PHARR, RGV – The labor representative on the Texas Workforce Commission, Julian Alvarez, attended a FIRST RGV robotics competition at PSJA North on Saturday and announced his support for the non-profit group.

FIRST, which stands for Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, is devoted to helping young people discover and develop a passion for the STEM fields – science, technology, engineering, and math.

FIRST is now operating in 88 countries. It gives millions of dollars each year to high school students to pay for college scholarships. FIRST RGV is the local chapter, run by Jason Arms and Milly Hernandez.

In remarks to students from Harlingen, Los Fresnos, Mission, PSJA and other school districts, Alvarez said credit should go to Arms, Hernandez, the robotics instructors and volunteers who put on the robotics competitions.

“Thank them for all the hard work they do,” Alvarez said, pointing out that Texas Workforce Commission gives a million dollars a year to FIRST across the state of Texas for robotics competitions.

FIRST, in turn, has over $22 million a year available in grants for graduates. FIRST RGV has given out thousands of dollars directly to local teams.

“I am from Harlingen. It’s great to come back to the Rio Grande Valley and see young Hispanic men and women in this type of competition,” Alvarez said.

TWC recently sent out a Request for Proposals for a Camp Code for Girls. “We want more women interested in STEM related fields,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez also spoke about the new technologies that are coming to the Rio Grande Valley.

“There are people around the state of Texas that are looking at all the great things that are happening here. You have LNG (liquefied natural gas) plants that are going to be located in Brownsville and many of you will experience a space launch from SpaceX from the backyards of your homes, one launch, once a month. That is amazing,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez said he would like to leave the students with this thought: “It is cool for you to be a nerd.” He pointed out that he goes to signing events across the state of Texas where high school students are getting full college scholarships because of their skill in the STEM fields. And he predicted that many of the students participating in the robotics competitions would be working in jobs that do not even exist today. “The face of manufacturing is changing everyday,” Alvarez said.

He concluded his remarks by saying the Valley, with its fast growth and educational success, is changing the face of Texas. “You do not know how humbled I am to be here. There are so many great things happening the Valley. To see kids from Sharyland, Mission, Los Frenos, and PSJA competing as a region, it is impressive.”

Editor’s Note: The former dean of engineering at UT-Pan American, Miguel Gonzalez, is also a supporter of FIRST RGV. He participated as a judge in a robotics event held in Alton, on Jan. 27, 2018. Click here to read the story.