McALLEN, RGV – Dr. Carlos Cardenas says when people celebrate the VAMOS scholarship program in the Rio Grande Valley they are really celebrating transformative energy.

The chairman of the board of Doctors Hospital at Renaissance spoke about the impact the Valley Alliance of Mentors for Opportunities and Scholarships has had on the region at a news conference on Wednesday.

Dr. Carlos Cardenas
Dr. Carlos Cardenas

The news conference, held at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance, was called to announce a check presentation by DHR for $50,000 to VAMOS and to confirm DHR was again going to be title sponsor for the non-profit’s top fundraiser, a golf tournament being held at Palm View Golf Course on March 6.

“Today is about celebrating 20 years of what I call transformative energy. Education transforms the world. VAMOS scholarships have transformed the lives of so many of our children, who have now come back and are working in this community. They are members of VAMOS and are helping the next generation to find their way to college,” Cardenas told the Rio Grande Guardian.

Cardenas said education changes everything. “I think that what we have seen happen here in the last few years is that transformative energy coming together, with the coming of a medical school, the building of what is going to be a top tier university, the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, and all of the dreams of the last three generations in this Valley have now come to pass.”

Asked if he would add the planned $40 million Multipurpose Academic Building Texas A&M University is building at Tres Lagos in north McAllen to that list, Cardenas said: “Absolutely, and I think it is an example of that same energy and the vision of leaders like Chancellor Sharp and others who have been able to see into the future and know that the future of Texas is in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. VAMOS is a part of that and that is why Doctors Hospital at Renaissance made a $50,000 contribution to VAMOS on its 20th Anniversary.”

During its first 20 years, VAMOS has awarded over $2 million in scholarships to students in Hidalgo, Cameron and Starr counties. The non-profit was started in 1996 by a group of 62 local business and civic leaders alarmed at the lack of educational opportunities for Valley students. VAMOS students have a 96 percent graduation rate. Forty-eight percent of them have attended UT-Rio Grande Valley, 16 percent have attended UT-Austin and 13 percent Texas A&M-College Station. This year, VAMOS hopes to raise $1 million for scholarships.

At the news conference, DHR issued some bullet points about its support for VAMOS. They were:

• DHR is leading the way for advanced healthcare in South Texas and wants to ensure students have the opportunity to be at the forefront of future medical innovations and advancements
• The partnership between VAMOS and DHR allows for the continuous support of Valley students through their post-secondary education and onwards with employment and internship opportunities
• DHR is dedicated to the advancement and development of our community through programs that enrich and foster health, education and civic service. DHR is proud to support VAMOS as it gives back directly to our community, supporting the future of our students through scholarships and educational opportunities
• Recognizing the ongoing need for quality education and the financial challenges of our community, VAMOS strives to secure the resources and options to prepare and empower them to achieve their goals.

Dr. Gerardo Lopez-Mena is physician executive for clinical services at DHR. At the news conference, Lopez-Mena pointed out that he was born in Los Angeles, California and that his parents were from Mexico. He said from the moment he walked through the doors of DHR 18 months ago he knew he had found his career home. “It is the best thing that has happened for me. They have instilled in us a sense of pride and of being the best.”

Lopez-Mena said DHR’s leadership encourages doctors to look beyond the walls of the hospital and into the community, in order to tackle the social determinants of health. He said the secret to VAMOS’ success is not just the money raised but also about the mentorship provided. He said if ever a student on the program needs anything, DHR’s doors are always open. “We know the privilege to be able to enter the lives of our community. We know what a privilege it is for our community to trust us. It sets us apart,” Lopez-Mena said. “This is just the tip of the iceberg. This (VAMOS) is going to live on.”