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M ARC H / AP RIL 2 0 18 | VO LUM E 10 ISSUE 2

SPECIAL EDUCATION JUSTICE Parents should know their rights in the school system. PRIVATE PRISONS In light of recent news, one might question why private prisons are in use.

SUICIDE: ENDING THE SILENCE Educating and raising awareness is imperative for dispelling myths and better understanding suicide.

A NEW LEASE ON LIFE Mujeres Unidas offers transitional housing program for abuse survivors.

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leaders in the Valley. RGVision has brought you positive profile stories of the fearless people who’ve stepped forward, providing solutions for a better tomorrow regardless of the challenges tomorrow may bring. One of our recent powerful profiles was the inspirational story of Rudy Martinez, a Mexican immigrant who beat the odds of poverty and is now living the American dream! RGVision's motto is “starting the conversation,” and we’ve

Adriana Dominguez Claudia V. Lemus-C. Susie Martinez Bill Martin Derrick Kinney Dr. Alfonso Mercado

Omar Díaz Jason Garza James Hord


We cherish and admire the perseverance of all the


love him.”


the crown of life, which God has promised to those who Amy Casebier Abbey Kunkle Lori Houston Teclo J. Garcia Sofia Aleman Chase Murphy Cori Smelker Rod Santa Ana Gwyn D. Zubia Irene Wazgowska

succeeded in that for the past 5 years. Since then, we have seen insurmountable growth, a positive shift in how we do business, and major improvements to the quality of life right here in the Rio Grande Valley. Our focus is to cover issues that affect our economic growth in education, business, healthcare, and quality of life. Thank you for picking up this issue. PUBLISHER'S NOTE Copyright by RGVision Publications Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without expressed written permission of the publisher is prohibited. The opinions and views expressed in the magazine don’t necessarily reflect those of our advertisers or collaborators. RGVision magazine is published bi-monthly and circulates 12,000 copies across the Rio Grande Valley in 420 locations with a direct mail distribution to major hospitals and Superintendents within Region 1. The RGVision office is located at 801 N Bryan Rd, Mission, TX 78572. To receive an annual subscription of RGVision publications for $29.99, email

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











Parents should know their rights in the school system.









In light of recent news, one might question why private prisons are in use.

Educating and raising awareness is imperative for dispelling myths and better understanding suicide.

Mujeres Unidas offers transitional housing program for abuse survivors.



H-E-B Excellence

Infinity Homes

Dr. Carlos Ayala

Giving Back to the Community

pg 8

pg 34

pg 56

pg 74

Bringing the Magic

eReal Estate Depot

Dr. Frank Gerold

Living with Alzheimer's

pg 10

pg 38

pg 60

pg 76

Health Has a New Home

Sequence of Returns

Sex & Porn Addiction

The Thrill of the Ride

pg 12

pg 40

pg 62

pg 78

Educational Equity

It's All About Family

To Meat or Not to Meat?

Veterans Cemetery

pg 18

pg 42

pg 66

pg 82

Golf Classic

Building "Social Capital"


pg 20

pg 44

pg 70

Grants for the Future

New Income Tax Bill

pg 22

pg 48


H-E-B Excellence I N E D U C AT I O N AWA R D S

HCISD and Its Board of Trustees Named Finalists in 2018

MAR/APR 2018

and its leadership continue to make an impression at This January, H-E-B released the names of the finalists

"We are honored and humbled to be named as a

for large and small school districts, early childhood

finalist in the Large School District category of the


education facilities, and public school boards for its

H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards, and we are


b y A d r i a n a D om i n g u e z

2018 Excellence in Education Awards.

super proud to have our Board of Trustees also selected

Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District

finalists. This is the second time the district has made finalist and the third time the board was recognized as

the state level as a shining model for excellence.

part of the program.

HCISD was among those announced as finalists in

as a finalist," said Superintendent Art Cavazos. "This

the Large School District category, and HCISD's Board

accomplishment speaks to the remarkable things that

of Trustees was named as one of five school board

can happen when we work together for student success




SATURDAY MARCH 3 + Drill Team Competition

SUNDAY MARCH 4 + Wedding Fair 2018

FRIDAY MARCH 16 + Lone Star Mustang National

THURSDAY MARCH 22 + Taste McAllen

Harlingen CISD Board of Trustees

SAT-SUN MARCH 24-25 + 2018 RGV Home Show


and is an honor for us all to take pride in. It's

community members. Their focus will be to

all about creating choices and opportunities

give prominence to the best practices in the

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for our students."



The H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards

The winning large district will receive

celebrate public school professionals whose

an award of $100,000, and the winning

leadership and dedication inspire a love of

small district will receive $50,000. An early


learning in students of all backgrounds and

childhood facility will receive $25,000, and

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if a school board is selected to receive a


$25,000 in the form of a grant to the school

represents our collective efforts as a school

district they represent.

district in providing educational excellence,"

The statewide School Board winner, if

said Board President George McShan. "In

one is selected, will receive $25,000 in the

all my years on the board, I have watched

form of a grant to the school district they

our district grow and continue to carry the


torch of quality education for our students.

This year's winners will be announced at

I am proud of the legacy we have built and

a ceremony to be held May 6 at the Marriott

am excited for what the future holds for

Marquis Hotel in Houston.

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THURSDAY JULY 12 + TFEA Convention & Trade Show

Each year, the H-E-B Excellence in

Harlingen." Each finalist in the large district and early






childhood categories will receive $5,000,

$800,000 in cash prizes to deserving

with $2,500 for finalists in the small district

teachers, principals, school districts and


early childhood facilities and school boards,

A panel of judges will select winners through district visits and meetings with administrators,

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making it the largest monetary award program for educators in the state.



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MAR/APR 2018

H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards as it


special judges award, they can receive up to


"We are honored to be recognized in the

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Thousands Attend PSJA North's Live-Theater Production of Disney's "The Lion King, Jr."



MAR/APR 2018

b y Cl a u d i a V. Le m u s - C a m p os More than 5,000 community members stepped into the circle of life this winter as they witnessed PSJA North Early College High School's magical live-theater production of Disney's "The Lion King, Jr." The show ran throughout the month of December and was held over for two special showings this month by popular demand.  With a multi-grade level cast, including high school and middle school students, PSJA North brought this play to life on stage for the first time in PSJA ISD history.  For Jacqueline Zepeda, PSJA North drama director, putting on such a production was an incredible task, as more than 400 students auditioned for the show last summer. In the

end, only 180 students were cast, and of these, 30 were LBJ Middle School and Liberty Middle School students.   "It was amazing to see our students so excited to do the Lion King," Zepeda said. "This play had a lot of singing and dancing. Students had to learn to not only maneuver large puppets, but also to act with them."  While putting on an annual Children's Show for the community is a tremendous feat, PSJA ISD theater students appreciate the love they receive from the community after every showing, making the countless hours of rehearsals worthwhile.  "Playing Timon was amazing," said Roman Casillas, a



It was amazing to see our students so excited to do the Lion King. This play had a lot of singing and dancing. Students had to learn to not only maneuver large puppets, but also to act with them." 

Having experienced the magic of theater throughout their four years of high school, for many graduating PSJA seniors, the end of the Children's Show season is bittersweet.  "Being a part of the PSJA Theater Program has been one of the best experiences I have had in my life," said Medina, who plans to pursue a career in the medical field. "I am going to miss my PSJA family so much, but I have learned that I can dream as big as I can and make them all come true." 



their theatrical talents through similar productions. This year, PSJA Early College High School did "Beauty and The Beast," PSJA Memorial brought "The Addams Family" to life and PSJA Southwest put on "Aladdin." Children’s Shows at PSJA ISD have become a tradition for families in the school district and surrounding communities that go as far back as the late ’70s when they were first started by Gilbert Zepeda Jr. at PSJA High School. "As a parent, I love the PSJA Theater Program because it's amazing to see kids from different backgrounds work together to create something great," Forcier said. 


junior at PSJA North ECHS. "It's always great to see the kids smile and laugh. I love getting to work with so many incredible people." In addition to loving to play the heroes, students also get a kick from bringing antagonists to life. For senior Heather Medina, getting to play a lead hyena was an unforgettable experience.  "Playing a villain was definitely unique," said Medina, who in addition to having a lead role in the production is also pursuing an associate degree in interdisciplinary studies from South Texas College. "As much as we get boos from the kids, we also get laughs. It's surreal to have such a connection with kids on stage."  This year's production gave many younger thespians an opportunity to create magic on stage. Such is the case for Nancy Forcier's daughter Madelyn, a seventh-grade student from LBJ Middle School who got to play young Nala.  "As a parent, we are so proud to see Madelyn playing a lead role on stage next to high school students," Forcier said. "Being a part of the children's shows so young has helped her gain confidence, taught her dedication, and earned her so many invaluable friendships."  Just like PSJA North, its sister schools also incorporate

MAR/APR 2018

Ja c q uel i ne Z ep e d a , PSJA N orth drama director


Health Has A

New Home Expansion Increases State-of-the-Art, Hands-on Training for Future Healthcare Professionals



MAR/APR 2018

by A my C as eb i er




Allied Health Division, wrote in an email. “The simulated hospital has 15 simulated clinical spaces including trauma, emergency room, medical surgical, labor and delivery, psychiatric, home health, rehabilitation, nursery, gerontology, pediatric and adult intensive care units, pharmacy laboratory, radiology, sonography, phlebotomy, medical records, respiratory laboratory, physical therapy, and occupational therapy instruction space.” Mental health nursing simulations were added this year thanks to a grant STC received for them, Candelaria added. “We are not replacing hospital clinical at all but we are using simulation to enhance it,” she said. “We are now allowed to use up to 50 percent of our clinic time in simulation, so that would help us a lot. In fact, this semester we were able to admit 120 new students because of this expansion. That’s very vital because of the nursing shortage.” NAH project manager Karen Castillo agreed on the importance of the simulation expansion in the new facility. “When students go out to the clinics and the hospitals, we hear back from them — some of their feedback is they feel more prepared,” she said. “They feel that a lot of the skills that they have been gathering here while they’re doing simulation has really helped them be better


The human body can be unpredictable — especially for nursing students. Students and their instructors can’t exactly schedule medical situations to study in a hands-on learning environment — except in the case of a simulation hospital. Simulation hospitals are controlled laboratory settings in which students are able to explore and interact with everything from births to physical trauma, providing valuable experience to their education. An extensive simulation hospital is just one feature of South Texas College’s Dr. Ramiro R. Casso Nursing and Allied Health building expansion, which opened to students for the current Spring semester. The $24 million, 90,000-square-foot facility in McAllen is part of the result of 2013’s $159 million bond election. “We’re just very grateful that the building came about because of the bond, so we’re very grateful to the community for entrusting us with this amount of money not just here at NAH but all over STC,” said Christie Candelaria, chair for the associate degree nursing program at STC. The new building boasts four stories that bristle with the latest technological advancements, giving students previously untapped opportunities to learn. “The new facility holds technology-enriched educational and clinical spaces, and a simulated hospital,” Jayson T. Valerio, dean of the Nursing and

MAR/APR 2018



“The new facility holds technology-enriched educational and clinical spaces, and a simulated hospital.”



MAR/APR 2018

Ja ys o n T. Va l er i o, d ean of th e N u rsin g an d Allied Health Division

prepared when facing real world situations.” Castillo also highlighted the new library on the building’s first floor. “It is going to provide an increased number of computers, of study rooms and also of textbook materials that would help them in their education,” she said. “It’s really something we are extremely proud of to be able to have such a beautifully designed building that really helps students get their hands-on training.” Not counting the dual credit students, STC has 1,628 traditional students registered in the dozen nursing and allied health programs this semester, Valerio wrote. This represents a 4 percent increase over 2016 enrollment. “South Texas College Nursing and Allied Health will continue to be the leader in healthcare education and produce graduates that are safe and competent and be proactive in meeting the healthcare needs of our region and across the nation,”

Valerio wrote, looking to the future of the program at STC. And in Valerio’s eyes, it’s a bright future, indeed. “As the dean of Nursing and Allied Health, I am very fortunate that I am surrounded with a gold mine of talents and dedicated faculty and staff that are open to innovation when it comes to teaching and learning,” he wrote. “We have embraced simulation since 2008 and simulation has been proven to be an effective teaching strategy to train safe, competent, and caring graduate healthcare individuals. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Shirley A. Reed, president of STC, members of the STC Board of Trustees, community members in both Hidalgo and Starr counties, and the entire STC faculty and staff — especially in the NAH Division — for making this a reality.” Learn more about STC’s Nursing and Allied Health program by visiting


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EDUCATIONAL EQUITY Teach for America Focuses on Realizing Equal Opportunities for RGV Students



MAR/APR 2018

by Amy Casebier

Recently released research by economists studying education for gifted students in Florida revealed troubling insights into how those students were identified — and, more importantly, how a significant portion of them were not. The research, along with the efforts of Florida education officials, was detailed in a 2015 Washington Post article. It found that most of the gifted students initially identified lived in wealthier suburbs. And until school officials determined a better way of testing all students in the district, it excluded gifted minority students who lived in poorer neighborhoods. This kind of disparity in educational opportunities extends far beyond gifted programs in schools. And for areas like the Rio Grande Valley, where 68 percent of

children live in high-poverty neighborhoods, according to a 2017 Center for Public Policy Priorities study, the idea of educational equity is a timely concern. That’s where organizations like Teach for America come in, working to identify such problems in the community and moving toward lasting solutions. “Children growing up in historically marginalized and disenfranchised communities lack access to a broad spectrum of resources and opportunities, and may attend schools that are not equipped to meet their extra needs or miss out on opportunities altogether,” Ana Gonzalez, executive director for the RGV branch of the organization, wrote in an email. “This disproportionately impacts children of color, who are more than two times likely to be born into poverty and who potentially bear an



“Because this is an ongoing commitment, we further address equity by supporting the individual and collective leadership, relationships, and learning of those in our network throughout their lifetime.”



challenge that educational equity presents. “Teach For America knows that it will take many interventions from many directions over a long period of time to solve this problem,” Gonzalez wrote. “We know that Teach For America must work in partnership with our community to find these answers. We know that it takes sustained leadership from both inside the educational system and outside in order to challenge the status quo in a system that has not been working for kids and demonstrating what is possible.” Teach for America received a $728,000 grant in October 2017 from the OneStar Foundation to support the organization’s Texas programs — including efforts in the Rio Grande Valley. This grant is part of $14.6 million that the OneStar Foundation received in federal AmeriCorps funding from the Corporation for National and Community Service, which will be matched by an additional $37.3 million in local resources to address pressing challenges in Texas communities. “Through the grant, we are able to better support the development of our corps members and to have a greater pool of AmeriCorps members who are looking to make a difference here and across Texas where the need for teachers is high,” Gonzalez wrote. While the challenges of ensuring educational equity remain, Gonzalez asserts that hope is possible for lasting change for students from all backgrounds. “Educational equity is attainable in our generation,” she wrote. “The RGV is a beacon of hope for what is possible when there is a collective focus and desire to identify challenges, hypothesize solutions, test what we know will work, and gather evidences of success. You can see this in many areas of the RGV, and I am inspired to be a part of this magical and transformational change alongside many leaders in our corps, our alumni, our team, and our Valley community.” Learn more about Teach for America’s mission at www.


additional burden of low expectations.” Teach for America was founded in 1990 with a clear objective: to expand learning opportunities to students in underserved communities. In the RGV, Teach for America works closely with school districts and other community leaders to push for the success of children throughout the area. As a result of sustained partnerships among these organizations, the Valley is seeing an improvement in measurable student outcomes. “We are graduating more Latino students in the RGV in comparison to other regions,” Gonzalez wrote. “We are seeing more college matriculation in this region than in others. While there is more work to do, we are positioned to continue seeing great things for students and families in the Rio Grande Valley.” More work comes in the form of Teach for America enlisting teachers to lead students in classrooms across the country. A two-year commitment from the teachers often turns into a lasting career both in schools and serving the community in impactful capacities, Gonzalez wrote. She added that Teach for America trains its teachers to go above and beyond in inspiring their students and providing the chances to learn and grow as individuals that they might have otherwise missed out on. These efforts range from offering after-school activities such as robotics or gymnastics to students, exposing them to college options through visits across the country, and bringing computer science education to schools. “Because this is an ongoing commitment, we further address equity by supporting the individual and collective leadership, relationships, and learning of those in our network throughout their lifetime,” Gonzalez wrote. “Throughout their lives, as their careers take shape, we help alumni connect with each other and with highimpact opportunities to continue to grow and learn in pursuit of collective impact.” Having such a strong support system is important in ensuring that teachers and organizations can rise to the

MAR/APR 2018

Ana G o nz a l ez , exe cuti v e di rector for th e RGV bran ch of Teach for America



Golf Classic WHAT? Edinburg Boys & Girls Club Swing for Kids Golf Classic WHERE? Los Lagos Golf Course WHEN? 1 p.m. May 11th Register your team by April 30!

With spring just around the corner, it’s time again to dust off your golf clubs because Boys & Girls Clubs of Edinburg RGV is gearing up for its 28th annual Swing for Kids Golf Classic. At 1 p.m. Friday, May 11, RGV golfers will gather at Los Lagos Golf Course in Edinburg for 18 holes in a team-style round of golf, food, and of course, lots of fun. The Boys & Girls Club will host the classic with help from Texas National Bank and other businesses and community sponsors to make the annual event a continued success. With all the proceeds benefiting our

own children right here in the RGV, why not join them on the green? Teams of three will tee off at 1 p.m. for the threeman Florida Scramble, sometimes also called a Step Aside Scramble or a Dropout. This style of play is similar to a traditional scramble. However, the player who is selected with the best shot sits out, or “drops out,” for the subsequent shot. This speeds up the game just a bit and helps to spread out the contributions among teammates. During the event, Texas National Bank will be serving



MAR/APR 2018

by A bbey Kunkl e



The Boys & Girls Clubs of Edinburg has been at the forefront of youth development since 1969 and continues to enrich the lives of children in our community.

UPCOMING EVENTS FRIDAY MARCH 2 + Valley Symphony Orchestra: Spectacular Broadway TUESDAY MARCH 6 + McAllen Community Concert: ‘ Duo Baldo WEDNESDAY MARCH 7 + STOMP TUESDAY MARCH 20 + McAllen Community Concert: The Tony Pace Experience WEDNESDAY MARCH 21 + McAllen Town Band: Celebration of Music WEDNESDAY APRIL 4 + Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story

FRIDAY APRIL 13 + Little River Band FRIDAY MAY 11 + Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons TUESDAY JUNE 19 + Yanni WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 12 + Les Misérables



MAR/APR 2018

FRIDAY APRIL 6 + Valley Symphony Orchestra: Carmina Burana


Swing for Kids Golf Classic. The hope for the event is to raise at least $25,000 for the Boys & Girls Club — invest in youth today! To sign up for the event, team sponsorship opportunities start at $750 and range all the way up to $10,000 — although a larger donation would definitely not be turned away! Any amount is valuable to supporting RGV kids. Entry fees include green fees, a cart, door prizes, lunch, and drinks. Team prizes are worth $2,000 and additional individual prizes will also be awarded. The last day to register for the event is April 30. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Edinburg RGV has been at the forefront of youth development since 1969 and continues to enrich the lives of children in our community. Their mission is to provide the opportunity and enable all RGV youth to become productive, responsible, and influential citizens, and today, nearly 6,000 youths have access to quality programs and services that will help shape their future. Your sponsorship at this year’s Golf Classic will enable you to have some fun all while making a difference in our community. For more information or to become a team sponsor, contact Sabrina Walker-Hernandez at or call Boys & Girls Clubs of Edinburg RGV at (956) 383-2582.


fajitas, door prizes will be awarded, and for those expert or just lucky golfers, hole-inone prizes will be ready for the taking. Of course, all of this sounds like a blast. But the biggest benefit of the classic is the investment in the community through the funding of Youth Development Programs that focuses on academic success, living a healthy lifestyle, as well as those that concentrate on character improvement and increasing civic engagement. Some of the academic programs that will be funded by the proceeds include annual college scholarships for youth leaders in the community and Power Hour, a homework help program for all children that attend the Boys & Girls Club after school programs. Furthermore, Healthy Habits will continue to teach children about the importance of nutrition and portion control along with physical fitness for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. To incorporate civic engagement, this year, the junior leadership Torch Club for children ages 10 to 13 is organizing and maintaining its own garden and partnering with chefs to learn how to take the harvest from garden to table. Through the Keystone Club, older youths are also making an impact among teens by hosting teen nights for alternative weekend activities and leading their peers to make good choices. If you’re a golf fan, or if you just want to be a part of transforming the lives of children in our community, join in the fun at the


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MAR/APR 2018

by Susie Martinez There’s nothing more satisfying then coming up with a great idea, but even a great idea needs an executable plan of action and a source of funding if it is to get off the ground and make a real-world impact. Grants are essentially free money for great ideas — with the clause that it must be used to advance the particular purpose agreed upon by the grant-giver and applicant. However, because great ideas with perfectly executable plans are abundant and funding is not, getting a grant takes a really well-written pitch. The Educational Research Institute (ERI) in Harlingen is a professional grantwriting agency with an 80 percent success rate, securing over $330 million in successful grant applications for school districts, Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs),

medical institutions, nonprofits, municipalities, and other agencies, as needed. Proposals for state grants are typically due approximately 30 to 45 days after they are announced by the funding agency. To begin the process and make the most of that time, a formal agreement between ERI and the participating district/organization should be made as soon as possible, followed by a needs assessment that is conducted by ERI. Once this needs assessment is conducted, ERI will determine if the entity is a good prospect to receiving the grant award. This extra step performed by ERI makes the grant-writing company unique from other grant-writing companies, and is the reason why it has been able to



The recently secured Perkins Reserve Grant will assist nearly 16,000 students in becoming career and college ready in ways that address both current and future workforce needs.

sustain an 80 percent success rate for its 17 years of business. Recently a grant posted by the name of the Perkins Reserve Grant. As soon as the grant posted, ERI conducted a needs assessment with its clients and began the grant-writing process. For this cycle of funding, ERI submitted 13 applications for the Perkins Reserve Grant and received award on its grants at an 85 percent success rate. ERI secured funding for 10 different school districts and secured a total of $760,000 for its clients. The entities that received award include: Brooks County Independent School District (two awards); Corpus Christi Independent School District; Rio Hondo Independent School District; Santa Rosa Independent School District; Freer Independent School District; Morton Independent School District; Timpson Independent School District; San Isidro Independent School District; Jim Hogg County Independent School District; and Vanguard Academy. The recently secured Perkins Reserve Grant will assist nearly 16,000 students in becoming career and college ready in ways that address both current and future workforce needs. This grant will also give the awardees the opportunity to work with local industries and Institutions of Higher Education to assess local workforce needs and coordinate postsecondary success. Additionally, awardees will also utilize grant funds to establish public/private partnerships, and increase the opportunities for paid internships, apprenticeships, and mentorships in-demand and high-demand fields. From an underprivileged school like Freer ISD, which has 809 students K-12 grade and 72.7 percent of its students considered to be economically disadvantaged, to a large school district like Corpus Christi ISD, which has a total of 38,214 students, all entities could use ERI’s services. To learn more about ERI’s work or to begin a grant process with them, visit their website

The above picture is a Laedral Nursing Anne. Two of them were bought using grant funds for Freer ISD. The grant-funded piece of equipment will be utilized by students for scenario-based training for the care and management of basic patient handling skills to advanced nursing skills.




MAR/APR 2018

The above picture is a VRTEX Mobile - Virtual Reality Arc Welding Trainer. Two of them were bought using grant funds for Corpus Christi ISD. They are worth $27,750 each. It is designed to provide mobility in an easy-to-use and engaging welding training tool.




MAR/APR 2018

THINK ABOUT IT UTRGV In-Depth Philosophy Department Offers a Variety of Philosophy Courses by Chase Murphy

There’s a great deal of competition when it comes to selecting higher education after high school, especially for a degree with many interpretations like philosophy. Texas alone has 187 competing colleges and universities, but if you are looking to major in philosophy, you’ll be excited to hear the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley encompasses a rigorous and comprehensive program for current and future students.

It’s imperative for future attendees to get into the best school for their proposed major, a place that appeals to their personal goals and needs. When measuring the pros and cons of each institution, it’s important to look for a school that applies growth, finances, and energy into your field of study. It should also be important that there is a history of success at that school and especially within the department of your proposed major.



When looking for signs of growth within the department, the philosophy program at UTRGV has spent the past decade making a sizable contribution to the university and community. Recently, UTRGV has added a free-standing academic department. To put these contributions in perspective, about a decade ago, this department consisted of only five full-time philosophy professors. Today, UTRGV boasts a full-time faculty of 16 professors. The philosophy department looks to expand into other aspects of life on and off campus and bring increased awareness of the pressing importance of philosophical problems to all areas of life, as well as an increased skill in critical thinking and structured deliberation. There is a focus to encourage the use of philosophy not just in academia. “The primary vision for the department is to serve the university and the community by showing how philosophy can be approached, not just as an academic field of study, but as a way of life,” said Gregory D. Gilson, associate professor and chair of philosophy at UTRGV. “We aim to maintain the pluralism of our department with a wide variety of topical interests and methodological approaches. We will actively seek to build relationships across campus and in the community to help bring a more philosophical approach to the variety of issues facing academic work and community life. “As part of our mission to disperse philosophy within the curriculum, we hope to house and/or foster the growth of related programs like environmental studies, gender studies, Mexican-American studies, medical, humanities, and others,” Gilson added. Philosophy could apply to many different areas of study, he said. “This means developing our students’ success in the graduate study of philosophy but also their preparation and success in K-12 teaching, nonprofit work, law school, medical school, MBA programs, and other fields of graduate study where philosophy can be a significant contributor to student success,” Gilson said. One course that aims to fulfill this mission is the department’s philosophy of film class, currently taught by lecturer Dale Wilkerson. In this class, students have the opportunity to learn both about history of film and history of philosophy and aesthetics in depth. Wilkerson works to ensure that “students take away a renewed appreciation

“Students take away a renewed appreciation for the film as an artistic medium, a developing capacity for thinking both critically and conceptually, and the confidence to share their interpretations of what they are experiencing with others.”



for the film as an artistic medium, a developing capacity for thinking both critically and conceptually, and the confidence to share their interpretations of what they are experiencing with others,” he said. In the broad scheme of things, he explains, this intersection of film and philosophy is a new concept. Considering academic philosophy has been established for several hundred years, the process of portraying and delivering different ways of thinking and communicating cognitive and emotive messages has evolved over time. “For this reason,” Wilkerson said, “I find ancient texts by Plato and Aristotle particularly useful for this class, as those philosophers reflected on what was for their culture a relatively new performative art, Greek tragedy.” Aside from ancient texts and modern film, the curriculum also encompasses the philosophical study of the performing arts and literature from 19th-, 20th, and 21st-century work. An array of films are watched and studied, including Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel’s surrealist “Un Chien Andalou,” “art house” classics like Akira Kurosawa’s “The Seven Samurai,” and more popular contemporary films like those of Alfred Hitchcock and the Coen Brothers. The philosophy department at UTRGV sees an increased need to invest in addressing the borderlands and Latin America due to the physical location of the RGV community. Many of the professors have taken a deliberate approach in filtering diverse areas of study — like science, politics, and religion — and running them through the filters and perspective of the Latin America community.

MAR/APR 2018

Da l e W i l ke r s on , UT RGV ph ilosoph y lectu rer


Latin American students and students educated in Borderlands and Latin American philosophy.” In the past two years, the Department of Philosophy at UTRGV has more than tripled the number of philosophy courses offered in the Brownsville campus, included more ITV/online classes, and added several related undergraduate courses like philosophy and food, radical political philosophy, Mexican-American/ American philosophy, and more. With these additions and improvements, coupled with the overall commitment to the RGV, the university continues to make significant contributions to the success of its students, faculty, and community. This offers another compelling reason why UTRGV should be a top choice for future philosophy majors in and outside of the RGV. To learn more about the Department of Philosophy and other related courses at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, visit

In the past two years, the Department of Philosophy at UTRGV has more than tripled the number of philosophy courses offered.



MAR/APR 2018

“Latin American philosophy is also important to the future of our department because, if we are to have a master’s program at all, it will likely come through a focus in Latin American philosophy,” Gilson said. Although UTRGV is not a first choice for philosophy as a graduate program on a national level, Gilson said he believes “there is an opportunity to provide we can serve a niche in the underdeveloped area of Latin American philosophy. The profession is desperate for

PODCAST EPISODE RGVent Pilot : Building Company Culture 26



MAR/APR 2018






A Texas-sized brawl has broken out over special education in the state and all sides are blaming each other for the massive problem. Stuck in the middle are many special-needs children who suffer a lack of proper education because parents are unaware of their legal rights, experts say. The feud started when the U.S. Department of Education blasted Texas for failing to properly educate students with disabilities. A year-long investigation found that the Texas Education Agency capped the number of students who could receive special education, and encouraged public school districts to deny services.

MAR/APR 2018

b y Ro d Sa nta Ana





Some public school districts do anything and everything they can, sometimes acting on the edge of legality, to keep their test scores up. They view special ed students as a threat to their test scores, so they do whatever it takes to limit their numbers.”







MAR/APR 2018


“Eventually, Texas came under severe scrutiny from many angles,” said the superintendent. “It all comes down to federal and state test scores,” he said. “Some public school districts do anything and everything they can, sometimes acting on the edge of legality, to keep their test scores up. They view special ed students as a threat to their test scores, so they do whatever it takes to limit their numbers.” He said the test scores are all-important to school districts because if they fall low enough, according to the federal No Child Left Behind law, school districts can lose local control of running their schools and purse strings. Schools, including charter schools, can even be closed down because of low scores, he said. Charter schools are also required to provide special education, but only within the confines of their budgets, he said. If a charter school can show it’s not funded sufficiently, special education students are sent to public schools that can provide special services. “There are all kinds of special needs. It can be speech impediments, visual issues, emotional disorders, the list is long.” Some special ed services require one-on-one teacher to student teaching, all of which can become quite expensive for public schools, another reason many of them see special education students as added costs to their operations. “Behind closed doors, some educators tend to look down on special education students,” he said. “They’ll call them derogatory names. Some may look the other way when special ed students are bullied by other students.

The federal government accused school districts of “dereliction of duty,” noting that Texas has one of the lowest rates of special education students in the country — 8.6 percent as of 2016. The report immediately touched off the finger-pointing. Educators blamed the state of Texas and its Texas Education Agency. TEA blamed the U.S. government. The governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, blamed TEA, and parents of special education students denied services blamed all sides. Two veteran and well-respected educators agreed to share with RGVision their candid views on special education, but only on the condition of anonymity. One is a well-known expert in the field of special education; the other an accomplished schools superintendent of several decades. The special education expert said the state’s problems began in 2004 when, in an effort to contain the parameters of special education, Texas artificially set a standard asking school districts to keep their special education population under 8.6 percent. “At that time, the state’s average in special education was 11.6 percent,” she said. “If school districts were found to be over this percentage, it could lead to an audit by TEA and in most cases require districts to provide additional documentation to explain why services were not at appropriate levels.” As a result, the expert said, many school districts began to decrease their special ed populations and potentially failed to appropriately identify students for special education.



And too often, school districts are tipped off about when TEA will be coming to inspect, or audit, them. This allows districts to prepare and make themselves look better to auditors. He said school districts should have no idea when an audit is coming. “School districts need random compliance audits,” the superintendent said. “Random audits by either the feds or the state would take care of a lot of the problems in special ed in Texas. ISDs respect audits; they are afraid of them. But right now, they do all they can to avoid them. Well-funded, random audits would go a long way toward fixing the special education problem in Texas.

But if you’re the parent of a special ed student, you want the school district to do everything it can to protect and educate your child properly.” According to TEA data, the Rio Grande Valley’s rate of special ed students is 7.5 percent, even lower than the state’s low average. When the U.S. Department of Education sent representatives to Edinburg to hear from parents of special ed students, they got an earful. Parents accused schools of not knowing, or ignoring, laws pertaining to special education, and of spending too much money on sports, public relations and other nonclassroom activities, and not enough money on special ed. Spanish-speaking parents criticized school officials for not providing translators to help them advocate for their children. Still others said they were heartbroken when school administrators “lawyered up” and parents suddenly realized the school district was “not there to help us.” According to the superintendent, some school districts take advantage of parents who are ignorant of their rights. “Parents have lots of power, and school districts know that,” he said. “Parents even have a large and powerful lobbying group. But if parents don’t know their rights, school districts tend to ignore those parents and the needs of their children.” Even though federal law is on their side, he said parents don’t fight school districts for the special education they’re entitled to for two reasons: they are ignorant of the law, and they don’t have the money to fund a legal fight. “That’s why school districts aren’t afraid of lawsuits filed by parents,” he said. “School districts have massive amounts of taxpayer money to hire lawyers to fight their battles. But parents don’t have unlimited funds. If the playing field were level, school defendants would have to pay legal fees out of their own pockets, or districts would fund parents’ legal fees. You can bet things would change immediately.” So what’s the solution to sufficient special education in Texas? Both experts say protecting students is difficult, but one way would be for new federal laws to ensure compliance oversight. “Everybody knows TEA just doesn’t have the resources to keep a close eye on school districts’ special ed compliance,” the superintendent said. “School districts know that, and in some cases, take advantage of that.

Parents have lots of power, and school districts know that. Parents even have a large and powerful lobbying group. But if parents don’t know their rights, school districts tend to ignore those parents and the needs of their children.”



In response to Abbott’s scathing criticism, TEA has released the draft of a corrective action plan. The agency claims the plan addresses “all issues identified in a recent federal monitoring report, including the proper identification of special education students and assuring access to appropriate services at the local level.” The plan includes outreach efforts to educate parents about their rights, a professional development system and follow-up support, compensatory efforts for students who were denied services, and increased staff and resources to provide on-site support and oversight. Public comments will be accepted before a final plan is submitted to the U.S. Department of Education for implementation. Comments will come from special education students, families, educators, advocacy groups, district and school officials and “all others seeking to provide input on the plan,” according to a TEA news release. For more information, visit the TEA website at https://tea.

MAR/APR 2018


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Infinity Homes



MAR/APR 2018




by Lor i H ou s t on built up a reputation for quality design and construction as well as customer satisfaction. As part of their commitment to customer satisfaction, they partner with the new home buyer all the way through the process, which doesn’t end when they hand over the keys to house. The solid reputation Infinity Homes has built comes from the dedication of the entire team. In their drive toward excellence, they have devoted themselves to the building profession. “We have maintained an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau for the last eight years,” Garza said. They are also members of the Texas Association of Builders, the National Association of Home Builders, and the Rio Grande Valley Builders Association (RGVBA). Garza has been serving as the vice president of the board of directors for the RGVBA for the last five years, and has been recently appointed to the Adjustment Zoning Board



MAR/APR 2018

The team at Infinity Homes is on a mission to build houses that people will want to live in forever. Since 2006, Eddie Garza and Mario Peña have been delivering qualitybuilt, energy-efficient structures designed to provide the latest in comfort and value. As one of only two builders in the Ensenada Community in Tres Lagos, Infinity Homes is designing and building with the very latest in smart home technology and energy efficiency. Both partners at Infinity Homes have a history in construction. Their combined experience goes well beyond the 12 years their company has been operating. According to Garza, Peña “was in construction management and I was a sales manager for the same company and we decided to go off on our own in 2006.” When it came to choosing a name for their company, they thought about the endless possibilities in the custom construction process, and Infinity Homes was born. From the very beginning of their company, they have



“We have maintained an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau for the last 8 years.”



MAR/APR 2018

Eddie Ga r z a , Inf i ni ty H om e s

for the city of Edinburg. Garza and Peña saw their dedication start to pay off in 2015 when they were presented with the “Builder of the Year” award by the RGVBA. They have also won other awards through their participation in the Parade of Homes each year. When the Tres Lagos development was first getting started, the duo were approached by the developer to be a possible choice as one of the builders in the new stateof-the-art community. After an extensive process, they earned the privilege of being one of only two builders in Ensenada. “It really did feel like I was applying for a job,” Garza said. He and Peña have also stepped into the role of developers with their own gated community in Edinburg called Sugar Oaks. Everyone at Infinity Homes understands the concerns and dreams that people have when entering the process of custom home building. Garza encourages individuals who are just starting the process to thoroughly research builders in the Rio Grande Valley before choosing one. It is also important for them to shop around for financing and to know what their purchasing power is when discussing the type of home that is best for

them. Location is important when choosing a homesite. Proximity to amenities and schools should be considered early in the process. Consider your habits and needs when planning the layouts and locations of different rooms within the house, and don’t forget to plan for outdoor living space. With a custom built home, you can place electrical outlets where they would be most convenient for your family. If you plan on putting up seasonal outdoor lighting, you can even have outlets near the roof. Before and during the custom home building process, make a priority list and a wish list of features that you want in a home. Include space for your hobbies and storage needs, as well. Keeping a binder for paperwork and ideas is also a good way to stay organized throughout the process. The team at Infinity Homes all have varied experience and expertise, but they really excel with home building. “The bread and butter of the company is doing new residential home building,” Garza said. They pride themselves on the relationships they create with their clients — so much so that they extend far past the completion of the construction, building lasting friendships.




MAR/APR 2018





MAR/APR 2018


b y RGVi s i on | p h ot os b y J a s on G a r z a



R: Would you recommend others to the

2003. We are 15 years old. And it started out as myself leading a different company. I was a salesperson before the year 2000 and I decided to become a businesswoman and that’s how eReal Estate Depot was created. R: How many employees do you have? DE: Real estate brokerages are a little different. I do maintain employees, but we also have licensed real estate agents and that is the bulk of what a real estate company does. We broker different agents who go out and represent clients. And currently we have about seven agents. R: How does the Greater Mission Chamber

Greater Mission Chamber of Commerce? DE: I would recommend that the business community look into the Chamber and become a member. Only because if you want to expand your business, that is the place to go to. One of the most interesting facts about Mission — which speaks to what the Chamber does — is that our intersection here on Shary Road and Expressway 83 is the number one intersection in the entire county as far as traffic is concerned. And I think Mission Chamber had a lot to do with the promotion of businesses and the growth and I just feel that Mission is on a trajectory to grow even more.


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MAR/APR 2018

R: How did eReal Estate Depot get started? DE: eReal Estate Depot started in the year



of Commerce help your business? DE: The Mission Chamber of Commerce is a wonderful organization. The ability for them to bring community business people together to learn something, or the community together to be aware of a business is spectacular. I was born and raised in Mission — been here all my life — and I’ve had a lot of experience with the Mission Chamber. My business has been better for it. They offer advertising venues that have helped bring in business to me. They’ve offered events that help me network with different brokers in the area and with different companies. So it’s been a very positive and good experience with the Mission Chamber.

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PHARR: 1943 West Interstate 2 (by Costco)


We sat down with the Greater Mission Chamber of Commerce’s Featured Member of the Month Dolly Elizondo, owner of eReal Estate Depot in Mission. She shared a little about her experience as a business owner in Mission and with the Greater Mission Chamber of Commerce. RGVision: Tell us a little about what you do. Dolly Elizondo: I am the broker/owner of eReal Estate Depot. eReal Estate Depot is a full-service real estate company. We do everything having to do with real estate, including property management, residential sales, residential buys, and commercial investments.


B ILL MARTIN CFP ® , 1845 CAP ITAL OF RAY MON D JAME S, 95 6-3 3 1-2777 Eventually. Those who can’t stay the course — and it happens — may have to sell at inopportune times, depleting the remaining value of their portfolio and limiting the portfolio’s potential to recover. That’s a double whammy best avoided. Of course, it’s possible that things will go the other way — you retire just as a bull market begins. And you reap the rewards, provided you’re still an active market participant. It’s understandable that retirees may not want to take the chance. The good news is that SOR is a risk you can manage, and may not have to take at all. Risk is inherent in investing, and over the long term, stocks have proved to be a reliable way to accumulate wealth. That’s one reason it’s wise to start investing early — the good years have tended to outweigh the bad, and over, say, 35 years, investors have generally been able to count on building a nest egg, although past performance may not be indicative of future results.

Don't Let "Sequence of Returns" Risk Ruin Your Plans



MAR/APR 2018

Consider Protective Strategies Well Before You Retire

TIMING MATTERS MOST WHEN WE HAVE THE MOST Unfortunately, the size of that nest egg magnifies the SOR risk. A 20 percent or 30 percent decline in a $2 million portfolio at age 65 hurts more than the same decline in a $400,000 portfolio at age 45, when you are saving aggressively and can attempt to take advantage of dollar cost averaging in down markets. In other words, our SOR risk is greater in the years leading up to and just following retirement because that’s when we feel we’ve got the most to lose. And, since most of us are also counting on making regular withdrawals from our nest eggs to cover living expenses, a significant drop in our retirement portfolios is all the more problematic because we’re depleting a portfolio just as it’s declining. It’s important to note that SOR risk is different from investment risk, which has to do with how market volatility causes investment returns to vary. You can reduce SOR risk and even eliminate it altogether — with a well-thought-out plan.

You’ve saved diligently throughout your career, invested those savings prudently, and accumulated a nice nest egg. Now that retirement is within sight, you’re set, right? For most, the answer is yes. But every investor takes some risk that well-laid plans could go awry. Think about someone who retired in March 2000. Over the next 30 months, the dot-com bubble burst. Many who assumed their investment portfolios would provide reliable retirement income may have had to go back to the drawing board (or back to work) if Social Security and other retirement income sources weren’t enough to cover their needs. Fast forward to October 2007. Those who retired that fall may have felt that history was repeating itself. These are examples of what’s called “sequence of returns” or SOR risk — the possibility that a market downturn occurring near your retirement date could affect your retirement plans.

BUILD A BUFFER Investors who want to guard against SOR risk have a number of options. What’s right for you will depend on your overall wealth, how much of that is in equities, your specific risk tolerance and other personal factors best discussed with your adviser. That said, here are three strategies that can serve as a starting point for the conversation.

MARKET DECLINES ARE PART OF THE LANDSCAPE Let’s add some perspective. While recent declines may seem extreme, they’re not that unusual — the S&P 500 fell 33 percent in 1987, almost 28 percent between November 1980 and August 1982, and 48 percent between January 1973 and October 1974. Historically, investors who stay the course and don’t sell at a loss have a greater chance of recovering.

“DE-RISK” LEADING UP TO RETIREMENT Conventional wisdom holds that you should gradually reduce your exposure to equities as you age, meaning that


you will have the highest proportion of your overall wealth in stocks when you enter retirement. But while it may seem counterintuitive, keeping a smaller percentage in stocks during the decade leading up to retirement and the decade after — and increasing that percentage as you age — actually will reduce SOR risk. Market declines in the years preceding and following retirement potentially can do the most harm, so that may be a good time to “de-risk” your portfolio with a greater allocation to bonds and cash.

your liabilities (expenses). This usually means creating a bond “ladder” — a series of bonds that mature in ascending years and are reinvested upon maturity. If you’re fortunate enough to have funds left over after matching your income and liabilities, you can invest in riskier assets — usually stocks. This approach can be attractive when interest rates are rising because the amounts reinvested from bonds that are maturing may earn a higher rate of return. If push comes to shove, it may also be possible to live more conservatively off the interest generated from your bond portfolio, leaving the principal untouched. Past performance may not be indicative of future results. There is no assurance that any investment strategy will be successful. Annuity guarantees are based on the claims paying ability of the insurer. The market value of fixed income securities may be affected by several risks including interest rate risk, default or credit risk, and liquidity risk. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index of 500 widely held stocks listed on U.S. market exchanges. An investment cannot be made directly in the index. The performance mentioned does not include fees and commissions which would reduce an investor’s performance. Dollar cost averaging does not assure a profit and does not protect against loss. It involves continuous investment regardless of fluctuating price levels of such securities. Investors should consider their financial ability to continue purchases through periods of low price levels.

SET A FIXED WITHDRAWAL AMOUNT Retirees often assume they can withdraw a certain percentage of their total portfolio, increasing that amount every year to account for inflation. Under this formula, a $1 million portfolio and 4 percent withdrawal rate would provide pretax income of $40,000 in year one and, assuming inflation runs 3 percent annually, $41,200 in year two, $42,436 in year three and upward from there. However, if your retirement portfolio happens to be shrinking over several years while the absolute amount you are withdrawing is rising, you’re likely to run into trouble. Avoid this by setting a fixed percentage for your withdrawals in each coming year based on the yearend value of your portfolio. The drawback is that you may have flush years followed by leaner years. Alternately, you can establish a “floor” — an amount that can be withdrawn in any market environment to cover your basic needs — and adjust discretionary spending according to your portfolio’s performance.

McColl, Suite 101, McAllen, TX 78501. For more information, please contact Bill


CREATE A LIABILITY-MATCHING PORTFOLIO It’s possible to eliminate SOR risk completely by determining how much you need in retirement and creating a portfolio of fixed-income assets and/or annuities that will produce that amount annually. This approach creates what’s known as a liability-matching portfolio — the income generated by your fixed-income holdings equals (after taxes)

Martin, CFP® at (956) 331-2777.


Article provided by Bill Martin, CFP®, 1845 Capital of Raymond James, 1400 N

MAR/APR 2018


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 deeply for his clients, Derrick Kinney and his team are passionate about helping each family they Derrick Kinney and his family

work with achieve the financial goals that are important to them. Serving Clients is Their Top Priority

Giving Back to the Rio Grande Valley

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 for our clients to feel well taken care of," Kinney said. The trusted team at Derrick Kinney & Associates is there to help make their clients' lives better.

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.

Examples of clients they serve include: Individuals and couples who want their portfolios to fund meaningful life experiences in retirement.

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.

Family-minded people who want to leave a financial legacy with the least amount of taxes. High wealth individuals who want professional advice on their portfolio strategy.



MAR/APR 2018

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




“Derrick, I've got cancer and the doctor doesn't give me long to live." I asked my well-loved client and friend, “Bob,


how can I best serve you right now?" Faced with the end of his life, Bob wanted to make sure that his family would be taken care of, I suggested we hold a family meeting to share with them what was important to him. His wife, his children, and each of his grandchildren gathered together to hear him share the values he wanted to pass to the next generation. It was one of the most difficult conversations I've ever led. It was an emotional time and many tears were shed, but it was one of the most rewarding moments I've experienced as an advisor. His family, who remain clients to this day, regularly thank me for helping their Dad speak to them in such an affirming and lasting way.

"That's why we do what we do. One client. One family. One legacy at a time." - D e r r i c k Ki nne y

“Put your hand on my chest." No client had ever said that to me. “Derrick," Ted said, “I want you to feel my

pacemaker. If it ever stops, Mary is going to need you. I want you to promise me you'll be there for her." I assured


him we would. Ted and Mary had worked with our team for many years. We had designed a retirement plan they MAR/APR 2018

decisions for what she wanted to do financially. Her

B if something happened to either of them. Early one

Recent Accolades:

Saturday morning I received the call that Ted had passed

Named "2017 Reader’s Choice Favorite Financial Advisor" in multiple publications

away. As promised, we walked alongside Mary, helping her with this difficult life transition. It was beautiful to

Featured in the Wall Street Journal as a "Five Star Wealth Manager investors need to know"

children are very thankful for us honoring our promise to

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Ted and being there when Mary needed us the most.



help her get back on her feet and empower her to make


were enjoying together, but we also discussed a Plan




MAR/APR 2018

b y S of i a A l e m a n

Business networking should be at the heart of every business owner. When an employer grows his or her network, countless opportunities arise to potentially earn more financial capital. However, even though financial capital is what the company thrives on, maintaining that capital is largely dependent on the connections you make. It is profoundly important to establish long-lasting business partners and collaborations, and to be trusted by other business owners in the community. All of these practices include networking and getting to know other entrepreneurs. This equates small business success and what is called “social capital,�

according to Michael Wilson, chief operating officer of CM Institute of Leadership in McAllen. CM Institute of Leadership strives to boost employees to a higher level of performance through corporate training and leadership development. Wilson has identified the top networking tips according to his research and participation in many social networking mixers organized by his company, called The Entrepreneur Power Network. The focus of these networking events are for each business to collaborate and think of ways they can work together, including ways one company can promote others within the group. For example,



In addition, it’s also important to have goals before you attend a networking event. An example of intentional goals look something like this:

a printing company could work together with another company that does web design. It’s a win-win situation for both businesses involved since the printing company requires a web presence and the web design firm gains another client. “If someone says networking doesn't work, they’re not doing it right,” Wilson said. “When you're doing networking, you want to know who’s out there.” According to Wilson, a common mistake at the networking events are attendees who only talk to their friends while there, or who are too self-conscious to introduce themselves to someone new. Wilson described a time he helped a shy realtor introduce herself to a table of fellow entrepreneurs only to be pleasantly surprised that they were completely open to getting to know her — but were also in the same predicament. “Now I see that same realtor at other networking events and she has no problem talking to people,” Wilson said. “It’s a pleasure to see her heeding advice learned at my events.” In his experience with business leadership, Wilson has also noticed a problem commonly found in the Valley referred to as the “scarcity mentality.” The paradigm addresses people who have a difficult time sharing recognition, credit, power, or profit with others, including those who helped them reach success. The term was coined by Stephen R. Covey in his book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” which highlights mutually beneficial results and growth opportunities that occur when businesses can appreciate each other’s uniqueness. “People think, ‘you’re going to steal my clients,’ but you shouldn’t have that mentality. You should be open,” Wilson said. “I actually introduced people who were competitors and they came together and realized they served a totally different clientele. Now they actually refer people to each other and are making more commissions between each one.” So what does successful social networking encompass? According the CM Institute of Leadership, the key element to social networking is adopting a mindset that is open and willing to make long-lasting connections.

- I’m going to meet at least 10 new people - I’m going to attain 10 new business cards - I’m not going to sell my business So why is receiving a business card such an integral part of the process, and why does it warrant being on the list of goals? In his research on social relationships, anthropologist Robin Dunbar states every person on average in the the United States carries on a relationship with 150 people. So when exchanging business cards with someone else, it is a gateway to 150 more people. You’re not just accessing that one person. However, to get through that gateway, you have to build trust. When someone initially meets another person, they are not going to trust you with their contacts right away. “It’s like saying ‘give me your car keys,’” Wilson said. So how does one entrepreneur gain the trust of another fellow business owner? According to Ivan Misner, founder of Business Networking International, there is a three-step process to gaining trust called the VCP process:



P=Profitability: You trust me now. You look to me as an expert and you trust me enough to start referring people to me. You say to yourself, “this person really knows how to do ‘X.’” This is last part of the trust process that all should desire to achieve and actively work to maintain.


C=Credibility: Now we go and sit down together. We’re having conversation. You might even utilize my services at this point. But we’re beginning our business relationship venture.

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V=Visual: First I meet you, I might even get your business card, but I vaguely remember you. Next time I see you, I might say, “Oh you’re the one that owns that business.”


According to Wilson, reciprocity — sometimes called the “Golden Rule” — is the prime mindset one needs to have to build relationships. “Businesses, they focus on capital. And capital is important because you can’t run a business without capital. But you need to invest in ‘social capital,’ too,” Wilson said. “Social capital brings you revenue, thus more financial capital. I encourage people to invest in maintaining relationships for that reason.” Wilson says it his mission to not only meet new people, but to bring value to their life in some way. By training people on how to network, or to value their positions as leaders, they can ignite prosperous relationships with the people in their circle. He invites business owners to build quality relationships that can lead to fruitful collaboration. For more information on how you can attend a social networking event coordinated by the CM Institute of Leadership or to contact the company about other leadership development opportunities, visit the website at or call (956) 215-7615.

“Social capital brings you revenue, thus more financial capital. I encourage people to invest in maintaining relationships for that reason.” Michael Wils on ,

c h ie f o p e r ati ng o f f i ce r of CM Ins ti tute o f Le a d e r s h ip i n McA l l e n



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When trying to build long-lasting business relationships, you have to ask yourself over time, where am I in the process? Then you have to maintain their trust. It doesn’t end once you’ve attained the “P.” “If you really want to freak people out, say ‘My name is Mike Wilson, I do this, how can I help you?’ It intrigues people to wonder, ‘What? You want to help me?’ It’s a shocking question because they’re used to people soliciting to them,” Wilson said.

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by Irene Wa zgo w s ka



In December 2017, a new income tax law went into effect. This new tax law maintains the seven federal income tax brackets, but sees a change with slightly lower rates and adjusted income ranges. The standard individual deduction has increased from $10,400 to $12,000, and the standard deduction for joint filers has increased from $20,800 to $24,000, meaning a 15 percent difference for both. However, personal exemptions have been eliminated. The new tax law is set to expire Dec. 31, 2025. Some additional highlights include an individual deduction of 20 percent of qualified business income from a Partnership, S Corporation, or Sole Proprietorship. And the progressive corporate tax rate structure of 35 percent is now replaced with a flat tax rate of 21 percent. There hasn’t been a major tax reform at this level since 1986’s Tax Reform Act, which was signed by President Ronald Reagan. Why now? “Since that time, our 75,000 page federal tax code has become increasingly complex and imposes high marginal tax rates on its taxpayers, fostering a system of avoidance and evasion and undermines what should be simple financial planning for households and businesses,” said Suzie Muñoz, a local CPA with The Numbers Company. “At the corporate level, the United States has become uncompetitive internationally due to a high corporate tax rate, corporate income that is subject to double taxation, a poor cost-recovery structure, and a worldwide tax system.” This prompted a call to simplify the tax code, Muñoz explained, along with instituting a more competitive corporate tax rate that would boost U.S. business. The new changes have the potential to result in broad benefits. Muñoz points to the fact that the new bill “lowers the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, gives pass-through businesses a 20 percent tax deduction, increases the standard deduction, expands the child tax credit, and temporarily lowers individual rates across the board.” But who, exactly, stands to benefit? That answer depends on which tax bracket the person belongs to. “In Texas, over 9 million taxpayers already take the standard deduction, so the increase under the new plan would further benefit them,” Muñoz said. While there are benefits to some, Muñoz said that the elimination of personal exemptions will likely hurt larger families who rely on them. “Lower rates should generally mean a lower tax bill,” she said. “However, since the calculation of taxable income would also change, not all taxpayers will experience a lower tax liability. In short, this provision lowers tax rates

in exchange for the elimination of certain tax benefits. For some taxpayers, those tax benefits helped them more than the increase in the standard deduction or the slight decrease in rates. Unfortunately, there is no “one size fits all” response to federal tax reform and it is difficult to predict how it will benefit or impact individual taxpayers. These federal changes will affect everyone differently based on the taxpayer’s particular situation, filing status, and income.” As with any change, Muñoz advises individuals to “focus on the positives of tax reform.” It can be confusing to navigate income tax. “Any new tax legislation causes a great deal of excitement and anxiety for taxpayers, but remember that changes to the tax code often lead to different opportunities in strategically planning your finances,” she said. “Having a clear framework on how to navigate the ups and downs of tax reform can help you maximize those potential benefits.” Two things to keep in mind: 1. Keep political and financial views separate. Regardless of whether a Republican or Democrat is in office, it is important to be aware of your bias and focus on making rational decisions that are going to meet your financial goals. 2. Start small. There are going to be many changes and areas to plan. Start with what is reasonable and feasible for you to take. Making extreme changes to your lifestyle or business just to save a few tax dollars may not be worth it when you step back and do cost-benefit analysis. Changes can end up costing more in tax-filing costs, complexity, and time. Get with your tax preparer and take on financial actions that are within your control and don’t require you to jump through hoops. Online resources are available to help clarify these new income tax bill

available-taxpayers-could-see-paycheck-changes-by-february For those who are interested in reading the new bill, visit https://www.



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by Amy Casebier

In a stunning 2016 exposé, Mother Jones reporter Shane Bauer went undercover working as a private prison guard at Winn Correctional Center in Louisiana. Armed with a notebook, an audio-recording pen, and a phototaking watch, Bauer uncovered a number of red flags at the facility, privately run at the time by Corrections Corporation of America. CCA has since rebranded itself as CoreCivic. In Bauer’s four months at the facility, he documented instances of everything from neglect of a dangerously ill inmate to a near lackadaisical approach to confiscating contraband. Many of his findings were denied by CCA. In light of this and other stories, one might question why private prisons are in use, let alone why a community would want such a facility. The answers — and their implications — are complicated. In the Rio Grande Valley, the East Hidalgo Detention Center in La Villa is a privately owned prison facility, run by The GEO Group Inc., the nation’s largest private prison company. The facility has a capacity of 1,300 beds, and its client is the U.S. Marshals Service. In 2017, it achieved an initial accreditation with the American Correctional Association with a score of 100 percent. On GEO Group’s website for the detention center, the organization states

that it provides $10,000 in scholarships in the area every year. The companies that own private prisons give back to the community. According to its website, GEO Group’s The Geo Foundation made around $1.9 million in charitable donations in 2016. And the prisons offer employment opportunities and stimulation for local economies. It was this same need to create jobs and revenue that led a Montana town with an empty privately owned facility to gain national attention in 2009 by offering to house prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, according to an NPR article. “And that desperation is going to be fatal,” said Santiago Hernandez, who works in security at CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital in Corpus Christi. “It’s going to end up getting someone hurt.” Hernandez spent his life working in corrections. Before Spohn, he worked for 22 years at the Federal Correctional Institution in Three Rivers, Texas. He pointed out a number of concerns with the way privately run prisons are operated. “I can tell you that the management styles of inmates are different compared to a private prison to a federal prison,” he said. “The policies are different. The quality




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A 2016 Department of Justice report found that private prisons had more security and safety issues than federal facilities.

and the experience of staff are different. We are obligated by federal law and policies on how to manage inmates everything from food service to recreation to education to medical to discipline — every aspect of what an inmate’s supposed to do in prison is all written down in policy.” When Hernandez still worked for FCI Three Rivers — he retired in 2013 — federal prison unions would regularly lobby against private prisons. “Our unions in federal prison would go and testify in Congress or fight because private institutions, first of all, lacked the experience of correctional officers and staff to manage inmates,” he said. “That’s why there was essentially a high statistical record of inmate violence in private prisons.” A 2016 Department of Justice report found that private prisons had more security and safety issues than federal facilities. The report analyzed and compared 14 private prisons with similar federal facilities. Per capita, private prisons reported a 28 percent higher average of inmateon-inmate violence. The report also found more than twice the amount of inmate-on-staff violence at private prisons than federal facilities. “I can tell you that the way we used to manage inmates is a lot safer and more humane than it is in a private institution,” Hernandez said. He added that he had heard “horror stories” from former colleagues who worked in private prisons. “I’ve heard they go work in a private prison and they only last three or four months,” Hernandez said. “They say, ‘man, you can’t believe what these guys do in there. Man, they go in there and they do stuff and it’s unethical.’ And the way they run this prison, no wonder there’s a big turnover in a private prison because a lot of people

don’t know how to handle and don’t know how to manage inmates. It puts at risk the safety of staff and inmates.” Some 2,000 inmates at the Willacy County Correction Center rioted in 2015 over what they perceived was inadequate care at the privately run facility. The facility had been plagued with reports of issues, from instances of sexual abuse to complaints of pests inside tents where inmates were housed to inadequate food and clothing. Three of the 10 tents were burned, all of the inmates were transferred to other facilities, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons ended its contract with Management and Training Corp., the company that ran the facility. The center closed, MTC laid off 400 employees, and Willacy County, losing the revenue it received from MTC, experienced a financial crisis that resulted in cutting onethird of the county’s general fund budget, according to a 2017 Valley Morning Star article. But with an increasing demand to house detained immigrants, more privately owned facilities have gotten the green light from the Trump administration, including a new center in Conroe, Texas. Under this administration, the Bureau of Prisons has also restored contracts with private prisons housing immigrants convicted of committing crimes in the United States after the Obama administration began cutting ties, according to a 2017 NPR article. As for Willacy County, officials there sold the former correction center to MTC in March 2017, as reported by the Valley Morning Star. In addition to the $2.025 million asking price, MTC also repaid bond holders who were out $68 million when the facility closed. MTC will pay the county $3 per inmate housed there per day, though it is still working to secure a contract for holding inmates.


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Dr. Carlos Ayala – ENT & Facial Surgeon Extraordinaire

went a step further and trained for, and practiced, facial reconstructive surgery. “Within the medical field, one of the most difficult specialties is ENT, so already I was choosing a difficult specialty,” he said. “Within ENT, I liked the idea of further helping people enhance or restore their natural beauty.” To that end, the military sent him to train with the best facial specialists in the world in Beverly Hills. He took that knowledge to then work with wounded soldiers in Afghanistan, where he gained a certain measure of fame. “While I was there performing reconstructive surgery I was helping to restore balance and beauty for wounded soldiers,” he said. Today his focus is less on the immediacy of wounded warriors and more on the day-to-day struggles of allergy sufferers, those who have congenital defects, and people who just want a better quality of life. To that end, his practice works with a wide variety of nasal/cranial issues, from allergies, sleep apnea and snoring, sinus issues, nasal obstructions, and balloon sinuplasty, among other things. He enjoys procedures that have to do with full facial reconstruction, but especially nasal reconstruction. “I focus on the nose; I can reconstruct it from the inside and out,” he said. In this, Ayala is uniquely qualified. Currently, he is the only board-certified, fellowshipped, trained facial plastic surgeon in the Valley. Although ENT is the heart of the practice, Ayala still enjoys demonstrating his expertise in plastic surgery and offers a full range of cosmetic and surgical remedies — from Botox and Bellafill to ear proptosis (pinning back of the ears) and even facial piercing repair. He will perform eye surgery and facial contouring, among other services. He has advanced diagnostic equipment in his office to help him achieve the best possible outcome. Another aspect of the practice is working with patients on scar revision, which corrects skin changes caused by an injury, as well skin cancer removal and reconstruction on the face/cranial areas. The practice will remove skin tags and moles, as well. There is no doubt that since his arrival in June 2013, Ayala has been a welcome addition to the Valley, and as the Valley continues with its unprecedented growth, the Ayala ENT Facial Plastic Surgery practice will undoubtedly be at the forefront, leading the way.



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by C o ri Sm el ker | p h o to b y Oma r D í a z

After a long and storied medical career, Dr. Carlos Ayala, who retired from the Air Force as a lieutenant colonel and a decorated war hero, could literally have chosen anywhere in the United States — or even the world — to start a private practice. With his years of practical and highly technically advanced experience, any community would be lucky to have him. Fortunately for the Rio Grande Valley, he chose McAllen to start his practice in June 2013. “I had never been to the Valley before,” Ayala said. “In fact, I had never even heard of it, but one of my professors from medical school has a son who practices medicine in the Valley and he told me to go and visit his son and get an idea of the area.” The son soon recommended Ayala to the hospital he was associated with, and the rest is history. Ayala’s main reason for selecting the Valley though, was more personal. “I had spent a long time in the military, my whole adult life, from the age of 18 until I was 47,” he said. “When I finished, I decided I wanted to be somewhere that was under-served. I wanted bring value to the locale, and bring something that was needed. The Valley has a large Latino population and because I am Spanish speaking, I felt I could bring my undermanned specialty to this community.” Ayala was raised in the Bronx, New York, by Puerto Rican parents. Since the Valley is under-served in this particular specialty, Ayala is highly sought after. “Once doctors know I am here, and speak Spanish, they send me their patients,” he said. While still in the military, Ayala chose to focus on ear, nose, and throat (ENT) as his specialty, but then





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While still in the military, Ayala chose to focus on ear, nose, and throat (ENT) as his specialty, but then went a step further and trained for, and practiced, facial reconstructive surgery.





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SUICIDE:ENDING THE SILENCE according to 2016 data from the American Association of Suicidology. Data from the same report shows suicide rates differ between genders, age groups, and sexual orientation. In 2016, the suicide rate for women was 6.2 and for men it was 21.8. Although, the rates differ at different age groups, the rates for women indicate that they have the highest rate for those aged 45 to 64 years old. For men, the suicide rate was the highest in males 75 years and older. Although the highest number of suicides are committed by adults, suicide is the second leading cause of death in individuals between the ages of 15 and 34, and the third leading cause in children between the ages of 10 to 14, according to the American Association of Suicidology. Youths who are a part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community have higher rates of suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts. They are three times more likely to report thoughts of suicide in comparison to their

The act of voluntarily ending one’s life is a tragic event that causes immeasurable emotional repercussions and irreplaceable losses of human lives. Suicide is a difficult topic to have a conversation about, but the only way to reduce the number of suicides and suicide attempts is by knowing the statistics, understanding risk and protective factors, dismantling the myths, and being aware of the resources that are available in our communities.

THE STATISTICS In 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. The suicide rate has been slowly increasing in the last decade, and in 2016, the suicide rate was 13.9 per 100,000 people. In this same year, there were over 1 million suicide attempts and more than 44,000 people took their own lives. A total of 3,488 Texans took their own lives in 2016, making the Texas suicide rate 12.5 per 100,000 people,



heterosexual counterparts. For instance, 29.4 percent of this group attempted suicide in comparison to 6.4 percent of heterosexual youths, the American Association of Suicidology found.

suicide allows teenagers battling suicidal thoughts express their emotions and entrust in others. Remember, don’t be afraid to directly ask someone if he or she is considering suicide.



There are multiple risk factors that increase the likelihood of a suicide attempt, including previous suicide attempts, increased substance abuse, mental disorders such as anxiety, lack of access to mental health care, chronic illness, and many others, the American Association of Suicidology finds. If an individual is part of the LGBT community, additional risk factors include experiences of stigma, violence, familial conflict, and bullying can increase suicidal thoughts, data show. Protective factors that reduce the likelihood of suicide include social support, access to mental health care, self-esteem, and religiosity, according to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center. It is imperative to be aware of warning signs such as behavioral changes that can indicate someone may be thinking about suicide. Developed by the American Association of Suicidology, IS PATH WARM is an easy mnemonic that can allow everyone to identify such signs.

If you or you know someone who are having suicidal thoughts, please seek help and reach out to the numbers provided. There is help and resources are available for you. You are not alone. You are wanted. Like you, many experience suicidal thoughts and have recovered, and you can, too. If you have lost a relative or friend due to suicide, we encourage you to also seek help.

SOURCES OF SUPPORT If you or a loved are having suicidal thoughts, you can always find help using any of the hotlines below. You can get in contact with someone through a phone call, text message, or through your computer. If you or someone are in danger, call 9-1-1.

I- ideation (suicidal thoughts) S- substance abuse P- purposelessness (no purpose for living) A- anxiety T- trapped (expressing there is no way out) H- hopelessness W- withdrawal (from friends and family) A- anger R- recklessness (engaging in dangerous behaviors) M- mood changes

RGV Resources: Tropical Texas Behavioral Health Center Crisis Line: 1-877-289-7199 Border Regional Behavioral Health Crisis Line: 1-800-643-1102 UTRGV Vaquero Crisis Line: (956) 665-5555

MYTHS Educating and raising awareness is imperative for breaking up myths and better understanding suicide. According to the American Association of Suicidology, unlike the myths, suicide doesn’t happen without warning. Suicide and suicide attempts among the youth occur after expressing plans. Understanding the previously mentioned signs is imperative to prevent suicide. Secondly, individuals don’t overreact to life events. All forms of crises should be treated with seriousness and attentive care. What may be a simple problem for someone may be a crushing distress for someone else — and that’s OK. Actively listening to someone expressing their emotions can prevent a suicide. Finally, talking about suicide will not make things worse. Although unfortunately a taboo topic, openly talking about

References available upon request (Co-authors include Dr. Mercado’s Mental Health Lab at UTRGV:


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




Abigail Nunez-Saenz, Andy Torres and Paola Salazar)

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U.S. Resources: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will assist you from a secure line via text messages if you Text HOME to 741741 Visit to chat with a counselor via online Visit to chat with someone trained in crisis intervention


You take something that is very complex and something that is very debilitating to a patient and you correct that — basically seeing instant results.


R: What is your approach to patient care? Dr. FG: I treat each patient as an individual. Each injury I take care of certainly requires special attention to the details. So, I examine the patient and I take into account any medical problems and I create a specialized plan that is tailored to each problem. R: What is trending right now in orthopedic surgery? Dr. FG: There are a lot of things trending right now in orthopedic surgery. In the joint arthroplasty world, there’s a lot of robotic surgery. In general, there is a trend towards biologics and different bone grafts that can help heal fractures quicker than they would without out it. Tailored towards what I do, hand and upper extremity surgery, a current trend is the newer techniques like minimally invasive approaches. R: How do you stay up to date with advanced and current trends? Dr. FG: That’s a great question. There are many ways to stay up to date. I read the literature, I subscribe to journals, I go to courses. In fact, yesterday I went to a cadaver lab where I trained on a new technique: capitate resurfacing. R: Tell us about capitate resurfacing. Dr. FG: Capitate resurfacing is a procedure for patients with wrist arthritis or primary wrist arthritis, or patients who have had failed previous surgeries to take care of arthritis. It’s a procedure that takes the capitate bone and recontours the joint surface so that it can move freely with less pain. You could consider it a limited joint replacement, or an arthroplasty.

Valley Care Clinics Orthopedic Surgeon Specializing in Hands & Upper Extremities



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by RGV isio n | pho to by Oma r D í a z & Ja s o n G a r z a Dr. Frank Gerold is a Valley Care Clinics orthopedic surgeon specializing in hand and upper extremity surgery. He practices in McAllen, as well as the surrounding cities in the Rio Grande Valley. A native Texan, Gerold grew up in Houston, where he pursued his education at the University of Texas Medical School Houston. After training in orthopedic surgery in New York at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital, he attended a hand and upper extremity fellowship in Chicago at Loyola University Medical Center. Gerold is now an accomplished surgeon with a wide array of specialties concerning the hand and upper extremities. Our staff had the privilege of meeting with Gerold to get a closer look at what it means to be an orthopedic surgeon and the impact he is making on the lives of Valley residents. RGVision: How did you get into orthopedic surgery? Dr. Frank Gerold: One of the reasons why I went into orthopedic surgery is you can make an immediate, positive effect on a patient. We’re taking a patient who has a broken leg or a broken wrist and we’re stabilizing it and allow them to get out of bed and to do early range of motion and to really just get back to themselves as quickly as possible. One thing about hand surgery in particular that I love is the anatomy. I think it’s beautiful.

R: Tell us about some of the unique procedures you specialize in, as well as some of the more common ones. Dr. FG: I’m a hand and upper extremities specialist. And that really involves taking care of anything from the shoulder to the fingertip. Where I trained, we took care of a lot of complex problems. We’re talking about bone fractures, injuries to nerves, injuries to arteries — even simple sports injuries — sprains, strains. For example, [treating] a rotator cuff injury (... a very common injury) versus someone who cuts one of the major nerves that controls the function of their hand, and doing the various reconstructive procedures to take care of that patient. R: How do patients find you? Dr. FG: As an orthopedic surgeon I certainly have office hours, and I take care of patients who are referred to my office. But when a patient comes in with a certain





Dr. FG: One thing that becomes very apparent when you injure your hand or your extremity, is how important it is having boths hands fully functional. When you have one hand or an arm taken out of the equation and you can’t use it because it’s fractured or severely injured, it really changes your life. Getting those patients fixed, rehabbed, and on the road to recovery is of utmost importance. R: What do you enjoy most about your profession? Dr. FG: I just love what I do. I love orthopedic surgery. I love taking care of sick patients and helping them through from injury to recovery. To learn more about what Dr. Frank Gerold can do for you, call his office at (956) 586-0333.

injury that requires a sub specialist, say they get into a car accident and they are brought to the emergency room, I’ll get a phone call from the emergency room and I can go in and take care of the patient. R: Do you have any memorable patients or experiences? Dr. FG: I remember taking care of a patient last year who had multiple injuries and over the past year I have gotten to know both her and her family. I’ve seen them for multiple issues and every time she comes to the office it’s hugs, it’s pictures, and they’re so happy with the care that they got … getting her back to her normal self. I get a great amount of satisfaction from those encounters. R: What would you like people to know about hand and upper extremity surgery?

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I’m a hand and upper extremities specialist. And that really involves taking care of anything from the shoulder to the fingertip. Where I trained, we took care of a lot of complex problems.






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b y Rod S a n t a A n a

Marie lost her job in McAllen after being caught on camera having sex with a co-worker in the back room. It was only then that she began to realize that her behavior was not normal. “I knew I needed to change,” she said. “I knew I had to be more cautious.” Marie estimates that by the time she turned 20, she had had at least 100 sexual partners. Now in her late 30s, she thinks she’s had over 1,000. In Edinburg, Christian’s life was being consumed by watching pornography. The majority of his days were

spent in an endless cycle of watching online porn and masturbating. He also came to the conclusion that his sexual behavior was taking over his life and he needed to do something about it. Like Marie’s sex addiction, Christian’s porn addiction — their names have been changed — is not yet considered an official diagnosis in the DSM-5, the medical community’s authoritative guide to the diagnosis of mental disorders. But if sexuality becomes a disruptive issue in a person’s life, it must be addressed to identify triggers




I realized the instant gratification I got from watching porn was hugely different than trying to foster intimacy with my wife, but my brain couldn’t tell the difference anymore."



had a problem,” he said. Male leaders at his church did their best to hold him accountable and end his addiction, but Christian didn’t realize the underlying problems porn evoked until he married at 26. “It started to wreak havoc on my marriage because I struggled with premature ejaculation,” he said. “I realized the instant gratification I got from watching porn was hugely different than trying to foster intimacy with my wife, but my brain couldn’t tell the difference anymore. I also still struggled with wanting to run back to porn.” Christian describes that sex for him became about chasing the orgasm. The first year of his marriage, intimacy with his wife was not a priority because he subconsciously based his views on sex from what he saw in porn. According to Anthony Brister, LPC at Tropical Texas Behavioral Health, the common denominator of people who struggle with porn and sex addiction is the avoidance of intimacy. “So a lot of times people think intimacy is sex by itself, which absolutely is not true,” Brister said. “A lot of times people will get further and further away from intimacy when they engage in habitual masturbation or sex. A vast number of sex addicts also struggle with shame or a sense of emptiness, all of which are common symptoms of addiction.” Brister added by highlighting that some behavioral health professionals will argue there is no such thing as sex addiction because there’s not a chemical dependency. However, the brain does change and the dopamine and serotonin levels all reflect that it’s similar to chemical dependency. Eventually, Christian slowly broke away from his addiction. “I modified my behavior,” he said. “I removed the


and ways to manage hypersexuality, according to Miguel Reyes, a professional counselor at Nuestra Clinica del Valle in Donna. “Our sexual drive is something that is not only normal, but necessary for humans to survive,” he said. “It allows us to reproduce and pass along our genetic traits from one generation to the next. It’s innate. It’s instinctual. “But sexuality becomes a problem when it begins to disrupt a person’s daily life, either socially, physically or legally,” he added. “It’s a very complex issue, but those who are prone to hypersexuality tend to have highly impulsive personalities, have no support systems, and/or are people who tend to have a lower conscientiousness.” Christian’s exposure to pornography began in third grade when a classmate brought an erotic magazine to school. Gradually, technology facilitated access to porn. “My friend’s older brother had porno videos that we watched at his house, then in middle school, online pornography became available so I was able to watch it in secret at home,” he said. By then, Christian knew he had a problem. “I’d always known what I was doing was bad, but by seventh grade, it became harder and harder not to watch it,” he said. While he had a loving relationship with his parents, Christian learned about sex from pornography and classmates, not from his father. He didn’t feel comfortable approaching his parents with his problem. “And I sure wasn’t going to reach out for help from my friends because they were watching, too, and I didn’t want to be the square one in the group,” he said. “And now I see that my problem affected me socially.” After 17 years of porn addiction, Christian finally reached out for help. “I started telling people I trusted at my church that I

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C hr is t i a n


“It’s a very natural and beautiful thing in the human body,” she said. “I wouldn’t shut it off completely, but I would ‘turn it down.’ It would be nice to go to work and only have to go into the bathroom to satisfy myself twice a day instead of six or seven times.” Marie said counseling has not helped her and she especially doesn’t like group therapy because “most therapy eventually leads to talk of Christianity, and I don’t think there’s any link between what I do with my body and the spiritual world. “I just try to masturbate more versus having sex with someone because it’s faster and safer,” she said. “I also try to wear clothes that are not so revealing so I don’t attract new partners.” Reyes, who is also a licensed chemical dependency counselor, said sexual disorders are usually linked to substance abuse, but not always. Sexual dysfunction could be caused by many factors, including a history of abuse and even brain lesions or chemical imbalances. But patients who want treatment can get it. “Patients with hypersexuality who realize they have a problem and are determined to improve their lives can be treated by professionals in several ways,” he said. These methods can include support groups, psychotherapy groups, individual counseling or various methods of psychotherapy. “The type of psychotherapy can vary from psychodynamic to cognitive-behavioral approaches based on the individual’s needs,” Reyes said. “If the issue is co-morbid with other mental health issues related to chemical imbalances, psychotropic medication may also be prescribed by psychiatrists.” Reyes said Nuestra Clinica del Valle is unique in that it operates as an integrated model whereby patients are evaluated for both medical and mental health issues in one building. The clinic serves Hidalgo and Starr counties with 11 locations and offers services including family and internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, laboratory, radiology, nutrition, behavioral health, and dental. For more information, call (956) 464-5809 or visit the website at



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Sexual dysfunction could be caused by many factors, including a history of abuse and even brain lesions or chemical imbalances.

computer and cable TV from my bedroom, I wouldn’t sleep with my cellphone nearby. I remained accountable to a group of trusted men at my church, and eventually it got better.” Christian said he was up front with his wife about his porn addiction and continually works to build intimacy with her that doesn’t include having sex. “I pursue her heart and mind like I did when we were dating, not just her body,” he said. Now with two children, it’s been almost three years since Christian has watched porn. And he has advice for parents. “Hispanics tend to not talk about sex; it’s a taboo subject,” he said. “I wish my dad had told me about the urges I would have and how to deal with them. So my advice is to talk to your children about sex, because if you don’t, someone else will. And sexual images are everywhere these days. Keep an open, honest line of communication going so they can turn to you for advice and guidance about sex.” Marie, who denies having been abused as a child, also started at an early age. When she was 11, she and her brother found porn on a VHS tape in her house. “I lost my virginity at 14, in my parents’ garage, in broad daylight,” she said. “And eventually my parents caught me masturbating. They sent me to a counselor, but I basically just got a slap on the wrist.” Pleasing herself and casual sex with males, females, and transgenders became an obsession — to the point that she now carries sex toys and prophylactics in her purse. “I’ve never been faithful to anybody,” she said. “And that bothers me because I’ve lost relationships with a lot of very good people. But I’m up front with them. I’ll tell them that no one person can keep up with my needs.” Asked if she would shut off the desires that drive her to promiscuity if she could, she said she would not.


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To Meat or

Not to Meat?



to whey protein. Cuellar Harris, as well as nutritionist Ana Torres with Ana Karen Torres Online Nutrition, both noted that social media and video streaming services are a likely culprit for the notable rise. With so much access to information and the many popular heath-based documentaries available at our fingertips, whether true or not, the effect of this information overload has clearly had an impact. As many are aware, vegetarianism is the practice of abstaining from the consumption of meat, whereas vegans also abstain from eating and/or using animal products. Some touted benefits are that this diet promotes high levels or fiber, folic acid, vitamins C and E and low consumption of saturated fats that can potentially reduce the risk of some chronic issues like heart disease. Vegetables should be an important part of our daily diet. However, when practicing either a vegetarian or vegan diet, there are potential risks associated. Especially for those who have not previously practiced healthy eating, when switching to a plantbased diet and increasing vegetable intake, they will almost immediately feel the benefits. Unfortunately, those who begin practicing vegetarianism without being informed about the body’s daily intake requirements run the risk of causing nutritional deficiencies that can nullify any possible benefits and potentially cause serious health issues, like anemia, blood disorders, or even irreversible neurological damage. These aren’t typical issues, but they should be taken seriously. Though initial


Vegetarianism and veganism are on the rise across the country as well as right here in the RGV. Though it is difficult to get an exact number, today, most estimates suggest that about 3.5 percent of the population in the U.S. follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, compared to only 1 percent in the 1970s. Over the past two decades, U.S. vegetarian food sales, which include dairy and meat replacements, have doubled and then quadrupled, now coming in at over $3 billion per year. The Valley has definitely caught on to this trend, with business owners observing a surge in requests for vegetarian and vegan options. With an increased interest in such foods, is following a vegetarian or vegan diet the best option for everyone? What are some of the pros and cons? There are many reasons for choosing to follow or change to a vegetarian or vegan diet, including religious convictions, environmental concerns, or just a passion for animals that leads one to make the lifestyle change. Others may have particular health issues in which eating meat or dairy is not an option. Considering some of these reasons for the change, could these motives really account for such a dramatic increase in vegetarianism and veganism in recent years? Jena Cuellar Harris, personal trainer and owner of StrongPoint Gym and Shake Express in McAllen, noted that in the past few years, she has observed a marked increase in requests for vegetarian items, and Shake Express has responded, offering plenty of vegetarian options as well as plant-based protein as an alternative

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


have religious beliefs, convictions, or illnesses or any disorder. For those that don’t have any of those issues, I feel that meat should be a part of their diet.” Torres also expressed this sentiment and recommended incorporating lean meats like chicken breast as well as a variety of fish as a simple way to fulfill our bodies’ protein requirements. As with any diet, eating meats in excess, especially fatty meats, can also wreak havoc on the body. Some studies have concluded that eating too much red or processed meat causes concern for a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, and even some cancers. Focusing on balance and moderation are key factors to a healthy diet, and incorporating fruits, vegetables, and plant-based foods like nuts and seeds, good fats like olive oil, and even dairy replacements like coconut or almond milk are also valuable additions to a healthy omnivorous diet. Whether choosing to eat meat or follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, knowing your options, being informed, and making good choices is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

As with any diet, eating meats in excess, especially fatty meats, can also wreak havoc on the body.

benefits may be observed, some early signs of nutritional deficiencies include outward symptoms like brittle nails and hair loss. “If you want to be vegan or vegetarian you need a really good personal designed meal plan,” Torres said. She recommends getting help from a professional to find the best plan for you. Being in the nutrition and fitness fields, both Torres and Cuellar Harris do recommend eating meat as a valuable source of protein and nutrients. “I have my reservations about vegetarianism and veganism,” Cuellar Harris said. “I do respect those that

At Valley Family Dentistry we are committed to making our patients comfortable, happy and healthy.



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THE REESE 202 S 1st St. Ste. #102 Harlingen, TX 78550 (956) 423 0191 |







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b y A b b e y Ku n k l e The letters MTHFR may make you do a double take — and maybe you should, but not for the reason you might think. The Human Genome Project, completed almost 20 years ago, was an extensive international research collaboration that provided major insight into the human genetic blueprint, and as a result, the MTHFR gene mutation was discovered. To try to put it simply, the MTHFR mutation is a genetic defect that affects methylation in our DNA and often inhibits the ability of our bodies to break down certain foods. This can pose immediate or long-term effects, potentially leading to a wide variety of health issues. Though the process of recognizing and treating this

issue is still relatively new, Dr. Pablo Tagle III, with the Institute for Functional Health of McAllen, is addressing this issue on an individual basis through a comprehensive wellness plan that will not only focus on pain but can dramatically improve your overall health. One of the main issues Tagle says he sees with the MTHFR defect is that poor methylation transpires into poor digestion of certain types of foods, especially those with B vitamins. When these vitamins are not properly broken down, those affected will notice a general lethargy, often paired with recurring stomach issues.





methylation and improve symptoms. For those with the MTHFR genetic mutation, it is believed that folic acid is not a suitable substitute and may even worsen symptoms. Incorporating a methyl folate supplement as well as increasing your intake of high-folate foods like beans and lentils, leafy green vegetables, avocado, oranges, mangos, and others is the most beneficial way to up your folate absorption. Healthy fats, chia and flax seeds, and bone broth are also recommended, and inflammatory foods like gluten, sugar, trans fats, and processed meats should be avoided. Currently, researchers believe that anywhere from 30 percent to 50 percent of the population may carry a mutation in their MTHFR gene. This mutation is inherited from parent to child and is believed to contribute to the development of diseases like ADHD, Alzheimer’s, autoimmune disorders, and more. It is important to note, however, that these diseases can still develop without the presence of the mutation. While MTHFR mutations don’t always cause noticeable symptoms, it is estimated that for about 14 percent to 20 percent of population, this genetic mutation can lead to serious long-term health problems. “It is not something that is very well known as to why it happens,” Tagle said. “In general, with the MTHFR mutation, I think there is not a whole lot of knowledge in the general medical community, and they’re just doing a lot more research. It coincides with exactly what we do with our functional health and functional wellness. “Us knowing how to treat this is helping a lot of patients with these issues and giving them a better quality of life.”


“A lot of people have different types of issues with the MTHFR,” he said. “Not just digestion or energy, but it could also be cascading to adrenal issues or cardiovascular disease.” In terms of recognizing the problem, Tagle noted that the easiest way to know for sure is to do a DNA test. However, that is not widely offered. Instead, if someone is following a healthy diet and has no other issues that have been found, like thyroid or liver problems, it would be reason to suspect that the MTHFR mutation might be the cause of the problem. On a technical note, the MTHFR gene provides the body with instructions for making the enzyme methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, which plays many important roles in our health. This enzyme facilitates methylation, which switches genes on and off and repairs DNA, aids in the production of various neurotransmitters and hormones, and naturally detoxifies the body, eliminating heavy metals and toxins through the GI tract. The MTHFR enzyme also forms proteins by converting amino acids that are considered the building blocks of proteins and keeping cholesterol levels balanced. Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase also carries out chemical reactions in the body that help to process folate, a vitamin that is necessary for numerous bodily functions. Though the mutation cannot be altered or corrected, Tagle uses natural treatments that can provide very real results. After first going through a detoxification process, one of the most helpful treatments is to consume methylated forms of B vitamins such as B6, B9, and B12 that have already been processed and are ready to be used by the body. Folate specifically, rather than synthetic folic acid as a substitute, can help with

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Currently, researchers believe that anywhere from 30 percent to 50 percent of the population may carry a mutation in their MTHFR gene.

It’s A New Day For Benefits In Texas

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Contract #17-7256


Noble Charities Foundation:




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Giving back to the community is a part of the company culture at Noble Texas Builders. From the leadership team all the way down to each employee, their dedication to a common purpose makes them a formidable force for positive change in the Rio Grande Valley. Even as a relatively new charitable foundation, Noble Charities is tackling the daunting task of empowering young students to achieve an education that will improve not only their lives, but also the lives of the rest of the Valley’s residents. Rene Capistran, the CEO and president of Noble Builders, started his career in law enforcement and then changed in mid-life to construction. His goal is to create much-needed human capital in the engineering and construction industry as well as in the public safety sector. As part of their commitment to empower local students, Noble Texas Builders has agreed to a memorandum of understanding with South Texas College. The company will provide $25,000 for scholarships for students in construction and public safety programs. The school plans to give out $5,000 per year for the next five years. In addition to supporting students with scholarship money, Noble Texas Builders is also proud to be a part of providing them with state-of-the-art facilities for learning and hands-on experience. South Texas College’s new Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence facility in Pharr is being constructed by Noble Texas Builders and is set to become a world-class training center. This facility will establish integrative training for local, state, and federal professionals in law enforcement, public safety, fire safety, and Homeland Security.



“It is important to have businesses engage with education, and not only on a financial basis. We are also supporting them as they are creating their curriculum.” - Re n e C a p i st r a n , p re sid e nt a nd CEO of Nob le Texa s Build e rs

The Noble Texas Builders team plans to use their time at the schools to express what they are looking for in the industry to prepare students for their careers. This will include talking about the importance of critical thinking skills, academic skills, and the soft skills all employers need. “It gives us an opportunity to meet the students, and really, at the end of the day, that is the pool that we intend to hire from,” Capistran said.

STC & UT RGV Alu mn i : A Nobl e Com m i tm ent to Hi ri ng Loc al Tal ent




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Noble Charities has also set up a $25,000 endowment for the School of Engineering and Computer Sciences at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. “It is important to have businesses engage with education, and not only on a financial basis,” Capistran said. “We are also supporting them as they are creating their curriculum.” This kind of hands-on support is bringing the Noble Texas Builders team into the lecture halls of the university and taking the students out to the field to see how the things they are learning fit into the real world. Alexander Domijan Jr., the dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science, said he believes the students will benefit greatly by the partnership with Noble Texas Builders. Not only will the donation support student education, but seeing the direct application of the work Noble Texas Builders has been doing around the Valley is quite valuable in terms of experience. Domijan points out that a good engineering education isn’t entirely based on sitting behind a desk or computer, but actually going out into the field and applying that knowledge. “Engineering and computer sciences is highly applied, and it’s one of the fields that is accessible to the wide population that I think is here in the Valley, simply because many of the works we do have a direct benefit to the citizens of the Valley,” Domijan said. Rio Grande Valley residents have a pathway to an excellent career in engineering and computer science. For Capistran, the personal aspect of this endeavor is what drives him. Last year, his company participated in an event called TexPREP, where they hosted middle school students who were part of a summer engineering program at UTRGV. “At the end of their program, they spent half a day with us at the job site, where they got to talk to the engineers and architects that designed the building,” Capistran said. “It was really neat because the kids got their hands in and really experienced what this career is all about.”



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Living with Alzheimer’s:

You Are Not Alone by Lor i H ou s t on



From the moment of conception our bodies are constantly changing. As we age, some of these changes appear to be happening at light speed, such as the case in adolescents. At other stages of our lives, changes seem to occur at a snail’s pace. Not all changes are normal, though. As we reach late adulthood, some changes are normal and are to be expected. Your skin will lose its elasticity and begin to wrinkle; your hair will turn gray or even gradually fall out; your memory may even become less efficient, making it take longer to learn new things or recall others. Many people believe that Alzheimer’s disease, a type of dementia, is just a normal, albeit unfortunate, sign of aging. However, this is not true. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, making up 60 to 80 percent of cases, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. It is a progressive disease in which the symptoms worsen over the span of a number of years. The earliest symptom of Alzheimer’s is difficulty learning new information. As the disease progresses, however, symptoms can also include disorientation; mood and behavior changes; confusion about events, time, and place; suspicions about family and friends; and difficulty speaking, swallowing, and walking. While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s at the moment, its symptoms can be treated and research is ongoing. For patients with Alzheimer’s, as well as their families, the diagnosis can be very daunting. It can difficult for the patient and family members to handle on an emotional level. According to a study published in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, family caregivers are at higher risk for anxiety and depression. There are several options available to provide the much-needed support that these families need. One of the resources available to caregivers through the Alzheimer’s Association are Caregiver Support Groups. They provide a place to work through challenges and develop positive coping mechanisms, share feelings or concerns, and learn about other resources available in your community. These support groups are facilitated by trained individuals and groups are available designed specifically for those whose family member has developed the early stages of Alzheimer’s. According to Veronica Gomez, the development manager of the Alzheimer’s Association San Antonio & South Texas Chapter, there are many resources in the Rio Grande Valley. “The Alzheimer's Association is in the Valley more often than people realize,” she said. “The need has been heard and we offer free educational materials, presentations, family care consultations, and host events to promote



awareness and raise funds for research.” There are also bilingual support groups in Edinburg, Harlingen, and Brownsville. One of the most difficult things about caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s is dealing with the day-today issues that arise, as well as planning for the future so that their loved one’s needs are heard and respected. Gomez, whose grandfather died of Alzheimer’s, believes that having the difficult conversations to gain an understanding of the disease and what will ensue is important so that the caregiver and family can focus on the moment instead of stressing out. The Alzheimer’s Association website,, has a lot of good information for both the patient and the caregiver. For individuals who do not have access to in-person support groups, there is also a 24-hour hotline, as well as online support groups and message boards. In addition, Gomez recommends using CommunityResourceFinder. org, which is a sister page of that lists resources by zip code. “It's updated often and we encourage all medical entities to register their facility or company free on the site,” she said. Gomez was born in Brownsville and advocates wholeheartedly for Alzheimer’s resources and education in the Rio Grande Valley. She loves the culture and the passion in the Valley, and says that drive can be used “to help one another, whether we have a direct connection or not.” Since 2010, she has been working to raise awareness in the community and to raise funds for researching a cure for Alzheimer’s. “We host two Walk to End Alzheimer's events, one in Brownsville and one in Edinburg,” Gomez said. “We encourage everyone to join us and help turn the Valley purple.” Purple is the official color for Alzheimer’s awareness.

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Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, making up 60 to 80 percent of cases, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.


The Thrill of the Ride



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by Lo ri Ho ust o n | p h o to s b y Ja s o n G a r z a For some it’s about the freedom, the feeling of the wind on your face and the sun warming your skin as your cruise down your favorite highway. For others it is about the opportunity to meet and mingle with people of similar interests while indulging in a favorite hobby. Whether you are new to the lifestyle or are a seasoned rider, there is no doubt that hitting the open road on your motorcycle can be the thrill of a lifetime. The Rio Grande Valley has a large and vibrant motorcycle community, and the people who are a part of it each have their own reason for riding. Edgar Castillo says he enjoys the freedom it gives him. “I started riding again three years ago,” he said. “I got tired of getting in and out of the car. I wanted more open space.” There is something to be said for the extra mobility a motorcycle gives you over a car in traffic and parking, as well as the savings in gas and maintenance. Castillo purchased his 2015 Harley Iron Sportster because the cost was very reasonable and says he is quite happy with it. As a Harley owner, Castillo joined the local chapter of the Harley Davidson HOGs riding group. They have meetings every month. According to Castillo, the group meetings are useful because they give out tips for motorcycle riding and maintenance. They also host events and organize rides to various locations. Castillo coordinated a recent organized ride that started at the Harley dealership in McAllen, then went to Los Indios, San Benito, Port Isabel, and South Padre Island. Along the way, they stopped at another dealership and picked up more riders. The social aspect of the motorcycle lifestyle really appeals to many riders. Nancy Lopez has




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“I started riding again three years ago. I got tired of getting in and out of the car. I wanted more open space.”



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Ed gar C a st illo, Harl ey o wner been riding for about six years. She says she tries to ride at least once a week, most often out to McCook or South Padre Island. Lopez has also been on longer trips. She and her husband rode Route 66 through Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. “You meet a lot of new people, nice people,” Lopez said. Even though she doesn’t belong to a club, she has attended many of the rallies and events for bikers. She plans to attend the large Bandera, Texas Biker Rally that starts on March 22. According to Lopez, these rallies are a good place to mingle, hear music, and watch the biker games. There are also events that are just for the women bikers out there. Lace, Grace, and Gears is a relatively new, women-only event that is preparing for its third world class rally in September in Llano, Texas. They plan to celebrate a unique sisterhood that spans all ages, economic circumstances, life experiences, careers, and riding preferences. The proceeds of the rally will be donated to the Krause Children’s Center in Katy, Texas Many of the riding clubs show their community spirit

by giving back in different ways. Bikers for Christ in McAllen conducts toy drives all through December, as well as focusing on their prison ministry. According to Alejandra Moreno, the marketing and events coordinator for Desperado Harley Davidson, the local chapter of the HOGs is hosting their annual Hog for Dogs event in March to benefit the Palm Valley Animal shelter. For new riders who are looking for some camaraderie, riding clubs and dealership organizations offer a lot of opportunities for meeting new friends and building a sense of community. Moreno says that Desperado Harley Davidson normally hosts differently themed events every two weeks for bikers. Whether you are a novice or a seasoned rider, it’s all about the ride — this trip, in this moment. When you’re on your bike, it doesn’t matter how old you are or whether you are a man or woman. All that matters is the feel of the road beneath your tires and the vibrations of the engine coursing through your body as you ride toward your adventure.




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b y Co r i Sme l ke r | p h ot os b y O m a r D í a z



encompasses 75 acres in Hidalgo County.Located on a former agricultural field on the Rio Grande in Mission, this cemetery initially required substantial aesthetic enhancements in order to serve as an appropriate setting for Texas veterans. Phase One covered approximately 31 acres and included 2,430 burial sites, 2,000 double-depth lawn crypts, 1,300 in-ground sites, and 500 columbarium niches, as well as an administration and maintenance building complex with a gravesite locator, public restrooms, a central assembly area, and committal service shelter. At the time of its opening, nearly 45,000 veterans lived within the service radius of the cemetery. In the intervening 12 years, that number has risen considerably, hence the need to expand on Phase One. Eric Brown, deputy director of Texan State Veterans



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Veterans are important to our nation’s history because veterans are our history. Simply put, veterans made and molded America’s history. They did so through their selflessness, through their courage, with their patriotism, with their love of God and country, and with their blood. As a result, veterans are held in high regard around the country, and the Rio Grande Valley is no exception. The final resting place of veterans has been a priority for the Texas General Land Office, and their hard work and dedication has paid off with the recent official notification from the Department of Veterans Affairs of a grant that totals $555,378. The great news for the Valley is the grant award funds will be used solely at the Rio Grande Valley State Veterans Cemetery. This already beautiful cemetery, known for its peaceful and reverent atmosphere, was first opened in 2006, and




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Cemeteries, explained what this means for current veteran residents of the Valley area who number in the tens of thousands. “Providing veterans and their spouses with honorable and dignified interment services is an earned benefit acquired through their honorable service to our nation,” he said. “These hallowed grounds represent the gratitude of a grateful state and nation.” Although an area of great beauty, like all buildings, some parts of the cemetery have required some repairs. The grant money will be used to replace failing and cracking columbarium capstones with a more durable and natural stone harvested from a quarry. In addition, capstones at the front entrance of the cemetery and small pillars holding the branch of service seals at the cemetery assembly area will also be replaced. This is good news for residents, and those whose family members are buried there. “It’s a beautiful cemetery for military families, and it’s nice to know that all veterans and their wives can be buried together,” resident Daniel Ramirez said. “It is very well kept and I’m glad there's a place here in the Valley for veterans and their families.” Volunteers are the lifeblood of any organization, and the Veterans Cemetery is no exception. Volunteers place Christmas wreaths on the gravesites in the days leading up to Dec. 25, they place flags on the gravesites ahead of Veterans Day, and help organize a Memorial Day

ceremony. They also provide a host of other services, such as Honor Guards. Currently, through the effort of local volunteers, full military honors are provided to every veteran interred at the Rio Grande Valley State Veterans cemeteries. If not for the volunteer honors detail, the Department of Defense requires only a two-man fold. Retirees, general officers, those killed in action, or those who pass on active duty would otherwise be the only service members receiving “full” military honors. Spouses and eligible family members are also eligible to be interred at the cemetery free of charge. Families seeking interment at a state or national cemetery can contact the cemetery directly, but typically work through a funeral home to ensure the interment needs for their loved ones are met. The option also exists for preregistration at both the state and national cemeteries. The cemetery of choice can be contacted directly for additional information. Veterans Land Board Texas State Veterans Cemeteries are special resting places, close to home, where friends, family and fellow Texans can honor Texas veterans, and the one located in Mission is a fine example of what it means to honor these selfless, dedicated men and women of the United States Armed Forces. For more information on the Rio Grande Valley State Veterans Cemetery and their services, call (956) 583-7227.


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2302 Cornerstone Blvd. • Edinburg, TX 78539 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. Physicians are independent practitioners who are not employees or agents of this hospital. The hospital shall not be liable for actions or treatments provided by physicians. Cornerstone is directly or indirectly owned by a partnership that includes physician owners, including certain members of the hospital medical staff. For language assistance, disability accommodations and the non-discrimination notice, visit our website. 172468



MAR/APR 2018



ON LIFE Mujeres Unidas/Women Together Offers Transitional Housing Program for Abuse Survivors by Amy Casebier




For women looking to leave an abusive relationship, this with my money,’” Reyes said. “They never had those attempting to do so can take an emotional toll, not to decisions being made for themselves.” mention the logistical nightmare it presents. If a woman is Even these basic instructions on how to recuperate currently living with an abusive partner, safe housing — and following domestic violence often turns into deeper life whether she can obtain it — is an immediate concern. lessons for everyone involved. However, with Nueva Vida Transitional Housing, women “After those 18 months are over, we hope that they’ll have the chance to retake control of their lives — starting successfully continue this on their own,” Reyes said. “And with the roof over their own heads. showing and proving to their children, also, that ‘hey, I can The Women Together Foundation — commonly referred live a life free of violence and be successful on my own.’ It’s to as Mujeres Unidas — created the transitional housing really empowering to see and really amazing to see these program in 2002 to better serve women leaving abusive families moving forward.” relationships. According to the organization’s website, Women Together offers a number of services and “Nueva Vida is designed to: assist families to become programming to the community beyond transitional housing. independent and self-sufficient, assist with referrals to These include a rape crisis center, counseling services, community resources, assist with enrollment in higher legal advocacy, community education, and the Batterers education, (and) assist in obtaining better employment.” As Intervention and Prevention Program, which aims to such, the program represents much more than a safe haven counsel and guide participants following domestic violence from domestic violence. situations. This is in addition to the “It is an 18-month program for 24-hour crisis hotline and shelter survivors of domestic violence the organization provides to the and/or sexual assault,” case community. Reyes points out that “They are a good worker Rosalinda Rodriguez even though Women Together is support system for wrote in an email about Nueva the name of the agency, anyone survivors that are Vida. “Interested individuals who is a victim of abuse is eligible seeking to accomplish should open a file at any of our to seek out help there, including walk-in centers and ask the men and children. much immediately advocate to make a referral. The And even if an individual has coming out of the advocate will decide if they get no personal need for intervention crisis.” a referral if the client is: safe, if from Women Together, the employment is their main source organization seeks for help in the Ros a l i n d a Ro d r i gu e z , of income, and if the client can form of volunteers and donations Muj eres U nid a s c a se w orke r identify at least three short-term so that it can continue to offer its goals they wish to accomplish services for free. while being in the program.” “We’re always looking for Women Together has three walk-in centers in the Rio volunteers to help with our hotline,” Reyes said. “It does Grande Valley, including locations at 511 N. Cynthia St. not matter if it’s Christmas, Christmas Eve. We want to be and 420 N. 21st St. in McAllen, as well as 111 E. Fifth St. in available to any victim that is needing help.” Other volunteer Weslaco. opportunities include being a sexual assault advocate who The transitional housing program serves up to 16 families accompanies victims to hospitals, as well as general office at a time. Since its inception, the program has helped an work. Even going to events sponsored by Women Together average of between 30 to 75 women and children per year, — like April’s Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, a sexual assault Rodriguez wrote. awareness walk, or October’s candlelight vigil for Domestic “They are a good support system for survivors that are Violence Awareness Month — helps. seeking to accomplish much immediately coming out of the “Attending events like that creates that awareness in the crisis,” she added on the benefits of transitional housing. community, saying that we’re here to end violence,” Reyes This can include learning new skills to help women said. manage their lives after the abuse, said Perla Reyes, the To seek help for yourself or somebody you know because community education coordinator at Women Together. of domestic violence, call the Mujeres Unidas/Women “A lot of the times, these females have never had that Together crisis hotline at 1-800-580-4879. independence, saying, ‘I get to save this money this month. Learn more about the various programs this organization has I get to save $30 to my savings. This month, I get to do to offer by visiting its website at

MAR/APR 2018


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March / April 2018 - RGVision Magazine  
March / April 2018 - RGVision Magazine