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M AY / J UN E 2 0 18 | VO LUM E 10 ISSUE 3

THE ART OF ACTIVISM Valley artist’s portrait series celebrates latinos amid DACA turmoil.

SAFER SCHOOL DAYS McAllen ISD fine-tunes security policies across campuses.

TAKING WORK HOME RGV business owners talk shop about vocations in residences.

Mental illness and substance abuse in South Texas.

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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


Adriana Dominguez Claudia V. Lemus-C. Joey Gomez Bill Martin Dr. Alfonso Mercado

Omar Díaz Jason Garza James Hord Dominique Zmuda




have insight, I have power.



Thank you for picking up the May/June 2018 issue of RGVision! We are dedicated to providing our readers substantial content pertaining to the growth of the Rio Grande Valley region. In each issue you will find inspirational profiles and informative articles covering issues in health care, education, and economic growth that improve quality of life. In light of mental health awareness month, we found some staggering statistics and present a cover article on the issue that will raise awareness to improve the lives of those struggling with mental illness in our region. At RGVision, we take pride in starting conversations that help promote not only our community, but also our physical well-being. Thank you again for being engaged with what RGVision is featuring this issue. Stay informed, stay educated, and stay inspired. We encourage all readers to visit www.rgvisionmagazine. com to share articles. Proverbs 8:14 - Counsel and sound judgment are mine; I

Amy Casebier Lori Houston Sofia Aleman Cori Smelker Rod Santa Ana Karla Arredondo

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












​Mental illness and substance abuse in South Texas.










McAllen ISD fine-tunes security policies across campuses.

RGV business owners talk shop about vocations in residences.

Valley artist’s portrait series celebrates latinos amid DACA turmoil.



Taking the World Stage

The Best of All

A Gynecologic Solution

RGVisionary Youth

pg 8

pg 26

pg 54

pg 74

Educators Visit PSJA

Economy on the Rise

Mental Health

Keeping the Music Alive

pg 10

pg 30

pg 58

pg 76

Bachelor Degrees at STC

Doing Business with Heart

Effects of a Sedentary Lifestyle

Football Camp Kickoff

pg 12

pg 32

pg 66

pg 78

Technology-Free Classroom

On a Legal Mission

Spicy Shrimp Sushi Stack

Driving Passion

pg 18

pg 36

pg 68

pg 80

Cristo Vive International Camp

An Encore Career?


pg 20

pg 38

pg 84

Summer Camp Guide

6 Tips for RGV Startups

pg 22

pg 40

Ads Versus Reality

Tres Lagos

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pg 46



TAKING THE WORLD STAGE Travis Elementary Robotics Team to Represent RGV at World Championship



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b y Adr i a n a Dom i n g u e z At the start of the school year, the Travis Elementary Patriotic Bots set out to uphold the legacy established by team members during the previous year: to make it to the state championship. Little did they know that not only would they reach that goal, but they would also crush it. The team of five was named regional champions and has become the first FLL robotics group from the Rio Grande Valley to qualify for the FIRST World Championship. From April 18 through April 21, the team will compete alongside students from 80 countries at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. “We are super proud of the Travis Robotics Team for being the first FLL team from the RGV to make it to the world championship,” said Dr. Art Cavazos, superintendent of Harlingen CISD. “This is a prime example of why we do what we do. In 2016, Harlingen CISD took robotics full

scale by implementing the program at every campus K-12. Today, we see the new heights our students can attain when we work together to maximize choices and opportunities for our students.” Team member Isabel De Leon described her disbelief when they first received the news that they would be going to the championship. “We kept seeing less and less trophies on the table, and they hadn’t called our team name. Then I heard the announcer say, ‘and these students are very patriotic,’” De Leon said. “At first I was like, is there another Patriotic team? I couldn’t believe it.” In this year’s Hydro Dynamics challenge, elementary and middle school teams learned about the ways people find, transport, use, and dispose of water to meet a specific need or desire. Following the FIRST LEGO



League Core Values, students identified and developed their solutions within the Robot, Game, and Project portions of the challenge. For their Project entry, the Travis team identified a problem unknown to most people. “Some companies are selling acidic bottled water,” team member Joshua Del Valle said. “Our solution is a universal filter that would raise the pH level of the water and make it healthier for you to drink.” The team reached out to the San Benito Treatment Water Plant to learn about the filtration process and talked to the plant’s director to get feedback on their filter. As the team prepares for the upcoming contest, they remain focused on bringing their A-game to every practice and helping one another out. “The most important thing we’ve learned about is teamwork — to trust each other knowing that others can do their best, but you must do your best as well,” Del Valle said. Making it to this level of competition is unchartered territory for the Travis team in more ways than one. For some students, this will be their first time leaving the Valley, being away from their parents, flying on a plane, or even having the opportunity to meet people from different countries. “It’s going to be a totally different experience to see students from different cultures in one place,” team coach Jessie Saldivar said. “If our students can take anything away from the world competition, it is having the experience to meet other teams and to collaborate. I think that is what is so awesome about the whole FIRST

“We are super proud of the Travis Robotics Team for being the first FLL team from the RGV to make it to the world championship.”



FLL experience. Part of their core values is building relationships with other teams and having that gracious professionalism.” The Travis Robotics 2017-18 is composed of team members Adan Guajardo, Isabel De Leon, Dante Sandoval, Shelby Belmontes, and Joshua Del Valle. Coaches include Jesse Saldivar, Zulma Salas, and Mariela Cantu. “Travis Robotics making it to this level is an incredible celebration for our campus, students, and for our school district,” said Travis Principal Beulah Rangel. “It shows that the possibilities are endless for our students when we provide the opportunities. A huge thank you to our superintendent for being such a visionary leader and pushing robotics districtwide.” Since 2016, HCISD has offered a districtwide robotics program across all elementary, middle, and high schools and is currently the only district in the Valley to offer a full-scale robotics program at every campus.

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D r. Ar t C a v a z o s , H CIS D supe rinte nd e nt




PSJA ISD's Renowned Initiatives Garner Attention from Leaders Across the Nation



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b y Cl a ud i a V. Le m u s - C a m p os Setting a high standard of quality education for all students, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD’s academic initiatives have put the Rio Grande Valley on the map, attracting hundreds of visitors from across the country each year. From its districtwide Early College work and successful Dual Language Enrichment Program to its transformative Pathways Toward Independence Program for its special education population, PSJA ISD has become a state and national leader in creating academic opportunities for students and their families. PSJA ISD's focus on graduating all students, College Ready, College Connected and College Complete – has resulted in the district having a 97 percent high school completion rate. In addition, more than 3,000 high school students enroll in College courses every semester through partnerships with South Texas College, and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Such remarkable accolades are what draw leaders from across the nation each year to travel thousands of miles to the Rio Grande Valley for a chance to tour PSJA

ISD, according to the PSJA College for All Project Director Bobbie Sue Gonzalez. Due to an influx of requests from leaders and educational institutions, PSJA ISD created the PSJA College for All Conference & Learning Tours in 2014 to better accommodate visitors. Realizing the need for the continuation of the conference and tours, the district applied for a three-year Greater Texas Foundation grant and was awarded a total of $352,000 in 2015 to help share and expand the district’s work nationwide. Since the start of the program, educators from 32 U.S. states have traveled to tour and learn from PSJA ISD including Washington, Massachusetts, Hawaii, North Carolina, Oregon and New York. As part of PSJA ISD's Learning Tours, educators gain valuable tools through high energy sessions with a combination of presentations, practical exercises, dialogue and interaction between administrators, teachers and students. "This district has taken an attitude that every single student matters," said now retired Southern Oregon






This August, PSJA ISD will be opening its new PSJA College & University Center. With more students and parents interested in obtaining college hours, the center will house the PSJA Collegiate Academies and PSJA Collegiate High School Academy. Located in San Juan, the PSJA College & University Center will be the first of its kind. The revolutionary facility will allow more students to pursue a higher education while in high school without the worry of arranging transportation to South Texas College or the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. “We are excited to continue leading the way in providing innovative opportunities for our students,” said Gonzalez. “PSJA ISD takes pride in providing dual credit opportunities for students in a variety of fields of study and giving them the tools and preparation needed to pursue and complete a higher education.” For more information about PSJA ISD's state and nationally recognized programs or new academic opportunities, visit or call 956-354-2027.


Education Service District Superintendent of Schools Scott Perry during an interview when he toured PSJA in 2015. "We're doing a lot of things in our region, but we want to improve and replicate that." PSJA ISD's innovative programs and visionary initiatives have become the example for school districts from throughout the RGV, Texas and U.S. According to the Texas Education Agency, 198 campuses in Texas were designated Early College High Schools for the 2017-18 school year with many located in the Rio Grande Valley. "PSJA ISD has the knowledge, expertise and experience necessary to help other schools be effective in establishing sound educational opportunities for students," said Robert Duke Bonilla the Early College Director for Robstown ISD. "The expertise proved by PSJA ISD has made our transition into an Early College High School much easier and effective." In addition to inspiring educators and leaders from across the country, PSJA ISD's renowned initiatives have also been featured by the New York Times, Boston Globe, PBS NewsHour and even the White House. While its programs continue to be replicated throughout Texas and the nation, PSJA ISD continues to develop unique academic opportunities ensuring all students go to and through college.

MAY/JUN 2018

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MAY/JUN 2018


Bachelor Degrees at STC Opening Doors for Graduates and Other Colleges by Jo ey Go mez Dr. Maricela Gonzalez-Silva, a South Texas College alumna, can remember a time in her career when competing for jobs against those with college degrees was extremely difficult. Despite years of work experience, those with bachelor’s degrees or master’s degrees at the time were being hired and she was falling further behind.

Maricela said her motivation to work and get a job began at an early age. Her father dropped out of school after junior high and her mother dropped out after ninth grade, but later received her GED when she was in her 40s. That experience initially shaped her own approach to education — for better or worse, she said.



“Although I changed my career path to higher education, I am confident that had I not completed my bachelor’s degree at STC, I would not have had the great opportunities that have become available to me.” Dr. M a r ic e l a G on za l ez-S i l v a , S outh Texa s Colle g e’s Ac a d e mic Gra nts a nd P roje c ts offic e r

She married at a young age, and put her education on the backburner to work. “Life happened,” she said. “After I had my daughter, I was laid off from my job. By this time, I was in my early 30s, and finding a job became difficult. The people I was competing with in the job market were much younger and recent graduates from bachelor’s or master’s programs. It was difficult to compete with them, even with my years of work experience. “That was an eye opener for me,” she added. “If I was going to remain competitive and if I wanted to provide for my family, I was going to have to go back to school.” Maricela would eventually receive her Bachelor of Applied Technology in technology management from STC in the spring of 2009. She went on to receive her master’s degree in adult education from Texas A&M University- Kingsville in the fall of 2010, and finally received her doctorate in educational leadership from Lamar University in fall 2016. She currently serves as STC’s Academic Grants and Projects officer. “Although I changed my career path to higher education, I am confident that had I not completed

Organizational Leadership Program. “During the last legislative session, they approved additional bachelor’s degrees for colleges that met certain criteria — based on our success at STC. They have seen what we can do, and it’s opening the doors for other colleges across the state.” STC offers four bachelor’s degrees, including technology management, computer and information technology, medical and health services management (MHSM), and organizational leadership. Two of the programs, organizational leadership (BASOL) and computer and information technology (CIT), are competency-based, giving students an opportunity to leverage prior learning experience in order to accelerate course completion through the program. Last fall, Excelencia in Education named STC’s BASOL degree a national winner in the baccalaureate category at the organization’s “Celebración de Excelencia” event in Washington, D.C. More competency-based programs are on the way. The college has already begun vying for a grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to convert its MHSM program into a competency-based degree. “The self-paced modality of competency-based allows

students to complete a course in seven weeks or less,” Miller said. “For course completion, a student must earn an 80 percent or higher on every competency post-test, then proceed to enroll in a new course.” According to Dr. Ali Esmaeili, dean of Math, Science, and Bachelor’s Programs at South Texas College, STC programs are impacting educational attainment, improving socio-economics, and transforming the entire region.



my bachelor’s degree at STC, I would not have had the great opportunities that have become available to me,” Gonzalez-Silva said. “I believe this holds true for many, if not all, of the students who are enrolled in STC’s bachelor’s degree programs.” South Texas College is one of three community colleges approved by the Texas Legislature to offer bachelor’s programs. “We are very unique,” said Dr. Emma Miller, assistant dean of Bachelor Programs and the chair for the BAS


Dr. E m m a M ille r, as s i s t ant d e a n of Ba c h e lor P rog ra ms a nd th e Ch a ir for th e BAS O rgani zat i o nal Leaders hi p P rog ra m

MAY/JUN 2018

“During the last legislative session, they approved additional bachelor’s degrees for colleges that met certain criteria, based on our success at STC. They have seen what we can do, and it’s opening the doors for other colleges across the state.”


Safer School Days McAllen ISD Fine-Tunes Security Policies Across Campuses by Amy Casebier



MAY/JUN 2018

It’s a scenario that no one wants to imagine: an active

responses among the district’s 33 campuses, as well as increasing the frequency of lockdown, lockout, reverse evacuation, and medical emergency drills. Now, emergency drills will be paired with schools’ monthly fire drills. “I was totally, totally impressed with our community, how everyone came together to share ideas,” school board trustee Marco Suarez said on the town hall meeting. “Our objective was for the community to know that we have procedures in place, but it doesn’t always mean that those procedures cannot be fine-tuned. With the response that we got from students, from community members, to even educators that were there, it really allowed us to look at what we had in place and make some adjustments.” One such adjustment is adding more security lobbies

shooter in a school. But leaders in McAllen ISD are examining district safety and security policies to better prepare in case of emergencies. On Feb. 20, McAllen ISD Superintendent Jose A. Gonzalez hosted a town hall meeting for parents, teachers, students, and community members in the wake of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting. The turnout for the meeting spoke volumes. “We had over 200 people present at the town hall meeting and we had another 8,000 that viewed it online,” Gonzalez said. “It provided us with some very important direction that we needed in gathering information from our community. Because of that, we’ve been able to improve our safety and security plan.” Some improvements include standardizing emergency



“Our objective was for the community to know that we have procedures in place, but it doesn’t always mean that those procedures cannot be fine-tuned. With the response that we got from students, from community members, to even educators that were there, it really allowed us to look at what we had in place and make some adjustments.” Marco Suarez, s cho o l bo ard t rus t ee

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Another bonus that stemmed directly from the town hall meeting was a local surgeon stepping up to offer training for district staff members. “We were blessed to have the opportunity to have Dr. Luis Reyes,” Gonzalez said. “He came to the town hall meeting and offered his services to us. He leads a program called Stop the Bleed. It revolves around first aid, specifically — injuries where there’s bleeding involved.” These skills will apply to more than just active shooter situations — personnel can respond to anything from sports injuries to shop class accidents. Future security plans aim at prevention, Gonzalez said. A new districtwide campaign encourages students and parents to speak up when they notice something wrong, whether it’s on campus or on social media. An upcoming community engagement opportunity will address mental health and offer resources on the help available. “This is an issue that’s not going to take the board of trustees or the superintendent,” Suarez said. “This is a community effort, and I think that McAllen really set the precedent to other communities of how we use town hall meetings. Having these discussions, we can’t be scared to ask the important questions.” For Suarez, ensuring school safety at McAllen ISD is more than just his job — it’s personal. “I have two kids in the district, and I drop them off every morning knowing that I am confident that our administration is going to take care of my kids,” Suarez said. “Get involved. Know your school. Know your campuses.”


to campuses. Though all of the elementary schools in McAllen ISD have the feature — which requires visitors to the schools to check in prior to gaining access to the rest of the campus — secondary schools are adding them. Schools without security lobbies have a police presence — one per middle school and four per high school — with refurbished security huts to control traffic in and out of campus. “We’re also doing a better job of controlling entry points on our campuses,” Gonzalez said. “We’re not anywhere where we need to be with regard to being 100 percent one entry point at our secondary schools, but we’ve gotten much better.” McAllen ISD also utilizes RapidIdentity, which scans visitors’ licenses to check for problematic prior convictions. School personnel are engaging in more scenario-based training, Gonzalez added. That means performing CPR on a mannequin meant to be a student who isn’t breathing, or using practice devices to become more familiar with the defibrillation machines kept in schools. The district also employs the latest technology to respond to and monitor activity on its campuses. “We have a drone that our officers can deploy in the event of an emergency and we also use our drones for prevention, too,” Gonzalez said. “We can deploy it at functions, we can deploy it during lunchtime, we can deploy it before and after school, so we’re able to have an eye in the sky, see where traffic is flowing, see where there are any hotspots, where kids are gathering where they shouldn’t and be able to address those things.”



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MAY/JUN 2018



CLASSROOM by So fia A le ma n | p h o to s b y Oma r D í a z





of the Grand Canyon, you can appreciate its beauty, but when you are physically there and experiencing it, it is an emotional and spiritual adventure that words cannot even express. This is a comparable effect that happens when you’re teaching a child. When a teacher uses hands-on learning, they’re reaching students on an emotional level that can’t be accomplished with a computer or tablet. A global report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) studied the outcomes of school districts that invested largely in technology and found “no noticeable improvement” in reading, math, and science in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests. According to a The Guardian article titled “Tablets out, imagination in: the schools that shun technology,” Beverly Amico, leader of outreach and development at the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America, explains that, “lessons are delivered by a human being that not only cares about the child’s education, but also about them as individuals. What do you remember as a child in the classroom? It is usually field trips, getting your hands dirty in a lab, or a beautiful story. Those are the things that stay with you 50 years later.” The desire at Pace is that the kids won’t just memorize facts or study test-taking strategies, but enjoy learning and utilizing the tools given to them to lead the next generation of explorers, creative thinkers, innovators, and inventors.


In a generation of fast-paced technological advancements, Waldorf schools are facilitating creativity and inspiring critical thinking skills by taking electronics out of the classroom. But why take electronics out of the classroom? Because studies have shown children don’t learn as efficiently from computers as they do from human interaction. Pace takes pride in being the only Waldorf school here in the Valley, and also leading the way in cultivating minds through creation, experimentation, and hands-on life experiences — with no technology in sight. Kids here are making it a priority to spend time outdoors, and to interact with each other face to face. Educators at Pace believe this is what truly fosters deep-rooted knowledge and literacy, instead of the more often seen repetition- and memorizationbased curriculum, which doesn’t often nurture a love for learning. Instead of electronic technology, Pace students author their own workbooks. Every subject is done in a journal or a notebook where the topic is decided by the student. For instance, when dealing with math problems, children at Pace Academy create worksheets for themselves and fill in the blanks — because giving them a worksheet is doing half of the work for them. The students work together to solve problems they come up with on their own. It’s no different than trying to create a video of the Grand Canyon and actually viewing it yourself. You can get really close through a camera lens but there’s nothing like being there in person. When shown a picture

MAY/JUN 2018

Pace Academy in Harlingen takes pride in being the only Waldorf school here in the Valley, and also leading the way in cultivating minds through creation, experimentation, and hands-on life experiences — with no technology in sight.



INTERNATIONAL CAMP A Selfless Love for Kids with Special Needs



MAY/JUN 2018

b y So fi a Al ema n | p h ot os b y V i r i d i a n a M a n z a n o

It’s Saturday and volunteers gather at Cone Oasis Baptist Camp in La Feria to prepare for a three-day camp dedicated to kids with special needs hosted by Cristo Vive International — CVI. Here, parents have the exclusive opportunity to entrust their children to a dedicated and loving staff who put themselves second to serve them in a way not normally seen in society. Already a trusted camp in the community, parents say they have no worries about leaving their children overnight for a time well spent with friends, fun, and learning about the gospel. Cristo Vive International began in 1998, when ministry directors Gene and Jordana (Quintero) Engebretsen gathered a team of college students and traveled to Quito, Ecuador, for the first CVI camp. That first summer, the camp hosted 16 campers with Down syndrome. Since then, CVI

has traveled to Kenya, Ireland, Mongolia, Ukraine, and, more recently, here in the United States. According to its website, CVI now has camps in Idaho, Texas, and Alaska. Jordana, being blind herself, has instilled joy and hope in the hearts of many children, parents, and volunteers through her dedication to loving kids outcast or ostracized by their peers, community, and sometimes even their family. Cristo Vive International aims to break the stigma of exclusion and incorporate a refreshing acceptance with a loving atmosphere for these children. In 2011, Crystal Galvan, a certified special education teacher, decided to organize a Cristo Vive International camp in Edinburg, and has successfully directed a camp every year since. Now under the management of Mayra Espinal, kids right here in the Valley are getting to experience the love, kindness, and



freedom of spending some nights on their own and learning about Jesus. Cristo Vive International gathers at one of several local camping sites for three full days for a retreat that provides children with an opportunity to experience the love of God in a safe environment. Each camper is provided an individual camp counselor who stays with them the entirety of the camp. Together, camp counselors lead music, crafts, outdoor camping activities, talent shows, and an overall chance to bond with other children experiencing a life with special needs. Parents say they’re thankful that a camp like this exists in the Valley and witness phenomenal results in their children after attending. “I like the fact that I know she’s safe here,” said Apryle Pelshaw, a parent whose daughter has attended Cristo Vive camps for six years. “There’s not many places we let her go by herself, this is one of them she looks forward to every year. And I have no worries — I know she’s being taken care of and I know she’s learning about God at her level and it sticks with her. The songs, the friendships, all of it she remembers from when she was little and she loves it.” Apryle recognized the importance of such a camp in the community. “It’s a place where kids with special needs can grow, learn, run, and be excited and nobody sees them as different,” she said. “She’s never had a bad experience here.” Apryle’s daughter, Autumn Pelshaw, added her favorite parts about camp. “I just like coming here and having fun, meeting other new people and hanging out with my counselors,” she said. “I already know all the songs and moves to the songs!” Parents and children aren’t the only ones benefiting from the trusting and loving environment — where the camp motto for volunteer counselors is “be a friend.” The counselors say the chance to selflessly care for someone has drastically changed their life and unmasked radical heart changes needed to start loving others more than themselves. “I don’t think there’s a better way to experience how to put yourself second than this place,” said Dago Rodriguez, a returning camp counselor of five years. “It’s crazy because I never believed in my life that God could use me to change somebody’s life. Then I volunteered at a camp. We often view ourselves as the ones with limitations, but it makes it worthy to know that you can be used somewhere. I encourage people who are looking for somewhere to be truly useful and selfless: Here’s the place for that.” A camp like this offers a group in the population a chance to be valued for who they are, not for what they can give. Many of the children who attend are unable to care for themselves, yet are welcomed with open arms at camp. “Sometimes a lot of people see them as a disturbance.

“I just like coming here and having fun, meeting other new people and hanging out with my counselors. I already know all the songs and moves to the songs!”



Someone they struggle with,” said Perla Frias, a certified special education teacher and a returning camp counselor. “But here they aren’t viewed that way. Here we love them, we give them time and affection, and it’s important for the families of the Valley that they have a place where they know their kids are going to be well taken care of and loved. Here they are in good hands and learning about God on their level.” Frias explained that her personal experience as a volunteer with CVI has taught her to be more responsible alongside being unwaveringly selfless. “At camp it’s all about them, not about you,” she said. “You come here to help them but they end up teaching you a lot about love, encouragement, hope, and faith.” For more information on how you can give to this ministry or volunteer with Cristo Vive International, visit the website at or visit the CVI Facebook under RGV - Cristo Vive International Camps. “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth,” 1 John 3:18

MAY/JUN 2018

Au t u m n Pe l s h a w, c a mpe r


2018 RGV Summer Program Guide by Lor i H ou s t on



MAY/JUN 2018

As kids are looking forward to summer fun, many Valley parents are looking for enriching opportunities for their children once school is out. The wide variety of summer camp programs all over the RGV is sure to make everyone happy. Some of the offerings for this summer are listed here.

MCALLEN PROGRAMS City of McAllen Parks and Recreation The city of McAllen Parks and Recreation department hosts programs including swimming, dance, taekwondo, sports of all kinds, arts and crafts, and archery. Programs are available at different community centers and parks throughout the city. For more information, go to mcallen. net/departments/parks or stop by any of the community centers.

VALLEYWIDE PROGRAMS IDEA Summer Day Camp - Camp Rio Each day campers participate in a wide variety of activities, including sports, fishing, archery, and geocaching throughout the 85-acre camp property. Sessions run Monday through Friday, and camp runs from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each day. Camp Rio is located near Brownsville, but is available to students all around the Valley with bus service from several IDEA campuses. For more information, visit www.

Musicacademy McAllen - Rock Band Camp/Little Rockers Camp For students interested in music, the Musicacademy in McAllen offers programs for multiple age groups starting at 4 years old. Students ages 7 and older will learn piano, guitar, bass, and vocals before forming a band and performing for family at the end of the session. Younger students will have the opportunity to learn about



rhythm and melody while playing the piano, ukulele, and percussion. Sessions are two weeks long from 8 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday, and cost $200. For more info, visit

BROWNSVILLE PROGRAMS Gladys Porter Zoo Summer Safari & Starlight Sleepovers Camps are four days long and start from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays and conclude with a Starlight Safari Sleepover. The sleepover part of the camps takes place overnight on Friday and parents and family are encouraged to participate in the sleepover, as well. For more information on prices and dates, view the summer catalogue at SummerSafari_schedule.pdf.

Tipsy Canvas McAllen Kids Art Camp Children ages 5 to 15 can explore their inner creative side by attending day camp at the Tipsy Canvas. Craft supplies are provided and campers will have a blast doing arts, crafts, canvas, and face painting. Sessions are from 8:30 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday and cost $135 per week. For more information, visit the Tipsy Canvas website at

City of Brownsville Summer Recreation Sessions The City of Brownsville Parks and Recreation Department Summer Recreation Program is a safe, fun, supervised program for children. Activities range from indoor and outdoor sports, recreational games, arts & crafts, and more. Sessions are currently hosted at two locations — The Rec Center and Gonzalez Park. Sessions are a week long, lasting from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and run from June 11 to Aug. 17. For more information and to register, visit

First United Methodist Church Fun Days Starting June 11, camp sessions will take place Monday through Thursday. Each week has its own theme. There is a $35 deposit for each week. The fee is $75 for currently enrolled students and $85 for students that are not currently enrolled in the school. Visit fumcmcallen. com/ministries/fumc-day-school/ for more information.

HARLINGEN PROGRAMS City of Harlingen Parks and Recreation


Kids have the opportunity to participate in activities such as Ninjutsu, Zumba, dance, sports, and library programs through the City of Harlingen Parks and Recreation department. Stop by Harlingen community centers to get more information or look online at parksandrec.recreation.

National Butterfly Center The National Butterfly Center in Mission offers three programs all in the month of July: July 9-13, July 16--20, and July 23-27. Each program is one week long from 8 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday and the cost is just $25. For registration, please visit the center.


For Edinburg residents, the Parks and Recreation Department offers youth classes in folklorico, basketball, karate, tumbling, cheerleading, and much more during the summer months, but slots are limited and filling up fast. For more information on how to register, visit edinburg.

For a more comprehensive guide to summer programs in the Rio Grande Valley, be sure to check out the RGV Moms Blog at



City of Edinburg Parks and Recreation


Kids Summer Camps start May 28 and end June 29. Sign up for single days or whole weeks, and choose between half days or full days. All supplies are provided. Call (956) 605-9393 or register online at www.

Summer programs run from June 26 through July 27. There are different programs for various ages from 1-year-olds up to 12-year-olds. For more information or to register, call (956) 381-9922.

MAY/JUN 2018

Hands in Art Studio

Edinburg Scenic Wetlands and Birding Center




Experts: Social Media, Smartphones Boost Reach of Ad Content to Youths



MAY/JUN 2018

by Amy Casebier

A glossy fashion spread in a magazine. A highly curated album of social media selfies. Though a professional advertiser created the fashion ad, and an acquaintance collected the self-portraits, both represent content that doesn’t jibe with the sweatpants and bad hair days of reality. The reach of ads has grown with the use of smartphones and the near-constant connectivity that comes with it. And with social media, people’s representation of themselves online, in some cases, advertise an idealized version of their lives for others to consume. Consuming that kind of content can have consequences. “When I work with teenagers, a lot of them are engaging in social media, and they speak to people thinking that

that’s real,” said Evelyn Haro-Brister, a counselor at Nuestra Clinica del Valle Inc. in San Juan. “A lot of times, we portray on social media what we want people to think of us. We don’t really put our true selves out there. We explore, ‘what are you trying to portray, what do you want people to see when they see your page, what’s the message that you’re sending?’” That message can be more insidious than simply wanting to connect with friends. “A lot of times, it is a message of, ‘I want attention,’ low self-worth,” Haro-Brister said. “A lot of depression strikes from that because they tend to compare themselves a lot to other people.” Francisco Ortiz Jr., a full-time psychology instructor at South Texas College, warns of the dangers that



accompany this kind of connectivity. “Now that everyone is ‘connected’ 24/7 through their smartphones, the pervasiveness of advertisements and their possible effects on the human brain has been tremendously increased,” Ortiz wrote in an email. “Our world has changed drastically in the last 15 years, and the corporate world’s ability to influence us has increased severely.” Asking yourself whether social media and ad content are beneficial or harmful is key, Haro-Brister says. “You need to be aware of your own limitations, perhaps even setting limits to yourself,” she said. This kind of self-policing, which includes cutting screen time or setting boundaries for social media engagement, can be difficult — especially with the trends in modern culture. “The concept of happiness in society today revolves around instant gratification and pleasure,” Ortiz wrote. “This is typical of our dopamine reward system, which motivates us to seek this fleeting pleasure, and yes, this is the same system that drives addiction.” This idea of addiction is what determines a successful ad, Ortiz added. “An addicted customer is a repeat customer,” he wrote. “People need to understand that what drives this system is the bottom-line, and not what is best for society. What we need to do to protect ourselves is to get informed and educated about the dangers that social media and advertisements pose on us and our children.” Children and teenagers are particularly vulnerable to ad content. “One thing that we should keep in mind is that the human brain does not finish developing until about 25 years of age,” Ortiz wrote. “When children and young adults continuously view images of what society deems ‘perfect’ body types, this is heavily influencing a stilldeveloping brain.” Some of the side effects of not measuring up to these idealized images could include depression, anxiety, and eating disorders, Ortiz and Haro-Brister agree. “Adolescence in itself is a very difficult stage,” Haro-Brister said, “but now add to the fact that you’re constantly being bombarded with ads and messages of who you need to be so you’re no longer not only navigating through that, you have all these voices telling you what you are going be, or what you should look like, or what you should be.” One solution, Haro-Brister added, is to open the lines of

“Our world has changed drastically in the last 15 years, and the corporate world’s ability to influence us has increased severely.”



communication between parents and children. “You need to have very intentional communication,” she said. “So one example would be if you’re watching TV together, and a commercial comes up, stop the TV and say, ‘hey, what do you think that was about?’” Ads use a variety of approaches to appeal to potential customers, including employing sexual undertones to sell something as simple as a candy bar. “See what your kid’s perspective is and provide education on it,” Haro-Brister continued. “Say, ‘OK, well, yeah, they’re advertising the chocolate, and yeah, they’re doing this, but what do you think about the girl in the bikini?’ See what your kid is thinking because you can’t assume what’s going through their brain.” Haro-Brister recommends a similar approach with monitoring children’s activity on social media. If parents have a problem with a particular post, they can have a conversation with their children that can double as a learning opportunity for everyone involved. “A lot times parents are pretty quick to judge, like, ‘why would you post that?’” Haro-Brister said. “But having that conversation, saying, ‘hey, I saw this picture of you. Tell me about what you were thinking when you posted that. How do you think people understood that? What were you trying to convey to people, and how do you think people interpret what you posted?’” Ortiz’s solution aims at the root of the issue. “Take the focus away from the material and focus on family and spirituality,” he wrote. “We need to stop looking at screens, and start enjoying our family, our community, and this beautiful world. We need to disconnect from the media and reconnect with each other.”

MAY/JUN 2018

F r a nc i s c o O r t i z J r., a full-time psyc h olog y instruc tor a t S outh Texa s Colle g e


“THE BEST OF ALL” Arri Fitness Offers Luxury Gym Experience in McAllen



MAY/JUN 2018

b y Amy Ca s e b i e r | p h ot os b y O m a r D í a z “Luxury” might not be the first word that comes to mind when thinking about going to the gym. At times, members may have to jockey for access to machines and equipment, struggling just to get the opportunity to sweat. Barbara Guerra and and her partner, Antonio Esparza, M.D., are looking to change that notion with Arri Fitness. “Arri Fitness is not your average gym,” Guerra wrote in an email. “We’ve taken the gym experience to the next level and I use the word ‘experience’ purposefully.” From a modern, clean interior design of the gym itself, to incorporating the latest equipment in the workout spaces, Arri Fitness is going above and beyond to offer the best services possible to its members — right down to the cold, eucalyptus-infused towels. “When you come to Arri Fitness, it’s an experience from the moment you walk in the door to the moment you walk out,” Guerra wrote. “We offer an immaculate club with luxurious amenities. It’s designed to inspire and motivate. I want being at Arri to be one of the best parts of a person’s day.” Located at the intersection of 10th Street and Trenton Road in McAllen, Arri Fitness officially opened March 5.

“The response has been tremendous,” Guerra wrote. “People have been waiting for a gym like Arri to open.” Potential members shouldn’t wait too long to join, though. Guerra says Arri Fitness will cap its membership after a certain point to preserve the luxury experience. “We are not depending on mass membership at Arri,” she wrote. “Our focus is on quality, not quantity. That allows us to maintain our exclusivity, which is a hallmark of Arri Fitness.” Arri Fitness offers four membership plans to choose from. Paid in full, plus tax, a month-long membership costs $80, three months are $75 per month, six months are $70 per month, and a year is $65 per month. In Greek, “‘arri’ means ‘the best of all,’” Guerra explained. It isn’t difficult to see all the ways Arri Fitness is striving to provide the best gym experience in the area. “From the moment you walk in the door, you realize you are in a unique and luxurious space,” Guerra wrote. “Every detail, every medium and texture used, every color has been carefully thought out. I designed Arri to feel like a home.” Guerra even incorporated artwork in the gym from local artists she loves.



“One of them, Fernando Giron, did a piece just for Arri Fitness with a saying that I think embodies the spirit of Arri, ‘May you be so happy you do not know if you are living or dreaming,’” she wrote. Guerra and Esparza have nine years of experience under their belts when it comes to running a gym. Last year, they visited the country’s largest fitness convention and trade show, held in Los Angeles, to select the equipment to take Arri Fitness to the next level. “After personally trying out every piece of strength equipment and cardio machine we could, we decided on Life Fitness and Hammer Strength for our strength area and Matrix and Octane for our cardio area,” Guerra wrote. She added that the screens on the cardio machines can show members content from streaming services as well as cable TV — and even members’ social media accounts. On treadmills throughout the gym, walkers and runners can also display different locations from around the world on their screen, exploring places they’ve never been as they exercise. Another machine, the Zero Runner, duplicates the experience of running without adding strain to joints. In addition to state-of-the art equipment, personal training services, and a developing selection of classes, one of the most exciting innovations at Arri Fitness is the

“From the moment you walk in the door, you realize you are in a unique and luxurious space. Every detail, every medium and texture used, every color has been carefully thought out. I designed Arri to feel like a home.”



Queenax Functional Fitness System, Guerra says. “It’s a unique functional and suspended bodyweight training system designed to get people moving using different ranges of motion,” she wrote. “The only one in the Rio Grande Valley, we will be offering classes as well as some small group training on the Queenax. Functional fitness is relatively new. The main goal is to get your whole body and all of your muscle groups working together for real-life activities. Bodyweight exercises are a great choice for achieving gains in strength, flexibility, and overall health and are a super efficient means of exercise.” To learn more about Arri Fitness, visit its website at or call (956) 540-7088.

MAY/JUN 2018

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ON THE RISE Pharr Mayor’s Business-Friendly Approach Boosts City Commerce by Amy Casebier

There’s something about the city of Pharr. Something in the air, maybe, or the changing look of the city with the addition of businesses like World Market, Costco, and Fazoli’s, among others. “I think what I’m most excited about is the fact of when I walk down the city streets and meet my fellow Pharr residents, I like to see their smiles — that they’re very proud of their city,” said Dr. Ambrosio Hernandez, mayor of Pharr. “That they, themselves, without me asking, volunteer the fact that they see a difference in Pharr. They feel it. I commonly will get, ‘I feel the energy in Pharr.’” That energy has manifested itself in a business boom in Pharr, which has brought in companies that have MAY/JUN 2018

created jobs within the city. “It actually will add a little bit on our property taxes,” Hernandez said, tallying up more benefits of businesses setting up shop in Pharr. “It will also bring in sales tax, alcohol tax … all that contributes to our economy, and therefore allows us to have more resources to build parks, build roads, build


infrastructure, attract other businesses.”


All of those perks add up to perhaps the biggest bonus of all: the ability to lower property taxes in Pharr. “Because I’m depending on other resources to pay my bills and not solely the property taxes in the city of Pharr,” Hernandez



“We always tell our investors, ‘look, if it’s in the best

explained. “So that’s one of the most powerful tools that

interests of Pharr, we will absolutely do the deal —

we have.”

whether it’s a public-private partnership, we’ll do the deal;

These advantages also benefit the Pharr-Reynosa

if it’s a straight-up incentive program, we’ll do the deal;

International Bridge. “The more infrastructure we have to help commerce,

if it’s something that helps the citizens of Pharr stay

international commerce, the more traffic goes by,”

healthy, vibrant, adds culture, we’ll do the deal,” he said.

Hernandez said. “That all comes to the City of Pharr’s

“As long as it makes economic sense to the city of Pharr.” Hernandez added that he would never make a decision

bottom line, which, again, frees up taxpayer money.”

that would add to the tax burden of Pharr citizens.

New developments — like Top Golf for sports

Hernandez touted the current administration in Pharr

entertainment and cold storage facilities near the

for the positive changes in the city.

international bridge for preserving produce as it enters

“I would love to say that it was me, but it’s not,” he

the country for cleaning and inspection — are broadening the scope of the city’s







“I didn’t realize there







they should be by their

from Pharr not because there was better options, but because we were turning it away — the fact that we weren’t open to negotiation, we weren’t as customer friendly as

Dr. A m b r o s i o H e r n a nd e z ,

we should’ve been.”

ma yor of P h a rr



— that’s really allowed the



empowered to take off. Now, you see it.” The “service with a smile”





— just like the treatment guests get at five-star hotels — has permeated

Pinpointing this issue has

— not for political gain

every way city leaders


conduct business.

doors to economic gains

“At the end of the day,

throughout Pharr. “Now we have a system in place that we are absolutely

the taxpayers are paying all employees their salary,” he

transparent to all business owners and taxpayers so

said. “And they represent us. So they have to show that

they know exactly what’s happening with their money,”

we are business friendly, have a smile on their face, say

Hernandez said. “We streamline the process so that way,

hello to everybody, and have a get-it-done attitude.” When the city does things right, it’s the residents who

we’re business friendly.”

reap the rewards.

And that attracts both people and commerce to the

“I want my neighbor to be happy,” Hernandez said. “And


if my neighbor’s happy, I’m happy.”

“People want to come to Pharr,” Hernandez said. “They actually want to live and play and work in Pharr. They just needed the right atmosphere to be there, to culture it and cultivate it and get it to where it should be.” Hernandez says he aims for development in Pharr to benefit more in the city than just its coffers.


MAY/JUN 2018

that was moving away

talents and their skill set


was so much business

“I think what I’m most excited about is the fact of when I walk down the city streets and meet my fellow Pharr residents, I like to see their smiles — that they’re very proud of their city."



said. “I didn’t realize there




was so much business Hernandez




DOING BUSINESS WITH HEART Customer Care is All in a Day’s Work for Fazoli’s Franchise Owner



MAY/JUN 2018

by Lo ri Ho ust o n | p h o to s b y Ja mes Ho r d Jerry Maddox always knew he wanted a career in the restaurant industry. “I’ve been in the restaurant business my whole life,” Maddox said. While attending Mission High School, he worked at a Japanese steakhouse in McAllen. “I just grew up in the industry.” Before Maddox opened his own Fazoli’s franchise in Pharr, he was with Chili’s for 14 years, working his way up to managing partner. He went into his franchise with a lot of experience under his belt. When he started thinking about branching out and doing his own thing, he knew that he wanted to do an Italian-based concept because there wasn’t a lot of competition and the costs were stable compared to other concepts. While in the planning stages, he discovered the Fazoli’s franchise and realized it was a good fit for what he wanted to do. The franchise has been around since the 1980s, mostly in the Midwest, with over 200 units. Texas has several in the north, but nothing this far south. Maddox and his business partner bought the franchise rights for Fazoli’s in the Rio Grande Valley and opened their first location in Pharr. They plan on opening four more restaurants within the next six years in different locations around the Valley. The processes at Fazoli’s allow employees to get the food out fast compared to other restaurants. The longest cooking items are the baked dishes at four to five minutes. Fazoli’s features three impinger ovens in the kitchen to accommodate different dishes from an extensive menu. Fazoli’s serves salads, sandwiches, pasta dishes, baked pasta dishes, and pizza. Everything is made to order and there are vegetarian options, as well.




MAY/JUN 2018





MAY/JUN 2018


Maddox says he believes that people in the Valley and around the world have changed how they view going out to eat. It has become expensive and time consuming to go to a full-service restaurant. “Going out to eat with a family of four is $100 and two hours of your life,” he said. One of the premium dishes at his restaurant is only $7.99 and there are daily deals for $5 with a drink — including unlimited breadsticks. Short cooking times and the convenient drive-through make good dining easy and accessible for today’s busy families. Fazoli’s has also recently launched an app. “You download the app and you can place your order, pay online, and walk in and pick up your order without ever having to talk to a human,” Maddox said. The app also has a loyalty program so each dollar you spend turns into points. You can redeem the points for free food. Maddox approaches business in a very mindful way. Even though this is a franchise, it is also a Valley-owned business — the money for the business came from the Valley and stays in the Valley.

“Capitalism is a bad word nowadays, but really capitalism is the idea that I have goods or services that I am going to provide to you, and it’s a bartering thing where we both get equal enjoyment out of it,” he said. Maddox and his partner follow the practices of Conscious Capitalism with the belief that “there is good that can happen with capitalism.” When choosing a location for their restaurant, they looked at the 2 acres on the map, and thought about what they could do with the space. They made a conscious decision to save the trees that were on the lot. Instead of building something they could rent out on the extra space, they worked with the City of Pharr to preserve the greenery because it would be better for the community, the environment, and the birds than just another building. “When the city and the entrepreneur come together, we get to do things like this,” Maddox said. Conscious businesses focus on their purpose beyond profit. “It’s what you do for your community that you are in,” Maddox said. By going with the natural landscaping, businesses don’t waste local resources in maintaining



“When they have an understanding of [business], and they know how valuable it is, they are that careful making sure that they prepare the dish right, that the guest is happy, that they come back again.”



the restaurant business works, in terms of cost. “When they have an understanding of that, and they know how valuable it is, they are that careful making sure that they prepare the dish right, that the guest is happy, that they come back again,” Maddox said. The Rio Grande Valley Chapter of the TRA, with the help of Maddox, has provided seven Rio Grande Valley schools with the curriculum, including McAllen. Maddox acknowledges that three out of five restaurants fail in their first year, but he knows what keeps customers coming back. An establishment that makes you feel important will have a better chance of succeeding. “I think that is what humans should do for each other,” Maddox said. Respect, courtesy, and excellent customer service can make the experience more memorable than just the serving of the food. When asked what his passion was, Maddox replied, “It’s what I do every day. I serve. I serve food, I serve my team members, I serve my community.”


plants that don’t belong in the area. Fazoli’s has over 200 locations — many of them are company owned — but Maddox has customized his franchise to suit the area and his way of doing business. With all the farms around the Valley, he thought it made sense to buy local produce instead of having it shipped from the corporate headquarters. Instead of spending a lot of money on billboard advertising, he decided to invest in his community. Maddox is a member of the Texas Restaurant Association (TRA), and has served as chapter president. He and the other members are actively working to improve their industry. “How do we make our industry better?” Maddox asked. “For me, it’s education. The hardest thing I do as a restauranteur is get good help.” The restaurant industry is the third largest employer in the nation. The Texas Restaurant Association Educational Foundation introduces programs in high schools that prepare students for work in the industry. Participants will come out with an understanding of how

MAY/JUN 2018

J e r r y Ma d d ox , Fa z oli’s fra nc h ise ow ne r




Greater Mission Chamber of Commerce’s Featured Member of the Month Macarena Ortiz of OrtizCotro Law, PLLC in Mission



MAY/JUN 2018

b y RGVi s i on | p h ot os b y O m a r D í a z

We met with the Greater Mission Chamber of

water law. That’s a main part of my practice — general

Commerce’s Featured Member of the Month Macarena

counseling for all kinds of businesses that deal with

Ortiz of OrtizCotro Law, PLLC in Mission. She shared a

water rights and water issues here in the Valley.

little about the ways in which she helps her community

For businesses, I also help with the creation of

through the legal services she provides, and about her

businesses. I get a lot of questions about not only the

experience working with the Greater Mission Chamber

creation, but the establishment and management and

of Commerce.

operation of businesses. I help them with that.

RGVision: Tell us a little about OrtizCotro Law, PLLC

Another part of my practice that is important: I do

and the services you provide.

employment law and labor law issues — for individuals

Macarena Ortiz: OrtizCotro Law, PLLC is a law

mostly. Mostly for employees that feel they’ve been

office. I’m a solo practitioner. I help individuals and all

discriminated against in the workplace.

R: What kind of cases do you see most regularly? MO: I do a lot of general counseling work for

kinds of businesses with their legal needs and I practice all areas of civil law. I’ve been in practice since 2014, so I’m on my fourth year of practice here in Mission.

local governmental entities here in the Valley. I also

R: What type of legal services do you provide? MO: Under the civil law umbrella, I practice different

help individuals and other businesses in areas such

areas of the law: family law, immigration, business law,

miscellaneous cases that come to my door. I do a whole

administrative law — mostly for businesses, though

area of different cases under the civil law umbrella.

as business law, family law, immigration law, and

R: Tell us about how your business started.

— corporate law (disputes between businesses). I do



ANYTIME. ANYWHERE. ANY OCCASION. Mention this ad to receive:

the opportunities that the chamber offered

consultant and I worked for local water

to [achieve] that goal. There are a lot of

districts. I knew that after law school I

activities that the Chamber organizes and

wanted to come back to my community

you can meet a lot of different people and

and serve my community as a lawyer. So,

be a part of the community and feel a whole

when I graduated and passed the bar, I

lot closer to the community we live in.

came back and that’s exactly what I’ve

R: What advice would you give to new

been doing for the past four years: helping

businesses in regard to the opportunities

my community. I knew right off the bat that

that the Chamber can provide?

that’s exactly what I wanted to do. Come

MO: I would advise all businesses that

back and continue to provide services to my

are established here in Mission to approach

community — this time as a lawyer — with

the Chamber. There are a lot of opportunities

all kinds of different legal needs.

to not only meet the community, but meet

R: What would you say is the most

other businesses. There are mixers and all

important aspect of being a part of the

kinds of events where they can actually

Mission Chamber?

participate in and get to know the business

MO: I think the most important aspect of being a part of the Mission Chamber —


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

Are You Ready for an Encore Career?

Working in retirement isn’t for everyone, but if you’re considering it, here are some things to think about first.

REASONS TO "UNRETIRE" Something old. As mentioned earlier, some former retirees still have a lot of ideas to contribute in their field of choice. Many take on consultant roles or short-term contracting stints to share their ideas and experience while avoiding the 9-to-5 grind. And some employers have created encore career paths for retirees to retain and share that expertise with younger employees.



MAY/JUN 2018

More and More Americans Are Going Back to Work or Volunteering After Retirement

Something new. Energetic retirees may want to try something new, or perhaps start a small business. In fact, almost one-third of former retirees are now selfemployed, spending about 21 hours a week nurturing their fledgling businesses.

Four-and-a-half million. That’s how many retired Americans over age 50 decided to go back to work or take on part-time volunteer roles after retiring. And there are another 21 million who say they’re ready to join them, according to a 2014 Encore Career survey. The reasons vary. Some want to make the most of their talents; some want social interaction; still others seek to keep their minds sharp and their bodies busy. The extra money doesn’t hurt either, especially since there are several unknowns that can cloud your retirement picture (including longevity, inflation, and long-term care needs). If you think about it, even a part-time job that brings in $10,000 a year can be a significant boon to your retirement coffers. Of course, it’s not unheard of to make more than that as a consultant, freelancer, or contractor in a professional field, but using the often-quoted 4 percent annual withdrawal rate, adding $10,000 in income is basically equivalent to a year’s withdrawal on a $250,000 nest egg, which means you may be able to:

A source of strength. As Americans are living longer, healthier lives, it may make sense to continue working while you’re in good health. Many people derive a sense of well-being from their work and enjoy the physical and intellectual stimulation that comes along with it. And using your brain while interacting with others can be extremely beneficial to your overall health and happiness. Research from the Stanford Center on Longevity shows that continuing to work can lead to better cognitive function. A place, a passion, and a purpose. Some seek to stave off boredom by having a reason to get out of the house on a regular basis. You may be passionate about lending your skills to a cause you care deeply about, and a nonprofit is sure to want your expertise and an extra set of hands to help further its work.

Coffer filler. Planning for retirement means accounting

Forgo your annual withdrawal altogether, allowing it another chance to grow as part of your financial plan.

for market gyrations and inflation, but, of course you can’t predict everything. To create some padding in your retirement coffers, you may want to consider going back to work. Doing so could allow your nest egg time to recover and, hopefully, compound over time. Even if you plan a careful and sustainable withdrawal strategy, you may still overspend if something unexpected comes your way, and extra income can help you stay on track. For a lot of people, working longer makes it possible to add to their savings and maintain their quality of life.

Use the extra discretionary income to enhance your standard of living. This could be particularly desirable in the first years of retirement when you want to take advantage of good health to accomplish your more active goals. Use it to supplement your Social Security, pension, or annuity income, creating a buffer or safety net for your reliable income.



Tip: If you need more money than you’re earning, or are required to take an IRA distribution, it may be best to first withdraw funds from your after-tax accounts, such as checking, savings, or brokerage accounts. FINANCIAL FACTORS TO FACTOR IN Savings. In most cases, you should also be able to contribute to an employer-sponsored qualified retirement plan (subject to contribution limits) as long as you’re working. If you’re under 70 1/2, you can also contribute to a traditional IRA if you meet the requirements. The tax man. It’s possible that working (even an extra


Bill Martin, CFP® at 956-331-2777.

Social Security benefits prior to reaching Full Retirement Age (FRA). There’s a $1 reduction for every $2 you earn above the annual limit. For 2015, that limit is $15,720. The year you reach FRA, Social Security will deduct $1 in benefits for every $3 you earn above the limit ($41,880 for 2015). In both cases, you’ll get deducted benefits back later. After FRA, extra income doesn’t affect your benefits, no matter how much you earn. A word to the wise: If you

Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification


Source: Article provided by Bill Martin, CFP®, 1845 Capital of Raymond James, 1400 N McColl, Suite 101, McAllen, TX 78501. For more information, please contact

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


Government benefits. New income could affect your

MAY/JUN 2018

Many Americans rely on work to define their identity and their days, but just as many dream of an idyllic retirement with no time constraints. Both may be right for you at different stages of your post-career years. Just be sure to carefully review the reasons behind your decision and the possible impact on your financial plan before you punch the proverbial clock once again.


year or two) might push you into a higher tax bracket, especially if you’re taking taxable distributions from your IRA that count as income on top of your salary. It’s important to know your tax bracket and just how close you are to the next highest threshold.

make over a certain amount, your Social Security benefits could be taxable. Also, if you’re receiving Medicare benefits, you’ll want to know how employer-offered insurance works with Medicare or if going back to work might kick you into a higher premium category. Be sure to discuss these issues with your financial and tax advisers before accepting a new gig.






MAY/JUN 2018

by S o fia A lema n | p h o to s b y Ser gi o Tr evi ño There’s no question that owning a startup business comes with a fair share of ups and downs. But over the years the Valley has grown immensely, bringing about a multitude of opportunities to expand on artisan trends like coffee shops, breweries, and other handcrafted products. Customers are looking for quality creations and entrepreneurs have just the solution. Besides being an expert in your industry or your product, it takes purposeful business strategy planning to make sure your startup is a success. “Being a business owner is overwhelming, to say the least, but I must persevere, because this is what I believe in,” says Sergio Treviño, co-owner of Grind Coffee Co., who shares the surprising wave of ups and downs that comes with owning a business. And while there are many downsides with any startup, there is an ocean of opportunity that comes with those who properly plan and strive for success through the trials. Changing your perception on business is among one of the first adjustments most beginning business owners have to make, and “you will definitely be successful,” according to Michael Wilson, chief operating officer of CM Institute of Leadership in McAllen. CM Institute of Leadership offers leadership programs to patrons looking to pursue a startup. The programs identify the key elements of successful entrepreneurship and offer intensive step-by-step training on how to cultivate a thriving business. According to the CM Institute of Leadership, success starts with six mental shifts and life applications that bring about advancement and guaranteed progress to the beginning entrepreneur — which also happen to be the same things that cause a business to fail if not accomplished accordingly.



SCARCITY MENTALITY (DON’T HAVE IT): A lot of times, business owners fear employees, competitors, colleagues, or even clients are going to steal their trade secrets. They mistakenly create a bubble where they don’t share or collaborate with other people. What happens in this situation, especially with their employees, is that it prevents creativity — ultimately hindering the business. Some businesses will actually close down because owners will stifle their employees’ creativity. “Scarcity mentality is one of the most dangerous things you can do to your business,” said Wilson, who says he’s encouraged competitors to work together and doing so has had a positive impact on raising clientele. “You have to open up and not fear and have the mentality that there’s a lot of business to go around.”

name and get new customers. But when you build a strong business network, you will eventually notice a constant flow of customers and referrals coming in. In time, you will get to cut unnecessary costs of heavy advertising since you will have a strong “word-of-mouth” market creating a healthy “social capital” for your business.

MENTAL ATTITUDE: When entrepreneurs start their business, they’re really excited, but they sometimes unknowingly have failure in mind by saying things like, “I don’t think this is going to be successful;” “I hope I can get some clients;” “this is a scary market;” or “what if clients don’t like my services or product?” It’s important to recognize that the conscious mind feeds the subconscious mind. Every business owner will go through hard times, but the attitude entrepreneurs have toward their businesses can make or break them. “We’ve been able to do so much for our community in the past two years, but none of it has been easy,” Treviño said about Grind Coffee Co. “The sleepless nights, the 14-hour shifts, the neglected relationships, the continued stress, and the ever-exhausting physical toll on our bodies are just some drawbacks we’ve encountered while trying to build this beautiful space and follow this beautiful dream. But I know that if I can do it, and show others that I can, they will know they can do it, as well.”

COLLABORATION: Business owners need to surround themselves with like-minded people who own an established and successful business. To ensure the success of your business, you have to receive a consistent flow of knowledge and wisdom. It is imperative “to protect yourself from individuals who are naysayers, who have never been through the trenches of business ownership,” Wilson said. Having a healthy collaboration with others will help grow your business. Grind Coffee Co. touts the creativity that blossoms when people team up to do business together. “We pride ourselves in providing a space where people can catapult their ideas and build a community of likeminded individuals. This is how we truly are revolutionizing the Valley,” Treviño said.



DOMINATING THE MARKET: A common mistake for startups is emulating their competitors too closely. Another problem is when a business will lower the prices of their products and services as a way of challenging their competitors. In turn, they end up undervaluing themselves and their product or service, and in the long run, hurt the market. People actually find more value in a product that is moderately priced. They perceive value in the products and services. It’s important as a business owner to perceive your business as valuable — if you don’t, potential customers will


BUILDING YOUR SOCIAL NETWORK: CM Institute of Leadership has coined the equation “Net worth=Network,” because according to Grant Cardone in his book “The 10x Rule,” “The key element when you first start your business is to be omnipresent.” This quote implies to show your face and your business everywhere. This can be done by attending business and networking events, conferences, and trade shows to meet new people. “Attend anything where you’re face to face with a potential client,” Wilson said. “The more you build your network the more you build social capital. More resources, opportunity, ventures, and doors will open for you.” A fledgling business will initially invest in traditional marketing and advertising strategies to create a brand

MAY/JUN 2018

SELF-CARE: “What you put in your mouth and your mind affects the success of your business,” Wilson said. Someone who eats properly and exercises can handle stress without over-exhausting their body when tough times come. And when someone fuels their mind with meaningful books instead of watching monotonous videos on YouTube, they will sprout inspiration and creativity.


genuine about your vision and striving to be the company you want to be. “I encourage everyone to dream, but to also really think about what your dream truly entails: the money, the time, the effort, and the knowledge it takes to achieve,” Treviño said. “If that dream is still nagging at your very core, join me in this fight of doing what you were meant to do, and being who you were meant to be. Break out of just working for money, comfort, and not pushing your boundaries so you can reach your full potential.” If you are looking for ways to grow as a starting business owner or for other leadership opportunities, visit the CM Institute of Leadership, located at 1409 S. 9th St. Edinburg. Call (956) 215-7615 or visit Or if you’re looking to collaborate with other business owners over a delicious, farm-to-cup coffee, visit Grind Coffee Co. at 315 W. University Drive, Edinburg.



MAY/JUN 2018

“I encourage everyone to dream, but to also really think about what your dream truly entails: the money, the time, the effort, and the knowledge it takes to achieve.” Sergio Tr eviño, c o - o w n e r o f Gr ind Co f f e e Co.

undervalue you. “If someone was giving seminars for free, people would perceive it as cheap, but if you sold it for $900, someone would say, ‘Hey this service has value, we need to go see this guy,’” Wilson said. “We gotta make sure we give the perception of value.” If you simply be yourself and don’t worry about the prices of your competitors, you will dominate the market by being





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TRES LAGOS: The New North



MAY/JUN 2018

b y Co r i Smel ker | p h o t os b y J a s on G a r z a a n d O m a r Dí a z

When a vision to improve the lives of people begins to take shape in reality, the outcome can be nothing but positive. Mike Rhodes’ vision was to create a master-planned community where people can live, work, worship, and go to school all in one place. He also saw a community that was truly unrestricted, where the amenities were for everyone whether they live in Tres Lagos or not; where people can ride their bikes freely; where residents and non-residents have access to health care, shopping, dining, and entertainment right around the corner from them. As a result of his vision and planning, Tres Lagos offers its residents a truly walkable community. Since the grand opening of Tres Lagos last October, things have been moving along very well. Texas A&M University is one of those entities that bought into Rhodes’ dream of a master-planned community where commercial enterprises, schools, and residential homes nestle side by side. As a result, the Aggie Family is expanding. Texas A&M bought 100 acres of the 2,700

acres that comprise Tres Lagos, and set to building a new campus. That campus is officially opening in the fall of 2018. According to the university, this will “allow students an opportunity to have a unique impact on the growth and development of their home communities without leaving the region to pursue an engineering degree from Texas A&M University.” The academic arm of the university saw a need for a campus based in the Valley so that it can fulfill individual student career goals, enhance continued economic development of the region, and help provide the necessary skilled workforce. Texas A&M will tailor the degree options offered to the community and tie the areas of study to issues that matter to the Rio Grande Valley. All stages of education will be housed within the Tres Lagos community. IDEA Public Schools has already opened a campus in the community. Children within Tres Lagos will get preferred enrollment to IDEA. “A person will be able to be born here, get the best K-12



education with IDEA Public Schools, go from there to Texas A&M all the way through a doctorate program,” Rhodes said. There is also a 90-acre Tech Park adjacent to A&M, which will attract high-tech jobs. With such an all-inclusive community, someone could live their whole life in Tres Lagos without ever having to leave. Recent estimations put the number of jobs this community will create at about 6,000 permanent positions. The 90-acre Tech Park will be the source of most of the permanent jobs. However, teachers, hospital workers, firefighters, police, and retail workers will add to that number. The pastors of The Family Church also believe in Rhodes’ vision and are choosing to build their third campus right in the heart of Tres Lagos. The idea of being an integral part of a community where people can work, relax, and worship all within walking distance of their home is a win-win situation for the pastors. They are in the planning and development phase of their new church and are excited to soon open the doors of their new campus. Tres Lagos is perfectly situated as McAllen is poised to grow tremendously in the next few years. And given the community’s convenient north McAllen location, residents have access to health care, shopping, dining, entertainment, and more just minutes from their front door. So far, Tres Lagos has sold 186 homes with more to come. And the price point cannot be beaten. With three distinctive neighborhoods

“A person will be able to be born here, get the best K-12 education with IDEA Public Schools, go from there to Texas A&M all the way through a doctorate program.”



to choose from, the discerning buyer is certain to find the perfect home at the best price. What sets Tres Lagos apart from other master-planned communities is how the houses are built on the lots. Instead of being neatly lined, they are set at different distances in order to give the home owners the best sight-lines and not have to look into a neighbor’s window. Along with the ways the streets are designed, this gives the community an open feel. Rhodes Enterprises is the largest mixed-use land developer in the Rio Grande Valley, and seeing Rhodes’ vision come to pass is extremely satisfying for him. As he has said before, “I love building communities. It is all I think about.” And how wonderful for McAllen and the surrounding area that he chose to build Tres Lagos.

MAY/JUN 2018

Mi ke R h o d e s

Knapp Medical Conference Center

Noble Charities Foundation will be hosting a Gala on June 15 at the Knapp Medical Conference Center in Weslaco 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.

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TAKING WORK HOME RGV Business Owners Talk Shop About Vocations in Residences



MAY/JUN 2018

by A m y C a s e b i e r

A typical day for Bella Vladimirsky, a naturopath and certified nutritional consultant, consists of meeting with clients, developing health programs for them, and taking part in health-related webinars. What isn’t so typical is that Vladimirsky runs her business, Advanced Holistic Health Services, in her McAllen home. “It is a more relaxing atmosphere for me and my clients/associates,” she wrote in an email, adding the advantages of working from home include “no commute, flexible hours, no big expenses, I am my own boss, [and] I make lots of new friends.” More people are telecommuting, a 2017 FlexJob report finds. A total of 3.9 million U.S. employees work from their residences at least half of the time, the report states, representing a 115 percent increase since 2005. There are a number of benefits of working from home, according to a 2017 Forbes article — from a boost in productivity to an increase in job satisfaction, among

others. For some business owners in the Rio Grande Valley, working from home is a no-brainer. John Zmuda, the semi-retired owner of Instrument Services Company, operated his calibration services business from his garage for 16 years. His business entailed visiting clients at their locations, so having an official storefront wasn’t important to him. “Some guy had a calibration company here in Edinburg and I worked for him for about just short of two years and I realized that he couldn’t do what I could do,” John Zmuda said, recalling how he got the idea to start his own business. “All he knew how to do was collect the money, and I was like, ‘jeez, I can do that, too.’ So off I started.” Success didn’t happen overnight. “In the beginning, you really learn how to make a tortilla stretch,” he said. But over the years, and with a little patience, the work paid off for him. “You just gotta trust God and he’ll make sure it





Kennedy cites availability for her family as one of the biggest perks, as well as working partly out of her home. But an initial decrease in salary and accompanying lifestyle adjustments make Kennedy offer a warning for potential telecommuters, particularly those looking to create their own businesses. “I think that people have to have some realistic expectations of what that might look like and it might not be for everyone,” she said. “I would really encourage people to evaluate what their situation and what their needs and their wants truly are because there’s probably going to be some sacrifices that need to be made.” For Kennedy, those sacrifices were worth it. “I will say I feel like I really found something that I don’t feel like I’m going to work,” she said. “I really don’t feel it’s a job. It’s just what I’m meant to do.” Vladimirsky, the naturopath, copes with setbacks of her own while working from home. “I always feel that I am at work, even when I'm ‘off the clock,’” she wrote. Still, it’s a small disadvantage compared with the rewards of her chosen career. “It is worth it,” she wrote. “I love my business, I love people, I love working from home, I love McAllen, and I don't have any regrets.”


happens,” he said. “There’ve been times I’ve just been waiting and waiting on invoices and my checkbook is taking a dive to like 20 bucks and stuff like that, and low and behold, someone will pay an invoice.” For other local telecommuters, it’s the flexibility of the work that attracts them. Yolanda Zmuda, an independent health and life insurance agent, reports to an office in Pharr for appointments. Otherwise, she travels to meet clients or works out of her home. “My time is flexible,” she said. “Because it’s flexible, I can reach my clients on their regular schedule.” Yolanda Zmuda sets her own hours based on the needs of her clients. “Because you make your own schedule, everything is good. You are your own boss and you do it because you like it,” she added. Brandi Kennedy, the owner and CEO of Compassionate Birth Services LLC, decided to quit her job after the birth of her son. After a couple of months, she said she felt the urge to do more. “I took childbirth classes with my son when I was still pregnant with him,” she said. “So I thought, ‘oh, wow, I can absolutely do that and I can be at home with him.” As Kennedy’s services expanded to include doula work and placenta encapsulation in addition to childbirth education, she officially formed her company.

MAY/JUN 2018

There are a number of benefits of working from home, according to a 2017 Forbes article — from a boost in productivity to an increase in job satisfaction, among others. For some business owners in the Rio Grande Valley, working from home is a no-brainer.

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SOLUTION Minimally Invasive Surgery with the Da Vinci Robot

Some of the most common gynecologic surgeries he performs include: Hysterectomy: the surgical removal of the uterus. Cystectomy: the surgical procedure of removing abnormal ovarian cysts. Salpingo/oophorectomy: surgical removal of one or both ovaries or fallopian tubes. Sacrocolpopexy: a surgical procedure to help with urinary incontinence and pelvic floor prolapse (or falling out). Typically surgery of this caliber would require a large surgical incision that would cut across the lower part of the abdomen — similar to a C-section. Another option performed by some surgeons is a classic multi-port laparoscopic approach that leaves multiple bullet-size incisions across the abdomen. Women are thrilled to realize there’s an even more cosmetically and superior minimally invasive approach called single-site robotic surgery using the da Vinci Surgical System. Single-site surgery means only one small incision, about the size of a quarter, is made through the umbilicus (belly button) eliminating a large surgical scar. The da Vinci robot was invented to allow an experienced surgeon to perform complex surgeries with a minimally invasive method. This means a major complex surgery such as a hysterectomy can be performed through a single incision that



will leave patients virtually scarless. This method minimizes blood loss and patients have a significantly shorter hospital stay, meaning most go home the same day. Many can also expect to see reduced recovery time compared to traditional surgical methods. Now, women don’t have to travel to major medical centers to have this advanced minimally invasive surgical procedure. The women of the Rio Grande Valley have access to that expertise right here. Dr. Luna is an expert when it comes to using the da Vinci Surgical System. From the simplest to the most complex cases, every patient can have this minimally invasive surgical approach. He has been one of the top leaders in procedures performed over the last several years, currently ranking number two in the state of Texas for single-site robotic surgery and number six in the United States. He’s associated with the Texas Institute for Robotic Surgery and is a national proctor for the da Vinci Surgical System. His recognition is gaining attention from patients all over South Texas, from Laredo to Brownsville, San Antonio, Austin, and Houston. He began his robotic training in New York City at Montefiore/Albert Einstein Medical Center then practiced for several years at The Texas Medical Center in Houston. Now, Dr. Luna is proud to be serving his community right here in the Rio Grande Valley. Many women have experienced the benefits of having minimally invasive robotic surgery and single-site surgery, including Diana Gonzalez, a resident of Brownsville who avoided treating her medical condition for 10 years because of the disadvantages and inconvenience of standard surgery. Gonzalez explained how after time, her symptoms continued to worsen. She suffered from multiple fibroids and an enlarged uterus. She said she knew she needed surgery,


Women all over the Valley are seeking to solve their gynecologic problems with a minimally invasive approach. Robotic surgery and specifically single-site robotic surgery offers the most advanced minimally invasive approach in the United States. That approach is offered at the office of board-certified OB-GYN Dr. Rene I. Luna in McAllen.

MAY/JUN 2018

b y So fi a Al em a n | p h ot os b y J a m e s H or d


“With regular surgery, I was probably going to need a blood transfusion, but with Dr. Luna, I didn’t need a blood transfusion. I really feel he saved my life.”

have been able to do such an amazing job.” When asked what advice she’d give other women seeking to surgically address their gynecologic problems, she said, “I would advise them to get a robotic hysterectomy instead of the traditional surgery. You will have faster recovery that is minimally invasive and nothing beats that.” And not only is Dr.Luna known for his state-recognized accomplishments, he’s also acknowledged by both staff and patients for having a charming and personable demeanor and overall practice philosophy. “He’s not like every other doctor — he listens to you,” Gonzalez said. “I had a whole page of questions and he heard and answered every single one. You can tell he’s very dedicated to his patients and wants the best outcome for you.” If you or someone you know is looking for the most advanced quality gynecologic health care, including the surgical procedures listed above, prenatal care, and even infertility consultation, visit Dr. Luna’s office today. Rest easy knowing there is freedom from traditional surgery to solve your gynecologic problems right in our area. The office of Dr. Rene I. Luna is located at 501 Savannah Ave., McAllen, TX 78503. Call (956) 630-2400 to speak with one of his knowledgeable and friendly staff members to schedule your appointment. Read more about Luna and his services by visiting his website at



MAY/JUN 2018

Dia na Go nz a lez , a m i ni m al l y i nv a s i v e s ur ge r y p ati en t

but wanted to avoid a major invasive surgery that would leave her bedridden for weeks, unable to walk, and later dependent on hormone therapy if open surgery required the removal of her ovaries. “I had a high-profile case and I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy surgery,” Gonzalez said. “I didn’t want an invasive cut. I was very anemic. With regular surgery, I was probably going to need a blood transfusion, but with Dr. Luna, I didn’t need a blood transfusion. I really feel he saved my life.” Because of Dr. Luna, Gonzalez was able to keep her ovaries, avoiding the need for hormones. She was walking the next day, and went home with only a small incision. After the surgery, she said she didn’t need pain medication, and was back to her normal routine in virtually one week’s time. “I’m very grateful I was referred to Dr. Luna. The surgery was successful, there were no complications, and so far, I’m doing very well on my recovery,” Gonzalez said. “I’m glad that we have someone who does robotic surgery here. Dr. Luna is just an amazing doctor and I’m not sure anyone else would


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MAY/JUN 2018

A Message to the Public MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS MONTH                             

rate among adolescents is almost 20 percent for females and 7 percent for males (National Institute of Mental Health [NIMH], 2018). According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, about 18 percent of the adult population has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, which indicates anxiety as the most commonly occurring mental illness in the country. Additionally, over 20 million adults suffer from a substance-abuse disorder (National Alliance of Mental Illness [NAMI], 2015). These are alarming statistics the public should be aware of. Mental health is vital for our successful daily functioning, and it is something we should not ignore or

The Month of May is dedicated to Mental Health Awareness. The month is devoted to raising awareness of mental health through advocacy, educating individuals in the habits and behaviors that can potentially lead to mental illnesses, reducing the stigma of mental health, providing support, and teaching strategies to increase mental health.

MENTAL HEALTH FACTS One in five adults experience a mental health condition in their lifetime, which entails about 7 percent or 16 million of the U.S. adult population. Furthermore, the prevalence



take for granted. Daily stressors, responsibilities, general woes, and lack of sleep can negatively impact our mental health. Constant stressors at our everyday settings, such as school, work, or home, can make us feel like we can never catch our breath. These constant overwhelming variables can create further problems, including difficulty dealing with anxiety, abuse of drugs and alcohol, or depression. Because of the magnitude of the negative consequences, it is fundamental to not minimize the importance taking care of our mental health.

GET INVOLVED Although it has been implicitly established as taboo in most cultures, it is important to talk about mental illness and/or suicide. For example, actively helping a friend or relative in need and encouraging them to get help is critical. According to, some ways you can help are by: Recognizing signs of mental health problems and encouraging individuals to get help. Expressing your concerns and offering help. Being an active listener by asking questions and being receptive when your loved one talks about mental illness or suicide. Establishing a line of trust is important. Educating others on facts about mental illness and treating people with respect, compassion, and empathy.

BARRIERS TO MENTAL HEALTH TREATMENT: STIGMA IN THE LATINO POPULATION According to Dr. Mercado and colleagues as published in Current Psychiatric Reviews Journal, Latino Americans are less likely to receive mental health services compared to other ethnic and racial groups due to issues with accessibility, availability, appropriateness, and acceptability. One of the most common barrier to mental health treatment for Latino Americans is the lack of knowledge and awareness of available services, as well as how to find and access them. Additionally, Latino Americans may not know what to expect from treatment. Unfamiliarity with mental health services can discourage or prevent the accessing of services. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has reported stigma as the most threatening barrier to mental health treatment. The stigma associated with mental illness is a factor that prevents seeking treatment in culturally diverse populations. Stigma connected to mental health can be broken down into two components: social stigma and perceived stigma. Social stigma is when attitudes and discriminating behaviors arise and are directed towards individuals with mental health disorders due to the label given to the individual through the implementation of services. Perceived stigma is the aftermath of social stigma, such as when the individual internalizes all their own perceptions of discrimination often caused by the stigma received from other individuals (Davey, 2013). Both components are seen in Latino populations. It was reported early in this decade that only two in every 10 Latinos with mental health problems seek medical help and only one in every 10 Latinos seeks mental health services (NAMI, 2001). It is imperative to increase community outreach that targets increasing knowledge and awareness of mental illness in Latino communities, as this would facilitate treatment initiation and utilization.


Resources: If you or anyone is in immediate danger, call 9-1-1. Mental Health Resources: Crisis Services at Tropical Texas Behavioral Health: (956) 289-7000 National Suicide Prevention: 1-800-273-8255 UTRGV Counseling Center (for UTRGV students): (Edinburg): (956) 665-2574 (Brownsville): (956) 882-3897 UTRGV Counseling Assessment Psychological Services (Free and open to the public): (Edinburg): (956) 665-5251 (Brownsville): (956) 882-7792 References available upon request (Co-Authors include Dr. Mercado’s Mental Health Lab at UTRGV: Arellano)


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




Paola Salazar, Abigail Nunez-Saenz, Andy Torres, and Stephanie

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If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health problem, we encourage you to seek professional help from the resources below — some of which are free. Mental health symptoms are medical symptoms. Treatment is available and people do get better.

Specialty Orthopedics for Children and Adults FOR GROWTH, MOBILITY AND PLAY From broken bones to sports-related injuries, the orthopedic specialists of Valley Care Clinics treat patients with compassion and skill, which comes from years of training and experience.

Dr. Michael Lago is a fellowship trained spine specialist dedicated to caring for children who are experiencing growth plate issues, spinal and joint disorders, and other pediatric specific orthopedic conditions.

Services • Scoliosis evaluation

• Flat foot/club foot

• Spinal disorders and back pain

• Toe walking

• Disorders and/or pain in the hips and lower extremities

• Ankle instability or fractures

• Limb length differences/ bowed legs

• Bone and joint infections

• Broken bones/joint dislocations And more …

• Knock knees

Michael T. Lago, MD

Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon

Dr. Joaquin Oronoz provides customized sports medicine services to amateur as well as seasoned athletes, in addition to treating fractures and replacing joints.

Services • Shoulder arthroscopy

• ACL and ligament tears

• Rotator cuff tears

• Knee, hip and shoulder replacement surgery

• Labral tears • Knee arthroscopy • Meniscus tears

• Fractures • Sprains and strains And more …

Joaquin Oronoz, MD

Orthopedic Surgery and Sports Medicine

To find out more or to make an appointment, call 956-378-6611.

LOCATION: 4302 S. Sugar Road, Suite 102, Edinburg, TX 78539 HOURS: Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Medicare, Medicaid and most medical insurance plans accepted

For language assistance, disability accommodations and the non-discrimination notice, visit our website. 180470



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​Mental Illness and Substance Abuse in South Texas



comorbidity, or co-occurring disorder. On its website, the National Institute on Drug Abuse describes this condition as “two or more disorders or illnesses occurring in the same person.” They can occur at the same time or one after the other, and interactions between the illnesses can worsen the course of both disorders, according to the institute. Although he’s not trained in treating mental disorders, Resendez said it’s very important to recognize issues other than substance abuse among his clients, and to act. In this case, he referred Tony to a mental health professional. “As part of my duties as a substance abuse counselor, it’s my duty to provide my clients with the best services possible, with the services appropriate for my clients,” he said. But Resendez admits that may not always happen. It’s possible, he said, that mental health issues can sometimes be missed because counselors are not trained to spot issues outside their field of expertise, and/or because the counselor may be fixated on only one aspect of a patient. “Substance abuse counselors may not recognize a comorbid mental health issue, and vice versa; health professionals may not detect a comorbid drug abuse issue with their clients,” he said.

“I hear voices,” the young man said. Mariano “Marty” Resendez Jr. was sitting across his desk from a client we’ll call Tony, who finally felt comfortable enough to admit his secret. Resendez is a licensed chemical dependency counselor at a private substance abuse facility in McAllen. Tony had already been through the assessment and admissions portions of his drug treatment program, but he’d managed to conceal his secret until that moment. His drugs of choice were marijuana and Xanax, a sedative referred to on the streets as bars, but Resendez had suspected there was something else going on with Tony. Other clients at the facility’s dormitory had complained that Tony would suddenly sit up in bed in the middle of the night and start talking to himself, almost as if he were having a conversation with himself. But often, the “conversation” would escalate; Tony would begin yelling, cursing at himself and hitting his head. After admitting to Resendez that he heard voices, Tony said the devil was telling him to do bad things and that he fought the urges to obey. Tony’s situation of having two or more issues, substance abuse and a mental illness disorder, is called

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b y Rod S a n t a A n a


"It’s akin to malpractice not to screen for both mental disorders and substance abuse. And the numbers in the country are impressive. "

F. H e a t h S m i t h I V



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a l i cens ed p ro f es s i o na l c ounse lor a nd a lic e nse d c h e mic a l dep endency co uns elor a t Th e S e nd e ro Group In Mc Alle n

F. Heath Smith IV, who is both a licensed professional counselor and a licensed chemical dependency counselor at The Sendero Group in McAllen, said the failure to recognize comorbidity is unacceptable. “It’s akin to malpractice not to screen for both mental disorders and substance abuse,” he said. “And the numbers in the country are impressive.” According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, he said, approximately one in five adults, or 18.5 percent of the adult population, experience mental illness in a given year. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, in their 2014 national survey, estimates roughly 8.4 percent of the population has had a substance abuse disorder issue in the past year. “These numbers indicate that little less than half of the substance abuse disorder population also is experiencing a mental health disorder,” Smith said. But it might be worse. “These are known cases,” he said. “Who knows what unknown case numbers are. And here in the Rio Grande Valley, we just don’t have adequate treatment facilities for these conditions. We have very limited resources.” Smith said the issue boils down to economics. “If I want to send a patient to treatment for a cooccurring disorder,” he said, “the gold standard would be an in-patient treatment program that would address both the mental health disorder and the substance abuse

disorder in an orthodox fashion.” Smith said that would require a facility that would allow for at least a 30-day treatment for substance abuse disorder, and maybe 10 days for the mental health disorder. “But affording it is a big issue,” he said. “Here in the Valley, we have a very small population of people with non-government health insurance that will pay well for this treatment. A larger number have government health insurance. “However, Medicaid and Medicare pay very poorly for substance abuse disorders, resulting in little to no in-patient, 30-day treatment providers for this type of government insurance.” So, what we have here in the Valley, Smith said, are services “that mirror what we can afford, and what we can afford is not much. “Facilities that can provide longer treatment stays are typically found in larger cities, so in my opinion, yes, unfortunately it comes down to economic issues.” What we end up with then, he said, is a population of mentally ill individuals who freely live among us until they run afoul of the law and end up being housed in jail in large numbers. “I would hope we could move to a system that better trains police to recognize mental health issues, and one that includes mental health courts where our mentally ill could have interventions that are more appropriate,” he




said. “This would be a system that allows family members young people are only beginning or “budding” disorders, to have a voice, court systems that could gather history it’s difficult to know if it’s only depression, which can and know about individuals who can be helped at times be treated, or if the disorder is an early sign of more when they are not able to think for themselves.” serious mental disorders, including bipolar disorder, Resendez said more and more criminal court judges in schizophrenia, psychotic illness or personality disorder, the Valley are recognizing that repeat drug-use offenders which require more rigorous treatment. often have a problem deeper than just the desire to get “But we do know that good intervention early in life high, and can be better served by court-ordered drug can be valuable,” he said. “We can intervene and reduce treatment than by jail time. the risk factor by increasing resiliency rates through “It’s a matter of better educating the court system or asset development. That means involving young people having courts that specialize in working with offenders in productive activities and skills that will better occupy with both substance abuse disorders and mental health their thoughts and time, like learning a sport, photography, disorders,” he said. or how to write well, something to keep things positive.” State laws, Smith explains, could also be improved to Smith said that while many advances are being made better address the issue. in treating substance abuse disorders and mental health “In Texas, a DWI offense usually means paying a large disorders, 100 years from now today’s methods of fine,” he said. “In states like Florida, the convicted offender treating mental illness will likely be looked upon as out has the choice of either paying the large fine or going of date. into an evaluation and “Who knows what treatment process future treatments will and not pay the big look like, but for now fine. Some states we can do a better "We can intervene and reduce the risk factor defer the adjudication job of improving by increasing resiliency rates through asset from their records the situation of development. That means involving young if the offender substance abuse people in productive activities and skills that completes their and mental illness will better occupy their thoughts and time, prescribed education if we make the like learning a sport, photography, or how to or treatment.” effort and treat write well, something to keep things positive." patients holistically, Smith said early intervention can also evaluating everything F. H e a t h S m i t h I V be beneficial. about a patient, “When a kid from genetics to is caught with diet to physiological marijuana, or a young adult is arrested for DWI, these are abnormalities of the brain,” he said. great opportunities to intervene and do early prevention In light of recent mass shootings in Florida and education and get families involved, which can be very elsewhere, Smith said this is an excellent time to begin powerful,” he said. “If we treat mental health disorders serious discussions nationwide of mental illnesses and early, we can at least mitigate long-term effects. So, how best to treat them. we know untreated depression and anxiety disorders As for Tony, Resendez reports that he is currently in adolescence have a higher rate of developing into undergoing a rigorous treatment program for both his adult mental illness and substance abuse disorders, substance abuse and mental illness disorders. just as untreated attention deficit disorders can lead to substance abuse.” Smith said that because signs of mental disorders in

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b y Ka r l a A r r e d on d o There continues to be a steady increase in adult obesity across the United States. According to The State of Obesity, in 2016 Texas ranked number eight overall, making it in the top 10 among the states with the highest rate of obesity. It seems contradictory that while we are in the most advanced technological era and we should have the resources and means to not only lead more informed lives but also healthier ones, health continues to deteriorate as illness and mental health conditions increase. What are we doing wrong? Nothing. That is, we are literally doing almost nothing. Sedentary lifestyles seem to dominate our fast-paced, career-driven, mortgage-dependent lives. We are so connected to technology and so disconnected from

ourselves that we miss the subtle messages our bodies send and only when they are screaming (for example, heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, high blood pressure), we act by silencing them with medications so we can continue to focus on the external priorities while maintaining a false state of health. Pause. Take a deep breath right here. Really pause and breathe in for eight seconds, and breathe out for the same length of time. And if you were to do this about 10 more times, you would lower your blood pressure and stress level, send some feel-good chemicals through your bloodstream, and maybe even raise an involuntary smile. They are called “lifestyle diseases� for a reason.



Effects of a sedentary lifestyle include weight gain, low energy, osteoporosis, depression, anxiety, an increased risk for cancer, and cardiovascular disease.

UPCOMING EVENTS THURSDAY MAY 3 + Peter Cetera WEDNESDAY MAY 9 + STOMP FRIDAY MAY 11 + Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons FRIDAY MAY 18 + Guerra de Chistes SUNDAY MAY 20 + El Matrimonio Perjudica Seriamente La Salud SATURDAY MAY 26 + Belanova y Moenia SATURDAY JUNE 9 + Mario Aguilar

TUESDAY JUNE 19 + Yanni SATURDAY AUGUST 11 + Felipe Esparza WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 12-16 + Les Misérables



MAY/JUN 2018

SUNDAY JUNE 10 + Farruko World Tour 2018


out fast and processed food for wholesome, nutrient-dense foods, your body, energy, and self-esteem improve instantly. Social media sites such as Instagram and Pinterest offer easy recipe inspiration when you search the right keywords. Incorporating small changes into your everyday living significantly add up. Park a little farther from the entrance so you walk a few extra steps. Take that call from your hands-free device and walk around the office — or better yet, outside. Find a meaningful activity and stick to it: yoga, CrossFit, running, Pilates, lifting weights, spinning, tai chi, cycling, martial arts, boxing. We are fortunate to have so many options in our area. Montenegro also reminds us that a little activity is better than no activity at all, so even those changes that feel tiny go a long way in improving your health. Maybe your backyard has all the answers to wind down, disconnect from work, and connect to joy and movement when you go outside and let your kids take you to their world of play and imagination. Wherever you may be in your journey to improving health, every small change and step counts. Even if today was not such a great day and you made some poor choices already, let it go. Forgive yourself and start over this very moment. The weather is already welcoming you to join nature, and more and more health-conscious restaurants and stores are opening up. Thank yourself for reading this and seeking to improve; you are already moving in a positive direction!



Besides the ones mentioned above, other effects of a sedentary lifestyle include weight gain, low energy, osteoporosis, depression, anxiety, an increased risk for cancer, and cardiovascular disease, to name a few. If these conditions are preventable but our jobs require us to sit all day, what can we do to improve our health? The single most important change you can implement right now is through the food you eat. Nutrition plays a fundamental role in our overall wellness. It may be easier to get a quick bite at a fast food restaurant on your way home, but stop for a minute and think about what buying that means: high carbs, sodium, fat, and probably sugar, artificial ingredients and other by-products that disrupt our gut microbiome and cause hormonal imbalances. After eating such a meal, you most likely feel guilty and stressed. Perhaps you will even throw out that plan to go for a quick run because you already made a poor choice today; maybe you should just leave it for tomorrow. As Jack Kornfield says, “The trouble is, you think you have time.” Leaving important things for another day is a hard habit to break. For our physical and mental wellbeing, it is important that we do. “Risk for causes of mortality is increased when activity is decreased,” said Raul Montenegro, coach and owner of Charlie Mike Crossfit. “Little changes throughout your day can go a long way. Packing your own lunch is by far the best thing you can do to make sure you are eating as healthy as you can.” Montenegro emphasized that nutrition is the foundation for health. When you switch



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SPICY SHRIMP SUSHI STACK PREPARATION FOR A HEALTHY MEAL b y So fi a Al eman | p h ot o b y O m a r DĂ­ a z

INGREDIENTS 1/2 cup cooked brown rice 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar 4 ounces cooked extra small shrimp, peeled and tails removed 1/2 piece of smashed avocado 1/4 piece of cucumber in cubes

METHOD STACK PREPARATION: Prepare the rice. Once cooked, add 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar and place in a bowl waiting for it to cool. In a circular container about the size of a measuring cup, first place 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds, then add 1/8 of a piece of cucumber cubes, 2 tablespoons of crushed avocado, 2 ounces of shrimp, 1/4 cup of cooked brown rice and compact, making a little pressure in the container. Serve carefully on a plate, placing cup or container upside down slowly taking out the stack (you can tap the bottom of the cup if necessary).

1/2 grated carrot


1/4 cup of natural Greek yogurt sugar free

bowl, place 1/4 cup of natural Greek yogurt, 1 chipotle pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt, 2 tablespoons of Sriracha sauce and mix well.

1 chipotle pepper 2 tablespoons of Sriracha sauce 1/2 teaspoon sea salt 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds

Calories per serving: 290 Serving size: 1 stack

Top your stack with 2 tablespoons of the spicy dip and place 1/4 of the grated carrots on top. You can accompany the dish with 1 tablespoon of low-sodium or gluten-free soy sauce and crushed red pepper.

Recipe provided by: A N A KA R E N TO R R E S Bachelor of Science (BS): Nutrition More recipes can be found on Facebook: @anakarentorresonlinenutrition




Yields 2 servings

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Summer is here and people are looking to eat zesty, fresh, and, for the most part, clean. Kick off the hottest season of the year with this culinary delight to stay swimsuit ready. It’s a surprisingly easy recipe and was provided by a local Valley nutritionist who bases her recipes in an expertise in health, wellness, and most importantly, deliciousness!



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THE ART OF ACTIVISM Valley Artist’s Portrait Series Celebrates Latinos Amid DACA Turmoil



said. “It really brought me to tears when I saw it because it reminded me of that moment when I was crossing the river and not knowing what was ahead of me. He makes me realize that that is the woman that I have become.” Corpus began making his portraits as a way to inform people outside of the Rio Grande Valley of the potential of DACA recipients. “I was looking for something to frame the Hispanic community, like what we have to offer,” he said. “It’s just countering what you will hear with the ‘bad hombre’ type of thing.” Corpus looks to expand his body of work to include Latinos of all backgrounds — not just DACA recipients. “I think I’ve hit a facet in my career where I’ve come to the point where I can make things that I consider art,” he said. “I began to ask myself if I want to be genuine and sincere with the art-making process, what should I do?” It was Corpus’ own background that inspired his art. “I’m an American, I’ve been here all my life, but I was brought here,” he said. “When my mother was pregnant was when she came to this country. So there’s always been that idea of Mexico there, as well. And in understanding the duality, I started searching for the proper way to say it.” Incorporating his medium of charcoal and water sourced straight from the banks of the U.S.-Mexico border lent additional meaning to his work. “That was the initial thought — use the actual river to make art, because that river is that divide,” Corpus said. “It’s literally and figuratively the divide.” His DACA portraits have received positive feedback both outside the Rio Grande Valley and within it. “I really think that his work is positively impacting our community,” Lima said. “The faces, the stories that he’s portraying, they reflect a future that is kind but it’s also very brave. The fact that you see the faces, looking straight out


Rossy Lima remembers exactly where she was and what she was doing June 15, 2012 — the day then-President Barack Obama announced the creation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. She was substitute teaching in a position her own immigration status would never allow her to hold. “I remember at the end of the class, I stayed there and I was crying because I was so frustrated that I loved teaching the class but I couldn’t,” she said. The professor she was filling in for called her and told her about the announcement of the program. DACA grants eligible young people — those who were brought to the United States before they turned 16 — protection from deportation, as well as permission to work. Permits are renewed every two years after thorough background checks. “I was like, wow, just in the moment that I was contemplating just giving up completely — I really felt that all the effort I was doing made no sense, it was worthless,” Lima said. “I was just about to make that statement to giving up. It basically came from above.” Lima applied and received a DACA permit. A writer by trade, she has published four books of poetry, edited eight books, and started a publishing house, Jade Publishing. It was through the publishing house that she met Luis Corpus, a Valley artist working on portraits of DACA recipients. “He started telling us about the DACA project and everything and I was like, ‘well, I’m DACA,’ and he began working,” Lima said. “He’s talented. He’s out of this world.” Corpus, who creates his portraits from Rio Grande water and burnt branches collected from the banks of the river, included a line of Lima’s poetry about the Rio Grande in her portrait. “When he showed it to me, I was just overwhelmed, especially because he really captured my essence,” she

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by Amy Casebier


at you, trying to make that connection, make that plea for humanity.” It’s a connection that resonates with many families in this area. “The artwork has been great in establishing a dialogue and getting this out there, but I think of my purpose, and that was to change mindset,” Corpus said. “I also realize that ideas and talk and dialogue … it is not action.” Corpus emphasized the importance of voting, especially in the face of low voter turnout. When he considers the future of his art, Corpus is more interested in promoting political change. “I have my blinders on and I’m just looking at whatever I can do to get people out there in 2018,” he said. “If we cast those ballots and we elect officials that are on our side, essentially, then I think I could go back and start painting pretty pictures of fruits in baskets and not worry about anything.” Just as Lima’s life transformed suddenly and profoundly in 2012 with the announcement of DACA, it changed again in September 2017, when President Donald Trump announced an end to the program. “When I heard that it was rescinded, I was devastated,” Lima said. “We felt like we were being abandoned and we felt

that we didn’t have anywhere to go. If in the given case we need to go back to our countries of birth, there’s nothing we can go to.” She added the importance of addressing mental health with DACA recipients, including anxiety at the threat of deportation. At the time this article was published, hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients remained in limbo over the program’s future. After Congress failed to pass a more permanent immigration solution by the six-month deadline at the beginning of March, court orders ensured the Department of Homeland Security would continue to renew existing DACA permits. A federal judge ruled April 24 that if DHS cannot explain its reasons for closing the program in 90 days, it will have to start issuing new permits again. “In case it doesn’t happen, I know that we will prevail,” Lima said. “I mean, we have. I think we’ll still keep moving forward and I’m grateful for the little help that I could get as long as I can continue living in this country and making my small contribution.” See Luis Corpus’ art at Learn more about Jade Publishing by visiting

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



MAY/JUN 2018


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


Knee surgery in Texas just got innovative. The first robotic-assisted total knee replacement in the state means residents now have access to advanced technology that supports more positive patient outcomes.

Dr. Raul A. Marquez, Orthopedic Surgeon, performs the leading-edge surgery at Cornerstone Regional Hospital using the NAVIO Surgical System™. The robotic assistance eliminates the need for a pre-operative CT scan and enables precise and efficient placement of the implant. During the procedure, a 3D model of the patient’s knee is used to guide the robotics-assisted tool directed by the physician, providing an extra layer of precision and accuracy.

Raul A. Marquez, MD Orthopedic Surgeon

For more information, call Marla Sandoval at 956-618-4444 or visit

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


YOUTH McAllen Memorial Junior Immerses Herself in Valley Life



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b y Amy Ca s eb i e r | p h ot os b y J a s on G a r z a

Meet the potential future mayor of McAllen. She may still be a junior at McAllen Memorial High School, but Sydney Ramon has the passion and drive for the position, and she’s already bolstering her experience and credentials with a level of community involvement most 16-year-olds don’t pursue. “Maybe it’s weird to see in my generation so much pride in the Valley because everyone wants to get out of here,” she said. “I’ve been saying that I want to be mayor of McAllen for the past two to three years of my life. It’s definitely a big aspiration of mine.” In addition to coursework, Ramon takes part in student council, including chairing the energy and environment committee and being involved in the leadership class, the background of student council. She is also the president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter. Belonging to the National Honor Society gives Ramon the opportunity for additional community service, particularly at the McAllen Nature Center. She also participates in a peer-assisted leadership class, mentoring elementary-aged students twice a week and interacting with special education students on her campus the rest of the time. “We play games with them, activities, which is personally my favorite part because my sister is in special education,” Ramon said. “She has epilepsy, so getting to interact with her and see the way she interacts with the other special education students is

amazing. It makes my day.” Ramon’s activities outside of school are just as intensive. As a part of McAllen Mayor Jim Darling’s youth advisory council, she interacts with people in city leadership and learns about the inner workings of McAllen itself. Active in her church, Ramon is president of her youth ministries council, vice president of the district council on youth ministries, and the communications chair for the conference council on youth ministries. As a head coach of the National Hispanic Institute, Ramon oversees 20 staff members to prepare for competitions. She discusses local culture as the host of South Texas IDEA’s podcast, and she works for Alablanca Apparel, a local fashion company that makes Valley-centric T-shirts emblazoned with everything from “The 956” to “Orale.” “I think it’s really nice to see businesses promoting that Valley pride because it inspires other people, too,” she said, recalling wearing one of the T-shirts during a trip to Chicago and getting lots of comments on it. While all her activities are a way to explore different interests, Ramon says her biggest passion is the Valley in general. “To stay here, to get educated here, I think is something really important because it shows people that you really don’t need to go anywhere else,” she said. “I think planting these roots is really important.” After high school, Ramon wants to be a lawyer, which would briefly remove her from the place she





amazing things McAllen’s doing, and I was like, ‘I didn’t know about any of this,’” she said. She raved to her friends about all of the opportunities in the community. “They were kind of shutting down all of my excitement because we were all raised in this environment that’s like, ‘OK, the Valley’s temporary.’” Ramon knew then what she had to do. “I kind of realized that so many of us don’t know the opportunities that exist here,” she said. “I felt I was given this opportunity to do something with it, and then now it was my responsibility to share with my peers, to share with people around me, to inspire them to really take pride in where we come from.” Ramon has simple advice for teens who aren’t sure how to get involved in their communities. “Your voice matters way more than you think it does,” she said. Even those too young to vote can still canvass, meet local leaders, and attend city events. “There’s so many departments in your city, there’s so many places where your help is needed,” Ramon said. “There’s a place for everyone. Just recognize any time you can get involved.”


loves the most. “I would have to go away to law school unless they create one by the time I graduate, so fingers crossed for that,” she said. To share her love for the RGV, Ramon created a social media presence that began with a Twitter hashtag: #thergvmattersbecause. The responses began to pile up with people paying tribute to tacos, local landmarks, and the warmth and potential of residents here. “I really started this because of the stigma that you have to go other places to be successful and you have to go other places to do things,” Ramon said. “It’s showing younger people that success exists here, and you create that success for yourself.” Of all Ramon’s activities, it was choir that originally opened her eyes to all of the possibilities the Valley had to offer — albeit in a roundabout way. She played Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” and was invited to sing “Over the Rainbow” prior to the mayor’s State of the City address. The theme that year was “There’s No Place Like Home.” After Ramon finished her song, she stayed for the speech. “I was listening to Mayor Darling talk about all of the

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Sy d ne y Ra m o n



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MUSIC ALIVE b y Co r i Smel ke r | p h ot o b y J a s on G a r z a



Which Texan was inducted into the Tejano Hall of Fame in 2006, memorialized on the Tejano Walk of Fame, and honored by the State of Texas for his music contribution? If you said Rene Sandoval, you’d be right. Sandoval, now retired at age 82, is not only a legend in the Valley, but throughout South and Central Texas — and even the world. Sandoval was born in Pharr, the youngest of seven children, with three older brothers and three older sisters. Music filled their home, and Sandoval recalls that it was not uncommon for the older siblings to clear the living room of furniture, put on swing and jazz records, and dance the night away. They particularly loved the jitterbug, although they danced the polka and other dances. When Sandoval was in the seventh grade, he picked up his first instrument (the clarinet) and it was love at first play. At age 13, he began playing with the Mario Saenz y Los Gavilanes band in dance halls throughout the Rio Grande Valley and knew that this was what he wanted to do with his life. In the 1950s, at age 19 and newly married, Sandoval got itchy feet. So he and his wife, Minnie, moved to Houston because music, and especially jazz, was immensely popular there. He played in bands all over the city until one day he received a call inviting him to join a newly formed Texas Jazz Festival in Corpus Christi. What had begun as a jazz demonstration to students back in 1959 grew into a fully fledged jazz festival that is still going strong at present. Sandoval first played for the festival in 1961 and became an instant hit and a permanent fixture. Today he is considered one of the founding partners of the festival and he played for a record-breaking 54 consecutive years. He and his band played a wide variety of jazz, from the more traditional swing and big band numbers, to the Cuba-influenced Latin jazz songs. As the popularity of jazz soared, so did the demand for great bands, so Sandoval decided to hit the road, playing in venues all over the United States, as well as Canada. He was also instrumental in establishing music venues in McAllen and Austin. Meanwhile, his wife kept things going at home and soon their family expanded to six children, five girls and one son. “When my kids got older, though,” Sandoval said, “I realized it was time to come back home and be there more for them



and for Minnie.” At that point he stopped traveling, although he still played at the annual Texas Jazz Festival and in local venues. In the mid 1970s, both he and Minnie had tired of big city life. Their kids were now grown and the lure of the Valley called to them. They moved back in 1975 and Sandoval started playing locally. At that time, there were not many venues in which to play, but in the mid-1980s, the Embassy Suites asked him to put a group together and play for them on weekends. “So, I did that for 32 years,” Sandoval said. They played a mix of polka and swing, but always managed to squeeze in some jazz numbers. That, in the end, is what people came to the Embassy Suites to listen to. It was not unusual for people to drive in from Mexico to have dinner and listen to Sandoval and his South Texas Quartet play. Toward the end of 2014, the Embassy Suites in McAllen announced that it would close for a couple of months at the beginning of 2015 to undergo a total remodel. Sandoval, knowing that one of his band members, Jim Cain, was facing some serious health issues (Cain died in early 2016), decided that it was time to retire, too. His final official performance was Dec. 31, 2014. So what does Sandoval do these days? “Today?” He chuckles. “The same as I did yesterday: nothing.” When pressed, he did divulge a bit more detail. His six children have given him 15 grandchildren and now those grandchildren have given him and his wife 10 great-grandchildren. Many of them are musical and he and Minnie enjoy nothing more than traveling to listen to their grandchildren perform. Although none of them seem to have inherited his love for jazz, he is happy that they have inherited the musical gene. When talking to Sandoval, there are several words that come to mind. “Passion” is one. “Consistency” is another. It is seldom that you talk to someone who says, almost cavalierly, “Oh, I played at that location for 54 years.” Sandoval must surely be seen as a Texas music hero, bringing music alive for hundreds of thousands in Texas and around the world.

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Music filled their home, and Rene Sandoval recalls that it was not uncommon for the older siblings to clear the living room of furniture, put on swing and jazz records, and dance the night away.


Noble Charities Foundation will be hosting a Gala on June 15 at the Knapp Medical Conference Center in Weslaco



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by Lor i H ou s t on

This summer, students across the RGV will have a unique opportunity to participate in a free football camp at La Feria High School sponsored by the Noble Charities Foundation with appearances from former Dallas Cowboys players starting June 16. They expect to serve 300 area students of all ages. Tony “Dail 80” Hill, a former Cowboys wide receiver, is on the foundation’s board of directors and is helping to spearhead this event along with Rene Capistran, the president and founder of Noble Texas Builders. The other members on the board of directors working on this project include Celine Schulz, Sabina Garcia, Brad Weisehan, Dr. Asim Zamir, and Linda Guerrero Deicla. Noble Charities Foundation will be hosting a kickoff event in the form of a gala on June 15 at the Knapp Medical Conference Center in Weslaco. The gala will feature former Cowboy players (Tony “Thrill” Hill, Larry Brown, Everson Walls and Billy Joe Depree) who will be coaching the football camp that starts the next day. There will also be a live auction where patrons can bid

on things such as fishing trips and autographed sports memorabilia. According to Capistran, the goal of the gala is to raise money for the Noble Charities Foundation to grow scholarship opportunities for local colleges & universities. Tickets and tables will be available to purchase online. A presentation will be given during the gala to highlight the Noble Charities Foundation in order to let the community know what the foundation is all about. “One person’s actions can make a lasting impact on our future and ensure that our communities have the strength and resources required to thrive,” Capistran said. “We want to support the communities that we work in.” When asked about how he wants patrons to be impacted by this gala, Capistran said that he wants them to realize “there are a lot of opportunities to support the community. Our goal is to help improve the human capital in the Rio Grande Valley.” One of the ways in which the foundation strives to impact the community is by promoting higher education.


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opportunities,” says Capistran. Capistran and the Noble Charities Foundation also played an instrumental role in building Cameron County’s first all-inclusive playground to cater to families with special needs children. The playground will be located in La Esperanza Park next to El Centro Cultural. “We don’t just want to focus on education alone,” Capistran said. “If there is an organization in our community that is impacting lives, then we want to partner up with them. We want to do our part for a community that has done so much for us.” For more information about the gala or the football camp, visit and the Noble Texas Builders Facebook.


“We (the foundation) want to express our sincere commitment to making the Valley a better place to live by bringing education to the masses through our scholarship opportunities,” Capistran said. While the Noble Charities Foundation does a lot to promote higher education in the Valley, its focus is not on education alone. The foundation strives to positively impact the community in any way possible. They recently saw a need at Easterseals Rio Grande Valley, and was proud to partner with them in their mission to empower children and adults with disabilities to reach their highest level of independence. They undertook a large initiative to re-do the boardwalks, ramps and stairs over the course of a week-end at no cost to that exceptional organization. This opportunity to partner with Easterseals RGV was very welcome because the leadership at Noble Charities have a particular passion for helping children with special needs. “Easterseals does a great job supporting children with special needs, and providing them with educational


Rene C a p i s tr a n

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Wa r d M o rrill



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DRIVING PASSION: CAR SHOW CULTURE IN THE RGV b y Lo r i Ho us to n | p h ot os b y Dom i n i q u e Z m u d a

Maybe you bought it yourself, an old fixer-upper, using the money you saved up from your summer job; or maybe your parents helped you out. Whatever way it came to you, your first car invokes a lot of memories, both good and bad. When it comes to showing and collecting cars, people tend to focus on these emotions, choosing cars they have an affinity for or something from their past or childhood. Enthusiasts look at several factors when determining

whether or not a car will be considered a collectible. Performance cars such as Mustangs, Camaros, Corvettes, and Challengers will usually be collectibles while Ford Fusions and Chevy Impalas won’t be. “Collectibles are limited to cars that are exciting,” said Ward Morrill, an avid car enthusiast and organizer of car shows in the Rio Grande Valley. “One of the top cars you’ll see at a car show is a ’69 Camaro, because it is deemed exciting.”



There are several different categories of car shows that collectors and enthusiasts can be interested in. One of the most popular types are antique and classic car shows. According to Morrill, there is some debate over the difference between classic and antique cars. “An antique is supposed to be anything 25 years of age or older,” he said. “Some people consider the cars from the ’20s and ’30s to be antique and anything after that is considered a classic.” Another popular variety of shows are muscle and exotic cars. “These are normally high performance cars such as Corvettes, Mustangs, Lamborghinis, Maserati, and Ferraris,” Morrill said. Here in the Rio Grande Valley, car shows have a tendency to combine muscle and exotic cars and antique and classic car shows. Lowrider shows are generally hosted by lowrider clubs and are often not open to other categories or clubs. Show and shines are an informal type of car show that enthusiasts can enter and peruse. Because they are informal, there is no judging or trophies. They are more for



showing off. There are show and shines every Saturday around the Rio Grande Valley. Every first Saturday of the month, car lovers meet at the Harbor Freight in McAllen. Morrill has been organizing this show for over 20 years and has arranged discounts with Schlotzsky’s Deli for the participants who bring cars. “The show and shine at Chick-fil-A in Mission is one of the largest in the area,” Morrill said. They host anywhere between 75 to 125 cars on the third Saturday of the month. Other events take place at Luby’s on North 10th Street in McAllen on the last Saturday of the month and


Wa r d Mo r r i l l , org a niz e r of c a r sh ow s in th e R GV

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“The Show and Shine at Chick-fil-A in Mission is one of the largest in the area. [They host anywhere between 75 to 125 cars]."


Living in Edinburg. “Commonly for that, I want antiques, because I am dealing with people who are in their 70s to 80s to 90s and they are not necessarily familiar with newer cars, so they don’t appreciate them as much, but they’ll remember a ’55 Chevy really well.” Morrill and his wife both serve on the board of the McAllen International CarFest hosted at the McAllen Convention center at the end of January. “It is the largest show in the Rio Grande Valley for cars and have hosted up to 500 cars in 75 different categories,” Morrill said. Aside from just showing cars, there are other events that take place during the International CarFest, such as Miniature Car Drag Races, Kids Model Car Build Off and

“Most guys that take cars to shows live and breathe cars. They have learned what cars are showable and popular. They get emotional about their cars and treat them like family.” Ward Morri ll

on the second Saturday, Texas Tops hosts a show and shine behind the Dairy Queen in McAllen. When it comes to organizing car shows, Morrill is no stranger to the logistics involved. “I need to know the goals of the show to find the appropriate cars and decide on categories and whether or not we need judging, trophies and sponsors,” he said. Apart from organizing the show and shine at Harbor Freight every month, Morrill has also organized car shows for the Bridges Assisted



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a Road Skill Test Track. The next McAllen International CarFest will take place Jan. 25-27, 2019. “Most guys that take cars to shows live and breathe cars,” Morrill said. “They have learned what cars are showable and popular. They get emotional about their cars and treat them like family.”

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MAY/JUN 2018





SayCheese ​Mid-Valley Woman is Blazing a New Goat Trail on Ancestral Land



“spare time” Nicole is also developing a hugely popular educational outreach program to show city folk where their food comes from. “A few years ago, we purchased land my greatgrandfather farmed and which my grandfather made his homestead,” Nicole said. “It had fallen out of family ownership for a while. In fact, the owners we bought it from let the land sit vacant for years, but we slowly brought it back to life.” Nicole said she and her husband “planted” the farm with just a few dairy goats, chickens and a large garden. “We soon noticed that much of our pasture grasses went uneaten, so we watched, researched and discovered that each species of animal consumes different types and parts of plants. So, to get the most from our land we needed to expand.” Cattle were added to munch the pasture grasses, goats to “mow” the weeds and brush, pigs to clean up dropped seeds and roots, and chickens to spread manure and eat bugs to cleanse the land. “We densely stocked the pasture,” she said, “and now all parts of the farm are utilized as the animals fertilize every inch of land.” The final step in creating the Sosebee’s “farming


Nicole Sosebee remembers it like fragments of a foggy dream. She can recall only bits and pieces, but the experience changed her life and those around her forever. At the tender age of 2, Nicole can recall her grandmother handing her an orphaned baby goat to bottle feed because its mama had died. From that day forward, like Mary’s proverbial lamb, this baby goat followed and worshipped Nicole wherever she went. It became more than just a loving pet; it created in Nicole a love for goats and farm living that now dominates her life and that of her family. In what can only be described as a workaholic’s world, Nicole homeschools her three children, manages a farm with crops and animals, and nourishes a thriving dairy business of goat products. She owns and operates Edens Lilly Farm and Dairy on property she and her husband, Jacob, own near Progreso, south of Weslaco. Helping in the daily chores are the couple’s children: Crawford, 7; Kaid, almost 5; and Emma, almost 2. Nicole produces and sells several popular goat-related items, including milk, meat, soap, and cheese. It’s a grueling job that keeps her running all day, from milking time at dawn to often late-night hours. And in her

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b y Ro d Sa nta A n a | p h ot os b y O m a r D í a z



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ecosystem” was to allow the land to rest for 21 days so that plants can regenerate and grow with vigor from the natural fertilizers to once again nourish the herds. Nicole began her expanding commercial enterprise by making soap from goat’s milk that customers first acquired by word of mouth. “Commercial soap has lots of chemicals in it that some people find harsh and irritating to the skin,” she said. “Soap made from goat’s milk, which has a very high cream content, has lots of natural moisturizers that people love.” Seven years ago, she began selling her soap every Saturday at the Growing Growers Farmers Market, now located at Firemen’s Park in McAllen at Business Highway 83 and Second Street.

“The only Saturday I was not at the farmers market was the week my second child was born,” she said. “But I was back the next Saturday.” Nicole said she sells between 200 to 300 bars of soap weekly. With proceeds from two years of soap sales, she started her dairy operation five years ago because demand for her goat’s milk was rising, also sold by word of mouth. “Some people can’t tolerate cow’s milk,” she explained. “So, goat’s milk is a blessing, especially for mothers who can’t breastfeed, or maybe their babies can’t tolerate formula or cow’s milk.” Today, Nicole has acquired almost all the dairy licenses that the state of Texas issues, which require strict adherence to seemingly endless requirements.



“We hope others sense the enthusiasm we have for this life we live. We enjoy bringing people to our home and farm to ask questions and experience the farm life, if only for a day.”



the necessary equipment, her lineup now includes goat cheese, also sold at the farmers market and to several restaurants in the area. The dairy is her primary business, she says, but education and community outreach activities on the farm are also picking up. Outreach includes public speaking, hosting school field trips, and organizing farm clinics and tours that quickly sell out via social media. “Sharing what we’ve learned is one of our greatest pleasures,” Nicole said. “We hope others sense the enthusiasm we have for this life we live. We enjoy bringing people to our home and farm to ask questions and experience the farm life, if only for a day.” The last public event she held on her farm, which attracted 300 children and adults, sold out in two days via social media, and more are scheduled for this summer. “The last day camp we had sold out quickly, but it was so wonderful to watch so many children connect with the land, bottle feeding baby goats and learning with amazement at how nature can provide for all of us if we take care of it,” she said. Barbara Storz, who founded the Growing Growers Farmers Market in McAllen 10 years ago, and host of Agronomically Speaking with Barbara Storz on Saturday mornings on KURV710 News Talk radio, said Nicole is nothing short of amazing. “Nicole is totally dedicated to the farming way of life; farming as a lifestyle, not just a job,” Storz said. “She has solid values, is very hard working and understands that rewards in life take time. It’s been a joy watching her business grow and working with her at our farmers market.” For more information about products or public events at the farm, go to or on Facebook at Edens Lilly Farm.

“The license to produce raw milk is the most stringent,” she said. She’s become such a self-made expert in goats, Nicole rarely has to call on a veterinarian’s help, and even dabbles in artificial insemination. “The birthing process is amazing,” she said. “Goats usually have two to four kids at once, and sometimes two of them will try to come out at the same time, so I have to push one back in so they can all come out safely. I do a lot of rearranging, and if things ever get too difficult, I always have my grandfather to call for pointers.” Goats are social animals with peculiar personalities that behave much like naughty 2-year-old children, Nicole said. They are always exploring, tasting, and getting into mischief. Her goats are kept in stalls at night and put out to pasture during the day, moving in an orderly fashion under her supervision — until a new person comes on the scene. “They’re trained to go up a ramp, but when new people are around, they’ll misbehave,” she said. “It takes a while for them to get used to new people around.” Nicole is now highly interested in goat genetics and developing her own unique line of superior milkers. She is currently in the process of switching her 50-goat herd to a new breed called Mini Nubian, which are produced by crossing her Nubian goats with Nigerian dwarf goats. “It’s a cross I tried on a whim, but I’m finding out that others are doing it, too,” she said. “Turns out Mini Nubians are very hearty; they are very heat tolerant and have a resistance to parasites, which thrive in Texas heat.” She currently has 16 Mini Nubian goats, 12 of which are now of milking age, and 10 more will be milking next year. Nicole sells some of her goat milk at her farm by appointment for $10 for a half gallon jug, but most is sold at the farmers market, as are her soap bars. After buying

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N i c ole S o s e b e e, ow ne r a nd ope ra te r of Ed e ns L illy Fa rm a nd D a iry






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May / June 2018 - RGVision Magazine  
May / June 2018 - RGVision Magazine