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.

Financial Stability Offers Cindy Monge a New VIDA

Cindy Monge, VIDA

Working in sales provided Cindy Monge with a job but not with financial stability. She established a long-term goal of earning a bachelor’s degree in perfusion science. As a perfusionist, Monge would run the cardiopulmonary-bypass machine during open-heart surgery, allowing the heart to be still for the surgeon while the machine performs its job, maintaining blood flow to the body’s tissues. Monge also established a short-term goal that would align…

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Long Overdue: Specialist Seeing Patients in McAllen

Dr. Alejandro Cruz uses a model of the brain to discuss how lesions form in patients with multiple sclerosis.

The MS community in the Rio Grande Valley is abuzz with the news of a new doctor in town. Multiple sclerosis is an immune-mediated disease of the central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord. It causes the immune system to attack the myelin, or protective sheath, around nerve fibers. This makes it difficult for the brain to properly communicate with the rest of the body. As nerves…

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A Mother’s Guide to Empowering Her Daughter

Vyktoria Olivares and her daughter

At the age of 18, instead of being consumed with thoughts of college dorms and freedom, Vyktoria Olivares’ thoughts focused on her infant daughter. How she would raise her alone while pursuing her goal of being the first in her family to graduate from college? She knew she had to leave the pain of the past behind. She had to focus on what she could do in the present to…

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Mental Health Gaining In Building Wellness

Members of the Hidalgo County Mental Health Coalition pose for a picture in 2019.

The words of Dr. John Krouse, dean of the UTRGV Medical School, became the headline of a story in the July issue of Valley Business Report. Addressing the high incidence of obesity, diabetes and heart and lung disease in the Rio Grande Valley, Krouse stressed that we need to “build a culture of health.” When addressing physical health, the tendency is to focus on nutrition and fitness, which are undeniably…

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Removing Roadblocks Among Stepping Stones

Gabriel Villasenor

Grabiel 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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