MCALLEN, Texas – Rio Grande Valley students that sign up for VIDA’s educational assistance programs secure employment opportunities with an average starting salary of more than $48,000 upon graduation.

This information was unveiled by Felida Villarreal, executive director of VIDA, at a recent gala held by the group. Villarreal spoke about the accomplishments of VIDA at the Double Tree Inn & Suites in McAllen.

“I’m very proud to say that this year VIDA has served 534 students Valleywide with an average persistence rate of 94 percent,” said Villarreal, in her remarks from the podium.

“In this same year, we have helped our students achieve over 170 credentials combined and secured employment opportunities with an average starting salary of over $48,755 upon graduation.”

Villarreal continued: Eighty one percent of our students this year identified as first generation college student in their families, which further illustrates the importance of our case management model and student support services to give our students the opportunity to not only enroll but successfully complete training career programs.”

Villarreal went on to highlight some of the “innovative accomplishments and collaborative efforts” to expand our outreach and impact in the community. 

“I’m very excited to say that for the first time in VIDA’s history we will be launching a mentorship program alongside South Texas Health System with our participants,” Villarreal said. “Through this partnership VIDA participants will have the opportunity to receive expert advice and workshops from South Texas Health System from professionals from a variety of healthcare specialties, including pediatrics, cardiology, maternity and women’s health surgical care, diabetes, and so much more.”

Villarreal pointed to statistics from the Texas Center for Nursing Workforce Studies.

“There’s a shortage of approximately 6,000 nurses across the Rio Grande Valley and this shortage is not expected to decrease through the year 2032,” Villarreal said. “For this reason, we have taken a proactive approach to seek the community, education and industry partners to effectively address this ongoing challenge.”

Villarreal said VIDA also secured a $200,000 grant from the Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation for a project “specifically designed to increase the number of allied health professionals in the Valley.”

She said the group had also collaborated with RGV Focus in a grant project to “continue helping our students advance in their careers and obtain credentials and degrees in target demand occupations, in fields including STEM, healthcare and specialized trades.”

And, Villarreal said, VIDA has, once again, been awarded a $350,000 grant from the Governor’s Office Wagner-Peyser fund. “This will be our second year in a row now receiving this grant opportunity and we’re very excited to be able to continue supporting hundreds of students Valley-wide.” 

At the gala, VIDA recognized state Sen. Eddie Lucio of Brownsville, Weslaco Economic Development Corporation, and Pharr Economic Development Corporation.


About the STHS grant

To help meet the demand for healthcare workers in the Rio Grande Valley, South Texas Health System (STHS) has awarded VIDA a grant award in the amount of $25,000 to fund a mentorship program for VIDA students pursuing careers in nursing and allied health professions.

“We are immensely thankful to STHS for awarding VIDA this grant opportunity and recognizing the importance of enhancing equitable education opportunities for student success in healthcare careers,” Villarreal said.

STHS’s commentary on the mentorship program came from Kennetha Foster, the system’s chief nursing officer.

“South Texas Health System is dedicated to meeting the healthcare needs of our ever-growing community. This partnership with VIDA will allow us to help not only meet the critical demand for healthcare workers in the Rio Grande Valley, but also strengthen the overall healthcare workforce by providing additional learning opportunities, including hands-on training, at our facilities,” Foster said.

“VIDA students pursuing careers in healthcare will get to witness first-hand what life is like in the hospital setting and learn from seasoned professionals who’ve lived through the greatest healthcare challenge of our generation.”

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows Felida Villarreal, state Sen. Eddie Lucio, and VIDA’s board chairman, Tony Aguirre, at the VIDA Gala.

Editor’s Note: For over 26 years, VIDA has helped more than 6,000 economically disadvantaged valley residents successfully complete career training programs in target demand occupations and achieve self-sufficiency. To learn more about VIDA, visit or call (956) 903-1900.

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