Teach For America Celebrates Local Education Champions and Resilience Of Teachers And Students At 4th Annual Gala
April 27, 2022
McAllen, Texas, April 27, 2022 — On Friday, April 8, Teach For America Rio Grande Valley and supporters gathered at the Quinta Mazatlan to honor local education champions and raise awareness for Teach For America’s (TFA) mission of ensuring that, one day, all children will have access to an equitable education.
“For over 30 years, Teach For America Rio Grande Valley has been dedicated to improving educational outcomes for Valley students. However, we have not been alone in this endeavor,” said Ana Gonzalez, executive director of Teach For America Rio Grande Valley. “We wanted to take the time to honor the individuals and institutions in our community who share our vision of an excellent education for all Valley students, as well as reflect upon the dedication of students and educators over the last two years.”
This year’s honorees included:
- Educational Champion: Dr. Ambrosio Hernandez, Mayor of Pharr
- Institutional Catalyst: University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley
- Alumni Leadership: Roberto Garza (Teach For America RGV ‘02)
Teach For America has worked in the Rio Grande Valley since 1991; over 50 educators, known as corps members, are currently serving in schools across the Valley, and more than 200 alumni of the program live in the area, the majority of whom are working in education.
Downloadable photos of the evening can be accessed here.
About the Honorees
The Educational Champion award honors an individual who demonstrates individual leadership which advances educational excellence and equity for many students through a sustained commitment to supporting students, schools, and the broader community. As Mayor of Pharr, Dr. Hernandez responded to the pandemic by accelerating the city’s plans to deploy a citywide, affordable, high-speed broadband network to ensure all Pharr residents could have access to broadband internet at home and advance their educational and career opportunities. A pediatric and bariatric surgeon by profession and an administrator at DHR Health, Dr. Hernandez seeks out partnerships to connect young people with increased opportunities such as new medical training programs in local school districts. Other innovative educational partnerships he has been part of include the South Texas College Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence, a state-of-the-art, Olympic-sized natatorium and sports medicine complex partnership with PSJA ISD and UTRGV, and the most recent signing of the UTRGV nursing expansion in the City of Pharr. As a community leader active on many boards and a proponent of regionalism, he has served as the inaugural chairman of the Rio Grande Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization. Most recently, he was also named chairman of the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), a crucial state oversight committee that did not have Rio Grande Valley representation for over a decade.
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) received the Institutional Catalyst award, which recognizes an institution, nonprofit, governmental entity, educational institution, or business that supports students and the community as a whole. UTRGV was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. The university has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley and has a mission to change the Rio Grande Valley through accessible, innovative, and community-centric education and engagement. When much of higher education enrollment has been decreasing due to the pandemic, UTRGV has increased enrollment through allocating federal funds directly to help students with emergency costs, raising the threshold for its tuition advantage program, and launching the Luminary Scholars program to attract and retain the Valley’s most talented students in the region. Most recently, UTRGV earned the prestigious Seal of Excelencia, a national certification for institutions that strive to go beyond enrollment to intentionally serve Latino students.
The Alumni Leadership award is given to a Teach For America program alum who lives in the Valley and has made an impact on the education field; this year’s recipient was Roberto Garza. Born in Mexico, he grew up in McAllen and graduated from McAllen High School before getting a journalism degree at UT Austin. After working in local news in Austin, Roberto joined the 2002 Teach For America corps and returned to his alma mater, McHigh, where he has been teaching video production and leading the highly successful KMAC program for the past 20 years. Students can join the program from any of the McAllen ISD high schools and, in addition to learning the technical components of video production, they are exposed to colleges and career opportunities in film, television, and video production. Rob continually hones his teaching craft through trainings and fellowships, with a particular focus on cross-cultural communication and awareness, and has received multiple local and national teaching honors.
About Teach For America
Teach For America works in partnership with 350 urban and rural communities across the country to expand educational opportunity for children. Founded in 1990, Teach For America recruits and develops a diverse corps of outstanding leaders who make an initial two-year commitment to teach in high-need schools and become lifelong leaders in the effort to end educational inequity. Today, Teach For America is a force of over 64,000 alumni and corps members working in over 9,000 schools nationwide in pursuit of profound systemic change. From classrooms to districts to state houses across America, they are reimagining education to realize the day when every child has an equal opportunity to learn, lead, thrive, and co-create a future filled with possibility. Teach For America is a proud member of the AmeriCorps national service network. For more information, visit www.teachforamerica.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Contact: Rachel Tennenbaum
# # #