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SE P T E M B E R / O C TO B E R 2 0 17 | VO LUM E 9 ISSUE 5


As commercial business and socio-economic possibilities expand in our growing metropolis, where does RGV agriculture stand?

AUTISM, DYSLEXIA, AND ADHD Through education we can break the stigma.


Local doula empowers women to love their birth experience.


Roller derby league brings hard-hitting action to the valley

IT’S ALL IN THE DETA ILS LIGHTING & HOME DÉCOR (95 6 ) 6 8 2 - 6 9 8 6 | 4 80 1 N. 1 0 th St. McA llen & 2155 Ruben M. Torres Blvd Brownsville | www.illuminationsrgv.c om

SKILLED HANDS, COMPASSIONATE HEARTS From neuromuscular dentistry to dental implants, our goal is to advance the health of your smile. Whether you’re looking for a comprehensive oral health checkup or a total smile makeover, our office has a dental professional to suit your unique needs.

Family Dentistry Cosmetic Dentistry Neuromuscular Dentistry Migraine Headache Treatment

We strive to create a comfortable, safe environment for our patients by providing the highest quality dental services and care. Our highly skilled team of dental professionals are committed to your immediate and long-term oral health needs through a variety of dental health services.

Sleep Apnea Treatment 24 Hrs Emergency Night Clinic


1917 W Nolana, Suite 180 McAllen, TX 78504




Office: 956-627-5047 Fax: 956-627-4956

We’re Filling TheValley’s In-Demand Jobs South Texas College offers certificate programs as short as one year, two-year associate degrees and four-year bachelor’s degrees to educate students in fields like nursing, welding and fire science. In doing so, they’re prepared to take on some of the most important roles in our community. Learn more at

Jon Garza Fire Science Student


There’s strong. Then there’s Army Strong. As a Soldier in the U.S. Army, you’ll develop the physical, mental and emotional strength to meet the challenges you may face today and in the future. You’ll gain unmatched leadership skills and on-the-job training—the kind that’s highly desired in both the military and civilian world. Plus, recruiter, or call 1-800-USA-ARMY.

Visit for more information regarding opportunities within the U.S. Army. To speak with a recruiter, contact the Alamo Recruiting Center at 956.783.9282 or the Laredo Recruiting Center at 956.723.5013.

©2015. Paid for by the United States Army. All rights reserved.








Copyright by RGVision Publications Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without expressed written permission of the publisher is prohibited. The opinions and views expressed in the magazine don’t necessarily reflect those of our advertisers or collaborators. RGVision magazine is published bi-monthly and circulates 12,000 copies across the Rio Grande Valley in 420 locations with a direct mail distribution to major hospitals and Superintendents within Region 1. The RGVision office is located at 801 N Bryan Rd, Mission, TX 78572. To receive an annual subscription of RGVision publications for $29.99, email

Ashley Berrones Claudia V. Lemus-C. Dr. Alfonso Mercado ERO Architects Derrick Kinney Fortino Gonzalez PT

Kevin Martinez Irene Wazgowska Norma Hess Matthew Cano Barbara Steidinger







Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope... this is a very difficult concept during a state of distress. Especially after experiencing the tragic effects Hurricane Harvey had on many lives. However, seeing the efforts of the community come together to raise each other up gives hope. Together through growth and hardships, we embrace stories of the people of the Valley and invite you to be a part of it. In this issue, we sit with a doula who can speak directly on the women of the Rio Grande Valley who experience the joy that comes after delivering their babies. Also on the cover of this issue you will read of the Valley’s agriculture, how it is here to stay, and what the future holds according to local experts. We thank you for picking up this issue. Our hope is that our readers would continue to be informed, educated, and inspired. We are praying for all those who have been impacted by Hurricane Harvey. May His grace fall upon you in your time of need. Thank you to all those who extended a helping hand in the relief effort of this devastation to our neighbors.

Amy Casebier Abbey Kunkle Debra Atlas Lori Houston Elizabeth Martinez Sofia Aleman Kevin Martinez Irene Wazgowska Jose De Leon III

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









26 GROWING CULTURE As commercial business and socio-economic possibilities expand in our growing metropolis, where does RGV agriculture stand?









Through education we can break the stigma.

Local doula empowers women to love their birth experience.

Roller derby league brings hard-hitting action to the Valley.



Leading the Way

A Brighter Valley

Celebrating 35 Years

Southern Exposures

pg 8

pg 32

pg 52

pg 70

Best Year Yet

Q&A with Javier Palomarez

Oh! My Achy Feet

It's Showtime

pg 10

pg 34

pg 54

pg 72

Inexpensive Education

Designing Schools for the

Welcome to FLOSS

Community Building

pg 14

Modern Digital Learner

pg 60

pg 74

Texas AIM

pg 38

Pros & Cons of Vaccinations

Help Wanted

pg 20

Understanding Cost-Basis Set-Ups

pg 64

pg 76

Granting Education

pg 40

Preventing the Flu

Kids, Cows & Mooore

pg 22

It's All About Family

pg 66

pg 80

Dr Karen Lozano

pg 42

Sharing Hope

Preserving RGV's Biodiversity

pg 24

Be Our Guest

pg 68

pg 84

pg 44 Commited to Community pg 46 Going Strong pg 48



SEP/OCT 2017


LEADING the Way Dr. Cavazos named 2017 Regional Superintendent of the Year by Ashley Ber r o nes




The Harlingen CISD community should be extremely proud of Dr. Cavazos for receiving this honor; it is recognition not only for Dr. Cavazos as the district’s educational leader, but for the entirety of the Harlingen CISD community.”



recognition is a testament to our amazing Harlingen CISD. I look forward to representing our region in the statewide Superintendent of the Year program.” Under the direction of the Texas Association of School Boards, the Superintendent of the Year Program recognizes exemplary superintendents for excellence and achievement in educational leadership. The selection of the Superintendent of the Year honor is based on a superintendent’s dedication to improving educational quality, ability to build effective employee relations, and commitment to public involvement in education. Nominations for the regional award were submitted to Region One Education Service Center and reviewed by a select committee consisting of Region One School Board members who completed Leadership TASB training. “The Harlingen CISD community should be extremely proud of Dr. Cavazos for receiving this honor; it is recognition not only for Dr. Cavazos as the district’s educational leader, but for the entirety of the Harlingen CISD community,” said Dr. Cornelio Gonzalez, Region One ESC executive director. “Dr. Cavazos is a model educational leader who is worthy of this recognition and will represent our region well.” Superintendents from any of Texas’ 1,028 local school districts are eligible for nomination by their school boards. Local nominees are submitted to a regional selection committee, which chooses one nominee to send to the state selection committee.


Region One has named Dr. Art Cavazos the 2017 Regional Superintendent of the Year based on the impact he has made as the educational leader of Harlingen CISD. His leadership style — described as creative, successful, and immediate — made him a stand-out candidate. The selection committee also took into account the transformational initiatives that have taken place during his four-year term: a full-scale K-12 Robotics Program, chess teams throughout the school district, including a state champion elementary chess team, a district-wide preschool reading initiative, and a restructuring of the college counseling program, resulting in a 100 percent rate of high school students applying to college or the military. Harlingen CISD, with a student enrollment of 18,800, and under Cavazos’ guidance, has demonstrated academic achievement by earning a district “Met Standard” rating for the past three school years and on each of the state’s four indices of Student Achievement, Student Progress, Closing Performance Gaps, and PostSecondary Readiness. “It is such an honor to have been selected as the 2017 Regional Superintendent of the Year,” Cavazos said. “I want to extend my gratitude to God, my family, the Board of Trustees, and the entire school community for their support. My unwavering commitment is for the continued success of the children, the district, and our community. I am humbled by this honor and realize this

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D r. Co r nel i o G o nz a l ez , Re gi on On e E SC E xecu tive Director


BEST YEAR YET! PSJA Education Foundation Awards More Than $260K in Student Scholarships



SEP/OCT 2017

by C la udia V. Lemus -Ca mp o s

PHARR — The PSJA Education Foundation had its best year yet, distributing $262,000 in scholarships to PSJA ISD students planning to pursue higher education this fall. First founded in 2013, the PSJA Education Foundation is an independent nonprofit organization that promotes excellence in education by developing and sustaining financial and non-financial support from the private sector to PSJA ISD students and staff. Since its creation, the foundation has awarded more than $775,000 in student scholarships and teacher grants.

"We are grateful for the PSJA staff members, community, and business support that have helped us make this possible." J oe l G on z a l e z ,

PSJA E du cation Fou n dation Presiden t


committed to promoting college opportunities, but also offers support to students.” Aguirre graduated as salutatorian from PSJA Early College High School in May with an associate degree in mathematics from South Texas College. She will be pursuing a bachelor’s of science degree in neuroscience from Dartmouth College. In addition to awarding scholarships, the PSJA Education Foundation also awarded more than $30,000 in competitive Teacher Mini Grants to PSJA educators. Projects selected touched on a variety of different topics, including literacy, career pathways, environmental science, fine arts, and post-secondary readiness. "We are grateful for the PSJA staff members, community, and business support that have helped us make this possible," said Joel Gonzalez, PSJA Education Foundation president. "Our main goal is to give back to our students, whether it is through a scholarship to assist them with college, funding an innovative classroom project that will give them hands-on knowledge, or supporting their reading goals throughout the summer. The foundation is here to help our students become successful members of our community." To learn more about the foundation, please visit www.



Awarding hundreds of thousands each year is possible thanks to the contribution of businesses, members of the community, and PSJA employees. The foundation's primary fundraiser is an annual concert where local businesses and PSJA alumni donate to the cause. In addition, almost 800 PSJA ISD employees contribute monthly to the foundation through generous payroll deductions. Thanks to the help and support from donors, the PSJA Education Foundation has been able to increase the amount of scholarships and awards given. Top-rated applicants are able to compete for four-year scholarships of up to $10,000. Many area families and alumni groups have also joined the efforts by providing their own namesake scholarships. “I am truly honored to have received this scholarship, as it will allow me to continue my education,” said Nayelie Aguirre, a recipient of a four-year scholarship totaling $6,000. “This has shown me that PSJA ISD is not only

SEP/OCT 2017




Simplifying Employee Benefits and Helping Businesses Thrive. Give us a call at (956) 971-0326 WE’RE LOCATED AT 5801 N. 10th St. Ste 400 McAllen, TX



STC Named Among Top 25 Most Affordable Online Colleges in Nation



SEP/OCT 2017

by Amy Casebier

Going to college is difficult enough with intensive coursework and scheduling, not to mention working partor full-time while earning a degree. But when graduation day comes and the diploma is finally in hand, it’s time for the debt collectors to come calling for many college graduates across the United States — sometimes even before meaningful jobs are secured with that hard-won degree. Student Loan Hero, a website dedicated to organizing, managing, and repaying student loans, finds that 44.2 million Americans share a part of $1.44 trillion in U.S. student loan debt as of July 2017. Even with the hard work of college behind them, many graduates find themselves

overwhelmed with repaying student loans as they enter the workforce. That’s where South Texas College comes in. “One of the things that students do not have to worry about when they graduate is their debt,” said Mike Carranza, interim dean for Enrollment Services at STC. “When students graduate debt free, they can actually start their career not worrying about the loans or repayments or forbearances.” STC is already the most affordable college in the Rio Grande Valley. According to an STC news release, the price of a 2017-18 two-year degree comprising 60 credit hours for in-district students is $7,480.



“The amount students would pay in a year is pretty reasonable when compared to going elsewhere,” Carranza said. STC has been lauded for its affordability beyond the RGV. Web college guide OnlineU, produced by SR Education group, recently named STC as one of the top 25 most affordable online colleges in the entire nation. Being included on ratings lists like this one helps students from many different places find STC and decide whether the program, price, and curriculum is what they need, said Matt Hebbard, vice president for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management at STC. “We have a graduate in May who we met at our ceremony who was from the Dallas area,” he said. “She was a first-generation Cuban-American. She came to our graduation ceremony all the way from Dallas; her mother flew in from Miami. She found us because of one of these ratings, and she did our bachelor of applied science and healthcare technology management. She did it completely online — very affordable for Texas residents in other parts of Texas — and it just allowed her to continue her job employed in the healthcare industry and also complete a bachelor’s degree. It gives a lot of students not only the affordability, the flexibility, but the ability to go to the next level in their careers.” OnlineU highlighted STC’s 18 online associate degrees, four bachelor’s degrees, and eight online certificate programs as part of the college’s draws for online student applicants. But even the convenience of taking classes online doesn’t mean that students have to trade in the personal interactions with instructors and advisers. “We have online support services,” Hebbard said. “We have our call centers available from 7:30 in the morning to 10 at night during the weekdays. We do have weekend hours. Our distance learning department has a great staff. They help students out. There’s a lot of online services available to the students 24/7.” Another online component to STC’s educational offerings is the competency-based program for bachelor’s degrees in applied science in organizational leadership and applied technology and science. According to the STC website, “the first 90 hours of instruction are available through online modules and the last 30 hours are a combination of face-to-face and online.” One of the draws for this program is that it can be completed at the student's own pace. This means that, provided

“When students graduate debt free, they can actually start their career not worrying about the loans or repayments or forbearances.” - M i ke C a r r a n z a , I n terim Dean for



they demonstrate excellence in the courses they take, students could take as many courses as they could handle per term. Each term carries a flat tuition rate of $750 no matter how many courses the student takes. “In a seven-week period we charge a flat rate — $750 — and a student can work on as many competencies as they want,” Hebbard said. “Each competency corresponds to a course requirement for an actual degree. So what we like is that it’s affordable along with all of our other online options, and the competencies are really accelerated, really focused for the students.” Students don’t have to resign themselves to a reality of years of debt repayment after they graduate college. STC and its affordable online offerings are proof of that.

SEP/OCT 2017

E n rollmen t Services at STC







SEP/OCT 2017

b y D r. A l f on s o M e r ca d o

Most, if not all individuals have been affected or know someone who is affected by autism, ADHD, or dyslexia. These mental health conditions have been on the rise in the past few years; in fact, the University of Milan, working alongside the University of Exeter Medical School, has found a considerable overlap in symptoms between the three diagnoses. These overlapping symptoms can lead to misdiagnosis or a failure to recognize the best medical treatment plan for an individual. Through our article we will discuss diagnosis, stigmas, and schoolrelated accommodations that come hand-in-hand with autism, ADHD, and dyslexia. Understanding and identifying the early signs and symptoms of these behavioral health conditions is crucial for appropriate individualized treatments. Many times pediatricians and pediatric neurologists refer patients for formal psychological testing and evaluation to a licensed clinical psychologist for diagnostic formulations and treatment recommendations. Also, by law, school districts provide full and individual evaluations and special accommodations to the children diagnosed with a mental health condition. The Individualized Treatment

Team (IEP) at the school then monitors the child’s progress or lack thereof. Focusing on the child’s strengths and abilities rather than their disability should be a prime focus. This article will discuss common symptoms of these mental health conditions, treatment interventions, and resources available to children diagnosed with ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and dyslexia symptoms.

ATTENTION DEFICIT HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER (ADHD) ADHD is of the most common mental health disorders affecting children. ADHD also affects many adults. There are three different types of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders (ADHD). The Combined Type is characterized by two main components, which include inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity symptoms. The Inattentive Type includes symptoms of inattention primarily involving lacking the focus and attention required to carry on with daily activities, and concentration difficulties. This lack of attention conflicts with the individual’s life, thereby affecting the ability to perform in concentrationbased tasks that are common at school and work. The



third includes the Hyperactivity and Impulsivity Type, which consist of excessive and impetuous acts such as fidgeting excessively or frequently talking abruptly in social situations. At least six symptoms from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) must be present in any of the two components to classify a child up to the age of 16 with ADHD. On the other hand at least 5 symptoms from the DSM-V are needed to diagnose an adult 17 or older with ADHD. The symptoms must be present for at least six months.

DYSLEXIA Dyslexia falls under the broader category of a learning disorder. A learning disorder consists of having difficulty with learning tasks such as writing, reading, or mathematics. Dyslexia, which is a subcomponent of learning disorders, focuses on the area of having trouble with reading. Reading is impaired by reversing letters, difficulty making out words, and a lack of coordination when transitioning from words.



Just like with any other mental health condition, ADHD, dyslexia, and Autism Spectrum Disorder have stigmas surrounding them. One of the factors that makes it difficult for people with these disorders is that there are many who believe that these disorders are not real. Many are quick to pass judgment on children with ADHD and ASD, such as believing they are misbehaved and undisciplined, or chiflado — spoiled. However, these are clinical conditions and treatments are available. Children with dyslexia also have this similar experience; for example, it is easy for people to believe that the reason why the child is having difficulty in school is because

There are various types of mental health treatments that can help with ADHD and ASD. One popular avenue is the holistic approach to psychiatry. This method includes psychopharmacological intervention in addition to psychosocial interventions. Research notes that when combining both approaches, we see better treatment outcomes. Of course, there are some parents who do not resort to medication management and only utilize psychosocial interventions, such as skills training, parent management training, and counseling interventions. Another popular treatment for both ADHD and ASD is Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), which is utilized in



they are lazy or unintelligent. During these moments, families with children who have ADHD, dyslexia, and ASD experience the stigma associated with these disorders. They often experience shame, judgment, and isolation. So how can we combat stigmas toward these disorders? The simplest answer is being mindful. It is okay to not know all of the information about every disorder ever, but it is not okay to be making quick assumptions about strangers and their families. Be mindful about the judgments you make, the things that you say out loud, and what you post online. It will make it easier on families with people who have disorders, friends, and maybe even yourself. In addition, a very easy way to begin combating stigma is to increase awareness,simply by using sensitive language. A mental health illness is a medical diagnosis. Like diabetes, hypertension, cholesterol, or any other medical condition, a mental health condition is a medical illness. People are not ADHD, autistic, or bipolar. They are individuals diagnosed with a mental health condition. We never say, “There goes diabetes or cancer,” do we? But again, individuals are quick to judge and must realize that people come first. Their abilities come first and not their disability. By focusing on their strengths and adhering to appropriate treatments available, stabilization and progress are possible outcomes.


AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER (ASD) Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disorder that may cause problems in language, thinking, feeling, and the ability to relate to others. The diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder encompasses two main areas which are a persistent deficit in social interactions and repetitive patterns of behavior. Symptoms for having a persistent deficit in social interaction involve the lack of nonverbal communication, an absence of reciprocating socially, and a deficiency in establishing relationships. Repetitive patterns of behavior include a high fixation to routines, becoming upset easily for not following a routine, and repetitive motor movements. These symptoms must cause impairment to daily life in order to be classified as autism.

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So how can we combat stigmas toward these disorders? The simplest answer is being mindful. It is okay to not know all of the information about every disorder ever, but it is not okay to be making quick assumptions about strangers and their families.


an ample gamma of professional settings. In clinical and educational settings, it can be described as a tool to “create [a] meaningful and functional behavior change in an individual in order for that individual to lead an independent and productive life as a member of society.” Overall, ABA can improve behavioral issues, social skills, verbal behavior, and daily living skills (Szpacks, 2006). Additional supplemental treatment interventions for ASD include speech, occupational, and physical therapy. Research indicates by having up to 15 to 20 hours of stimuli a week, children have a better treatment prognosis. By being more informed we, as a community, are able to better understand these three behavioral health conditions and the symptoms that accompany them. Being able to recognize the existence and prevalence of ADHD, autism, and Dyslexia helps facilitate the deterioration of stigmas that still exist in our society and communities. Although these conditions must be treated

with a specialist, the understanding and acceptance offered by the people surrounding the patients are critical for their emotional stability. As a society, we need to be more mindful about our judgments, and more intentional when offering help to others. References available upon request (Co-authors include Dr. Mercado’s Mental Health Lab at UTRGV: Paola Quijano, Melissa Briones, Abigail NunezSaenz, Andy Torres, Amy Ramirez, Fernando Martinez, and Armando Villarreal-Sosa)


ALFONSO MERCADO, PH.D., LICENSED PSYCHOLOGIST Valley Psychological Services - Assistant Professor-Department of Psychology at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley











SEP/OCT 2017




We Have the Power to Donate Life! “My daughter Annie impacted lives as an organ, eye and tissue donor. I have the power to share her legacy.” Linda, Donor Mom


“Because even living people have the power to save a life, I donated a kidney.” Lessa, Living Kidney Donor





“I am forever grateful to my organ donor and I have the power to save lives by educating others on the importance of donation.” Leticia, Kidney Recipient



TEXAS AIM by Elizabeth C. Martinez

“Through quality Club youths and teens at select sites throughout the state. Communities programs and are selected based on a broad range services, they of socio-economic data, including give our children but not limited to factors such as the skills and poverty, school success, limited encouragement English-speaking families, and other classifications. The number they need to of youths to be served at each site succeed." is determined by the average daily - Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa attendance of club members at that site. For example, the pool of potential participants could range from 28 to 72. Locations in the Rio Grande Valley include Edinburg, Harlingen, Los Fresnos, McAllen, Mission, Pharr, and Port Isabel. “The Boys & Girls Clubs in the Rio Grande Valley are excellent youth service organizations in our communities,” Hinojosa said. “Through quality programs and services, they give our children the skills and encouragement they need to succeed. These clubs provide a safe, caring environment and foster positive relationships to help kids overcome the challenges they face at home and at school, while enabling them to become responsible, successful young adults contributing to our communities. Thank you to the Boys & Girls Clubs of the RGV for your dedication and commitment to our children and giving them invaluable opportunities.”

Since 2009, Texas AIM has helped thousands of kids across the state and until recently, that



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funding was at risk. Investing in Texas kids has always been a priority to state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa. At the start of the 85th Legislative Session, there was zero budgeted for the Texas Academic Innovation and Mentoring (AIM) Program, which helps provide mentorship programs for at risk youth. However, Hinojosa, who is the vice chair of Senate Finance, was able to get $4.5 million approved by the end of the session. With cumulative minority dropout rates throughout Texas averaging about 50 percent, proven results of innovative collaboration programs such as Texas AIM are critical. The goal of Texas AIM is to improve academic success by providing academic tutoring and mentoring services targeting graduation success for youths ages 6 to 17 at risk of dropping out of school. This funding will help support Texas AIM programs in 59 communities throughout Texas.

What is Texas AIM? Texas AIM utilizes the historic strengths of the Boys & Girls Club organizations and Sylvan Learning Centers, along with cooperation of local school districts, to assist students in making pronounced gains in targeted academic areas. Texas AIM will provide academic services to Boys & Girls



Located on 3300 W Expressway 83, Ste 170 and La Plaza Mall coming Fall 2017 Rocky-Mountain Chocolate-Factory










EDUCATION San Diego ISD Earns Texas Title I Priority Schools (TTIPS) Grant by Susie Ma rtinez Can you imagine the impact 1 million dollars would have on helping to improve a child’s education? Texas’ San Diego ISD’s Collins-Parr Elementary School was awarded more than five times that — $5,353,000 — to boost education at the campus. Under the direction of Linda V. Alaniz, the staff at Educational Research Institute was able to secure the highly competitive Texas Title I Priority Schools (TTIPS), Cycle 5 grant. Collins-Parr Elementary was one out of 18 campuses awarded in the state of Texas, with approximately 48 applications received by the Texas Education Agency (TEA). “Our ERI staff worked countless hours to prepare a high-quality proposal for Collins-Parr Elementary and this can be reflected in the 5.3 million dollar funded application,” Alaniz said. “We are excited to see this grant unfold over the fouryear period and will provide guidance to both campus and district administrators throughout this process.”

In order to meet these objectives, the campus has begun utilizing grant funds to hire one new teacher, five educational aides, and a project director. Funds will also be utilized to provide a variety of professional development trainings for the teachers and administrators at Collins-Parr Elementary, as well as those designed to increase parental involvement, classroom management, and PBIS initiatives. Moreover, necessary supplies and equipment, including electronic tablets and student software will be purchased to supplement existing campus resources for the four-year period. In addition, the grant has allowed the campus to purchase a full Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Lab that will supplement and align to the daily classroom instruction, as well as expand its pre-K classrooms from a halfday program to full-day starting the 2017-18 academic school year. "The TTIPS grant has made a significant impact on our level of preparedness,” said Dr. Samuel Bueno, superintendent of San Diego ISD. “Teachers and administration finally have the resources and tools to fully educate our community's early childhood population. A most evident example is that we have enrolled 88 pre-K students versus only 38 last year. The impact of TTIPS will be significant for many years to come. Just the enrollment alone tells us how much more a school district will do when provided adequate resources. Thanks TTIPS grant!"

Increasing the percentage of students who pass the STAAR reading test from 63 percent to 66 percent by the end of Year 2 and will have a minimum of a 3 percent increase each subsequent year. Increasing the percentage of students who pass the STAAR writing test from 53 percent to 63 percent by the end of Year 2 and will have a minimum of a 5 percent increase each subsequent year. Increasing students’ attendance rates from 93.1 percent to 94.1 percent by the end of Year 2 and will have a 1 percent increase each subsequent year.



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The funding secured through the TTIPS grant will be utilized over a four-year period to enable the elementary school to raise the achievement of its students as well as enable the campus to meet annual goals and program-term objectives. The objectives of the grant include:

By Year 2, the campus will create and hold five new school-related functions annually for parents and community members in order to increase parental involvement. By Year 2, the campus will devise eight new instances to review data in order to refine classroom instruction, training plans, and program outcomes annually. By Year 2, the percent of teachers who demonstrate growth/ improvement in their performance from "developing and needs improvement" to "proficient" will increase from 66 percent to 75 percent and will have a minimum of a 2 percent growth annually.



Nationally Recognized UTRGV Professor Helping Pave the Way for Valley Talent s t o r y & p h o t os b y I re n e Wa zg ow s k a

in Monterrey changed the course of her life. Growing up in Monterrey, Lozano and her family would cross the border to shop in McAllen. She was familiar with La Plaza Mall and South Padre Island, but hadn’t been north of Nolana Avenue. On their way from Houston, her family chose the longer route through McAllen, for no explainable reason. On the highway, she saw a sign for the University of Texas-Pan American, and said, “let’s go and see what’s there.” They found a hidden treasure in Edinburg. They were amazed by how big the university was and that it even existed. It was the middle of the summer of 1999, and the campus was quiet, as there were only a few summer classes being held. When they spotted the engineering building, they strolled inside out of curiosity. A few minutes later, they bumped into the director of the School of Engineering at the time, Dr. Edwin LeMaster. He asked what they were doing there, and if he could provide any assistance. “Oh, I’m sorry, we don’t want to intrude or anything,” Lozano recalled saying. She introduced herself and said that “I just finished my PhD at Rice University, and we were on our way to a wedding ...” The director jumped in and asked, “Oh, do you want to see the labs? You know that this is a new building. I can show you around.” She said he was the greatest guy on Earth, and agreed. LeMaster took them on a tour of the labs and Lozano was amazed by the new discovery. Many of the instruments she was using at Rice were there, and they had plenty of space and “cool stuff.” He told her that they had been hiring, but that the positions were filled, and to send him her resume, as he’d like to stay in touch. She responded by letting him know that she wasn’t looking for a job right then, but agreed to send him her resume when she got back. In the spring semester of 2000, Lozano started her professorship at UTPA. She was given a full teaching load, and immediately set to work writing and submitting a proposal. She was granted the proposal, a CAREER grant (which is the most prestigious proposal that any young

On a Friday night in the summer of 2015, Dr. Karen Lozano received a phone call from an unknown number. Not one to answer an unknown call, she surprised herself when she hit the green button. The person on the other end stated that they were from the White House, and that President Barack Obama was requesting her presence in Washington, D.C., that coming Monday. Skeptical about the call, she asked that they communicate with her via email. Two minutes later, she received an email from That following Monday, she sat at a roundtable meeting with Obama and eight other entrepreneurs from a variety of industries. “It was very interesting,” she said. She reflected on the experience, remembering herself as a little girl in Mexico who always admired science and engineering. Now, there she sat, at a table full of nationally recognized business people who were helping change the landscape of business. “You’re talking about dreams come true.”



SEP/OCT 2017

ROAD TO THE VALLEY Lozano began her academic career at La Universidad de Monterrey, where she double majored in mechanical engineering and business administration. She was offered a fellowship to Rice University, where she pursued her master’s and doctorate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science. On the day of her doctoral graduation, Lozano dressed up her then-2-year-old son in a cap and gown, and was hooded holding his hand. When she found an article highlighting the event, and her special sidekick, she learned that there was something more unique to her graduation. She discovered that she was the fifth woman in 87 years to graduate from Rice with a mechanical engineering degree. At Rice, she was also the first Mexican woman to ever receive a doctorate from the university’s College of Science & Engineering. “I was like an alien working on Earth,” she said, looking back on the achievement. “It was a good thing I didn’t realize any of that until I graduated.” She had focused on her studies and research without the pressure of statistics. She stayed on at Rice for her postdoctoral work, but a trip for a wedding



From her own experience, Lozano knows that anything is possible in the Valley. She’s worked with many talented students and colleagues, and knows that embracing innovation will mean success and growth for the university and the community as a whole. She wants to continue to “promote the innovator of the 21st century, so that we have a lot of them here [in the Valley]”.

scientist can get), and the first ever at the university to earn one. UTPA received $400,000 from the National Science Foundation for her to do research, which she quickly used to get instruments and to set up a proper research lab. Now, more than 15 years later, she has 75 students doing research, and faculty that work and help maintain the labs.




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In her early days at UTPA, Lozano found herself once again in a unique situation. She was the only woman and youngest faculty member in her department. “I always felt kind of intimidated,” she said, even at Rice, thinking that “everyone is so smart.” She laughs now, and says that her husband would say “you’re smart” and “I would say everyone is really smart.” As time progressed, she realized that you become smart in the area that you specialize in, but that the real value is when you understand this later, as it keeps you working harder. Lozano believes in hard work, and encourages those she educates and mentors to learn through their determination. She is part of the effort to bring more talent into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), and to show Valley youths that mechanical engineering is an exciting field.




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CULTURE s t o r y & p h o t o s by Ke v i n M a r t i n e z




Have you ever wondered where the nickname Magic Valley came from? According to several accounts, Magic Valley started being used by Rio Grande Valley business promoters after they saw the results of the incorporation of complex irrigation systems in RGV farms. Around the 1940s, that nickname spread around the state of Texas, bringing in businesses from all over the nation. Pump houses, which until this day stand tall in many towns across the RGV, tell the story of early agriculture in the Valley, and the economic driver it has been for generations.

As time goes by, the RGV’s landscape shifts and forms an entirely new panorama, one filled with commercial potential that many nationally recognized businesses and brands are already taking advantage of. We are seeing more commerce come in, building up our growing metropolis and expanding our socio-economic possibilities. This is when the question arises: Is there any room left for our agricultural industry in this changing economic structure?



Rod Santa Ana, a seasoned veteran communications expert and retired communications specialist at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and Research Center, has heard and seen it all when it comes to Valley agriculture. “There will always be some type of commercial agriculture down here in the Valley,” Santa Ana said. “This is due to several key factors.” These factors highlight why the Rio Grande region is so special to the agricultural market both at the state and national levels. First, the ability to grow year round. “We don’t shut down for the winter the way other areas of the country do,” Santa Ana said. The Valley is known for its winter production of a variety of fruits and vegetables like watermelon, cantaloupes, onions, leafy greens, carrots, cabbage, and potatoes.

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An additional factor applies to what may be under your feet, depending on where you’re reading this. “Another reason is the soil we have here in the RGV,” Santa Ana said. “Eons of flooding by the Rio Grande left a very fertile soil for producers to work with.” The proof of the Valley’s fertile soil is in the variety of top crops produced, including sorghum, cotton, sugarcane, vegetables, and citrus. Lastly, agricultural research is an additional component that helps Santa Ana believe that there will always be commercial agriculture in the Valley. “Because of our sub-tropical climate, we tend to have insects and plant diseases at a very high incidence rate,” Santa Ana said. “Thanks to the research done at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and Research Center in Weslaco, scientists there are able to overcome a lot of the difficulties that growers have when producing their crops.” Research like this helps ensure a profitable future for Valley growers.

Sorghum $100 MILLION Citrus $60 MILLION Vegetable $50 MILLION Corn $25 MILLION Sugar Cane $15 MILLION Cotton $33 MILLION




AGRI-CULTURE “The numbers are the direct impact of agriculture but there are also indirect impacts,” Zapata said. “The Valley hires a good number of workers, so agriculture ends up creating jobs.” It’s easy to forget that the citrus grove you drive past every morning is being meticulously cared for year long. The people behind the fields of crops are just as important as the products themselves. “Agriculture is not easy,” Zapata said. “We have to really value and appreciate the hard work that our farmers are doing for us to have food.”

Dr. S amu el Zapata Assistant professor and extension economist at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Center in Weslaco




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The AgriLife Extension Center focuses its work on offering research space to scientists to help solve certain problems not just here in Texas but also around the world. The center has recently seen success in their research by developing new vegetable varieties that are resistant to pests and other plant diseases, while at the same time being able to educate new farmers on how to improve their production system. With farmer’s markets becoming more popular in the RGV, the chance to learn the intricacies of growing that certain crop and why it is that farmers grow that specific product are much higher. There is an opportunity to cultivate and grow an interest for one of the massive, but less spoken about industries in the RGV. As climate change and urbanization continue to be a part of our immediate future, continued education for both local growers and citizens becomes more important every day. “Here in the Valley, you can grow a variety of crops, there’s a broad set of options,” Santa Ana said. “This creates a tremendous opportunity for students, scientists, and industry.”


“There is a tendency, not only in the Valley but in the whole country, that consumers are more interested in knowing how their food was produced,” said Dr. Samuel Zapata, assistant professor and extension economist at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Center in Weslaco. According to Zapata’s research, the total value of agriculture in the Valley is estimated to be worth $670 million. “The Valley is one of the largest crop and vegetable production areas in the state,” Zapata said. “When you see the numbers, you realize that agriculture is really a big industry in the Valley.” The Valley’s ag-enterprise is here to stay. However, to say that the industry will be the same in 20 or 40 years is more of a gamble. The variables that drive the agricultural industry to succeed can be considered inconsistent, such as variables like weather, price, demand for current or new crops, regulation changes, and new diseases or pests. For example, it’s hard to say whether or not the Valley’s top crop, sorghum, will still be the number one commodity produced in the Valley at $100 million in the future. With highly volatile factors like weather playing a big part in agriculture, a simple drought or flood throws the production of crops into disarray. “But I think in the Valley we have the advantage compared to other areas in the country because we can pretty much produce the entire year,” Zapata said.


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SEP/OCT 2017

Discount Power Company Now Offering Competitive Prices for Local Customers

by A my C a s eb i er With dozens of power companies Rio Grande Valley residents can choose from, one particular organization in the region is shining bright as an option for everyone’s electricity needs. Discount Power Company has been serving the region and other parts of Texas since 2009, according to Fayyaz Ali, director of Business Development. Among all the different power companies customers can choose from, Discount Power stands out for a couple of special reasons — low prices and devotion to customers.

“At Discount Power, the customer is at the center of everything we do,” Ali wrote in an email. “The product that we sell is intangible — the customer cannot touch or feel it. We differentiate ourselves with reasonable prices and best in class customer service. We are a team of industry veterans who have been active in the retail electricity business since its inception in 2002.” This kind of experience has culminated recently with Discount Power winning a prestigious honor — the 2017 Pinnacle Award by the Better Business Bureau



"We differentiate ourselves with reasonable prices and best in class customer service. We are a team of industry veterans who have been active in the retail electricity business since its inception in 2002.”



in Houston. The award centers around “a rigorous and extensive annual evaluation of organizations utilizing performance standards such as dedication to customer service, ethical and trustworthy business behavior and commitment to excellence,” according to a news release on the Discount Power Company website. “This recognition is, in my opinion, a fitting testament to the dedication and hard work of the entire team at the company and its single-minded focus on providing customers great customer service, best possible products, and maintaining highest ethical standards and business practices,” Ali wrote about receiving the award. In addition to receiving the 2017 Pinnacle Award, Discount Power was also given the 80th ranking on Inc. 500 Magazine’s list of fastest-growing private companies in the country. “The Inc. 500 list also illustrated the fact that (Discount Power) was the fastest growing Retail Electricity Provider in the USA along with the fastest growing company in Houston and the third-fastest growing company in Texas,” Ali wrote. Discount Power serves nearly 200,000 residential customer equivalents across Texas, and is available wherever energy providers are deregulated in the state. The fact that it has one of the lowest customer complaint rates in the state is a testament to our focus on quality customer service, Ali added.


“We understand and fulfill our customers’ needs,” Ali wrote. “We offer no-gimmick, simple-to-understand products that are designed specifically to bring the most value to various types of customers, based on their size and consumption profile. We also make it a point to educate the customer on the product they are choosing before they make a decision to purchase any of our products.” Ali, who has worked at Discount Power for four years, looks forward to helping serve Valley residents and businesses as a competitive electricity company. “We are expanding our footprint in RGV based on our analysis of market prices here,” he wrote. “We believe in providing the best possible price to our customers, not burden them with unreasonably high prices. With this said, we have been able to save some customers as much as 20 to 40 percent on their energy cost compared to their existing providers. We believe that there is a need for a Retail Electricity Provider in Rio Grande Valley who works for the customer, not the other way around.” With hot Valley summers overtaxing air conditioning in houses and apartments, it’s easy to rack up an eyepopping, budget-busting power bill. However, Discount Power provides low-rate plans tailored to the usage of the consumer. The company’s fixed-rate plans take the guesswork out of electricity bills and are great for customers at all levels of energy usage, including customers using less electricity, as these plans do not have a penalty for low usage — unlike plans from other companies. “Discount Power offers service in multiple languages including Spanish and English,” Ali wrote. “We don’t believe in gimmicks or ‘nickel-and-diming’ the customer, so there is never a transfer of service fee charged by Discount Power. We also do not charge for providing you with a paper bill versus an e-bill or to be on auto-pay. And we offer some of the best prices in the market.” Learn more about Discount Power Company by visiting its website at

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- F a y y a z A l i , Di r e ct or of B u s i n e s s D e v e l op m e n t



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A Rio Grande Valley native with more than two decades of corporate experience and entrepreneurial insight, President and CEO of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) Javier Palomarez is a true pioneer in multicultural marketing and public and media relations. He is the special guest speaker at the Greater Mission Chamber of Commerce’s (GMCC) Sept. 14 Buenas Tardes Luncheon from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Cimarron Country Club. President and CEO of GMCC Robert Rosell spoke with Palomarez on the border wall, NAFTA, culture, and other issues pertinent to the Rio Grande Valley.

on closing the border would shift up to 61 percent of fruit production to other countries, even sending American jobs to Mexico. Besides agriculture, of course, the effects would hit other sectors such as construction and hospitality very hard. To be clear: mass deportations would have catastrophic economic consequences here and across the country.

Robert Rosell: What type of economic impact do you foresee for the RGV and the nation with the implementation of a border wall and mass deportations of undocumented immigrants?

JP: The decision was simple in my mind. By refusing

RR: When you became CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber, one of the many difficult decisions you made included severing ties with federal government funding. What led to this decision and what impact has it had on the chamber? government funding, the USHCC became independent and free to operate as our small businesses do. Today, we’re free to opine and advocate for the issues that matter most to our members without being bound to any administration or government entity. We applaud those government policies that work, and are free to criticize those that don’t, while offering our own solutions. The chamber can’t propose to be a business organization supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs if we are not entrepreneurial.

Javier Palomarez: Our position has always been that immigration reform is an economic imperative for America. I think the wall flies in the face of the ethos of this country, and we will never support the wall. More concerning than the proposed wall, is the specter of mass deportations. The human impact would be horrific. Beyond that, the economic impacts would be disastrous. Let me give you an example: About half the country’s 2.5 million hired farm hands are undocumented. Thousands more come to the United States legally with visas as guest workers under the H-2A visa program. A mass deportation would be debilitating to the national economy — and certainly to the RGV. Again, going to agriculture: agriculture, food, and related industries added $992 billion to U.S. GDP in 2015 — a 5.5-percent share. An immigration policy focused

RR: What piece of Rio Grande Valley culture do you find is still most prominent in your life and personality?

JP: I was born and raised here in South Texas and I carry the values I learned growing up here everywhere I go. First and foremost, the importance of family. I would also say appreciation for the dignity of hard work. And certainly, the honor of saying what you mean and meaning what you say. I wish there were more of that in Washington these days.



"Don’t let anyone tell you something can’t be done. It may be difficult, it may take a while, it may be unpopular, but with dedication, persistence, and a little creativity, everything is possible." - JAVIER PALOMAREZ

RR: Which individual or what moment in your life has been the most

RR: What motto/quote is your daily inspiration for success?

influential on your success and why?

JP: Don’t let anyone tell you something can’t be done. It may be difficult, it may take a while, it may be unpopular, but with dedication, persistence, and a little creativity, everything is possible.

JP: My mother raised my nine siblings and me on her own. Despite very difficult circumstances, she taught me: "always up, eyes forward, moving forward," and that with will and hard work, a person can power through anything. From her I learned my guiding principles — this notion of integrity, and honesty even when it’s not convenient, and doing what’s right even when somebody may or may not like it. I’ve never met anyone who comes close to having her dignity and her gracious demeanor.

RR: If or when NAFTA is renegotiated, what is the most important change you hope to see occur?

JP: NAFTA helped raise our country’s standard of living. Canada and Mexico became our largest and second largest export markets in the world. In 2016, trade between the U.S. and our northern and southern neighbors totaled $627.8 billion and $579.7 billion, respectively. With interlocking supply chains that stretch from Calgary to Oaxaca,  14 million American jobs now depend on trade with our neighbors. And of the American companies that export,  98 percent  are small and midsize businesses. But it is indisputably true NAFTA can be improved. Despite the deal’s benefits — lower prices for the American consumer, a boost in exports, and strengthened bilateral ties — Democrats and Republicans alike believe changes are overdue. We should start with a new name and a new mission. It’s time to strike a North American “Fair” Trade Agreement that prioritizes small businesses, manufacturers, and entrepreneurs in the United States.

RR: What piece of advice would you give to Hispanic small business owners and entrepreneurs?

JP: Hispanic businesses in America are growing. Do not be discouraged by the noise — in times of adversity, there can also be opportunity. Also know that there are many resources available to you, both locally, through your chamber, or nationally, through programs offered by the Small Business Administration and other agencies and organizations. Take advantage of that. Don’t try to go it alone. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

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Designing Schools for the

MODERN DIGITAL LEARNERS ERO Architects Lead Communities in Design of Schools Aimed at Modern Digital Learners



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b y ERO A r c h i t e c t s

This fall, two of ERO’s designs for new 21st century high schools will open in Texas. Each one is on-point in providing for the needs of digital-learning students while successfully reflecting its community values and cultural references. The journey for Furr High School, a Houston 2012 Bond Replacement High School, began back in 2001 with its principal, Dr. Bertie Simmons, who is now described as the most successful principal in the United States. In order to take back control of school from gangs and chaos, Simmons worked with faculty and students alike to design curricula needed to lead


to successful learning outcomes and peace. The result is a teaching methodology that delivers voice, choice, and responsibility based on the tenets of respect, belief, and the 16 habits of the mind (behaving intelligently and maturely even when you do not know the correct response to a problem). By the time the school district began selecting architectural firms for the 2012 Bond Program, Furr High School had already increased graduation rates from 47 percent to 90 percent and Simmons knew from experience the firm designing Furr High School had to be able to design a culturally relevant, inspirational learning environment — an environment for digital, self-directed, and experiential learners. ERO won support of the school and community by listening and collaborating in a way that was instructive to everyone. The new facility provides a college campus atmosphere, preparing students for postgraduate success with the comfort of a second home and health and wellness facilities. ERO’s design provides a broad range of spaces for the students who choose what and how to study through experimentation, invention, or collaboration. Spaces accommodate the practice of Habits of the Mind and its Thinkery, where students work on dispute resolution or hold student court for school policy violators who pay retribution in the form of study. Modern tools are provided for gardeners (botanists), computer scientists, artists, and filmmakers, along with flexible spaces to accommodate individual, lecture, or large-group learning. Some traditional spaces enable students to have college-level experiences with laboratories or vocational training. Furr High School was one of 10 high schools in the nation in 2016 to win the prestigious XQ Super School Competition worth $10 million to Furr and Houston ISD. Simmons acknowledged ERO’s impact on the award. “They worked well with us,” she said. “We would not have been able to do this without ERO Architects.” Similarly to Furr High School, Seguin is a 2012 Bond replacement high school. Seguin ISD hired ERO to assist with the 2012 bond passage after two previous school bond efforts failed. The third bond passed in favor by 67 percent of the vote. Seguin sought a 21st century high school that would provide learning spaces for all pedagogies into the foreseeable future. Seguin ISD asked ERO to envision a new school for an enrollment in excess of 2,450, while providing for an intimate, memorable high school experience. ERO’s result is a school with modern learning spaces and educational amenities totaling more than 420,000 gross square feet. The students, teachers, and administrators are excited about the spaces designed for them, which they refer to as a center or house. The



“ERO’s attention to detail, response to our needs, addressing community input, and respect for our budget were key ingredients to successfully designing our new learning facility.” - Louis Reyes, former School Board President



100 students working together for success. The Alpha House has science laboratories that offer a college-like environment for accelerated training. Part of the demolished wooden gym floor with the high school logo graces the wall of the new gymnasium to retain some of the Matador heritage. Students praise the high degree of natural lighting, flexibility, cultural references, and tools that facilitate learning and engender a creative professional atmosphere. “ERO’s attention to detail, response to our needs, addressing community input, and respect for our budget were key ingredients to successfully designing our new learning facility,” said Louis Reyes, a former school board president.


Matador Center on the main floor provides administration, student services of all types, and a cafeteria with both an indoor and outdoor commons, facilitating interaction. The Mat House has space for all athletic activities, whether cheer, dance, physical education, or team sports with locker rooms. The board of trustees also opted for a new performing arts center, black box, choir and band hall, and two new gymnasiums. The Delta House contains journalism and CTE instruction. ERO created space for 13 different technical high-wage and -skill careers. The large group instruction (LGI) center has a library, and space for innovation and technology as well as an open classroom space for as many as 50 students. The Alpha House for 11th and 12th graders occupies the entire third floor of the school. The open and flexible space classrooms allow as many as

SEP/OCT 2017



B ILL MARTIN CFP ® , 1845 CAP ITAL OF RAY MON D JAME S, 95 6-3 3 1-2777


You bequeath your shares to your children. When your children inherit, they enjoy a “cost-basis step-up” to the stock’s fair market value (FMV) on the date of your passing ($116/share). The stock also is automatically considered a long-term holding, regardless of whether you yourself held it for more than a year. The step-up narrows the amount of gain that would be subject to long-term capital gains taxes if the stock appreciates further. If your children immediately sell the inherited shares, they will owe $0 in capital gains taxes, even though the stock appreciated significantly during your ownership.

Cost basis (n.):

The original value of an asset used for tax purposes, adjusted for corporate actions, distributions, wash sale rules, and income reallocation.



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Seems straightforward, doesn’t it? But this simple number can make a big difference when it comes to taxes. The Internal Revenue Service uses your cost basis to calculate how much you’ve gained or lost by owning a particular asset, including tangible property and investments. You typically will owe short- or long-term capital gains taxes on the gains realized when you sell the asset, if the asset has appreciated between when you purchased it and when it’s sold. Your cost basis matters when it comes to estate planning, too. Here’s why.

Tax savings: That’s a potential savings of $21,200 with cost-basis step-ups as part of your estate and tax planning. There are a couple of variations of cost-basis step-ups, including ones that take joint ownership of the original asset into account and one that uses an alternate valuation date. Some accounts qualify for an alternate valuation six months from the original date of death. Because taxes are complicated, it’s wise to consult with your financial and tax professionals in order to stay within the guidelines. If the asset in question has lost value, a step-down will occur, so selling the asset, rather than bequeathing it, may make more sense.

Step-ups in Action Say you purchased 1,000 shares of a tech company stock in 1980, when it was approximately $10 per share, and held on to it. Decades later, the stock is now valued at $116 per share.


You sell the stock yourself You’ll reap $106,000 in gains but also owe Uncle Sam $21,200 in long-term capital gains taxes (assuming the 20 percent rate, which could be higher for those subject to the Medicare surtax). Now, consider this.

Article provided by Bill Martin, CFP®, 1845 Capital of Raymond James, 1400 N McColl, Suite 101, McAllen, TX 78501. For more information, please contact Bill Martin, CFP® at 956-331-2777. Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, CFP® (with plaque design) and CFP® (with flame design) in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board's initial and ongoing certification requirements." © Raymond James & Associates, Inc. member New York Stock Exchange / SIPC



With Derrick Kinney & Associates

- It's All About Family A dedicated family man who cares for his clients like his extended family, Derrick Kinney and his team are passionate about helping each family Derrick Kinney and his family

they work with achieve the financial goals that are important to them. Making Life Easier and Reducing Stress

A strong supporter of McAllen schools, Derrick supports quality education by recognizing outstanding teachers and students. Their team gives back to worthy organizations that make our local communities stronger and help those in need.

Recently, the Derrick Kinney & Associates team received a 99% Client Satisfaction score. Many clients commented on what a "great experience" it was to work with their team and how easy they made things. "Our goal is to make life easier and reduce stress for our clients," Kinney said. The trusted team at Derrick Kinney & Associates is there to help make their clients lives better.

Examples of clients they serve include: Couples who want to have enough money to travel and spend time with their grandchildren.

A family-focused practice, Derrick Kinney & Associates serves preretirees, retirees, professionals, and business owners. Kinney said the people he visits with have worked hard at their jobs, providing for their families, raising their kids, or building their businesses. Giving Back to the Rio Grande Valley

Single parents who have worked hard to support their families. Widows that need guidance on not running out of monthly income.



SEP/OCT 2017

Helping Those who Help Their Families

Derrick Kinney with Mario Reyna, McAllen ISD Coordinator for Health & Physical Education (K-12) After School Enrichment Programs

For a no-obligation visit with one of their friendly and knowledgeable financial advisors, contact Derrick Kinney & Associates at (956) 668-0701 or online at




Up Close with Private Wealth Advisor Derrick Kinney Designations:

Q: What should investors do right now? As I visit with clients, many tell me they are concerned about the stock market — will it keep going up, or should they brace for a sudden drop? Listen, it’s more important than ever to know how much risk is in each investment you own. Have your advisor run a worst-case scenario on your portfolio.

1. For retirees, keep six months of your income needs in cash. So whatever the market does, you’re not having to sell out of something when an investment is down to maintain your lifestyle. 2. For future retirees, live on a “practice retirement budget” for three months. This is critical to knowing how much money you need to live on in retirement.

For a no-obligation visit with one of their friendly and knowledgeable financial advisors, contact Derrick Kinney & Associates at (956) 668-0701 or online at

While the future is uncertain, here are some easy, yet powerful tips:

Q: Derrick, you’re well-known for your passion for education and supporting local schools. Why is that important to you?

• Interviewed on: FOX Business, FOX News, Bloomberg TV, CNBC, CNN • Recognized by Texas Monthly Magazine as a "Five Star Wealth Manager" for the fifth year • Featured in the Wall Street Journal as one of the Wealth Managers investors need to know



Retirement specialist Derrick Kinney is often interviewed by local and national media to make complex financial topics “easy-tounderstand.” We caught up with Derrick to gain his wealth wisdom.

At Derrick Kinney & Associates, our clients are part of something much bigger than us just managing their money. Through us, they are helping recognize outstanding teachers and student leaders and giving back to local organizations that make a difference in our community. There isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t think about a past teacher or professor that had a big impact on me. Teaching is an honorable profession and I respect and admire their dedication. Teachers helped shape me into the man I am today.


Q: Great point, Derrick! What about someone who is about to retire or is already retired. What tips do you have for them?

SEP/OCT 2017

Chartered Advisor for Senior Living (CASL) Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) Certified Long Term Care (CLTC) Certified Retirement Planning Counselor (CRPC)



Bob’s Steak and Chop House Brings a New and Stately Dining Experience to Valley Residents



SEP/OCT 2017

by Lo r i Ho u s t o n & p h ot os b y Ke v i n M a rt i n e z

Less than 2 percent of beef produced in the United States is certified as USDA Prime. It is delightfully tender and juicy with a buttery flavor which makes it distinctively superior to any other steak, and it is now being served up here in the Rio Grande Valley. The Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg recently became home to the newest location of Bob’s Steak and Chop House, and one of the Prime Time Top Ten Steakhouses is offering a new and stately dining experience to Valley residents. The elegance starts when you first arrive and are greeted with complimentary valet service. From the moment you walk through the door, you notice the details; jars of pickles on each table and hot loaves of bread coming from the kitchen,

a couple of Bob's signatures. The restaurant is divided into smaller sections, and each one has its own ambience. In between two areas is the temperature-controlled, walk-in wine cellar, complete with a rolling ladder so the servers can reach the topmost bottles. It won't be long until you're a regular. Bob’s serves the finest brands of cocktails and wine with large cuts of prime beef with your choice of smashed or skillet potatoes and the iconic glazed carrots, which come with every meal. Dinner at Bob's isn't just a meal, it's an experience with a welcoming, lively atmosphere and simple elegance. With prime steaks, chops, and seafood served by a friendly and knowledgeable staff, you're comfortable the moment you



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THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 14 + McAllen Chamber of Commerce Business Expo

SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 24 + South Texas Wedding & Quinceanera Showcase

SATURDAY OCTOBER 7-8 + PalmFest International Folklife Celebration 2017


FRIDAY OCTOBER 13-15 + North American Jewelry Show

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walk in the door. No pretension, no intimidation, just a welcoming atmosphere with authentic food and service. Juan Luis Mussenden is the general manager of this Bob’s Steak and Chop House, and he intends to make all of his customers fall in love with Bob’s just as he did. Comprehensive service is one of the most important aspects of the experience at Bob’s Steak and Chop House. Mussenden’s staff are trained to learn your preferences and recall them at each and every visit to make your experience comfortable and memorable. “We have stiff drinks, fine wines, USDA Prime steaks and friendly service,” Mussenden said. Those at Bob’s take pride

in using the top 2 percent quality midwestern beef from Chicago, and get most of the fish served from the Gulf of Mexico. “The Valley deserves a fine dining establishment such as this,” said Peter Higgins, part of the ownership team of Bob’s Steak and Chop House. He believes that the location, right on I 69 at Trenton, is very convenient for people traveling from other areas of the Valley. Leaders at Bob’s are excited to be a part of what is essentially a year-round entertainment area with different venues like Bert Ogden Arena and H-E-B Park. The many local hospitals and the new medical school have sparked an increase in the need for spaces for professionals to hold business dinners, meeting, and presentations. Bob’s Steak and Chop House plans to offer them and all Valley businesses a venue for business dinners and meetings within their banquet rooms, which are also equipped with audio/visual hook-ups. They can accommodate everything from large gatherings to small parties and offer personalized event planning. Reservations can be taken online through OpenTable, where you can make special requests. Every location creates and upholds their own unique personality, but the dining and service standards are shared across all locations. Every customer is treated like a VIP, upholding the service that Bob's is famous for and what their customers have come to expect from them.


RGVisionary Woman-Deborah Portillo


COMMUNITY b y A b b e y Ku n k l e



SEP/OCT 2017

doesn't involve being at her parents’ store in downtown Brownsville. Being immersed in the business at such a young age provided an opportunity that many children never experience. “My work ethic, values, determination, faith and drive come from my parents,” she said. “They gave everything to their children, so that they could have a chance at a better life. For that, I will be eternally grateful.” This work ethic has flourished into success in the business world as well as into a commitment to her community. Her first entrepreneurial and solo venture, Portillo Chic Inc., opened its doors in 2013. When she learned of her father’s plans to close their original store, Portillo was inspired to carry on her family’s legacy in Brownsville, where it all started. With a little encouragement from her mother, she took a leap of faith and set off on her new venture. After being turned down by every single bank in town, a determined Portillo refused to take no for an answer and found investors to help make her dream a reality. Nearly five years later, Portillo Chic, a jewelry boutique that focuses on the millennial market and buying experience specializing in engagement rings, unique statement pieces, and customized jewelry, is thriving. This innovative concept is going strong, recently voted Favorite Jewelry Store in The Brownsville Herald’s Reader’s Choice Awards. She then took that same concept to her subsequent endeavor, Lace, by Portillo Chic, which has over a year in operation specializing in bridal, quinceañera, formal gowns, and lingerie. Portillo’s leadership and commitment to individuals has helped build a team that has grown with her, allowing her to focus some of her efforts into other areas. One such undertaking included campaigning for a place as city commissioner of Brownsville, and after a run-off, Portillo secured a four-year term and the chance to make a difference. In addition to her desire to give back, Portillo encountered some frustrations in the process of opening her business, and rather than complaining from the sidelines, she decided to do something about it. Portillo was sworn into the City Commission of Brownsville in 2013 and made it her goal to make the city more tech-savvy, business-friendly, and transparent to the public. Along with opening her own business, serving her hometown on the city commission

Businesswoman, entrepreneur, public servant, and family woman — these are just a few words that describe Brownsville native and RGVisionary Woman Deborah Portillo. Those who grew up in the Valley might recognize the surname Portillo from Portillo Jewelers in McAllen, Harlingen, and Brownsville. Deborah Portillo comes from a family of jewelers, with her parents first establishing their namesake store in downtown Brownsville over 33 years ago. With both parents coming from humble backgrounds, Deborah is proud of the legacy they created. According to Portillo, there isn't a childhood memory of hers that 48


avenue she pursues. “I do not consider myself a visionary by any stretch of the My work ethic, values, imagination,” she said. “I am determination, faith humbled and honored by this designation. However, I’m just a and drive come from young woman trying to do right my parents. They by her parents, make a name gave everything to for herself and enjoy life in the their children, so process. I don’t know what the that they could have future may bring but one thing a chance at a better is certain, I will not be bored in life. For that, I will be the process.” A wonderful example of eternally grateful. leadership in her community, - Deborah Portillo like Portillo, we can all strive to dream big and make those dreams come true. “If I had one piece of advice, it would be, do not take ‘no’ for an answer,” Portillo said. “Never let someone make you feel like you’re not good enough, smart enough or anything less, even if that someone is yourself. You are what you want to be, and you give yourself the place you think you deserve. The world is literally at your fingertips and one must not take that for granted!”



SEP/OCT 2017

has been among the top experiences in her life. With a heavy heart, this year, Portillo decided not to seek reelection. She felt that it was time for someone with new ideas to come into the fold and wanted to spend more time on business and with family and friends. Shortly after leaving office, she accepted a position as director of Industrial Development with OmniTRAX, an affiliate of The Broe Group, a large, successful, privately held North American company that specializes in real estate investment/ development, transportation, supply chain solutions, and energy. This position is the perfect platform for Portillo to manifest her skills and experience in business and economic development. She’s already active in projects to recruit numerous companies to the Rio Grande Valley that will create hundreds of desirable new jobs and sustainable economic benefits for the community at large. “I tried to make the best of the four years I was in public office,” Portillo said. “I feel one never truly stops serving.” She remains actively involved in a variety of organizations. “I honestly feel I make a difference for my community every day — however large or small that it may be. It means the world to me.” When she’s not working, Portillo likes to spend time with her family, enjoys the arts, and buries herself in a good book. Though she says most will never see that side of her, she is a nerd at heart who never wants to stop learning. With great passion for her family and her hometown, Portillo continues to model success in every







SEP/OCT 2017

by La u ra Ly l e s Re a g a n

Mayor Richard Garcia is seeking reelection for his fourth term. At 70 years old, he doesn’t look his age. He is as disciplined about his workout routine as he is about implementing his vision of economic growth and quality city services in Edinburg. County Judge Ramon Garcia once compared him to Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Judge Ramiro Guerra. “It’s better to be lucky than good, but you have to be proactive,” Mayor Garcia said.

Edinburg has seen tremendous growth and now has a population nearly equal to McAllen. During his first term, Mayor Garcia addressed what he called “the basics.” Under his leadership, Edinburg built new city facilities and improved city services, updating them from the 1950s without an increase in taxes. He focused on job creation in three major sectors: small businesses, primarily fast food and retail; industry, such as Santana Textiles; and the healthcare sector, with Doctors


Hospital at Renaissance, which employs over 4,000 people, and United Healthcare System, which includes Driscoll Children’s Hospital. Now Edinburg leads Hidalgo County in job creation. Additionally, these businesses contribute to Edinburg through property taxes, adding to the city’s general fund. Further growth required an innovative approach that would not increase taxes and would serve to restructure city debt. The mayor asked his team to research



UPCOMING EVENTS FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 8 + Luis De Alba - La Gran Gira De Despedida SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 9 + El Gordo y El Otro SATURDAY OCTOBER 14 + La Doble Moral El Musical *New Date* (2 showings) WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 18 + Russian Grand Ballet Presents Swan Lake FRIDAY OCTOBER 20-22 + PAW Patrol Live!: Race to the Rescue (6 showings) FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 10 + Dr. Cesar Lozano

SATURDAY DECEMBER 2-3 + RGV Ballet's The Nutcracker (2 showings) THURSDAY DECEMBER 7 + Cirque Dreams: Holidaze on Tour JANUARY 2-7, 10-14, 17-21 + John Milton For more information, please visit the McAllen Convention Center Box Office or 956.681.3800



SATURDAY NOVEMBER 18 + Adrian Uribe & Omar Chaparro Imparables “El Show”

SEP/OCT 2017

FRIDAY NOVEMBER 17 + Valley Symphony Orchestra presents Touch of Frost


solutions. Former city manager Ramiro residential. The revitalization will include Garza found a solution in San Antonio. stage music in the square and other arts San Antonio revitalized their city without kiosks. increasing taxes through a Tax Increment “Edinburg is the best it’s ever been,” Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ). Mayor Garcia said. A tax increment reinvestment zone (TIRZ) The mayor is proud that Edinburg won a is a political subdivision of a municipality budget award with the status of exemplary. or county in the state of Texas created to Edinburg’s credit rating was upgraded in implement tax increment financing. They part because of its use of TIRZs, which keep may be initiated by the city or county or the tax rates from increasing. by petition of owners whose total holdings Edinburg was one of the first Valley cities in the zone consist of a majority of the to embrace and contribute to the medical appraised property value. school. The mayor was quite vocal with his Edinburg has four TIRZs and is working support. on its fifth. None of the investment comes “We are following San Antonio’s example,” from the city’s general fund. Examples of he said. “As a result of their medical school the TIRZ include The Shoppes at Rio Grande investment, San Antonio’s growth rate Valley and the new RGV Vipers Arena, which became the second largest in Texas and is under construction. It will pay back seventh in the United States.” the city $89 million “Edinburg is about precisely because family and I am about it is structured as a family!” Mayor Garcia “I want to build a TIRZ. Part of the new added. state-of-the-art, courthouse will be paid The mayor has a for as a TIRZ without special needs adult all-inclusive special an increase in taxes. daughter. He is keenly needs park in Other Rio Grande aware of the vast needs Edinburg. I want this Valley cities are now of families of children to be my legacy.” emulating Edinburg by with disabilities. He - Mayor Richard Garcia utilizing TIRZs for city is even more aware of projects. the lack of services “I am always willing available to these to learn and not re-invent the wheel,” Mayor families. Garcia said. “We may not see all the estimated 80,000 Public-private partnerships are a practical special needs children in the Valley; they do solution for parking problems and public not have a whole lot of places to go. We are transportation needs. The mayor reports going to change that!” With a big smile on that public-private partnerships are being his face, he shared the joy his own family discussed with a cab group out of Dallas/ has received from volunteering. “My wife Austin and an expansion of the Valley and I have been invited to volunteer with Metro system. The pedestrian mall from Capable Kids, a nonprofit for special needs the courthouse to the city hall and on to the children and their families.” They provide university will become a place of commerce services, events, and advocacy for children for street vendors inspired by Las Ramblas with disabilities. At the baseball games the in Spain. organization hosts, the mayor and his wife Not re-inventing the wheel includes pushes players’ wheelchairs around the studying what other university towns with bases of the diamond. county seats are doing. Under the mayor’s “I want a fourth term in no small part to direction, consultants were hired to draft a bring these children and families out of the master plan for downtown Edinburg. The shadows,” Mayor Garcia said. “I want to concept of public-private partnerships will build a state-of-the-art, all-inclusive special facilitate the revitalization of downtown. needs park in Edinburg. I want this to be my The bottom of the storefronts downtown legacy.” will be retail and the upper portions will be

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SEP/OCT 2017

b y D e b r a At l a s

With a proven track record of providing the residents of the Rio Grande Valley with superior quality care, Rio Grande Regional Hospital is excited to be celebrating its 35th anniversary. Rio Grande Regional Hospital opened its doors September 27, 1982, as a 150-bed hospital with less than 400 employees and 200 physicians. Today, the hospital is a 320-licensedbed hospital with over 1,200 employees and more than 500 physicians representing over 35 specialties. As an affiliated hospital of the Healthcare Corporation of America (HCA), Rio Grande Regional Hospital has the support of the nation's leading provider of healthcare services to provide you patient-centered medical care practiced with integrity and compassion.

Its mission statement — “Above all else, we are committed to the care and improvement of human life” — is the guiding principle the hospital staff and physicians operate by. “Providing the patients with quality care is the ultimate in the staff’s decision-making,” said Debbie Brooks, the hospital’s Board of Trustees President. “The staff cares about quality, not quantity. They take the time to ensure each patient’s comfort, instead of focusing solely on numbers and statistics. Quality is the bottom line of how people are being cared for during their most vulnerable time.” Cris Rivera, Rio Grande Regional Hospital’s Chief Executive Officer and a Valley native who began her medical career in 1982 as a lab supervisor at the same hospital she now oversees, understands the importance of always providing








Rio Grande Regional Hospital has evolved and grown during its three-plus decades. Today it offers a full range of inpatient and outpatient medical and surgical services, including: Advanced Level III Trauma Center located at the main hospital Emergency Room services offered at the main hospital Two 24/7 off-site Emergency Departments; one is conveniently located between Shary Road and Taylor Road off Expressway 83 in McAllen, and the second location is near the corner of McColl Road and University Drive in Edinburg

Women’s Services at the main hospital, which include labor and delivery and a 32-bed Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) The Children’s Medical Center, a full-service center located within Rio Grande Regional Hospital Rio Grande Surgery Center, which provides easy access and quality patient care for outpatient surgeries and procedures A Comprehensive Accredited Center in Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery as designated by the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program, since 2007 An established partnership with the Texas Institute for Robotic Surgery in Austin, to offer the latest in robotic technology to adult patients in the Rio Grande Valley A Diabetes Management Center recognized by the American Diabetes Association A Physical Therapy program that serves the area's Parkinson's patients and treats patients with the latest in rehabilitation technology 55


Four Rio Grande Regional Hospital Women’s Clinics located throughout Hidalgo County that offer an array of services to meet every woman’s health care needs

SEP/OCT 2017

Three outpatient Regional Medical Laboratories that offer wellness screens and a multitude of tests


quality health care to meet the needs of the patients and community members. She has witnessed firsthand how employees use Rio Grande Regional Hospital’s mission statement to deliver compassionate care. Rivera recounted a story of a worried mom who came to the hospital in 1987 to deliver her second child. When the mom made it into the delivery department, she was feeling nervous, anxious, and frightened because the baby was late, and the nurse caring for the mom knew she could not leave her at that moment. As the day progressed, and the nurse’s shift ended, without hesitation, the nurse held the worried mom’s hand and reassured her that she was going to stay with her until the baby was born, and she did. That anxious mom was Rivera herself! Fast forward to today, and the staff continues to reassure the patients with the same level of utmost compassion and care. “That consistent level of care and compassion is what sets Rio Grande Regional Hospital apart,” Rivera said. The heartfelt kindness she experienced on that day in the delivery room is one of the many reasons she is very proud to be a part of a team dedicated to serving the medical needs of the residents of the Rio Grande Valley.



We are a top performing hospital based on accrediting standards. We are not the biggest, but we are the best.

Cris Rivera



SEP/OCT 2017

Rio Grande Regional Hospital Chief Executive Officer

Debbie Brooks

Troy A. Villarreal

Rio Grande Regional Hospital Board of Trustees President

HCA Gulf Coast Division President

Each year, the hospital and its leadership thoroughly assess the community's and their physicians' needs, Rivera said. They then add, change, and/or expand services to ensure everything functions at the highest level of efficiency and quality. This attention to detail is what makes Rio Grande Regional Hospital stand out from the rest. The hospital was the first in Hidalgo County to offer community health care through convenient satellite locations, said Troy A. Villarreal, HCA Gulf Coast Division President. In 2012, it was the first in the Rio Grande Valley to open a freestanding emergency department; today, there is a second freestanding emergency department and there are plans for a third. Addressing the area's needs, Rio Grande Regional Hospital specializes in the health conditions frequently experienced in this region: diabetes management, weight-loss programs, emergency services, and cardiovascular care. However, to truly serve the community, education is crucial. The hospital provides community educational classes comprehensively covering topics such as diabetes management — including gestational diabetes, childbirth and breastfeeding classes, and weight loss. They offer pre- and post-surgical support and community education in stroke and heart attack awareness, in addition to healthy lifestyle tips to prevent heart disease. Rio Grande Regional Hospital has its eye on the future for both the surrounding community and its staff and physicians. Its physician-friendly operations provide a wide variety of digital tools and applications that allow physicians access to real-time medical care of their patients. In addition, Villarreal said, their outstanding, dedicated team of IT health professionals and HCA Healthcare business partners

Dr. Jennifer AlmonteGonzalez Rio Grande Regional Hospital Chief of Staff and OB/GYN

work together, making the hospital a leader in automating and integrating clinical, patient safety, and administrative functions. Leadership goes hand in hand with commitment and Rio Grande Regional Hospital demonstrates both. “The hospital has a strong commitment to the community while being supported by a corporation,” said Dr. Jennifer Almonte-Gonzalez, Rio Grande Regional Hospital's Chief of Staff and an OB/GYN. “We're combining the best of both worlds. This shows up in attention to details, and outcomes.” Medical professionals across the country have been steadily decreasing their time with patients. Yet, Dr. AlmonteGonzalez said, this is one area Rio Grande Regional Hospital and staff excel in. Doctors and nurses take their time and listen to patients. “By spending that time, they pick up on things they can report to staff and/or doctors,” Dr. Almonte-Gonzalez said. “They're looking to prevent problems before they arise.” Living up to their core values — commitment, integrity, respect and excellence — is no small task. It is the reason Rio Grande Regional Hospital has been so successful in caring for the community. “Rio Grande Regional Hospital is a top performing hospital based on accrediting standards,” Rivera said. “Our commitment is to continue providing you and your loved ones with the same high-quality, compassionate health care you have come to expect from us. Although we may not be the biggest, we are the best, and we proudly put our patients first in everything we do. We would like to thank you for placing your trust in Rio Grande Regional Hospital and allowing us the opportunity to serve you for 35 years.”



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or ointment that claims to solve the world’s problems. To add to the confusion, if you go to the injection person, you get an injection. If you go to the orthotic/insole person, you get an orthotic. If you go to the surgeon, well, you get the point. So what gives? Why does it hurt so much when I step out of bed in the morning? Why are the soles of my feet so tender to touch? Why is it that when I wear my favorite chanclas, my feet are “killing” me the next day?

Addressing the Plantar Problem by F ort ino Go nza lez, P T, D i p MDT, FAAOMP T, OCS

It seems like every other person with foot pain has plantar fasciitis, whether they have been diagnosed by a medical professional or selfdiagnosed.

The leg bone is connected to the foot bone

Plantar fasciitis is the second-most common reason why a person sees an orthopedic surgeon, according to the American Board of Orthopedic Surgeons. Plantar fasciitis, a pain disorder, can be a debilitating condition that results in pain in the heel and the bottom of the foot that is usually most intense in the first few steps of the day, after prolonged sitting, or following a period of rest.  In severe cases, pain may also be frequently brought on by prolonged walking or standing, especially at the end of a long work day on your feet.



SEP/OCT 2017

Science matters By definition, plantar “fasciitis” implies that there is inflammation in the plantar tissue; however, if you have had symptoms for more than 28 days, inflammatory cells are seldom found in this tissue/ tendon, according to world leading anatomists. The true condition is what we call plantar fasciosis. Fasciosis implies that the tissue is now healing and that scar tissue has formed and is continuing to form. Even though leading therapists, physicians, and researchers are in agreement that this condition is the result of biomechanical issues, many people will often try to treat it with what we call the “bag of tricks.” Out of desperation, people often try massage, orthotics/insoles, trendy tapes (neon in color), ice bottle massage, rolling pin self-massage, or some special “deep penetrating” gel

Because of the way our body’s muscles are connected, a weakness in one muscle group affects the stresses placed on other tissues/muscles in ways that may surprise you. Biomechanical dysfunction is at the root of most plantar fasciosis pain but is often misunderstood. So, if this is the case, then this issue must be treated bio-mechanically. This problem is not only treatable with the proper diagnosis, education, and treatment. More importantly, it is preventable. With an understanding of how the foot and leg interact, you are empowered to make the right choices to build flexible, strong, happy calves and feet that support your whole body’s full range of locomotion.

Biomechanics of locomotion Your lower leg muscles are designed not only to propel you and create motion but also decelerate your movement by absorbing shock. The motion disorder that leads to heel pain is caused by tight and/or strong calf muscles with weak shin and/or foot muscles, which ends up creating a tug-of-war between these structures with the calcaneus/heel bone left in the middle. In this scenario, the stronger calf muscles overpower the smaller, weaker foot muscles, causing abnormal stress over the origin of the plantar fascia. At that point, it’s only a matter of time before the tissues break down, causing pain and inflammation, which lead to the scenario described above.  For more about how to treat and prevent plantar fasciitis/ fasciosis, visit, go to The Plantar Problem page, and watch a short video where we demonstrate some simple exercises that may save your feet. 


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A Mother's Advocate

Edinburg doula devoted to bringing clients’ babies into world



SEP/OCT 2017

b y Am y C as e b i e r & p h o t o s b y N o r m a H e s s

When Sofia Aleman assists with births in the Rio Grande Valley, she remembers exactly what happened at each of them. “I can totally recall every single person’s birth, detail by detail,” she said. “You just invest so much time and that’s something that I would not trade. I just take so much heart into my clients. I can honestly say at the end of every single birth that I love them. They become my friends and I still think about them.” Aleman is one of a handful of doulas operating in the region — and the only Spanish-speaking one in the Valley. Through Intricately Woven Birth Services, she offers Bradley Method birth classes as well as her expertise as a doula during clients’ birth experiences — whether they choose natural births, home births, or even Cesarean sections. According to DONA International, a Chicago-based

organization that offers instruction and other resources for doulas, a doula is “a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to a mother before, during, and shortly after childbirth to help her achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible.” The continuous part is essential for the relationship between doula and mother. Aleman sometimes finds herself staying up for 48 hours straight with clients. “I know that some people think that the doula’s role is extra, but I just feel it’s so vital because I’m the only person there that doesn’t leave,” she said. “I don’t change shifts. I’m literally there from start to finish.” During births, Aleman provides direct support to mothers, which can include conducting counter pressure massage,



and then let go of the emotional turmoil. I was very touched and grateful that I felt safe around her in that way and that she was intuitive enough to ask.” Olson-Hazboun’s labor lasted 39 hours, and Aleman was there for every minute and beyond. A friend first told the couple about doulas, and after meeting with Aleman, the personal connection they felt with her led them to hire her for the birth of their daughter — on April 28 of this year. Olson-Hazboun says she would “one hundred percent” recommend hiring a doula for everyone having a baby. In fact, there have been studies touting the value of having an advocate like a doula present before, during, and after labor. According to a 2013 Cochrane Database Systematic Review, “continuous support during labor has clinically meaningful benefits for women and infants and no known harm. All women should have support throughout labor and birth.” Olson-Hazboun adds that Aleman’s visit after the birth of her daughter was useful for her own peace of mind. “I found this so helpful as a new mom who was pretty overwhelmed during the first few weeks with a new baby,” OlsonHazboun said. “I also really needed to process my labor and delivery. I was aiming for a natural birth, but in the end I didn't get to experience this because my water broke and I didn't dilate on my own. Sofia, in her incredibly open, accepting, and kind manner, helped me process this and helped me to see that I had not been weak but instead very strong to have gone through the long, arduous labor. With her help, I came to feel proud instead of ashamed.” For Aleman, who has been a doula since March 2016, it’s more about the emotional connection she shares with all of her clients than anything else. She looks to continue to be an advocate for future mothers in the Rio Grande Valley. “Every story is so wonderful to me,” she said. “This is my community, this is my home. I identify very much so with the women of the Valley. I would just love to shed light on what it is to feel empowered by being in control of your birth. I would like to spread that to the women in the Valley.”



SEP/OCT 2017

leading relaxation techniques, and being there as an emotional outlet for the mother. Aleman decided to become a doula after experiencing the importance of a close relationship with the midwives of Holy Family Services birth center in Weslaco for the births of her own children. “When I was pregnant “I know that some with my first daughter, I people think that the was seeing an OB/GYN and doula’s role is extra, I just remembered it being super routine,” Aleman said. but I just feel it’s so vital because I’m the “You’re in the office for like 10 minutes. Sometimes you only person there don’t even see the doctor.” that doesn’t leave. I A friend recommended don’t change shifts. Holy Family Services, and I’m literally there Aleman’s future as a mother and doula opened up. from start to finish.” “After having my first -Sofia Aleman meeting with them, I was like, whoa, this is a world of a difference,” she said. “I had this ability to fall in love with my birth story and not everybody has that. Not everybody has that opportunity to view it as an experience they can embrace.” Shawn Olson-Hazboun, a former Brownsville resident who, along with her husband, Jeff, hired Aleman for the birth of her first daughter, recognizes the importance of that connection between mother and doula. “When I was in the early part of labor, I had an emotional breakdown about some personal issues,” Olson-Hazboun wrote via email. “I was trying to be strong so I didn't let the tears run until I was on a walk alone with Sofia. She asked me some thoughtfully probing questions, which helped me to work through







SEP/OCT 2017

by Eliz a bet h C . M a r ti nez & p h o to s b y Kevi n Mar t i n e z

Dr. Roxana Lopez, 38, is the owner of FLOSS Dental in McAllen, a small chain founded in Dallas in 2007 by Dr. Clint Herzog, which offers a new experience in dentistry. “We’ve brought into perfect alignment the concept of a fullservice dental office, set in a modern, high-tech environment, excellent customer service, and experienced staff,” Lopez said. “People feel comfortable coming here because FLOSS offers a soothing, yet fun place to get your dental work done.” FLOSS brings a variety of dental services for both children and adults from teeth whitening to dental implants. In its sleek facility, easily accessible from Expressway 83 and Ware Road, patients can also receive popular treatments, such as Invisalign and Six Month Smiles. “Six Month Smiles is a new procedure. It is a clear braces system designed to straighten your teeth in about six months,” said Lopez, a McAllen native who received her training from the University of Texas-Houston Dental Branch. “This is a service that has brightened the lives of many adults who previously would hide their smile. Six Month Smiles is an alternative to wearing metal braces, plus it’s non-invasive and very affordable.” A smile that stands out is important to many people, which is why FLOSS offers free teeth whitening to patients who come in for preventive treatments like X-rays, exams, and scheduled cleanings.

For more information, visit

“I believe in providing people with exceptional care and accessibility to dental treatment,” said Lopez, who has been practicing dentistry since 2005 and owns Lopez Family Dentistry in Mission. “We typically take most major dental insurances and we go above and beyond to ensure our patient’s needs are met by providing alternative finance options.” Lopez said the McAllen location will employ six people to begin with, but plans to expand by providing more jobs for local dental assistants. “FLOSS set out to transform the dental industry by creating a new experience for patients,” Lopez said. “In doing so, FLOSS has created a new experience for our employees — a collaborative environment centered around unconditional service, transformation, and fun.” FLOSS has its own unique approach to dentistry, which is called “FLOSSophy.” According to the company, it is the belief that quality dentistry can be provided in an upscale environment with the latest technology and at affordable pricing. This belief is backed by the FLOSS staff’s commitment to make that experience happen and available to everyone. Personal comfort and unmatched professionalism placed in their state-of-the art setting will make your visits to that traditional dentist a thing of the past. FLOSS Dental opened early September and is located at 4501 E. Expressway 83 in McAllen.

“FLOSS set out to transform the dental industry by creating a new experience for patients." D r. Rox a n a Lop e z

Own er of FLOSS Den tal in M cAllen

e-mail: phone: 956-627-0525


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M-F: 8 am to 5 pm

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No appointment necessary. Walk in or call 1-855-VCC-APPT (1.855.822.2778). 171951





SEP/OCT 2017

by Lo r i Ho ust o n

Parenting is filled with some hard choices. Wanting what is best for your child is the motivating factor behind the decisions parents make every day. You are responsible for the life, wellbeing, and continued growth of another human being and it is not easy to know the right thing to do. One of the earliest critical choices new parents face are health-related; whether it is deciding between birthing methods or wrestling with the pros and cons of childhood immunizations. Vaccination is said to be one of the greatest health developments of the 20th century. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), all vaccines carry some risk of serious, and sometimes fatal, side effects. The heated debate surrounding vaccination continues to polarize people on both sides of the issue, but what does not seem to be in question is the unifying motive driving individuals to choose one side over the other, which is doing what they think is best for everyone involved.

Several major medical organizations such as the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) assert that vaccines are safe and that thimerosal, aluminum and formaldehyde are not used in harmful amounts. According to the FDA, with the exception of inactivated flu vaccines, thimerosal (a mercury compound) has been removed or reduced to trace amounts in vaccines for children under 6 years old.

Herd Immunity Vs. Government Intervention in Personal Medical Choices Widespread vaccination aids in herd immunity, which serves to protect vulnerable members of a community. Herd immunity is present when a certain percent of a population has been vaccinated for a specific disease. When this happens, it is unlikely that an outbreak of the disease will occur, keeping the entire community protected. Children and adults who cannot be vaccinated due to age or poor health rely on herd immunity to prevent contraction of vaccine-preventable diseases. Another view taken by anti-vaccine proponents is that mandatory vaccines infringe upon constitutionally protected religious freedoms or interfere with the right to make personal medical choices. Several religions oppose mandatory vaccinations, and point out that vaccines can contain ingredients some people consider immoral or otherwise objectionable. According to in an article examining vaccines, some vaccines are cultivated in cells from two fetuses aborted in the 1960s while others are made using animal products like chicken eggs, insect cells, Cocker Spaniel cells, and cells from African Green monkeys, conflicting with some vegetarian and vegan philosophies.

Safety of the Ingredients The professionals and individuals who have reservations about vaccines cite harmful ingredients as a major concern. Thimerosal, aluminum, and formaldehyde are all used in vaccines and have noted adverse effects on people, including neurological harm, cardiac impairment, and a host of other issues. The CDC declares these ingredients as neurotoxins on their website in said amounts for adults.“Yet we inject them into our infants. I believe that we need more unbiased research to find cures for these diseases," says Dr. Pablo Tagle of McAllen.



Making informed decisions about important health issues is not an easy thing to do, but it is one of the biggest responsibilities you will ever have, so use that right mindfully. for public health, including the CDC, the FDA, the World Health Organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. However, the relationship between the vaccine makers and some of these organizations give rise to distrust in the minds of many. The top executives in these organizations often move into top jobs with the pharmaceutical companies when they leave the public health sector. There is also a widespread practice of insurance companies giving out bonuses to pediatricians who maintain 100 percent compliance with the government-recommended vaccination schedule, which has increased from three in 1962 to 29 in 2017 for children under 6 years old. Making informed decisions about important health issues is not an easy thing to do, but it is one of the biggest responsibilities you will ever have, so use that right mindfully.



SEP/OCT 2017

Many anti-vaccine proponents simply believe that medical decisions for children should be best left to parents or caregivers. But Celina Carr, MPAS, PA-C, a physician’s assistant from McAllen, says she feels like she and other medical professionals are asked to abandon their beliefs when they are asked to accept a parent’s refusal of vaccines for their children without question because she feels that “vaccination is a human right that no child should be denied.” According to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, cases of diphtheria, measles, mumps, and rubella have been decreased by 99 percent by 2012 because of immunization programs. Smallpox and polio have essentially been eradicated in the United States as well because of vaccines. Over 12 major medical organizations declare vaccines to be safe and necessary





about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop.” Anyone, even healthy people, can get the flu, and serious problems related to the flu can happen at any age. However, some people are at high risk of developing serious flu-related complications if they get sick. This includes people 65 years and older, people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), pregnant women, and young children, according to the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most experts believe flu viruses spread by germs made when people with the flu cough, sneeze, or talk. These germs can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. A person might also get the flu by touching a surface or object that has the flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes, or nose, the CDC website states. According to Solis, the peak season for the highest amount of people infected with the flu varies, with January being the clinic’s busiest month. “The vaccination is more of a protection,” Solis said. “However, its effectiveness can vary by individual and other factors. If a vaccine and virus in a community are similar/ compatible, then its effectiveness — protection — is better. This means less complications.” Solis said his clinic is well prepared for the incoming flu season.



SEP/OCT 2017

by Jo se De Leon III

Every fall, temperatures cool down, providing a welcome relief from the hot summer days. Unfortunately, the fall also marks the beginning of everyone’s least favorite season — flu season. The flu, or influenza, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. This past February, a 1-year-old from the Rio Grande Valley died from the virus, according to the Department of State Health Services website. The time from when a person is exposed to the flu virus to when symptoms begin is about one to four days, with an average of about two days. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year. Joel Solis, a doctor at the McAllen-based Valley Medical Arts Clinic, says warning symptoms to look out for to see if you need a vaccine — such as a high fever, body aches, and upper respiratory symptoms — are easy to spot. “However, symptoms can present themselves differently within certain age groups, such as gastrointestinal symptoms in pediatrics,” he said. “October is usually a good time [to get a flu shot]. The earlier the better, since it takes

“October is usually a good time [to get a flu shot]. The earlier the better, since it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop.” D r. J oe l S ol i s , Valley M edical Arts Clin ic

“We prepare ourselves every year as a clinic by offering the vaccine early and extending our hours,” he said, “In addition, we have several influenza clinical trials that provide an option for patients and keep us engaged with influenza research.” The CDC also recommends everyday preventive actions to help slow the spread of germs. These actions include: staying away from people who are sick, covering your mouth when coughing and sneezing, and frequent hand washing. Solis said even with these actions, getting a flu vaccine would still help prevent the flu. “Regardless, it is best and recommended to be protected,” he said.


Thank you for every



moment of the last 35 years. We are honored to serve the communities of the Rio Grande Valley and provide you with compassionate care you can trust. Know that when you need us most, we will be here.




Healthcare You Can Trust






SEP/OCT 2017

by Sof i a A l e m a n

Ileana Rodriguez, 26, has a personal connection as a volunteer for Texas Organ Sharing Alliance (TOSA), the organization that provides organ donation and recovery services for the Rio Grande Valley. “I thank God every day for organ donation,” she said. At 13 years old, Ileana was diagnosed with acute renal failure. “My kidneys died and no one knows why,” she said. Devastated by the news, she went on to receive treatment through dialysis for a year, making it hard for her to live a normal life as a teenager. “It was one of the hardest times in my life … not knowing when I would be better and not knowing why I got sick was really hard for a 13-year-old,” Rodriguez said. “Being a kid I felt like my life was over and I was very scared. And being on dialysis made me feel like my life was limited to a machine.” With tears in her eyes, she shares her mother’s inspirational decision of being a living donor to provide a kidney for her. “I was very blessed by that,” Rodriguez said. “I finished high school, traveled, and experienced things I didn’t think would be possible.” While the kidney was a blessing for the family, it sadly only functioned for seven years. Once she was about to start college, Ileana was in need of another kidney. At a loss, she felt like her life might be coming to an end. But surprisingly, only after two weeks of being on the waiting list for a kidney, she received her second lifesaving transplant from a registered donor. “Which is a miracle!” Rodriguez said, especially since currently there are over 116,000 people of all ages on the national waiting list for a kidney.

“My donor, she was 19 years old when she gave me the gift of life again,” Rodriguez said. “She gave me the opportunity to be here today and live life to the fullest. Every day I remember that I am here because of the decisions that [organ donors] make to choose to give the gift of life once they are no longer here. She is my hero.” Every day, 20 people die because there is no donor for them. Some patients, especially some who are waiting for a kidney, could wait for several years, meaning they are on dialysis for that long. “Our mission is to save lives through organ donation,” said Edwina Garza, communications coordinator for Texas Organ Sharing Alliance. “Everyone has the possibility to be a lifesaving hero through organ, eye, and tissue donation. There’s no age limit or health concerns that [people] have to worry about.” By registering, you can save eight lives as an organ donor and potentially 75 others with tissue donation. “It’s the best gift to give, the gift of life,” Garza said. “Minorities make up more than half of the national transplant waiting list, but when it comes to giving, unfortunately none of us are signing up. We’re saying no to donation, even though we are the ones in need. We need to be the ones saying yes to donation.” The United States Department of Labor states that 80 percent of the time, women are making the major medical decisions affecting their family. “We want to empower women to realize the power they have to save lives by registering to be an organ donor,” Garza said. In that vein, TOSA will be unveiling a 2017 campaign called “We Have the Power,” inspired by Rosie the Riveter.

For any information on organ, eye, and tissue donation or to see inspiring organ recipient testimonials, please visit To sign up to be an organ donor, please visit, the official registry for organ, eye, and tissue donors.


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Call today for more information or to schedule a consultation. In most cases, appointments are available within one week. 416 Lindberg Avenue McAllen, TX 78501 | 956-630-4161

4302 S. Sugar Road, Suite 200 Edinburg, TX 78539 | 956-318-1129 Individual results may vary. There are risks associated with any surgical procedure.Talk with your doctor about these risks to find out if robotic surgery is right for you. 172462






SEP/OCT 2017

Southern Exposures Photo Competition Inspires Youth to Connect With Nature b y S of ia Ale m a n & p h o t o s b y M a t t h e w Ca n o

The Valley Land Fund, an organization dedicated to the conservation of Valley wildlife and its surrounding habitat, promotes nature through the pictures captured by aspiring young photographers. The Southern Exposures youth nature photo program “inspires kids to take a stronger interest in Mother Nature,” according to the Valley Land Fund website, and has been used as an educational tool for the organization since 1994. The awe-inspiring nature images taken by each child have been helping to protect Valley wildlife in profound ways. This year’s Southern Exposures grand prize winner was

Matthew Cano, 13, from Harlingen. Matthew explains how competing in the contest has opened the doors to “letting people see all the different types of birds, plants, and mammals in our area that a lot of people don't know about. “When they see these things it makes them want to protect them, and it is important to help with conservation,” he said. Children in the Valley are encouraged to participate in the photo program because it compels them to leave the comfort of the indoors and explore the world around



"Southern Exposures allows us to expand our mission by reaching broader audiences in South Texas, while enabling us to continue preserving the native wildlife habitat and educating youth." D eb r a l ee Ro d r i guez , E xecu tive Director for th e Valley Lan d F u n d


you have to be ready for.” Matthew does intend to enter the contest again since he enjoys photographing wildlife so much. “My dream is to visit Costa Rica soon to hopefully get some cool wildlife shots.” Matthew offers a bit of advice for future competitors and those looking to help preserve the wildlife around us. “They can help by getting involved, by joining the contest every year, volunteering, donating, allowing access to their ranches for youth nature photographers…anything,” he said. The leaders of tomorrow are our children. It is them who will work to ensure our natural heritage will be there for future generations. Nature photography is one attempt to accomplish that goal.

SEP/OCT 2017



Matthew, already a seasoned nature photographer, has entered the contest for the last two years. Each year, his photos have been selected as winning images, though this was his first time as a grand prize winner. Living in a coastal area, Matthew grew up doing outdoor activities with his family, like fishing and visiting nature parks. Much of what he knows about photography, he attributes to his dad. “I do a lot of wildlife photography with my dad,” Matthew said. ”He is the one who got me interested and taught me what I know. Both my parents have always encouraged me to do it. I have always been told that we are lucky to live in this area, that people from all over the country come to photograph what's in our backyards. “It’s cool to let people see pictures of South Texas wildlife that they don't get to see every day,” he added. Matthew was on vacation with his family at Disney World when he received the news that he won the grand prize. “I was very excited,” he said. “It gives me more confidence to continue doing wildlife photography. I felt like my images were good but there are a lot of really good photographers that enter this contest.” When asked the secrets of a successful nature photographer, Matthew explains, “everyone has their own settings and style but I think patience and being ready are the most important. You've got to time things right…you can be sitting around with nothing happening and then everything can change in a split second. It's that split second that


them. According to the Texas Children in Nature organization, studies have shown that children who spend time in nature are healthier physically and mentally, do better in school, feel connected with nature, and are tomorrow’s conservation leaders. Offering a photography program of this caliber is excellent since Texas’s current generation of children is devoting less time than ever to the great outdoors due to overuse of tablets and gaming devices. “Southern Exposures allows us to expand our mission by reaching broader audiences in South Texas, while enabling us to continue preserving the native wildlife habitat and educating youth,” said Debralee Rodriguez, executive director for the Valley Land Fund. “Therefore, we believe that viewing the natural world through a camera lens provides a unique perspective, particularly for children.” Part of the program includes hands-on nature photography workshops at Quinta Mazatlan, a 20-acre nature and birding center promoting conservation and restoration of native habitat. The workshops are directed by Ruth Hoyt, a nationally recognized nature photographer. “I’ve learned so much from Ruth,” Matthew said. This free contest is open to any child ages 8 to 18 from the Rio Grande Valley. Over the last eight years, the organization has judged submissions from over 1,000 kids from across the area and this year alone received a 44 percent increase in kids wanting to participate.





SEP/OCT 2017

The McAllen Performing Arts Center is Gearing up for its Second Season of Shows

As the curtains rise, the orchestra begins to play the opening number of a show you have been waiting to see — the show of a lifetime, maybe. When the first notes hit your ears, the tiny hairs on the back of your neck and all over your arms begin to stand up; you feel as if the music is going through you and every other member of the audience. In a world where the largest portion of our daily interactions involve screens, it can be refreshing to share an experience such as this in the presence of other human beings. There is no substitute for being in the same room as your fellow audience members while performers put on a show right before your eyes. With that in mind, the new McAllen Performing Arts Center is gearing up for its second season of shows. They will be presenting a wide variety of nationally recognized productions of music, dance, and theater for the residents of the Rio Grande Valley. Don’t hesitate to take advantage of this new avenue of access available to high quality shows. Theater is a mutual endeavor. Everyone there is sharing the same experience and it is something that will never happen again. Here are some tips to further enhance your unique theatergoing adventure on the night of the show. First things first, make sure to buy your tickets as early as possible. The longer you have to make your plans, the better it is! Arrive early. You wouldn’t want to miss the opening of the show, and that way you can avoid interrupting the show for those seated around you. Stay seated. Try to avoiding leaving your seat unless absolutely necessary. Try and save restroom breaks until the end of the show or for during intermission. Go unplugged. You and everyone else came to immerse yourselves in the live performance, so keep all electronics powered off until it is over. Texts, phone calls, and social media can wait. No pictures. It is not allowed in the theater, and is very distracting for those on stage, as well as fellow audience members.

Volume control. The theater is built to transmit sound on purpose. Laughing or clapping in reaction to the show is always appropriate, but leave the singing to the professionals, and keep your talking to a minimum. Snacking. Opening packaged food is extremely noisy and disruptive in a theater. It is best to avoid eating during the performance, and save it for the intermission. Clapping. Show your appreciation by clapping at appropriate times. Sometimes, knowing the appropriate time to clap is difficult. If you are unsure, respond with the audience. Applause is a sound that performers love to hear. Audience members have the option to purchase one-year memberships to the McAllen Performing Arts Center. Having a membership gives you a wide range of benefits that are designed to further enhance your experience. Some of these benefits include the ability to purchase pre-sale tickets, house seats, complimentary self-parking adjacent to the Performing Arts Center, and access to the Private Members’ Lounge. If you have any questions about the McAllen Performing Arts Center membership program, feel free to call (956) 681-3800 or email


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SEP/OCT 2017


Amid the buzz of activity swarming inside the former Wells Fargo building in downtown Brownsville, one bunch of bright safety vests and hard hats stood out — those belonging to a group of seventh-graders. They visited the construction site July 26 as a part of a pre-engineering course taken over their summer break. The experience was bigger than a simple field trip, though. It represented the collective efforts of Brownsville ISD, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, State Rep. Eddie Lucio III, and Noble Texas Builders to boost student interest in STEM fields through career pathways. Noble Texas Builders is the company behind the building’s renovation, and president and CEO Rene Capistran was instrumental in organizing the students’ visit to the site. For Capistran, construction projects can do a lot more than change the physical look of a place. “When we started our company, we wanted to make sure that we weren’t all about brick and mortar,” he said. “We do far beyond building buildings. We like to think that we build facilities that support our communities.” In fact, one of the core values at Noble Texas Builders is community, culminating in a new service initiative in the form of Noble Cares Foundation. Teaming up with education

Noble Texas Builders Uses Brownsville Project, Partnerships to Educate STEM Students b y A m y C a s e b i e r & p h ot os b y Ke v i n M a rt in e z

“These kids are now so excited about science and engineering that they took additional classroom hours during the summer to further their career because they want to be engineers, they want to be scientists.” Re n e C a p i s t r a n , Presiden t an d CE O of N oble Texas Bu ilders



and government entities, Capistran and his company look to encourage gains in education and health care throughout the Rio Grande Valley. The seventh-graders’ field trip at the building renovation site was the first project for Capistran’s vision. “These kids are now so excited about science and engineering that they took additional classroom hours during the summer to further their career because they want to be engineers, they want to be scientists,” he said. “Who wouldn’t want to be when you see all of the construction that’s happening, when you see SpaceX coming to town, when you see all these different industries that are coming together?” The group of Texas Pre-Engineering Program students toured the renovation site, which will now serve as the headquarters for several Cameron County departments, including the tax offices and offices for the justice of the peace, among others. The students saw before and after pictures of the renovation project and met with some of the people responsible for the project, including the architect behind the remodel. “Take advantage of what you learn here and apply it throughout the year,” Brownsville ISD Superintendent Esperanza Zendejas told the students. It was advice that was repeated often throughout the event, which was tailored to give the group a taste of real life as engineers and other STEM-focused careers. “This is a good opportunity where kids see folks who are not necessarily teachers,” Zendejas said later. “They’re architects, they’re engineers, they’re contractors, and they put this building together. And this story may resonate for (the students). Twenty years later, maybe an architect says, ‘I became an architect after I participated in a summer program where I went to look at a building and the architect spoke to us and it hit home with me.’ That’s the kind of outcome we want.” Lucio looked for the partnerships among different organization serving an education need that will echo across the state. “What sparked my interest in these career pathways is that we only have 20 percent of Texas students who graduate from high school continuing and achieving a postsecondary certificate, education, or degree,” he said. “That means 80 percent of these students will not go on to get a certificate or license or degree. If you compare that with 80 percent of the new jobs in Texas [that] require a certificate license or degree, we have this huge gap.”

E d d i e Lu ci o, I I I ,



He told the students gathered at the renovation site that they will soon be leaders in this area, and that they’re already making important strides toward their futures. “It’s a tendency of every generation to say, ‘the next generation is not like mine and the world’s going to be left in the hands of kids that don’t care,’” Lucio said. “That’s not true. We actually have kids who are going through a much more rigorous curriculum in their education pathway than we ever did.” Alexander Domijan Jr., professor and dean of UTRGV’s College of Engineering & Computer Science, has been another key facet in the partnerships for this project. As he’s worked to bring STEM-related jobs to the Valley, he’s hoped students like the group of seventh-graders at the site would stay interested in those high-paying fields. “We’d like to be able to have not only those students graduate but live here and bring jobs here,” Domijan said. “So part of the thing I’ve been doing this past year-and-ahalf is trying to develop an innovation enterprise, to actually develop jobs and bring up the economy in this area.” This is just the beginning for Capistran and his company’s community outreach efforts. He said a number of new initiatives targeting education and health care are “in the works, currently.” “Our goal in the foundation is how are we really impacting the community...” he said. “Not just today, but long term.”

SEP/OCT 2017

Legal Cou n cil of N oble Texas Bu ilders an d Texas State Represen tative, District 38



Job Training for Special Needs Young Adults



SEP/OCT 2017

b y E li z a b e t h C . M a r t i n e z

When it comes to putting together pizza boxes at Peter Piper Pizza, Viva Selena Marie Lopez, 22, is a pro and she loves doing it. Like many other 22-year-olds, Viva thrives from being social and interacting with her co-workers, but she is not like many other young adults. Viva was born with Down syndrome and other developmental challenges. Viva, who graduated in May from Palmview High School, does not let her disability hold her back, explained her mother, Jane Lopez. “She’s so nice and kind-hearted. She likes to meet new people and say hello,” Lopez said. “Yes, she does have a mind of child, but she has her own aspirations and I am here to just support her in anyway I can.” From participating in beauty pageants since she was 6 years old to serving on the varsity cheer team in high school, Viva is definitely outgoing and strives for success. “Viva is ready to start working. She doesn’t want to just sit at home. She wants to be out exploring and learning new things,” Lopez said. “She is very much into makeup and hair right now and is in love with her green highlights. Her ultimate dream is to go to cosmetology school.” Lopez has been busy trying to prepare employment for Viva at one of the local pizza places. “Viva and other kids with disabilities can do whatever they put their mind to,” Lopez said. “For Viva, she is capable, she can do everything, but just slower and maybe with a few imperfections.” “Right now, it’s just about finding the right job for Viva,” Lopez added.

Individuals with Down syndrome or other disabilities do make valuable employees, but often the lack of opportunity is the obstacle. Capable Kids Foundation Board President Melanie Watson has been working on a program to provide young adults with special needs opportunities for job-coaching, on-the-job training, and employment at businesses that are open to hiring employees with unique challenges. Capable Kids is 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity that was formed to help improve the quality of life of children with special needs in the Rio Grande Valley by providing recreational sports and activities. Over the past two years, 500 children with special needs have participated in the program. “Capable Kids gives children with disabilities and their families a variety of activities and events to participate in,” Watson said. “We know what a struggle it can be to do these types of events without careful planning and worry.”

“Adding an on-the-job training program to our list of services is going to mean that we can make a bigger impact on the lives of the families we serve. The stronger our participants are in all areas of life, the stronger our community is.” M e l a n i e Wa t s on , Capable K ids F ou n dation Board Presiden t



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Matching Job to Student At PSJA ISD, the special education teachers spend about three to four hour a day at a PTI jobsite. The way the jobs are matched are based on skills and interests. “Next year we will have 30 students in the program and five of those will be graduating in May 2018,” Quintana said. From working at a carwash to working as an administrative assistant, there are several requests that have come from students. “We need to find local businesses that are willing to work with our program to help build skills that will help enhance the quality of life of these young adults,” Quintana said.

About Capable Kids Phone: (956) 277-1776 Email: Web: FB: capablekidsfoundation


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SEP/OCT 2017

The Pathways Toward Independence (PTI) Program at PSJA ISD helps support on-thejob training for students with disabilities and/or special needs. In May, two special needs students from PSJA ISD claimed their spot in the employment world after graduating high school. Noah Veliz and Janie Gonzalez were the first to complete the PTI Program. They both graduated with a South Texas College Continuing Education Certificate in Employability Skills, Basic Floral Design, Basic Cake Decorating, and Basic Photography. Veliz is working at NAFT Federal Credit Union and Gonzalez is employed at Irma’s Sweete Shoppe in Pharr, said PSJA ISD Special Education Department PTI Director Veronica Quintana. “Our PSJA ISD special education teachers receive training through STC in areas such as bakery, landscaping, and basic photography, then they use those learned skills to teach our students,” Quintana said. Students in the PTI Program take the required courses to receive their certificates, and also intern at local businesses. These opportunities assist them by expanding their life and employability skills. The teachers accompany the students to the jobsite and



Pathway to Independence

train them. There are currently eight businesses participating in the program, but Quintana is always looking for more. Since the program started, students have been able to take these skills to local employers, such as At Home, Best Buy, Dairy Queen, Goodwill, Peter Piper Pizza, Pharr Memorial Library, Irma’s Sweete Shoppe, Vany's Flower Shop, and Quinta Mazatlan. “I am most proud of the fact of the end result, which is walking into the credit union and seeing one of our students with a smile on their face, doing what they love,” Quintana said. According to Quintana, most special needs children enter high school at the age of 14 and age out of the program at 21 years old. Unfortunately, not all students have the cognitive ability to participate in the PTI Program, but that doesn’t mean they don’t learn development skills to help them be as self-sustained as possible. “When the students have completed all of their required high school credits and state assessments, parents often ask, ‘What’s next?’ And for that reason we developed a program to teach and train our students on daily fundamental activities, but also job skills,” Quintana said.


Watson has worked as a pediatric physical therapist for the past 12 years, working with everyone from infants to patients in their 20s. “Working with children and teens with disabilities has been a huge part of my life and as I have gotten to know these children and their parents, I’ve learned that there are more struggles that families have to think about, such as what will happen to their children once they complete high school,” Watson said. “Adding an on-the-job training program to our list of services is going to mean that we can make a bigger impact on the lives of the families we serve.The stronger our participants are in all areas of life, the stronger our community is.” When Watson announced that Capable Kids would be adding an on-the-job training program, looking at programs like the one at Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District was a priority.


Rolling Out in Their Second Season



SEP/OCT 2017

b y A b b e y Kun k le & ph o t o s b y Kevi n Mar t i nez

Women are taking out the competition in an up-and-coming sport in the Rio Grande Valley. The RGV Bandidas are in their second year of jamming, blocking, and scoring at high speeds on the track. Roller Derby is gaining interest at record rates and is currently the fastest-growing sport for women. Conducted on an oval track with five players, each team is composed of one jammer and four blockers. Jammers for each team work through a series of jams, pushing, hitting, and blocking to either score or prevent the other team from scoring points all while skaters work physically and, more importantly, work strategically together. The Bandidas were founded in 2015 from two separate derby teams (South Texas Rolleristas and Mactown Rebel Rollers), who joined forces for the love of teamwork and competition on the track. Nina Kizzia, also known as “MsdaMEAN-uh,” is a blocker for the Bandidas. She moved from Austin four years ago and was searching for something to plug into with the community. “A friend had joined and invited me,” Kizzia said. “I started

going ever since. It has been a really great experience, and I’ve met some really great women.” Some of these new friends include the likes of “Pandamonium Doll, aka Panda,” “Shockira,” “Wreckleslie,” and “Sandy War-Haul,” all of whom are fan favorites. Last year, the team moved to a more central location from McAllen to Harlingen to better recruit and put together a more widespread group with new and former players from across the Valley. Veterans from across the Valley have joined in with new blood, increasing their numbers and strengths. They are a traveling team with home bouts in Harlingen and scheduled games in El Paso, San Antonio, Austin, and Corpus Christi, along with the addition of a couple new cities this year. Although the season starts in March and wraps up by September, the Bandidas are always encouraging new recruits. They maintain three practices a week and require a 50 percent practice attendance per month to participate in the following bout. Women of all ages are involved with the team, including



“We’re always recruiting.We work with a full range of ages and a full range of bodies. It’s a sport for all shapes and sizes. We’re looking for motivated women with interest in trying to play the sport, and we’ll train you from the ground up. We’ll even teach you how to skate!”

range of ages and a full range of bodies. It’s a sport for all shapes and sizes. We’re looking for motivated women with interest in trying to play the sport, and we’ll train you from the ground up. We’ll even teach you how to skate!” For those interested in enjoying the bouts from the sidelines, tickets to matches range from $5 for advance general admission, $10 for advance VIP box seats, $8 for general admission at the door, and $14 for VIP seats at the door. Be sure to support the team before the season is over!



some as young as 18 to those in their 40s. “Feeling empowered as a woman and being part of a group of strong women is my favorite thing about roller derby,” Kizzia said about belonging on the team. “You will definitely see a lot of hard-hitting action! It is a full-contact sport.” The game of roller derby involves multiple facets of game play all the while flying across a hardwood track in a group and as single players. Home bouts are especially important to the women, as they represent the Rio Grande Valley. “Defending our turf is definitely going to be an exciting game,” Kizzia said. “There will be a lot of hits, but a lot of strategy, too, that we are focusing on.” For those thinking about jumping in, expect some serious action! But don’t worry, you will have plenty of time to prepare for your first bout. If you are interested in joining the Bandidas or just want more information, Facebook messaging or emailing is the best way to get in touch with the team. You can also like the RGV Bandidas on YouTube as well as on Facebook for updates and videos of their latest bouts. The team stresses that they are open and in need of a diverse group of women. This sport is definitely not one size fits all. “We’re always recruiting,” Kizzia said. “We work with a full

SEP/OCT 2017

N i n a Ki z z i a



Kids, Cows & Mooore AgFair Introduces Young Students to Agriculture



SEP/OCT 2017

b y Debr a At la s

As we move into fall, exciting events are on the horizon. One is an educational experience school kids really enjoy. More than 1,000 fourth-graders from public and private schools will eagerly throng to Kids & Kows and More in late October. There they'll learn about the different aspects and importance of agriculture, ranching, and water. School buses from Hidalgo, Cameron, and Willacy counties will ferry young students to this one-day annual event. Launched in the 1980s by the Texas Agri-Women as AgFair in El Paso, this free event is designed to introduce young students to agriculture and familiarize them with the basics of where things like cotton, sugar, and corn come from and about how important agriculture is. Similar events now take place across the state. Two people were instrumental in bringing AgFair to the Valley — Nelda Barrera, field representative with the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA), and Barbara Steidinger, a member of Texas Agri-Women and a decades-long Valley farmer and citrus grower. Steidinger, who's been involved

with this event from its early days, credits Barrera and the involvement of TDA for its success. As TDA got word out to more schools, they were able to increase the number of kids coming to the event, Steidinger said. “It grew and grew,” she said, from 1,000 to around 3,000 kids. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and Southwest Dairy Farmers partnered with TDA and Texas Agri-Women “to make this an outstanding educational event,” Steidinger added. A lot of people have a hand in what's now Kids & Kows and More, said Roxy Blood, a 26-year teacher at Roosevelt Elementary School in Weslaco. The Water Irrigation District and Texas Farm Bureau also jumped onboard. As the event's message went wider, more kids wanted to attend. Outgrowing the original Donna Livestock Grounds location, it landed briefly at the Armory before finding a home at the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Showgrounds.


While the event's exhibits change each year, the wide variety of live demonstrations and presentations kids experience are geared to the area's agriculture. These include: - honeybee demonstrations, featuring live honeybees - the water district demonstrates cleaning water - sugarcane — kids learn how it grows, is harvested and becomes sugar - horticulture, including what's grown in our area - citrus and production — the ABCs of growing and follow-through - animals — sheep, goats, and cattle and the products they produce - cotton, including the growing process and going from field to the fabric we wear

Presenters educate kids about where their product comes from, what happens to it once it's harvested, and. It's all to dispel the all-too-common belief by kids that these things simply come from a supermarket. One of the kids' favorite presentations is the Southwest Dairy Farmers' mobile dairy. Kids get to see a live cow and a milking machine. They even get to milk the cow. “The milking demonstration's always a favorite,” Blood said. Blood, whose dad was a farmer, has attended this event for about nine years. Each year, she brings from 80 to 100 fourth-graders from her school alone. “It's an introduction to the kids on the importance of agriculture,” Blood said. And the kids always get materials to take home with them, like reusable bags, crossword puzzles, or pencils. “They all have some educational value to them,” she said. “So many of our kids don't realize or understand where our

To register for this year's Kids & Kows and More, go online to Sign up today!



Photo Courtesy of Barbara Steidinger


food comes from, what goes into bringing our clothes to us. It's a good eye opener to kids today (and) a great educational experience.” “The whole deal is about agriculture awareness,” said Brad Cowan, Hidalgo County's Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service County Extension agent-agriculture. Cowan says they send invitations to the event to all the fourth-grade classes in Cameron and Hidalgo counties. Last year, around 1,300 kids attended. That's a good jump from the 500 to 600 students that attended the first event 18 years ago. The event has evolved over the years, often reflecting the state's economic situation. Initially a one-day event, by 2010 it grew to three, with upward of 1,300 kids attending daily. Breakfast was provided for speakers, with a VIP lunch for local dignitaries. Speakers talked of the importance of education and restaurants got gift bags for their help in educating kids. In 2011, the state's severe budget cuts affected school districts. Suddenly, there was a fee associated with field trips, costs for providing buses, and other components of the experience. Everything scaled back, Barrera said. And Kids & Kows and More saw registration drop. Now a one-day format, kids get a lunch of hotdogs, chips, and milk. Is there lasting value for kids who attend? Barrera says there is — and her research proves it. From 2003 to 2005, while earning her master’s degree, she did a research project on the program. She measured the level of knowledge gained, giving tests to kids and teachers prior to the event and tests when they left. Barrera measured the percentage of knowledge they gained to discover what they learned. In the beginning, kids had to submit one-page essays, she said. Contest winners received gift certificates. Steidinger remembers elementary school teacher friends during the earlier days of KK&More who said this was one of the best field trips for their kids in the Valley. Teachers told her the kids could retain what they learned there. “I was very proud of this,” Steidinger said. This year's Kids & Kows and More will again be at the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Showgrounds in Mercedes on Oct. 31. Deadline to register is Oct. 21. Teachers are encouraged to register early to ensure as many kids as possible can be part of this informative, engaging event. It's a great way for kids to learn what the Valley has to offer in an interactive, eye-opening, and fun way.

SEP/OCT 2017


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RGV'S BIODIVERSITY Quinta Mazatlan Introduces its Concept for the Center for Urban Ecology



SEP/OCT 2017

by Ire n e Waz gow s k a

Quinta Mazatlan, known in the Rio Grande Valley for its beautiful nature and birding center, as well as its historic adobe mansion, will be adding a whole new element to its grounds. The City of McAllen, which owns and operates Quinta Mazatlan, recently received a $5 million state grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The main focus for the new development will be the Center for Urban Ecology (CUE). The CUE, currently in a conceptual model stage, will be the first phase of development. The vision of the center is a place where education and ecotourism meet. As part of the center’s educational goals, the city is partnering with the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley to offer research and educational opportunities. “Our vision is that all grades will benefit,” said Colleen Hook, manager of Quinta Mazatlan. “The real advantage will be the college students that can study and research real-world problems facing today’s cities, or ecology for the city. We will attract professors and students who want to study urban ecology and bring it back to their cities.”

A CHANGING LANDSCAPE The population of Texas is expected to double by 2050 to 54.4 million people, according to The Texas Tribune. With this anticipated growth, RGV city and state entities are working hard to ensure that our native plant and wildlife resources are part of this growth. Just recently, Quinta Mazatlan restored 4 acres of Ebony Grove. The team planted 40 Ebony trees and over 1,000 native plants. “We increased the tree canopy by 20 percent,” Hook said. “You have to build more forests — the habitats, the green canopies — in order to bring the wildlife and ecotourism that follows.” It has been documented that over 500 species of birds come through the RGV on their migratory journey. Hook and her team see that “ecotourism can be a much stronger business in the Rio Grande Valley.” The CUE will help play a major role in increasing local ecotourism and providing a platform for research and development. “We want to increase the biodiversity and habitat quality in the Lower RGV,” Hook said. “The CUE will work to inspire ownership



of our private and public spaces while improving the ecological health of our community.” The Lower Rio Grande Valley is among the most biologically diverse regions in the United States and is one of the best places for bird viewing. Part of the plan with the CUE and its landscaping is to have themed areas that encourage people to grow native plants. The team at Quinta Mazatlan wants to get people excited about these native plants and trees. Hook stresses how important native plant life is to supporting the wildlife here in the Valley. She shares a list of different plant life that is easy to maintain, and that can do wonders for the local ecosystem. There are so many beautiful native plants that are sun lovers and drought resistant, serving as food and nesting sites for our birds and all other wildlife.

Conceptual model images are for illustration and discussion purposes only. Project is in development and designs are subject to change.


SMALLER TREES: Coma, Retama, Huisache, Texas Persimmon (Chapote), Wild Olive, Coral Bean

Center for Urban Ecology: Science labs and research studies for students


Gateway & Visitors Center: gift store, bronze sculpture trail, and

Vasey’s Adelia, Fiddlewood, Barbados Cherry (Manzanita), Brasil

landmark entrance

PLANTS: Betony Leaf Mistflower, Scarlet Sage, Skeleton Leaf Goldeneye, Hairy Wedelia, Wooly Pyramid Bush, Cenizo, Pigeon Berry, Turk’s Cap, Prairie Milkweed

Skywalk: elevated trail system that will connect the Adobe estate


concept featuring viewing decks, ecology museum, restaurant,

with the CUE Palm House: green sustainable building with a tree house and more

Texas Ebony, Anacua, Cedar Elm, Sabal Palm

Palm Lake: with outdoor amphitheater


Children’s Garden: nature’s playground featuring mist garden, tree

The City of McAllen is very grateful for its first round of funding, but it will take an estimated $25 million to complete the whole project. The Quinta Mazatlan team is working on bringing in partners and naming opportunities for the Children’s Garden, the Skywalk, and other elements of the master plan. McAllen Mayor Jim Darling and city commissioners share the vision for making this new development a world-class Texas destination. It is an urban forest, 2 miles from the airport, and a true gateway to the region. With the support of state and local entities, Quinta Mazatlan looks forward to bringing its conceptual model to real life development, one that will help change the landscape of ecotourism, education, and the Rio Grande Valley.

house, storytelling sculptures, learning courtyard, and more Ropes Adventure Park Texas Reptile Center

“We want to increase the biodiversity and habitat quality in the Lower RGV. The CUE will work to inspire ownership of our private and public spaces while improving the ecological health of our community.”



C ol l e e n H ook , M an ager of Qu in ta M azatlan

SEP/OCT 2017

Avian Recovery Center


© 2010 Southwest Airlines Co.

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September / October 2017 - RGVision Magazine  
September / October 2017 - RGVision Magazine