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McALLEN, RGV – IBC Bank’s success – it celebrates its 50th anniversary next year – is based upon its full engagement in the community at multiple levels, members of Congress have been told.

David Guerra, president of IBC in McAllen, spoke to an audience that included five members of Congress at UT-Rio Grande Valley’s HESTEC 2015 on Monday. The audience also included many school superintendents from around the Valley and top officials from NASA, the U.S. Navy, Shell, Exxon Mobil and Time Warner Cable.

“We are fully engaged in our community at multiple levels. We are just about to celebrate our 50th Anniversary. We focus a lot on education,” Guerra said, pointing out that IBC was started in Laredo and has become a leading bank in South Texas.

Dora Brown, vice president, IBC Bank.
Dora Brown, vice president, IBC Bank.

An example of IBC’s commitment to education was on display at the recent Houstonville Minitropolis® Showcase event at Sam Houston Elementary School in McAllen. With IBC Bank as its champion, the “Houstonville” project has been going for 19 years at the school, enabling students to learn financial literacy in a practical and fun way, said Sam Houston Elementary School Principal Debra Thomas.

“It is a society within a society,” Thomas told the Rio Grande Guardian. “As much as possible we try to incorporate Minitropolis® into what we already do. It embedded in what we do in our daily routine. Students learn to take control of their own community. They do payroll, they learn how to deposit and withdraw cash from the bank. They also earn Cougar Cash for doing their work in Houstonville. If we see a child doing something right, we reward them with Cougar Cash.”

James Ponce, superintendent of McAllen ISD, thanked IBC Bank for championing “Houstonville” and the financial literacy it teaches elementary school students.

“The Minitropolis® model has been operating for 19 years at this campus and throughout this time IBC Bank has been its champion. Dora and David have done a great job of continuing to be our champion, bringing in new partners along the way. These partners become great mentors to the students. It is a great collaboration,” Ponce said.

Ponce was referring to David Guerra, the IBC McAllen president and Dora Brown, senior vice president for marketing at IBC McAllen.

“I want this program not only in McAllen, I want it in the Valley, the whole state of Texas and then, eventually, to take it all over the United States. It is a wonderful program,” Brown told the Rio Grande Guardian.

Brown said IBC Bank “works diligently with school officials” to continually develop the concept for the Houstonville Minitropolis®. She said it functions as a city within a school. Students earn money that they can spend at local “Houstonville” businesses. IBC Bank and McAllen ISD have, Brown said, helped persuade the City of McAllen Recycling Center, Costco, Home Depot, Walmart, U.S. Postal Service, HEB, McAllen Police Department, Easter Seals, City of McAllen, The Monitor, Texas Border Business, Channel 5 News, Rio Grande Regional Hospital and iHeart Radio to participate as partners in the program.

Asked what the fundamental goal of the Houstonville Minitropolis® program is, Brown said it has been designed to help students gain an understanding of financial concepts while learning the value of leadership and responsibility that will set them up for success as adults.

“The students learn to run their own business, they learn to have responsibility, to have a job. It is just like the real world. These students are our leaders, this is our future,” Brown said. She pointed out that IBC has taken the Minitropolis® program and its financial literacy initiatives beyond Sam Houston Elementary and into 11 other schools across Texas.

James Ponce, superintendent of McAllen ISD.
James Ponce, superintendent of McAllen ISD.

“We are proud to see the program succeed and the children that have been through Sam Houston Elementary flourish, due in part to the lessons learned through their involvement with Houstonville,” Brown said. One such student is Karla Madrigal, who was mayor of “Houstonville” when she was 11 years of age, having been elected by 200 students at Sam Houston Elementary School. Now aged 18, Madrigal is studying to become an accountant at UT-Rio Grande Valley. “Houstonville has had a great impact on my life,” Madrigal said.

Superintendent Ponce said he was proud off all those who have made “Houstonville” a success. “It is a good investment for the children and our partners because they stay connected to a campus and they stay connected to the children. They look forward to their visits. It is a win-win. The students get a practical experience at a very young age. This is what it is like to do work and to have a mentor. The more caring adults you have the stronger the community,” Ponce said.

Asked if running “Houstonville” for an hour and a half every Friday afternoon meant a lot of extra work for Sam Houston Elementary School staff, Ponce said: “The staff will not tell you it is not a lot of extra work. You see what the investment is. The reason this is a success is the commitment of the staff and the students and the parents. You put that alongside the partnerships – that is why you see 19 years of success. Sam Houston Elementary is a special place.”

Editor’s Note: In the main image accompanying this story, IBC Bank – McAllen President David Guerra is pictured being interviewed with IBC Bank staff in ‘Houstonville.’ The staff are also students at Sam Houston Elementary School in McAllen.