A. Colleen DeGuzman

Colleen DeGuzman is a staff writer for The Monitor, covering features and general assignments. She can be reached at (956) 683-4424 or cdeguzman@themonitor.com.

High school seniors lament loss of graduation customs to pandemic

Jaedynn Alaniz won’t remember putting on her prom dress, or getting her hair and makeup done in a salon with her friend. She won’t remember wearing that dress with a corsage around her wrist, or her parents taking photos to capture the memory. She won’t remember what music the DJ plays for her first dance in that dress; she’ll never hear it. Jaedynn’s dress is a soft taupe color, and while posing for a newspaper photojournalist, the afternoon sun behind her made its flowy skirt glow. In the light wind, the tulle hem of the dress caught a few leaves while she strutted across her front yard. That afternoon may be the only time she gets to wear it. “Of course I have been dreaming of prom since I was a kid,” the 17-year-old Peñitas native said. “I would watch movies and dream of my prom. When my sister went to hers, I couldn’t wait to go to mine.” Read the full story at themonitor.com

McAllen teachers, students find companionship amid distance learning

As McAllen schools wrapped their first week of online courses Friday, both teachers and students have said they feel confident in their new learning environments, albeit not permanent. The only problem is they long for normalcy. Gwen Philips, a freshmen English teacher at McAllen High School, sent a message to her 150 students saying that she missed them and hoped that they were doing well. That message was sent on March 23, the day classes were supposed to resume after spring break. Students’ response to her message nearly brought her to tears Friday. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

McAllen artist orchestrates online benefit concert for artist

Dulce Maria Soto, whose artist name is Maria D’Luz, said that singing on Facebook Live has been her way of staying connected to the Rio Grande Valley since moving to another state. Now, as citizens across the country are urged to stay home to mitigate the pandemic, Soto, a Mexican-American singer and songwriter, opened her stage to other local artists. Through Maple Music, the record label she founded in 2014, local artists have been taking part in the company’s Music Relief Benefit Concert, an online series hosted through its Facebook page. Throughout the show, participating artists take turns performing on the account’s live stream, with genres ranging from easy rock to mariachi. Friday was the company’s third show in the series, which featured six local artists for a three-hour concert. Each artist reaped about 2,000 views each, Soto, 33, said. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Local chocolate company delivers delights to McAllen nursing homes

Since Anthony Matulewicz was a child, he said that chocolate was what made him happy. So, in 2015 he built Mozna Chocolates, a chocolate factory in Hidalgo. As the pandemic continues to impact the nation, Matulewicz said his role in the community as an entrepreneur remains the same: to spread joy with chocolate. “Giving chocolate is like giving a smile, and that is why I got into this business,” the McAllen native said. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Deserted outlet mall concerning for Mercedes

Usually bustling with shoppers from across the region, the Rio Grande Valley Premium Outlet here now stands deserted, with barricades at the entrances and a lone security guard patrolling the parking lot. With 140 stores and a handful of restaurants close by, the outlet earns 60-80% of Mercedes’ sales tax, according to City Manager Sergio Zavala. And the temporary closure of the city’s center of economic energy will surely be felt. In an effort to contain the coronavirus, the doors of the outlet have been closed since March 17, along with nearly 200 other shopping centers across the nation owned by Simon Property Group. The La Plaza Mall in McAllen among them. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Honk for a hallelujah: McAllen churchgoers show resilience at drive-in sermon

Blaring car horns would normally suggest fits of road rage, or unattended alarms sounding. But on Sunday morning, it meant “Amen.” As fears of the coronavirus have prohibited large gatherings in the Rio Grande Valley, the faithful had to consider those limits stressed by public health officials. That means service in St. John’s Episcopal Church’s sanctuary was canceled.  It instead took place in the parking lot. “The church is not the building,” Rev. Rod Clark, rector of the McAllen church, said while looking out to the overflowing lot. “It is not the walls or the campus, it is the people.” Read the full story at themonitor.com.

RGV spelling bee champ won’t compete nationally due to virus-related cancellation

Earlier this month, 13-year-old Krishna Miana became champion of the AIM Media Texas-sponsored Rio Grande Valley Regional Spelling Bee, advancing her to the D.C Scripps National Spelling Bee in May. But as events, concerts and conventions across the nation have been canceled to restrict the spread of COVID-19, so has the Scripps bee. The last time the contest was canceled was in 1943-45 because of World War II. In fact, this would have been the 93rd annual Scripps bee. Since Miana is in eighth grade, this was her last shot at taking home a national title. There are no spelling bees in high school. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Local group delivering meals, supplies to self-isolated elderly in RGV

Gabriel Fuentes struggled to hold back tears as he looked around his McAllen restaurant, Nuri. Tables were stacked on top of each other, chairs were piled at one corner. There was no one eating in the restaurant; they’re no longer allowed to. Nuri is usually a lively spot in the afternoon, with customers indulging in the restaurant’s Asian-Mexican cuisine - Korean barbecue tacos, French fries topped with kimchi. But on Friday, the only sounds that could be heard came from the kitchen, where chefs prepared an endless stream of meals to-go. Fuentes said that it is unclear how long Nuri will be able to keep serving with the pandemic raging, but what he is sure about is that he will do everything he can to help his community as the pandemic rages. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Comic Nick Guerra talks love, growing up in the RGV

McAllen native Nick Guerra wanted to film his HBO Latino special “Love Me At My Worst” as close to the Rio Grande Valley as...

Pandemic concerns spur critical blood donation drop

Concerns about the coronavirus pandemic have pushed the blood donation infrastructure in South Texas to the verge of collapsing. Blood drives across the Rio Grande Valley have been cancelled and regular donors have not been coming in — all at a time when preparedness in health centers is more critical than ever, according to Vitalant, the area’s largest donation center. Vitalant regional director Frank Esparza says the supply has taken a significant hit from fears of the pandemic. The center aims to keep at least four days of supply on hand, which is about 500 units. Read the full story at themonitor.com.