissance

• Rio Grande Regional Hospital

• American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology (ACOG)

• American Medical Association (AMA)

• American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists (AAGL)

• Robotic Committee Member

• Hidalgo-Starr County Medical Society (HSCMS)

• Texas Institute for Robotic Surgery (TIRS)

• Texas Medical Association (TMA)

• Texas Rising Stars 2018-2020

• Texas Super Doctors 2021-2023



Prosperity Task Force Investments in Education and Training Reinvigorate Rio Grande Valley Economy

For years, when Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez would be interviewed for national television, he was forced to contend with the harsh reality of how the rest of the world views our community. Behind him, violent images of incidents across the border with salacious text about issues that do not reflect our everyday reality were superimposed on the screen. Despite Rio Grande

Valley cities often landing within the top 10 safest cities in Texas—U.S. News and World Report just named McAllen the 48th best place to live—outsiders are dead set on painting a half-baked and calculated picture of our home. Cortez took matters into his own hands at the start of 2020 when he created the Hidalgo Prosperity Task Force to tackle our most pressing problem—poverty—by

by María
| photos by Juan Cantu

empowering our community to create our opportunities.

"We have formed a coalition of nonprofits, cities, counties, businesses, to accomplish three things: to serve the people in poverty, to move the people out of poverty by creating human capital and to attract investment and jobs to the area," said Cortez. "Many of our college graduates and people that we have trained and educated have left the RGV because the jobs are not here. So, if we're not good at attracting jobs and investment, then all of our efforts go to naught."

The task force is fueled by the following sobering statistics: over a quarter of Hidalgo County residents live under the poverty line—almost double the statewide

Richard Cortez, Hidalgo County Judge, Joaquin Spamer, CEO of CIL, and Gabe Puente, CEO of RGVision.

number—and less than 70% of the Valley has a high school diploma or higher, falling far behind the 91% national average.

With over 160 members, the Prosperity Task Force team's expertise spans 14 sectors related to finance, higher education, career counseling, and more. The mentorship program they manage will serve as a conduit to filter and introduce individuals to preexisting personal development initiatives led by over 25 partners like Food Bank RGV, South Texas College, and El Milagro Clinic. Uniting successful partner programs in all 22 Hidalgo County cities under one broader network, like the Prosperity Task Force, will ultimately facilitate crosssector collaboration and innovation to maximize each organization's reach.

The COVID-19 pandemic created an unfortunate two-year delay in getting the ambitious initiative off the ground. Still, this past Dec., Prosperity Task Force CoLead Thomas García was finally able to launch the first trial run of the program, 'Pathways to Prosperity', with five mentors and mentees. "It begins with a referral process in which we identify residents who are living below or at the poverty line, and we then place them on a pathway toward job placement while recognizing that every pathway is unique and individualized," said García. "Every single pathway, though, begins with career mentorship, so the mentor is a gateway for the resident to then access

more opportunities regarding wraparound services, job placement, support, professional development, and, of course, the social capital that that mentor brings to the table."

The successful pilot program formally concluded in April, allowing García to analyze the pathways' results, assess areas for improvement, and decentralize the structure so that it could be replicated by partner organizations across the county.

Because each pathway is specially tailored to the individual's needs and goals, the duration varies from person to person. Simple job search assistance can wrap up in just four weeks, but specialized vocational or educational training could take up to a few years. Additionally, beyond assisting in career development, several subgroups within the team employ professionals to address the mentee's needs regarding travel, food security, mental health, and housing.

While volunteers, mentors, and partner organizations are at the heart of the task force's rollout, businessmen like Joaquin Spamer, CEO of CIL, are the financial backbone. "I think we need the world to see all of us united, and that's one of the biggest advantages of the Prosperity Task Force," said Spamer. "What the judge has been trying to do is get everybody to work together toward the same goal—bringing more industry and better-paid jobs to the Valley—and I think that thanks to his leadership, we're getting there."

With the trial period out of the way, the Prosperity Task Force is officially projected to launch this August. Soon, the program will be open to all Hidalgo County residents— regardless of immigration status—and gladly welcomes any volunteer willing to share their unique skills or simply lend a helping hand. "Just by showing that you care and love those around you, we're creating an environment that's conducive to what we want to be: a wholesome, clean community in which people can raise their families, conduct a business, or have a job that gives them a happy life," said Cortez.

Our community may fall victim to the misconceptions of foreigners who've never even visited the Valley but the Prosperity Task Force presents an opportunity for us to reclaim control of our narrative. Cortez's ultimate hope is that through genuine collaboration, Hidalgo County will attract investors and create new opportunities for everyone to thrive. We don't need to correct every exaggerated lie about our home to prove our worth; instead, we can help uplift our neighbors out of poverty and cut through old statistics at the root.

Special Delivery

Dr. Rene I. Luna and Staff Provide World Class Expert Healthcare to Women in the Rio Grande


Dr. Rene Luna wasn’t born in the Rio Grande Valley, but there’s no doubt that his roots in the community are deep.

Dr. Luna, who has practiced medicine in the Rio Grande Valley since 2015, is considered an expert in Minimally Invasive Gynecology Surgery and a compassionate physician who is one of the best in his field.

Born in Houston and raised in Corpus Christi, Dr. Luna would spend his summers and family vacations in the Valley, where many extended family members still live. After graduating high school, he attended the University of Texas-Pan American, earning his bachelor’s in biology.

After earning his undergraduate degree, he received medical training from the Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara and New York Medical College before pursuing his medical residency at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore University Hospital.

Dr. Luna always knew he wanted to be a doctor and serve the people in the Rio Grande Valley. Still, he didn’t figure out which area of medicine that would be until he was a

medical student studying in a New York City hospital.

“As a medical student, you rotate and practice through all the medical disciplines,” he said. “When I did my OB/ GYN rotation, I found myself not wanting to leave the hospital. I didn’t want to stop working. It was fast-paced, and I liked the fast pace. I just fell in love with women’s health, fell in love with delivering babies and taking care of pregnant moms and operating.”

As a medical resident at one of the country’s top OB/ GYN programs, Dr. Luna was introduced to advanced surgical technology and techniques by some of the best OBGYNs in the field.

One of Dr. Luna’s influences was Dr. Angela Gonzalez at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore University Hospital in New York City.

“I was a lone medical student from the Valley, and she believed in me,” he said. “She saw how determined I was and gave me extra rotations, and that helped me get my foot in the door.”

“I am very proud that I can bring awareness of what we are doing, here in South Texas, to a national level. This just shows that down here in the Rio Grande Valley, we can compete on a national level.”
Dr. Rene I. Luna, OB/GYN

Dr. Luna remembers one incident of professionalism when he was performing surgery with Dr. Gonzalez when Dr. Gonzalez learned that her father had suffered a heart attack. While most would have panicked and been consumed with worry, Dr. Luna said she did something that deeply impacted him.

“She stopped what she was doing, and for a few seconds, she cried,” he said. “Then she stopped, dried her eyes, and said, ‘OK Rene, we have to stay professional. We have a job to do. Let’s take care of this lady, and then we can grieve for our family.’ That blew my mind.”

Another of his mentors was Dr. Dennis Kuo, who practiced GYN oncology in New York and taught Dr. Luna all he knew about precision robotic surgery.

“He was a complete badass and stone-cold in the face of danger,” Dr. Luna said. “He taught me to remain in control of a surgery even when things were out of control. He taught me precision, discipline, and readiness. He brought the best out of me as a surgeon.”

His mentors not only taught him well but also brought out the best in him. In 2010, when he was still a resident, Dr. Luna was recognized by the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Women's Health Albert Einstien College of Medicine Montefiore Medical Center in New York City with the Medical Student Teaching Award. Three years later, he was recognized again with the Top Resident Teaching Award.

Dr. Luna finished his OB/GYN residency in 2013 and went to work in Houston at Plaza OB/GYN Associates in the Medical Center, where he was recognized as one of

the top physicians in Houston for two years in a row.

He remained in Houston until 2015, when he decided to return home. The recognition of Dr. Luna’s medical expertise and quality care followed him to the Valley.

Since 2019, Dr. Luna has been recognized as one of the top doctors in Texas, and he was recognized by Texas Monthly Magazine as a rising star in OBGYN medicine and Texas Super Doctor. Dr. Luna also has awards from Marquis Who's Who and was named one of the Top Doctors in America.

“I love to treat my patients as if they were my family. I put my heart and soul into taking care of them,” he said, adding that recognizing his work makes him only want to do and be better. “I am very passionate about performing surgery. It is my art, and I am proud that I have developed this skill to be one of the best in the country.”

Earlier this year, Dr. Luna was recognized for completing his 1,000th robotic surgical case at DHR Health Women’s Hospital. This accomplishment in such a short period makes Dr. Luna one of the most experienced OB/GYN surgeons in Texas. He travels the country teaching and training surgeons in Robotic Surgery.

“I am very proud of this achievement,” he said. “I am very proud that I can bring awareness of what we are doing, here in South Texas, to a national level. This just shows that down here in the Rio Grande Valley, we can compete on a national level.”

Learn more about Dr. Rene Luna and his expertise at reneilunamd.com.



A Pediatric Therapy Center Founded by Three Remarkable Women

"Where children are not things to be molded, but are people to be unfolded."


"Family approach, whole-child care, and working as one team" are all words you can expect to see used to describe Milestones Pediatric Therapy Center. Founded by three remarkable women, Milestones seeks to serve its patients with the utmost care and respect.

Since its founding in 2000, Milestones has grown from a team of three to a facility with over 100 employees. Cofounder Jennifer Griffith reflects, "We felt that there was a need for a therapy clinic that would serve children of all abilities with the most compassionate and innovative care anywhere in the Rio Grande Valley – we never anticipated the growth!"

Co-founder Misty Standard's background in speech pathology (focusing on swallow studies) allows her to make meaningful strides with her patients. She also has an undergraduate degree in health care administration and finance, helping Milestones run like a well-oiled machine. "In the beginning, it was an all-hands-on-deck

approach. I would see patients from 8-6 and then start my second full-time job of billing and collections at night. From the start, building this clinic has been a labor of love," Standard said.


The commitment from the founders in the early days still carries the clinic forward today. Co-founder Carmen Pagan, "Milestones is our 'baby' and we see each patient as our own family," she shared. "We truly believe in working in a collaborative atmosphere where each discipline learns and problem-solves together for the betterment of the child," Pagan said.

Patients can expect to have all disciplines of the clinic working on their behalf, including:

· Physical Therapy

· Occupational Therapy

· Speech Therapy

· Social Work

In addition, Milestones makes an effort to involve patients' family members as much as possible to provide the most comprehensive care for each child. "We believe

Through twenty four years of quality care, these incredible women have created a thriving practice while raising their own families. All three have raised their own families in the clinic and they see Milestones as an extension of each of their families.

that an integral part of the child's care team is the parent," notes Pagan. "Without them, we would not have a complete understanding of the child and how to best serve them."


As a lifelong learner, Griffith is committed to creating an atmosphere of perpetual growth among her staff. She does this through various mediums, including the Lunch and Learn program at Milestones. Once a month, staff members across disciplines bring sack lunches to the office and learn together about new techniques and innovations in pediatric rehabilitation.

Milestones leadership is passionate about training between disciplines in their ongoing education. "We believe our Occupational Therapists (OTs) have something to learn from our Physical Therapists (PTs) and our PTs something to learn from our Speech department and vice versa. When we all collaborate and learn from each other, we become stronger and more well rounded in our own disciplines, which in turn makes us a better asset to the children we serve," Griffith shared.

Matching her fellow co-founders' passion for continuous improvement, Pagan has also looked for every opportunity she can find for continued education. She is especially passionate about neurodevelopmental treatment and is certified in Neuro-Development Treatment Association (NDTA). Her passion for pursuing further education has led many of her staff members to follow in her footsteps and receive training in NDTA.

"I believe education and knowledge are meant to be shared. If I can teach other therapists and they go on to help even one patient, that's a win in my book," Pagan shared. Through collaborative learning like Lunch and Learn, Pagan models what it means to go the extra mile for every child they serve.


According to Griffith, their patients' parents are their strongest advocates, and much of their growth is due to their testimonies. Choking back tears, Standard remembers one patient who profoundly impacted her career. "Several years ago, we received a patient who had been told he would never speak or be able to swallow on his own," she shared. "My team and I were determined to make a difference in this little boy's life and committed to his family that we would do everything in our power to realize his potential." After years of unrelenting effort, he uttered his first phrase, "I love you," the first of 10 phrases he developed working at Milestones. He was even able to eat ice cream on his own, which was a lifelong dream, thanks to Standard's swallow work and the collaboration of the OT and PT departments.

Standard believes that through the team effort within the different departments, their therapists were able to "uncover how his systems interrelated with each other to create a comprehensive plan for wholebody growth." His parents are confident that without this all-encompassing approach, their son would not have reached the potential he was able to achieve at Milestones.

Through 24 years of quality care, these incredible women have created a thriving practice while raising their families. All three have raised their own families in the clinic, and they see Milestones as an extension of each of their families. Through the strong mentorship among staff members and the unrelenting commitment to each patient, Pagan, Griffith, and Standard embody the true qualities of La Jefa as they lead their staff to go above and beyond for each child. The Rio Grande Valley is a better place because of these three outstanding women and their profound work in the community.

Celebrate in Style

Welcome to Daisy's! Your one-stop shop for all your party, event, and floral needs. Find vibrant balloons and themed decor in our craft and party store. Our event and design store offers expert guidance and top-notch products for any celebration. Plus, our flower shop features premium silk flowers and custom arrangements at wholesale prices.

• High-quality balloons and themed party ware

• Unique seasonal decorations

• Expert event customization for weddings, quinceañeras, and more

• Premium silk flowers and greenery

• Wholesale prices and custom floral arrangements



South Texas Health System Hospitals in Edinburg and McAllen Support Growing Families

South Texas Health System has recently enjoyed record-breaking success in the Rio Grande Valley when it comes to maternal care. Along with record births at its maternity centers in Edinburg and McAllen, both facilities have added new accolades to their long history of achievements while providing individualized care for mothers, newborns and infants requiring intensive care.

"We just concentrate on having our patients and our babies safe every day," said Normalinda Aguirre, Director of Women's Services and Nurseries at STHS Edinburg. Both maternity centers are home to great amenities and large and welcoming suites for mothers in labor. Deliveries and recoveries take place in the same comfortable areas and surgical suites are available in the event of cesarean section deliveries. Patients move into larger suites after giving birth, with staff members committed to providing individualized postpartum care. Prior to delivery, expectant mothers also have the

option to enroll in Childbirth Education Classes or seek midwife consultations.

The Maternity Center at Edinburg performed a record number of births in 2023, delivering 1,189 babies to surpass its record from the previous year. Aguirre credits a patient-centered outlook for the increase, noting that social media and word-of-mouth have spread glowing testimonials.

"Our administrative leadership is very, very involved with our patients, and I think that makes a big impact," Aguirre said. "Patients tell me that they made a great choice and have no regrets."

STHS Edinburg and STHS McAllen both offer a familyoriented philosophy, providing tours for future patients and encouraging decisions that best support the personal needs of expectant mothers and their families. Staff also offer personalized check-ins in a process called leader rounding, which allows hospital managers

to engage in one-on-one conversations with patients.

"We take time out of our schedules to go see our patients," Aguirre said. "For the most part, I've noticed that they're very happy. Any pain that they go through in the labor process is out the window."

Several national awards attest to South Texas Health System’s sterling reputation. STHS Edinburg is the only hospital in the Rio Grande Valley to have received recognition as a Best Regional Hospital from the U.S. News & World Report from 2022-2024. Meanwhile, Both STHS Edinburg and STHS McAllen have received the Gynecologic Surgery Excellence Award from Healthgrades for five consecutive years, and each has been named a Healthgrades Five-Star Recipient in the practices of cesarean section deliveries, hysterectomies, and gynecology.

"Our patients tend to have a less painful stay," Aguirre said. "It helps to be recognized, and to have patients want to come here for these less invasive surgeries."

The hospitals at Edinburg and McAllen emphasize close cooperation. The Maternity Center at McAllen features a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for premature births and other urgent conditions, such as respiratory distress and hypoglycemia. STHS Edinburg, therefore, includes a special transport team to facilitate necessary transfers between facilities.

The NICU at STHS McAllen seeks to treat infants in critical condition and articulate their medical needs to families. Its staff members include nurses, nutritionists,

therapists, pharmacists, chaplains, and social workers, in addition to neonatal specialists.

"The services of the NICU are critical to families because they provide a foundation of education to the parents," said Graciela Moreno-Chavana, Director of Women's Services and Nurseries at STHS McAllen. "We strive to ensure these patients follow up with appointments and connect them to needed services."

The NICU has earned a Level III designation for its efforts in neonatal care. Moreno-Chavana notes that the hospital was the first NICU to open in the Rio Grande Valley. Its techniques have advanced throughout its forty-year history.

"Babies are now weaned off oxygen quicker so that ventilators can be removed sooner," Moreno-Chavana said. "This decreases complications, which can occur with high levels of oxygenation."

Each maternity center is confident that childbirth education will continue to improve maternity care throughout the state. Both report an increase in registrations for Childbirth Education Classes, hoping to equip the next generation of parents with optimal research-based practices.

"I'm proud to say that our team works very well together," Aguirre said. "We do our best to stabilize both mom and baby."

For more information about the Maternity Center at South Texas Health System McAllen and STHS Edinburg, visit southtexashealthsystem.com.

Honored to Be AMONG THE BEST


At South Texas Health System, your health is our purpose. It drives everything we do. That is why we are especially proud that South Texas Health System Edinburg was recognized as one of the nation’s Best Regional Hospitals by U.S. News & World Report. In addition to ranking in the Top 30 in the state, we are the only facility or system in the Rio Grande Valley to receive this recognition.

As a designated Level IV Trauma Center, accredited Chest Pain Center, and certified Stroke Center, South Texas Health System Edinburg, which doubled in size with the opening of its new patient tower in Summer 2022, serves the critical healthcare needs in our community.

Visit southtexashealthsystem.com/RGVpriority to learn more about South Texas Health System.


Award-Winning Company Capitalizes on Advancements in Orthodontics

Rodeo Dental is proud to be at the forefront of orthodontic innovation, offering advanced and supportive treatments in its 15 locations across the Rio Grande Valley. The company has earned national recognition for its dedication to patients and personalized approach to providing braces options.

“You go into our offices and evaluate exactly what you want to do with your teeth,” said Dr. Suliman Salman, D.M.D., M.S., a regional orthodontic director for Rodeo Dental. “We’ll tailor the treatment to you. That’s not like anyone else.”

Rodeo Dental offers traditional braces as well as clear aligners. Digital scanners assist in the construction of clear aligners, ensuring that patients receive customized treatments according to their orthodontic needs. These aligners represent a comfortable and non-invasive approach to orthodontic treatment, virtually invisible and demanding no dietary changes.

“Clear aligners are a good-looking alternative that are very, very effective,” Salman said. “You don’t have to change your lifestyle as much as you would with braces.”

Rodeo Dental is also committed to patients who prefer the advantages of traditional braces, such as their more affordable costs. Many patients also favor the stability of braces, which require less maintenance than clear aligners. Braces have grown more customizable in recent years, allowing orthodontists at Rodeo Dental to address specific dental issues rather than general realignment. Patients can, therefore, wear braces for shorter periods of time at lower costs, and many have the flexibility of adding or subtracting three-month increments from their desired timetable.

“What we take pride on is that every treatment is customized,” Salman said. “You don’t have to pay for more than what you need, and you don’t have to be in braces for longer than what you need. It’s customized time and money.”

Orthodontists at Rodeo Dental are proactive in holding group conferences, which allow them to review the latest available data in their field. Salman reports that one group within the company meets at least once every quarter and that orthodontists often

"You don’t have to pay for more than what you need, and you don’t have to be in braces for longer than what you need. It’s customized time and money."
Dr. Suliman Salman, D.M.D., M.S., regional orthodontic director for Rodeo Dental

submit specific case studies for discussion. Many of the company’s orthodontists attend annual meetings of statewide and national forums, such as the American Association of Orthodontists. Each office can, therefore, provide practical innovations for patients, making braces smaller, faster-working, and more comfortable today than in past years.

“Our doctors are always exchanging information, and that helps us learn a lot faster,” Salman said. “A doctor that joins Rodeo today learns all the techniques and all the knowledge in a matter of a few months.”

Rodeo Dental seeks to innovate not only its orthodontic treatments but also its understanding of the practice as a whole. Contemporary research suggests that dental health can prevent various medical concerns, elevating the significance of orthodontics in recent decades. Salman notes that sleep apnea is among the issues connected to orthodontic health.

“Day after day, we’re learning that breathing is related to how our mouth is structured,” Salman said. “The structure of the jaw is an integral part of our breathing apparatus, so it’s becoming more and more important.”

Modern food products have also become more acidic

and carbohydrate-based, leading to an increased risk of tooth decay and tooth loss. Rodeo Dental hopes to address these concerns by intentionally treating patients at younger ages. Salman notes that a growing number of elementary schoolers have sought orthodontic care at Rodeo Dental, adding that a healthy smile can impact the social development of children at large.

“The first thing we look at is if someone has a good smile,” Salman said. “Tooth movement is one of the most natural ways of making yourself look better. It has a lot more to do with our sociology and psychology than we actually know of.”

Rodeo Dental values the cosmetic and medical aspects of orthodontics equally, prioritizing patient satisfaction and relying on modern-day advances to serve them.

“What sold me on coming to work for Rodeo was that the treatment is tailored to patients’ needs,” Salman said. “We start understanding our instruments, our materials, and our patient population way better than anyone else who is practicing on their own.”

For more information about Rodeo Dental, visit rodeodental.com.



Edinburg Surgeons Embrace Decades of Medical Transformation

Bill Hill | photos by James Hord

Advanced orthopedic practices are among the signature services at Cornerstone Regional Hospital in Edinburg. Dr. Raul Marquez, M.D., the hospital's founder, board president, and Vice Chief of Staff, has worked for 26 years to set the standard for medical professionals throughout South Texas.

Marquez brought his vision of an acute care hospital to the Rio Grande Valley in 1994. He initially faced a challenge in recruiting physicians as partners. Still, he cooperated with several business experts to overcome the obstacles of hospital construction. The hospital was founded in 1998 and immediately attracted a full staff of specialists. Physicians at Cornerstone are now among its stockholding owners.

"At that time, there was no such thing as a hospital owned like that," Marquez said. "So I was lucky that I was able to build it."

Marquez specializes in orthopedic surgery, which treats deficiencies in muscles and bones. Cornerstone Regional Hospital has, therefore, earned a strong reputation for its groundbreaking orthopedic procedures, including arthritis surgery, joint reconstruction, hip and knee replacements, and rehabilitation for sports-related injuries.

"We deal with the entire musculoskeletal system," Marquez said. "It's basically directed to all populations, from pediatrics to seniors."

The field of orthopedics has changed substantially since the hospital's founding. One of the most significant technological advances is the development of robotic arthroscopic surgery, which utilizes a fiber-optic video camera inserted at the end of a flexible tube called an arthroscope. This method allows orthopedic surgeons to operate on joints with an HD view via a computer monitor.

"We have five different robotic systems in the hospital now," Marquez said. "We can operate through a camera and do arthroscopy on virtually any joint in the body."

The advancement of arthroscopy has allowed orthopedic surgeons to create smaller incisions than those used in past decades. Specialists insert the arthroscope in an opening roughly the size of a buttonhole, making orthopedic procedures less painful and time-consuming for patients.

"In the old days, patients with a total knee replacement would stay 10 days," Marquez said. "Then it went to seven days, then three days, and now we basically do them as outpatient surgeries. The stay is very short."

Marquez and his colleagues have embraced a leadership role by seeking accreditation in orthopedics. Cornerstone Regional Hospital has earned recognition as a Center of Excellence, inspiring the surrounding medical community members to pursue superior standards.

"We're applying for a second time to be a Center of

Excellence in orthopedics," Marquez said. "That's changed the landscape quite a bit, because now we have a lot of other hospitals and orthopedic surgeons doing the same."

The Leapfrog Group named Cornerstone as a Top Hospital in 2023, honoring the hospital’s commitment to the safety of its patients. The U.S. News & World Report has also recognized Cornerstone as a high-performing hospital for knee replacement. Marquez notes that patients are appreciative of the widespread progress in the field of orthopedics.

"We have a myriad of patients that are very thankful for their services," Marquez said. "We have people walking and dancing after staying at the hospital for two days, and they can get rid of their canes and walkers. It's very rewarding to see the patients satisfied."

Cornerstone hopes to increase its success by adding to its patient volume. The hospital is currently working to construct two additional operating rooms and shorten the waitlist for patients seeking surgery. The expansion goal represents a strategic response to the community's medical needs.

"Cornerstone keeps growing, and we hope to allow more doctors to operate there," Marquez said. "We've got to know how to grow intentionally, and not just for the sake of growing."

The hospital's expansion affects several cities near Edinburg, where growing populations demand rapid medical care progress. Cornerstone's exceptional record of technological adaptation demonstrates its ongoing dedication throughout the region.

"We have a good team," Marquez said. "Our hospital has an impact on the whole Rio Grande Valley."

For more information about Cornerstone Regional Hospital, visit cornerstoneregional.com.


Brief Guide to the Denture Types, Benefits, and Considerations

One of life’s greatest luxuries lies in the simple act of eating, and having a healthy smile plays a vital role in our ability to do so.

Did you know that wearing traditional dentures can reduce life expectancy by 10 years? A study published in Geriatrics and Gerontology stated that this may be because people with dentures have a weaker bite and avoid healthy, sometimes crunchy, foods.

Traditional denture wearers may also experience irritated gums, blisters, chronic ear pain, headaches, and difficulty chewing, which can lead to indigestion and

nutritional deficiencies. Fortunately, implant-supported dentures can improve quality of life.

Fortunately, implant-supported dentures can improve quality of life.

Implant-supported dentures can help restore the joy of eating, facilitating social connections and creating lasting sensory experiences. They offer improved stability, functionality, and bite force compared to traditional removable dentures, which may be unstable and uncomfortable.

Fixed implant dentures, also known as (All-ON-4®),



or permanent dentures, are securely attached to dental implants that are surgically placed in the jaw. The patient cannot remove these dentures. They can be done in just one day, and regardless of any remaining teeth, a person can walk into the office and leave with a full set of teeth.

Benefits: Excellent stability, much like natural teeth.

Durability: They are made from strong, quality materials; they are built to last! Aesthetics: They provide a natural appearance and help maintain facial structure.

Efficiency: Only four implants are needed to support a full arch (or to replace all uppers or lowers).

Considerations: They are typically more expensive due to the surgical procedure and materials, but they are a longterm investment in oral health.

Maintenance: Requires yearly dental visits for cleaning and maintenance.

Removable or snap-on dentures snap onto dental implants but can be removed for cleaning and maintenance. These types of dentures require a healing period, during which the patient wears a traditional denture while the implants heal (integrate). Once the implants have been integrated, the snap-on dentures can be fabricated and “snapped” on.

Benefits: Less expensive than the fixed implant dentures, but you still get the benefit of significantly stronger bite force.

Comfort: more comfortable than traditional dentures, providing better support and less irritation.

Considerations: Stability-While more stable than traditional dentures, they are not as secure as fixed implant dentures.

Maintenance: Both the dentures and the implants require proper cleaning and care; the snap parts may need to be replaced more often than with a fixed prosthesis.


Selecting the appropriate type of implant denture depends on several factors, such as the oral health condition of your jawbone and gums.

A thorough exam by a dental professional can determine if you need preparatory procedures, such as a bone graft.

Budget: Consider the initial cost and long-term benefits. While implant dentures can be expensive, they often provide better value over time due to their durability and reduced maintenance.

Lifestyle: Your lifestyle and personal preferences play a significant role. For example, fixed implant dentures might be the best choice if you prefer a non-removable option.

Comfort and convenience: Evaluate how important it is for you to have removable vs non-removable dentures.

Removable options offer easier cleaning, while fixed options offer more stability.

Implant dentures offer a reliable and effective solution for tooth replacement, enhancing both function and appearance. Options range from fixed to removable dentures. The highest-quality implant dentures are completed through a team approach that includes the oral surgeon, a dental laboratory, and a dentist. Consult with your dentist to determine the best option tailored to your needs and ensure a healthier, more confident smile!


Offering Comprehensive Maternity Care

by Valley Baptist Medical Center | photos provided

Valley Baptist Health System has taken a new approach to defining the labor and delivery experience for mothers and families throughout the Rio Grande Valley.

Miriam Longoria, director of women's services at Valley Baptist-Brownsville, said enhanced comfort coupled with comprehensive, highly specialized care provided by the region's most experienced labor and delivery teams are all hallmarks of the Nest at Valley Baptist Health System.

“At the Nest at Valley Baptist Health System, we’re here to help you feel safe and comfortable from the moment you step into one of our labor and delivery units in Brownsville or Harlingen,” she said.

Valley Baptist recognizes that preparing for a positive birth experience starts well before delivery. To help prepare for delivery and beyond, Valley Baptist offers several educational classes to ensure expecting mothers and families have access to the latest childbirth information and education.

“Childbirth and breastfeeding preparation classes are truly one of a kind at Valley Baptist. Classes are free and

open to all parents, regardless of where they choose to deliver their babies,” Longoria said. “While we would love the honor of delivering everyone’s baby, we recognize that we have a service to provide to our community and open our doors to anyone who is looking for additional information and education to better prepare themselves for the birth experience.”

As expecting mothers prepare for their deliveries at the Nest at Valley Baptist Health System, they can count on receiving safe, compassionate care from some of the most experienced nurses and health care teams in the Valley, Longoria said.

“Valley Baptist has a strong foundation of tenured staff in Women’s Services. We are truly blessed to have the ability to choose the absolute cream of the crop from our local nursing programs,” she said. “We have several students who apply as ‘Team Members,’ who work and learn on the floor while they are going to school. We get to see firsthand those that stand out and shine in their programs and then bring them on as fully fledged

Registered Nurses once they graduate. Getting their feet wet as team members has really helped to make them strong new graduate nurses.”

In addition to solid foundations in providing safe, compassionate care, Nest staff and health care teams hospital wide are constantly training and receiving education to deal with obstetrical emergency situations that may arise before and during delivery, Longoria said.

“We have a great perinatal education program that runs quarterly simulation drills for obstetric emergencies such as hemorrhage, preeclampsia, and shoulder dystocia. These drills are interdisciplinary and include staff from all over the hospital,” she said. “Obstetrical emergencies can truly happen anywhere, and we want to make sure our hospital staff, especially the emergency departments, are equipped and prepared to deal with an OB emergency should one arise.”

The Nest’s comprehensive care extends to highly specialized Newborn Intensive Care Units staffed and equipped to care for Valley Baptist’s tiniest patients.

“Valley Baptist-Brownsville and Valley Baptist-Harlingen are both designated by Texas Health & Human Services as Level III NBICUs,” Longoria said. “For our expecting mothers, this means that your tiniest bundle is likely to receive all the care they need right here in the same hospital where mom recovers. Many of our patients choose the Nest at Valley Baptist because they know there is a much less likely chance of their baby needing to be transferred out if they need neonatal care. Everything our expecting mothers may need during childbirth is right here.”

While experience and training for staff and physicians

are integral to providing outstanding care to expecting mothers, Longoria said that offering compassionate, individualized attention for mothers and babies is an important part of the birth experience at the Nest.

“What sets us apart is our couplet care model. We strive to keep mom and baby together as much as possible,” she said. “We also approach every delivery with an open mind and collaborate with our physicians to make sure that each mother’s delivery wishes are accommodated within reason and as safely as we can with the safety of mom and baby in mind. We most definitely want everyone’s birth experience to be as memorable as possible, and we strive to make those cherished memories.”

With Valley Baptist-Brownsville celebrating its centennial in 2023 and Valley Baptist-Harlingen rapidly approaching its 100th anniversary in 2025, Valley Baptist Health System has been at the start of generations worth of birth stories throughout South Texas. Being a part of so many families is something that is cherished at the Nest, Longoria said.

“Valley Baptist Health System has been serving our community for more than a century in Brownsville and nearly 100 years in Harlingen, and it is an honor and a privilege for us to be there at what can be considered the most special time for these mothers and their babies,” she said. “This is their journey and their birth experience, and they have given us the special opportunity to ensure a safe outcome for mom and baby. We are humbled by the opportunity and cannot wait to deliver another century’s worth of babies in the Rio Grande Valley.”

For more information on the Nest at Valley Baptist Health System, visit valleybaptist.net.


Brownsville’s Medical Experts Collaborating for Maximum Results

Medical professionals are transforming cancer care throughout the Rio Grande Valley, emphasizing multidisciplinary teamwork. A newly launched patient navigation program at Valley Regional Medical Center enables patients from all backgrounds to access cuttingedge and comprehensive cancer care.

The Sarah Cannon Cancer Network oncology navigation program launched in Brownsville in February of 2024. Carol Kirton serves as the Director of Oncology Navigation Operations for HCA Gulf Coast Division. Kirton has successfully led the oncology navigation program in Houston and was very excited to expand the program and serve oncology patients in the Rio Grande Valley.

“As oncology navigators, we’re hand in hand with our patients, making sure they receive timely and appropriate cancer care,” Kirton said. “Cancer is a very personal journey, and the navigation team ensures plans of care are individualized, evidence-based, and in alignment with patient care goals.”

“Oncology and radiology have worked hand in hand for many years, so we’re building on that,” said Dr. Guillaume Boiteau, M.D., an interventional radiologist at

Valley Regional. “Coordination and collaboration make an immediate difference in patient care.”

The collaborative process begins with diagnostic studies. Screenings such as blood tests, CT scans, ultrasounds, and minimally invasive radiology scans alert patients to the presence of potential tumors.

“Radiology studies are done to see where the cancer might be and if it’s spread or not,” Boiteau said. “Cancer staging requires the combined expertise of many medical specialists including oncologists, radiologists and pathologists.”

A specialized forum of professionals, known as a multi-disciplinary cancer conference, convenes in the event of a cancer diagnosis. Its members attend biweekly meetings in order to formulate strategies for combating cancers and survey and analyze data from a variety of interrelated disciplines. Board members include radiologists, pathologists, oncologists, surgeons, nurses, social workers, and support teams, whose objective is to coordinate solutions in accordance with individual needs.

The broad array of cancers demands a patient-specific approach in administering treatments, including several

subsets of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy.

“We do a multidisciplinary discussion of those cases,” said Dr. Balesh Sharma, M.D., a board-certified oncologist at Texas Oncology-Brownsville. “We’re moving toward a different era, where we’re giving more and more immunotherapies, targeted therapies, and biologics based on the characteristics of the tumors.”

Logistical concerns are of equal importance to therapeutic strategies. Key to the success of an oncology program is nurse navigators, who seek to optimize communication and collaboration between patients and providers.

“When a patient reaches out, we have nurses who are able to message the providers and get clear answers in a quick, timely turnaround,” Sharma said. “That not only reduces anxiety but also improves the overall care.”

Nurse navigators offer educational resources, emotional support, and care coordination assistance in an effort to facilitate access to high-quality care. Tamara Peña, an Oncology Nurse Navigator at Valley Regional, notes that finances and transportation are the most common barriers for patients battling cancer.

“Patients financially strained have difficulty navigating multiple appointments,” Peña said.

“Oncology navigation seeks to address these barriers

to care by providing information on national and local resources that can help,” Peña said. “I’ve been able to ease the anxiety of several patients who don’t know what to expect or where they can find support.”

The program’s team-oriented approach has reduced insecurity among patients. Kirton reports that the collaborative effort has yielded high rates of patient satisfaction in Houston, adding that its expansion to the Rio Grande Valley promises an improved experience for cancer patients throughout the state.

“Our physician alignments are tighter, our coordination of care is seamless, and the multidisciplinary team collaboration is stronger,” Kirton said. “Patient outcomes can be improved because they have navigation assistance.

Valley Regional Medical Center hopes that its sister hospitals, including Rio Grande Regional Hospital in McAllen, can share in the success of the new navigation program. Its staff and physicians acknowledge that an interdisciplinary approach is critical for implementing the rapid advancements of medical research and technology in cancer care.

“There are so many different team players involved in comprehensive cancer care,” Kirton said. “Together as a team, we can redefine cancer journeys and patient experience.”


Explore Quinta Mazatlán by Flashlight

by John Brush, Urban Ecologist, Quinta Mazatlán
| photos by Jaime Villarreal

It's a typical summer day. High humidity quickly swelters the morning hours, and by mid-afternoon, it's vital to be inside or at least in the shade of a mesquite or Texas ebony tree. Everything feels sunbaked, even the blue sky pale and worn in the summer sun. Yet, despite the lull in activity, life still abounds. Some organisms, like birds, still make their way over shimmering streets. Flowers bloom, insects buzzing between them. Many others wait for the cooler nighttime temperatures: cottontail rabbits out at play in freshly dug dirt; spiders hide under curled leaves; scorpions shelter under bark, logs, or stones.

Especially in the summer, there is a noticeable difference in animal activity from the hot afternoons to after the sun sets in the evenings. Despite being more hidden from our diurnal eyes, our ecosystems are just as active (if not more so) at night than during summer days. In fact, that's the theme for 2024's edition of Flashlight Nights at Quinta Mazatlán. During the after-dark guided tours, guests will be introduced to our nighttime ecosystem, including various examples of how and why nocturnal wildlife are adapted to the dark, all while exploring the nature center's thorn forest trails and gardens.

Avoiding heat is a main factor for nocturnal behavior of animals, but there are other reasons too; one being to

avoid other wildlife. For example, urban ecologists have found that many animals that live in cities are becoming more and more nocturnal to avoid humans. It's also thought that nocturnality in early mammals originally came about to avoid conflicts with dinosaurs.

One recurring trait of nocturnal animals is the tapetum lucidum, found in the eyes of many nocturnal vertebrates, which reflects light back through the eyes as a way of gathering more light (ultimately helping them see better). Nocturnal animals also tend to have more rod than cone photoreceptors; rods are better at night vision, cones better for color vision.

Other nocturnal traits include the use of other senses, like sound and smell, to help animals find their way through the dark. A common example is echolocation in bats, using high-pitched squeaks to locate their prey. Oddly enough, one of their common prey items, moths, will use ultrasonic sounds to scare off approaching bats. Moths also use their antennae to chemically sense mates, sometimes over long distances.

Not only is Flashlight Nights meant to be a cooler way for guests to enjoy the sights and sounds of Quinta Mazatlán, but it also highlights how important the "creepy crawlies" of the night are for healthy ecosystems. Whether they provide pollination services or free pest control, animals like insects and spiders and snakes

are vital to our local food webs. By respecting and conserving those organisms, people are benefiting too.

Lastly, there are ways that we can better coexist with these animals. One large-scale issue that impacts nocturnal animals is artificial light at night - the streetlights, house lights, and other lights that keep our cities illuminated. Light pollution negatively impacts pollinators, can be detrimental to firefly populations, and can increase the chances of warblers and other songbirds dying on their migratory journeys. By limiting how many lights we use, directing lights to illuminate the ground (not pointing up and out into the environment), and using warmer-colored lights, we can help protect our local wildlife.

Learn more about our nocturnal wildlife during Flashlight Nights, offered Tuesdays from June through Aug., at Quinta Mazatlán. The program runs from 8:30 to 10:00 PM. Space is limited, so advanced registration is required. Visit quintamazatlan.ticketleap.com to reserve your spots and follow Quinta Mazatlán on social media for up-to-date information on all the nature center's programming.

From lizards to spiders to beautiful moths, there’s always something fun to see at Flashlight Nights.
Green Anole









The 2024 Parade of Homes in Rio Grande Valley is a Wrap!

The Rio Grande Valley Builders Association (RGVBA) 2024 Parade of Homes was a success!

The dinner event to celebrate the Parade was held Friday, June 14, at the Cambria Hotel in McAllen. It featured all builders who successfully participated in the Parade of Homes and were proclaimed the "Most Valuable Builders "of the 2024 Parade of Homes!

The dinner was a sold-out event that featured a lively hospitality hour with live music by Brooks Ausborne. Builders First Source and The Parade of Homes sponsored the hospitality hour. The evening continued with an elegant dinner held in the banquet room. The program began with a welcome given by RGVBA President Mary Ramirez. At that time, she recognized the Honorable City of Edinburg Mayor Ramiro Garza and the Honorable City of McAllen Mayor Javier Villalobos, who joined the festive event to congratulate all Parade builders. Parade of Homes

committee member Elva M. Cerda continued the program during dinner. She briefly summarized this year's highlights, including stronger marketing for the event, the Ribbon Cutting event held, and other positive changes such as the award created for each participant declaring them as "2024 Parade of Homes MVBs". The fact that each builder completed their showcase home and decorated and furnished the home for the consumers that attended is fully worthy of such recognition. Each builder was presented their plaque by Mayor Ramiro Garza and then posed for a commemorative photo before the RGVBA backdrop. After the presentation, various builders took the time to offer their thoughts on the experience of the 2024 event. The builders were enthusiastic and extremely pleased by the number of attendees, contacts made, and, in many cases, sales contracts and leads created solely because of the Parade. The MVB awards were followed by the "People's Choice"

award of 2024, bestowed to Bellissimo Builders for their home in Lantana Landing in Mission. This award is especially meaningful as it is based on the ratings of those who visited each home during the show.

The weekends of June 1st & 2nd and June 8th & 9th, 2024, in Hidalgo County, Texas, provided a pivotal opportunity for potential homebuyers to explore the latest residential construction. The Parade of Homes showcased an impressive array of homes by top local RGVBA member builders, with prices ranging from $240,000 to $500,000. It also reflected this area's vibrant and evolving real estate landscape for anyone considering the purchase of a new home. The Parade allows potential buyers to view diverse home styles and designs. It offers a unique chance to interact directly with RGVBA builders at the forefront of crafting the region's future residential landscapes. Other members, such as bankers and mortgage companies, were also on-site to visit with prospective homebuyers. Visitors toured homes at leisure, experiencing firsthand the quality craftsmanship and innovative designs that characterize the local real estate market.

The RGVBA's Parade of Homes is a cherished tradition, reflecting its commitment to excellence and community engagement in the building industry. The RGVBA is proud of its 56-year service history to area builders and building industry associate members. It is the only organization in the federation under the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the Texas Builders Association (TAB).

The Parade was meticulously organized by dedicated members of the RGVBA, including Nora Musule, Executive Officer, and key committee members Mike Duffey and Elva M. Cerda. Their joint efforts and support from the RGVBA

Board of Directors ensured that the event highlighted the best in new construction, strengthened community ties, and facilitated regional economic growth.

The RGVBA is very proud of our finebuilder member participants who worked diligently for many months to build a high-quality home for this year's event. Special thanks to our Gold and Silver sponsors, advertisers, volunteers from McCoy's Building Supplies, and our prize sponsors. The 2024 Parade of Homes guidebook was produced by the team from RGVision Magazine, headed by Gabe Puente, Publisher/CEO. Their service during their first year of Parade of Homes magazine production was exemplary. It resulted in a beautiful guidebook widely distributed to assist all our visitors.

We look forward to offering the public another highquality Parade of Home in 2025. For up-to-date information, please follow our social media page or visit our website at rgvba.org.

The Rio Grande Valley Builders Association, Inc.

"Preserving the American Dream!"


CC&CO Spaces are Inspired by Our Global Adventures

Traveling enriches our lives uniquely, filling us with awe, inspiration, and joy that we often seek in our daily routines.

The sights, sounds, and experiences from different parts of the world can leave lasting impressions, influencing our tastes and enhancing our creativity. As a designer, my most compelling inspirations come from these adventures. I strive to channel this joy into creating spaces that offer my clients a daily retreat into the pleasures of travel. Why not transform our homes into sanctuaries that echo the experiences of our favorite destinations?

Travel exposes us to various cultures, architectural styles, and color schemes. The lively colors of a Moroccan market, the dominant Art Nouveau in Barcelona, or the rustic appeal of an Italian villa can all influence design. Every trip is a source of inspiration, providing fresh insights into how spaces can create feelings of emotion and comfort.

We create beautiful environments that feel like personal havens by incorporating these elements into home design or any space.

Our main objective in design is to create spaces that evoke feelings of happiness and relaxation. By incorporating elements from cherished travel experiences, we can recreate the same sense of joy and contentment. Consider the cozy and intimate ambiance of a Parisian cafe or a beachfront bungalow's open and airy feel. Each of these elements can be integrated into the design of a home to establish a sanctuary that provides a break from the everyday hustle and bustle.

Bringing the joys of travel into everyday life is not only possible but immensely rewarding. Drawing on the experiences and pleasures of our favorite destinations, we can create spaces that provide happiness, inspiration, and a sense of sanctuary. Whether through colors, textures, or ambiance, infusing your home with travelinspired elements can make every day feel like a getaway. So, why not take the leap and turn your living space into a constant reminder of the joy and wonder that travel brings?

Step into our space to see the wonders of the world.


After Over 50 Years of Operations, Gladys Porter Zoo Performs Renovations and Additions for New Facilities and Attractions

Families from the Rio Grande Valley and beyond travel to one of the farthest parts of South Texas to visit Brownsville's shining tourism and education destination, renovating over the next decade.

"It's absolutely fabulous," said Dr. Patrick Burchfield, the CEO of the Gladys Porter Zoo. "This has been a wonderful couple of years. We have a supportive mayor, city manager and city council, who realize the zoo is one of the premiere attractions in the Rio Grande Valley."

The Gladys Porter Zoo, home to hundreds of species, has become a tradition for Brownsville residents to visit for 53 years as of 2024.

Coryann Thornock, a mother and resident of the border city, has visited the zoo since childhood and recently shared the experience with her 1-year-old daughter.

"They did good at spacing out which construction projects they're working on," Thornock said. "It did have a bit of an impact on us when we tried to go a certain direction. You don't want to see all those fences, but it comes with the territory of wanting to evolve and turn the zoo into something bigger."

She took her daughter for the first time May 11 while the zoo was working on the many projects it announced during an Oct. 2022 press event. Thornock felt nostalgic about the zoo as she saw the construction. She witnessed the completion of the Russell Aquatic Ecology Center project at the zoo during the 2010s and continues to love the center today.

Dr. Burchfield has a big dream. He has dedicated over two decades to serving the zoo, witnessing its transformation from primarily taking animals from the wild to mostly having zoo-born animals. During a public

The Gladys Porter Zoo, home to hundreds of species, has become a tradition for Brownsville residents to visit for 53 years as of 2024.

ceremony, Gladys Porter Zoo outlined its plans for welcoming the next generation of curious Valley minds and tourists.

The zoo is excited to announce the upcoming installation of a zip line. According to a press release from the city of Brownsville, the zoo began construction on its Soaring Eagle Zip Line project in 2023.

Dr. Burchfield explained that the zip line has a secure double chair that travels backward 120 feet to provide an immaculate view of the zoo and resacas, then descends to the ground at 30 mph.

With all the construction and more construction to come, the zoo will eventually add more noise to its symphony of animal calls. While zoo visitors like Thornock experience this through blocked paths, how zoo animals will be affected is a new concern for zoo care. Dr. Burchfield mentioned that a research team has observed the zoo's upcoming construction and is investigating its potential impact.

Thanks to these collaborative efforts, visitors can now experience the zoo as it enters the next generation of wildlife experiences in an ever-industrializing region.

To stay updated on the zoo's projects, visit their website at gladysporterzoo.org.

















Radio and Television throughout the Rio Grande Valley

Rafael Mendoza-Farias Jr. | photo by Aaron Garcia

After a career in broadcasting and owning an advertising agency and a mailing and shipping store, Ray Norton now enjoys retirement, having contributed to the prosperous Rio Grande Valley (RGV).

Originally from Dallas, Norton spent his early life working his way through higher education. In the 1960s, he settled in Houston while attending the University of Houston. He found a job at KMSC Radio in Clear Lake City. The station's call letters were derived from the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center just across the street. Norton worked at KMSC until he was offered a job at KPRC TV and Radio, one of the leading broadcast news stations in the state.

Norton recalls this opportunity came in 1965, following his work at the home of astronaut Ed White in Houston during the Gemini 3 mission. At the time, in the early days of the space race, launches were landmark events and his supervisor at KMSC had asked Norton to provide coverage from the White home.

"'The Gemini 3 shot is going up tomorrow morning and Ed White's one of the astronauts on board… there's going to be a podium set up on the porch of Ed White's home. When someone comes out, his wife or somebody else to make a statement… record everything they have to say. Here's the important part… there's only going to be eight telephones and about 30 people that want to use them. So, you've got to judge about four or five minutes before they're finished. You turn the recorder off…run like the devil to the phone…rewind the tape…and play it back to me,'" remembered Norton, the words of his supervisor.

As he worked that evening, Norton received a call that would mark his breakthrough in radio and television news.

"Is this the Ray Norton that was at the Ed White home earlier today?" He said yes. The voice on the phone then said, "This is Ray Miller, News Director for KPRC TV and Radio in Houston. How would you like to move up to the big time?"

After a moment of astonished silence, Norton said yes and agreed to an interview appointment at KPRC. He started by reporting radio news and aiding in producing television news programs. Eventually, Norton performed outside reporter duties and was given a

report on the 6 p.m. television news broadcast. Before his first broadcast on camera, Norton received the most influential advice in his broadcast news career from veteran anchor Larry Rasco at KPRC TV.

Rasco said, "The first thing that's going to run through your mind when you look into the camera lens, is you've got 100,000 people watching." He said, "That may well be true… but that's not the way communication works in this business. It works one person at a time. So, if you can simply imagine that lens as your best friend in this whole world and all you're doing is telling them what you know that they don't know, then you'll be a success".

Norton remembers that advice was like turning a light bulb on in his head.

Norton continued working in Houston, moving from various jobs and positions within the broadcasting industry. In 1970, he received an offer at KRGV TV and Radio in Weslaco, where he used his prior expertise to revitalize the failing television news department.

In Jan. 1971, Norton quickly realized Channel 5 News had an identification problem.

His solution:

"I created a news desk that was a number five. It was big…the news anchor sat in the curl of five in front. Sports guy on one corner in the back, weather guy on the other corner in the back. The opening shot came from way up above. We put a camera way up there and we called it Big Five news. We won the 6 o'clock news ratings in November of that year and never lost the lead while I was employed by the station".

Norton continued to work for six years in radio and television throughout the RGV. However, sensing limited advancement, switched to advertising, drawing from experience gained in the broadcasting industry to effectively operate the agency for 20 years.

According to Norton, his remarkable ability to interact with others contributed to his success in mass communication.

"I believe that I was given a gift… to be able to stand in front of a group of people, be it 5 people or 75,000 people, and communicate. That gift has allowed me to be successful in several businesses and continues to benefit the community at large."


ARIVA Homes’ Vision of Excellence and Innovation

Founded by Mr. Ross Khaledi over 25 years ago, ARIVA Homes has transformed the home-building industry. In 2020, driven by the innovative spirit of Mr. Khaledi's sons, Rasoul and Aidin, established a vision of excellence and innovation in South Texas, better known as ARIVA Homes. As an award-winning company, ARIVA Homes is a direct reflection of outstanding customer service and superior construction. Our dedication to excellence across South Texas can be seen in every aspect of our work. We have a proven track record of close to 1,000 homes being built for many commercial and land development projects. We believe in not only building houses but also communities and relationships.

Our expansion into the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) two years ago from Laredo reflects our commitment to growth. We aim not only to construct homes but also to foster vibrant communities and longlasting partnerships, and that's why we are here to stay. ARIVA Homes symbolizes reliability, excellence, and a customer-first approach. We pride ourselves on creating an unparalleled home-buying experience, ensuring every customer feels valued and satisfied.

Nicole, a longtime satisfied Ariva Homeowner, decided to put her faith in ARIVA Homes; we wanted to share her story with you directly.

"We purchased our first home with ARIVA Homes. No complaints, we were given the utmost care and any issues that arose was handled in a timely manner. Even after purchasing our home, we still feel we're being listened to and cared for. We highly recommend ARIVA Homes. Thank you, Team Ariva, for the awesome customer service & Jonathan, for always being attentive!"

Aside from seeing our clients' joy and excitement once we've helped them find the home they've always wanted, one of the most gratifying parts of our company is getting to know and working with our trade partners. We are actively looking to lock arms and work with more people to help handle the ever-growing workload as we continue to expand across our state. The more talent we can find, the more people we can help, like Nicole.


Another aspect of ARIVA Homes people get to witness is ARIVA Ayuda, our 501C3 Nonprofit Corporation. You can see our team every year volunteering to help hundreds of people in great need, delivering hundreds of turkeys to families for Thanksgiving, with up to a mile-

length of cars waiting as early as 4:00 a.m. to come and meet us. We also host our yearly Christmas Toy Drive, where we give hundreds of toys to children looking for a gift from Santa Claus. In moments like these, we shoulder the privilege to help others and be a symbol of hope for many families looking for help across our community; we are blessed to be a blessing.


At ARIVA Homes, we have a staff of over 60 qualified employees ready to help our clients. We strongly believe in personal and professional development. We actively promote from within as we regularly invest in our people. For example, we have had two construction managers display the best of their field knowledge and skills and were promoted to production managers. You can also find our former office manager in the field with our agents as our new sales manager. We believe anyone can achieve these milestones. We are here to challenge our employees and help them become the type of people capable of being the best versions of themselves.


We have recently upgraded the lens through which we view the landscape of Marketing. Our graphic design, web development, video production, talent outreach, CRM, and marketing strategies have significantly transformed. One of our biggest pride is showcasing to our community who we are, what we do, and what we're all about. Nothing exemplifies that vision more than our cinematic videos; the quality and story-telling capabilities of these carefully crafted films take you through a journey unmatched by the status quo in the market. Our Giphy account (where you can

access our ARIVA Homes stickers or "gifs") has reached 72,400 people across Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Snapchat, TikTok, Messenger, IG Stories, WhatsApp and many more platforms. Not only are our stickers fun to use, but they have also helped our SEO ranking through strategic keywords and hashtags, increasing the relevance and popularity of our name and services. Outside of digital media, when it comes to outreach, our Realtor Mixers have become so popular that we've relaunched our gathering events as Networking Mixers to the point of filling up a 3,000-square-foot model home. As a direct result of this new expansion, we now gather entrepreneurs, business professionals, lenders, Realtors, and business owners to join our community, expand their network, and bring more business to each other. It's the perfect environment to have an incredible time and reach a diverse audience in different professional fields.

ARIVA Homes is more than just a name; it's a South Texan Culture whose reputation as a pioneer in the field continues to grow every year. With the momentum we've acquired through the past 25 years, we will continue to excel in home building, commercial, industrial, multifamily, and land development projects. We invite the Rio Grande Valley to join us in our journey as we pave the way to the future, setting new benchmarks in our industry. With ARIVA Homes, you're not just buying a house; you're being welcomed into a culture with deep-rooted family values you can trust. We invite you to discover why ARIVA Homes is the ideal choice for your dream home and experience the meaning of everything we represent because, with us, quality isn't just a standard; it's a way of life.


The Local Gaming Scene Boasts One of the World’s Best

The Rio Grande Valley is home to a vibrant gaming community, with numerous gaming stores spread across the region. Stores such as Kaboom Games in McAllen, Olympus Cards and Comics in Harlingen, Press Start Gaming, and StarBase Gaming in Edinburg contribute to the gaming culture in South Texas. These stores host weekly competitions where local players gather to compete in a variety of popular games, including Super Smash Bros. The gaming scene in the Valley is diverse and inclusive, welcoming players of all ages to come together and compete with camaraderie and skill.

This is where 17-year-old SHADIC (Ethan Xavier San Miguel) comes in. Currently, he is ranked 44 on LumiRank, the definitive global ranking of Super Smash Bros players, and he’s ranked number two in Texas. Between November 2023 and May 2024, he won first place at four out of 11 national events, placing in the top ten in all but two. He's widely expected to be ranked in the top ten when the next LumiRank is released. The young man has earned the respect and admiration that few achieve, even with years of hard work and determination.

The name SHADIC combines his first two favorite characters, Shadow and Sonic. SHADIC is one of the most down-to-earth high-level players you'll ever meet. When asked about his goals in esports, he shrugs and says, "I used to want to be the best player in the world, but it's not really what I want anymore." His goals now are to play and have fun, and it's a bonus if he's making friends in the process. He said the Genesis X tournament in February 2023 was probably the best time of his life. "I didn't win, but I'm totally happy with it," he said with a modesty beyond his years. "It has a special place in my heart; it's probably the happiest I've ever been."

He is also an A student who gets special permission to attend tournaments around the US during the school year due to his good grades and strong work ethic. He says he

prioritizes schoolwork over gaming. "I don't like slacking. It would be nice if I didn't have a mountain of homework to do after a big tournament, but it's fine."

His biggest hero is his father, who is also his biggest fan and even goes by the screen name "DADIC." "He hasn't been blessed with the easiest life,” SHADIC said. "But he's worked with what he's had, and, well, here we are. I want to be like that."

SHADIC and his father are well-known and respected in the RGV gaming community. His favorite place to play is StarBase Gaming in Edinburg, where he participates in the occasional Tuesday night Smash Tournament. Although the local crowd is smaller than the national tournaments, he still feels most comfortable there. Shop owners also appreciate his presence, as Lalo Cortez of Press Start Gaming says he attracts players who want to challenge a champion.

The local gaming scene experiences fluctuations in its numbers, with shops opening and closing and players joining and leaving as they take on new responsibilities and life changes. In the RGV gaming community, live and online tournaments are thriving, attracting more young people to local game shops where they receive guidance from experienced players. The strong sense of community and sportsmanship evident across the scene is a testament to its lasting appeal and indicates that it will continue to thrive in the foreseeable future.


Water Shortage Pushes Reservoirs to Historic Lows, Demanding Local Leaders to Intervene

Rising temperatures have pushed the Rio Grande Valley into uncharted territory, turning our landscape into a parched shadow of its former self. The once-mighty Rio Grande River and the crucial reservoirs at Amistad and Falcon reservoirs—essential lifelines for over 1 million people —have dropped to an all-time historic low of 18.76% before the peak summer months have even commenced. A dangerous combination of relentless heat waves alongside the lackluster enforcement of local conservation practices and an 80-year-old water treaty has left farmers scrambling for every drop of water while pleading with bystanders to do their part in mitigating the crisis.

After speaking with local experts like water advocate Sonny Hinojosa about the shortage, it became evident that the 1944 water treaty between the U.S. and Mexico—designed to ensure fair distribution of the Rio Grande's flow— faced serious challenges. "Mexico is the problem and Mexico is the solution," Hinojosa said.

"If Mexico does not change their attitude, the future of our agriculture is pretty bleak."

Over three decades, Mexico has failed to deliver its annual 350,000 acre-feet of water in full. While the treaty lacks enforcement mechanisms and relies heavily on diplomacy, excessive heat across the border has complicated matters as Mexico reportedly grapples with the effects of its water shortage.

The international reservoirs store essential water that feeds into the region's extensive network of irrigation districts. These districts regulate water allocation between cities and farmlands, with typically 80% of the water directed toward agriculture. However, with the reservoirs depleted, these districts are left high and dry.

"Most of the municipalities in the RGV rely on irrigation districts to deliver their water," said Hinojosa. "So regardless of how much water the cities think they may have in storage, if the irrigation district that provides water to them runs out, they're going to face some shortages."

With fewer crops to harvest and process come fewer jobs. Our economy is feeling the strain as the agricultural backbone of the Valley weakens. For the third consecutive year, farmers have faced severe water restrictions that have resulted in devastating outcomes. One of the most striking examples is the closure of the sugar mill after 51 years of operation, which cost 500 people their jobs. The water shortage has put farmers

in an agonizing position: choosing between letting their crops die or paying astronomical prices to purchase the scarce water allotted to cities.

Additionally, the water shortage has forced farmers to decide what to plant. High-value crops like broccoli, celery, and cauliflower, which require significant water, are now too risky to cultivate. Instead, farmers are turning to less water-intensive crops such as onions and cabbage. However, the smaller yields and lower commercial value of these crops create a double-edged sword, leading to decreased income for farmers and higher prices for consumers.

According to Dante Galeazzi, President of the Texas International Produce Association, the situation is particularly dire for the RGV's citrus trees. These perennials need consistent water year-round. Without sufficient irrigation, these trees will likely drop their fruit early as a survival mechanism before drying up altogether.

"If the tree dies from lack of water and you have to plant a new tree, it'll take three to five years before it can produce commercial volumes of citrus," said Galeazzi. "Currently, our growers are forecasting anywhere between a 20% to 30% crop loss based on what they think they have available for water to get them through summertime."

The drought's ripple effects extend far beyond parched fields and wilting crops. The A&M economist predicts that the RGV could face almost $1 billion in economic losses without adequate water next year, presenting a stark reminder of the urgent need for effective water management solutions. Under the guidance of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the U.S. government, cities are not required to implement water restrictions until a drought is officially declared. Unfortunately, this declaration is contingent on a third-party assessment of soil moisture achieved through a virtual aerial view of people's lawns while completely disregarding the dangerously low levels of our community's water reservoirs. By downplaying the


severity of the water shortage, the TCEQ's flawed system has resulted in political inaction from local council members when we need it the most.

Chairman for Region M Water Planning and former McAllen Mayor Jim Darling expressed unease regarding the inadequate public and political attention on the water shortage. "We've always had a hurricane, so everybody's used to that water intake, but we've just hit record [low] levels," said Darling. "What's concerning me is educating people. The easy part is, let's start conserving and let's do it seriously. But there's a reluctance to that, saying, 'I don't want to be the first one raising a red flag.'"

City leaders have made scant efforts to enforce restrictions, allowing unchecked water usage to exacerbate the drought's impacts. McAllen alone has 69 car washes, each guzzling thousands of gallons of water daily. Of Brownsville's 34 car washes, only 6 utilize a recycling system, leading to unnecessary waste. This is a clear indication that local councils need to prioritize water conservation, but so far, the response has been tepid.

The Valley's current predicament is a harbinger of a broader crisis brewing across Texas. With climate change rendering surface water—rivers and reservoirs— increasingly unreliable, the state faces a daunting future. By 2070, water demand in Texas is projected to surge by 9%, requiring a staggering 19.2 million acre-feet of water. However, the state's water supply is expected to plummet by 18%, leaving us between 5 million and 7 million acre-feet short. To put this in perspective, this shortfall is more than three times the combined capacity of the Amistad and Falcon Reservoirs when full. Such a deficit underscores the urgent need for innovative water management and conservation strategies to safeguard our future.

Mitigating the water crisis in the Rio Grande Valley

requires a united, concerted effort from all stakeholders. Galeazzi presented the implementation of automated pay scales for water bills as a practical and immediate solution to incentivize conservation through financial means. "Pay scales that are commensurate with the amount of water we have in the Valley is the fairest approach," he said. "If you charge people based on supply and demand and say, look, when you exceed X, you've got to pay Y—and Y is not X times two, but X times four—because it's such a little water we have."

While this offers an immediate fix, a longer-term solution to our water crisis demands significant investments in more ambitious solutions, such as ocean desalination. Desalination, the process of converting seawater into fresh water, could provide a stable and sustainable water supply for the region. Although the initial costs are high, the benefits of a reliable water source far outweigh the expenses in the long run.

In the past 10 years, the estimated price tag for a desalination plant reportedly skyrocketed from $400,000 to $1.4 billion. "We are going to need desalination, whether it's today or 10 years from now, because if the Valley is going to grow, and we already know we don't have more water coming, but less, we're going to have to look at something else," said Galeazzi. "So, if we don't do that now, in 10 years hat project could be $5 billion."

With cities like Laredo estimated to run out of water by 2044, the RGV stands at a crossroads. The drought— exacerbated by global warming, political inaction, and ineffective treaty enforcement—can no longer be dismissed as a future problem because we are experiencing the consequences of it today. However, with determined leadership and community effort, there is hope. By adopting comprehensive conservation strategies and ensuring fair water distribution, the Valley can revive its agricultural heartland and secure a sustainable future. Darling said it best: "It's time we treat Mother Nature a little better."

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Recognized as a Platinum Broker by Crexi. Received the Power Broker award by Costar for Top Sale in Q4 of 2023.


Hanna Solutions Commercial Real Estate is setting t he bar high in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) real estate market. Our recent recognitions, includ ing the Platinum Broker award by Crexi and the Power Broker award by Costar for Top Sale in Q4 of 2023, are testaments to our commitment to excellence. With the highest digital footprint in South Texas, we ensure your property gets unparalleled exposure. Our impressive 87% List to Sale ratio demonstrates our efficacy in marketing and selling commercial proper ties. At Hanna Solutions, we don’t just list your property; we craft a strategic marketing plan to meet and exceed your goals.

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