WESLACO — Education stakeholders, from superintendents to business leaders, dined together forming personal bonds while stressing the need to work together on Friday at the Knapp Medical Center Conference Center.
RGV FOCUS hosted the RGV State of Education luncheon where school administrators and advocates shared the need for “synergy” and collaboration within the Valley. Guest speakers stressed the “one community” from Starr County to Cameron County.
“This idea of working side by side, or contigo, as sort of the theme for the event really sort of bore out of that based on the experiences of what we see happening in the community,” said Chris Coxon, Educate Texas managing director and RGV FOCUS interim director.
Rather than just focusing on one school district, the luncheon focused on the entire Valley and the success made through partnerships.
“What we want is basically a rising tide to lift all the ships here (and) is to have something that is community-wide, so I think what you see here is a great representation of the leadership of the Valley, from Brownsville all the way up to Roma,” he said.
RGV FOCUS is a “collective impact initiative” of Educate Texas, which works toward college preparedness and entering the workforce according to their website. The Greater Texas Foundation signed a check for about $1.2 million to RGV FOCUS.
“I want to encourage the community to be out there, and become engaged, become involved, and really support their school systems, their local campuses, because that all adds up to improving outcomes across our community,” Coxon said.
The McAllen High School Mariachi band decked out in purple traje de charro suits, serenaded the room of about 200 attendees as they dined and broke bread with one another.
In a special panel with school administrators and community professionals, diverse viewpoints were discussed.
Addressing students in understanding emotional intelligence and personal development to the transition into higher education as first-generation students were among the topics discussed in the panel.
Dr. Nolan Perez, a Harlingen school district board trustee, has advocated for literacy as a foundational component in education.
Working toward a more fair and equal system was another major talking point of the luncheon.
“Talent is universal but opportunity is not,” he said.
“Unfortunately opportunity is still stubbornly linked to wealth at birth (which is) not good, we’ve got to fix that, we gotta help them do that … the kids are just waiting for the adults to get it (running),” Perez said in a presentation.
Addressing inequality is what educators and community leaders can do, he added. The “brain drain,” or when students leave the Valley for an education and decided not to return with their talent or skill set, he said.
He made a “call of action” for education stakeholders to encourage students to see the value of the Valley and contributing back to the community.
“Remember that the faces of the Valley students… are the faces of the future of Texas and the United States,” Perez said.
This story has been updated with minor edits.