Author Archives: Chris Ardis

Chris Ardis is a retired teacher. She is a freelance writer, editor, and social media manager and works with Tony Roma's and Macaroni Grill to help schools and nonprofit organizations raise money. Chris is also an education blogger, and you can her blog at the link below. You can reach her at cardis1022@aol.com.

Removing Roadblocks Among Stepping Stones

Gabriel Villasenor

Gabriel Villasenor worked at a tire shop for four years before taking his first steps toward a career in health care. Feeling the pull to go a different route, he decided to return to school to study patient care. Working as a certified nursing assistant at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance was a stepping stone for Villasenor. It was not a final destination. Even then, Villasenor had his sights set on…

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Building a Culture of Health in the RGV

Hidalgo-County residents take advantage of the Hidalgo County Precinct 2 Hike-and-Bike Trail in San Juan.

We have all been deluged with local, state, national and international statistics about COVID-19 in recent months. The term “underlying conditions” is often cited in describing those who have become critically ill or who have passed away. There has been more limited information about the actions individuals and communities can take to improve the chances of fighting COVID-19 and other deadly viruses and diseases. Eddie Olivarez, the chief administrator for…

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Doors Now Open for Janet Oliva Cortez

VIDA: Janet Oliva Cortez

The team at Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement knows all too well about doors closing in keeping underemployed and unemployed people in the Rio Grande Valley from career advancement and higher pay. Janet Oliva Cortez knows about those challenges. Cortez works for the Weslaco Independent School District as a data entry clerk. It’s a good employer, secure job, and a decent salary. Cortez knew, however, that without a degree,…

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All Part of the Plan

Indeera Mohammed, McAllen AFT organizer, and Sylvia Tanguma, McAllen AFT president, present a check for $3,000 to Stuart I. R. Haniff, chief executive officer for the Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley, and his executive assistant, Gabriela Parra, on behalf of the members of the Central Labor Council, McAllen AFT and the Texas AFL-CIO. (VBR)

“Be prepared, not scared. Be proactive, not reactive.” ~ Stuart I.R. Haniff. When your mission is to fight hunger and to feed hope, countless people in your community are relying on you to be prepared. Stuart I. R. Haniff, the chief executive officer of the Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley Inc., took that mission to heart in preparing his organization’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. Haniff and his…

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Distance Learning – More than Academics

Laert Musollari, 11th-grade violinist, records his individual video which was mixed with other students to create a virtual performance of McAllen High School’s Mariachi Oro.

March Madness took on an entirely new meaning this spring when schools, businesses and even day-to-day living came to a screeching halt due to COVID-19.  Everything changed from one day-to-the-next. For school districts, COVID-19 meant transforming the traditional concept of teaching into robust home-to-home learning, which is better known as “distance learning.’’ At IDEA Toros in Edinburg, technology-based Summit Learning is often used. It incorporates a Self-Directed Learning Cycle. The…

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Mentoring and Accountability Make All the Difference

Erika Elizondo

Single mom Erika Elizondo was working as a front-desk receptionist less than two years ago at a resort on South Padre Island. She was earning $9.30 an hour when a friend told her about Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement.  “I was always interested in the medical field to help relieve people’s suffering,” Elizondo said. “I chose Emergency Medical Science because of the fast pace, I love the adrenaline rush.”  There…

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Changing Generations, Changing Lives

Jacob Zuniga and his family

Jacob Zuniga lives in McAllen. He was working part-time at H-E-B, knowing he had to graduate from college to reach his goal of becoming a radiology technician. Yet, he was unable to attend school full time because he also needed to provide for his family. His path to graduation had countless stumbling blocks. Zuniga knew about Valley Initiative for Development because his mom is a VIDA graduate who became a…

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McAllen ISD Students Create Modern Chaos

Gisselle Costa and Denisse Damken in the hallway of McAllen ISD’s Lamar Academy, showing recyclable fashions in their Modern Chaos line.

Dressing “on trend” is vitally important to many teens, but Gisselle Costa and Denisse Damken are designing their own recyclable fashions, creating Modern Chaos in the process. Costa and Damken are seniors in McAllen ISD’s International Baccalaureate Programme at Lamar Academy. They named their fashion line Modern Chaos, as we learned in January when their classmate, Alexis Alvarado, wrote about their designs. We decided to follow up with Costa and…

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Mere Coincidence or Serendipitous?

Maria Herrera, an RN at Edinburg Regional Medical Center, with Tony Aguirre after their serendipitous meeting.

For a week in early February, McAllen businessman and City of McAllen Public Utilities Vice Chairman Tony Aguirre spent countless hours at Edinburg Regional Medical Center where his mom was a patient. He watched TV with her and sang conjunto songs playing on his phone’s Pandora app with her. He monitored her vitals while she slept and had conversations with all of the medical professionals treating her. One of the…

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Public Education Retirees Meet for Legislative Agenda

A group of public-school employees and retirees recently met recently in McAllen to establish a legislative agenda for the 2021 legislative session in Texas. Seen here are, back, retirees Chris Ardis, Kathy Johnson, Debbi Benson, Jerry Albrecht and Herb Trevino; front, retirees Chiqui Guerra and Torchie Champion with current public-school employee Norma Guerra.

A group of retired public school employees, along with two current employees nearing retirement, recently met in McAllen to begin working on a legislative agenda for the 2021 Legislative Session. Their agenda will address the critical needs of Teacher Retirement System of Texas retirees. Addressing health care First on the group’s agenda is health care. In 2017, the Texas legislature raised the health-insurance deductible for TRS retirees under the age…

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