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.

Nonprofit continues to support students to, and through, college

The transition from high school to college can be a daunting step as it is. Now, as students also face unprecedented obstacles that the coronavirus pandemic has brought to education systems, nonprofit College Scholarship Leadership Access Program, or CSLAP, has been working to support local seniors through the process of college admissions.  Through workshops and mentorship with university students, the Rio Grande Valley-based organization works with high school juniors and seniors to  prepare them for college. Workshops cover a range of topics, including professionalism, campus policy, and budgeting.  The last several months of a school year are integral for seniors to get assistance in getting ready for university life, so CSLAP has been hosting several virtual panels to answer questions they may have. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

IDEA Quest teacher holds off on grad school plans to see students through to...

He put his own educational endeavors on hold because he wanted to see his first class of students walk the stage. Though it won’t be something he will get to be able to actually see happen anymore, Alejandro Madrigal said he would not have changed a thing — the bonds he forged with his students were more than he could have asked for. The Weslaco native graduated from the University of Texas in Austin before taking his first step in the education field as an eighth grade U.S. history teacher at IDEA Quest College Preparatory in 2015 through Teach for America. The organization places teachers in schools across the country for two years, and Madrigal was placed back in the Rio Grande Valley to teach for a couple of years before going to graduate school — at least, that was the plan. “I think other teachers could attest to this too, there is something special about the first group you teach,” Madrigal, 26, said. “So, I had to see them go all the way through, there was almost no doubt that I had to stay until I saw that happen… it was OK that my plans were put on hold for just a few years.” Read the full story at themonitor.com

Interest in cycling shifts upward as RGV stays home

When coronavirus restrictions were at their most stringent, roads emptied — along with restaurants, gyms and most other places people congregate. What stayed open, though, were sidewalks, where walkers, joggers and cyclists hit the trail in numbers some Rio Grande Valley municipalities describe as unprecedented. Representatives from the city of Mission say they lack a way to measure the increase, but they have seen a dramatic uptick in the number of residents using parks like the Mission Hike and Bike Trail. “It used to be (just) the bike clubs, competitive cyclists out there,” Recreation Director Brad Bentsen said of the five-mile route. “Now it has gone back to the old family ways. You can just go out there and observe how many people are using our bike trails — it’s all day, every day.” Read the full story at themonitor.com

STHS employs technologies to clean air, surfaces as elective procedures resume

South Texas Health Systems recently acquired technology designed to filter its air and disinfect surfaces in its hospitals — action taken to ease any public health anxieties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. The new tech includes a rapid UVC disinfector, 18 Amaircare filters and four dry hydrogen peroxide generators.  Since late April, after Gov. Greg Abbott lifted restrictions on elective medical procedures across the state, STHS COO Matt Malinak said patient volume has slowly gone back to normal — but the low flow of patients is still alarming.  Read the full story at themonitor.com

Emotional ceremony honors local law enforcement officers’ sacrifice

The bell rang 19 times. Each strike represented a police officer from Texas who fell in the line of duty in the last year, as state Rep. Terry Canales called out their names at a memorial ceremony for law enforcement that DHR Health held Wednesday afternoon. Not many people were there to hear the chimes in person, though. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the event, which observes National Police Week, was live-streamed for the public. A couple dozen people were present in the conference room, where everyone except bagpipe players were wearing masks. Read the full story at themonitor.com

First baby of 1998 an Aggie grad

The first baby born in Brownsville in 1998 is now a college graduate.  Valeria Ramos’ father proudly graduated from Texas A&M University College Station in Lubbock in 1985, then her older sister went on to be an Aggie also, graduating in 2016. So, it was not a surprise that Valeria sought Aggieland.  In fact, when Valeria was featured on The Brownsville Herald’s front page on Jan. 2, 1998, J. Noel Espinoza wrote: “Brownsville’s first baby of 1998 may grow up to be a Texas A&M Aggie.” Read the full story at themonitor.com.

82-year-old man dies of virus at Brownsville hospital

Cameron County has received confirmation of the second community COVID-19 related death of a Cameron County resident. The resident was an 82-year-old man from Brownsville...

Students celebrate Earth Day virtually

Members of the Environmental Awareness Club at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley decided that nothing — not even a stay-at-home order — would keep them from commemorating Earth Day. “No pandemic or any obstacle is going to stop us from highlighting and continuing our efforts as a club to raise awareness in the university and in our community of the need to take care of our planet,” said club historian Fatima Garza. “Climate change doesn’t know a pandemic.” Read the full story at themonitor.com

McAllen native exits troublesome past to author book

McAllen native Israel Hernandez spent his summers in elementary and junior high working in fields as a migrant farm worker. He traveled to farms across the country with his mother.  He picked all kinds of produce: strawberries, blueberries, watermelons. He remembers picking corn one day in Illinois at the age of 13, pausing and telling his mother that he wasn’t going to spend the rest of his life toiling in a field. “I told her, ‘Mom, you know what? I don’t want to do this all my life, I don’t want to do this’’ Hernandez, now 49, said. “And then she told me, ‘OK son, I know, just keep moving forward.’” Read the full story at themonitor.com.

A tuberculosis survivor’s advice for getting through COVID-19 isolation

Rene Wallace remembers the prayer she recited one night as a patient at Harlingen State Tuberculosis Hospital in 1964. “Lord, I know I am sick, and if this is the way you want me, I will try to make those around me happy. But if it is your will, please heal me. I need to be with my children,” she said. The Edinburg resident was 32 years old at the time, and it was Christmas morning when her husband Jack Wallace, founder of Jack Wallace Farms, told her that he had to take her to the hospital. She was still in her pajamas, wrapping gifts in bed for their five children. Read the full story at themonitor.com