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.

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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At 50, Life is Just Beginning for Nicole Gates

Nicole Gates proudly wears her Portrait-Masters-Associate-Level medal around her neck while in her studio.

The moment you open the door at Nicole Gates Photography on North Main Street in McAllen, you step into a place Gates designed so women would never want to leave.   “Women are the caretakers, the nurturers,” Gates said. “We take care of everyone else, and we sometimes forget to take care of ourselves. I let women put themselves first again. My job is to help women fall in love with…

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Serving Brings McAllen CPA Joy

Lorena Castillo-Saldaña is a partner at Negrete & Castillo LLP in McAllen.

Born and raised in McAllen, Lorena Castillo-Saldaña loved visiting her maternal grandmother’s corner store in Reynosa. She would watch her grandma, her mom and her aunts as they worked. “I would see my mom tallying up lines of numbers,” Castillo- Saldaña said. “And I would think, ‘I want to do that!’”   That desire did not wane. After graduating from McAllen High School, Castillo-Saldaña enrolled at the University of Texas-Pan American…

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Local Firefighters Bring Axe Throwing to the RGV

If you are not familiar with the sport of axe throwing, you may want to throw on some closed-toe shoes, grab a few friends and drive over to Kickin Axes RGV at 1017 W. Shasta Ave. in McAllen. It seems fitting that three brothers, not biological brothers but firefighter brothers, own this “new fun in town.” It all started when Mark Koite and his wife traveled to San Antonio for…

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VIDA Nurse’s Budding Career Path

Aime Bautista, who graduated from South Texas College in Dec. 2019 with an associate’s degree in nursing, holds a candle at STC’s ceremony recognizing new nurses. The candle, when lit, is symbolic of a nurse passing on the flame of hope, service, compassion and peace.

Aime Bautista was a single mother of an 8-year-old daughter, working as a sales associate and earning $8.25 per hour. A lifelong resident of Mercedes who was raised by her grandparents, Bautista and her daughter were living with her grandmother.   In the summer of 2019, Bautista gave birth to another daughter and no longer had a job. A student in the Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement told Bautista about…

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Baking from the Heart Becomes Business

Cookies by Katie displays festive holiday baked goods.

I eat cake because it’s somebody’s birthday.  ~Author Unknown Katie Jones took a leap of faith in August 2019 when she posted a message on Facebook. She let her friends know she was ready to share her love of baking outside of her family-and-friends network and turn it into a business. That was the start of Cookies by Katie. “A simple Facebook post started my journey,” Jones said. “Just asking…

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Living a Better VIDA

Anna Martinez is a patient care technician at Weslaco Regional Rehabilitation Hospital. She will soon graduate from South Texas College in July with an associate’s degree in nursing, thanks in part to financial aid and support services from VIDA. (photo Ruben Garcia)

Anna Martinez may not have imagined what coming home would mean for her and her 8-year-old daughter.   Born and raised in Weslaco, Martinez and her family moved to Houston when she was in fourth grade. The years that followed were difficult. When Martinez became a teen parent, depression and anger sent her on a downward spiral.  Then Martinez’s parents separated, adding to her pain. Three years ago, Martinez decided to…

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