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MCALLEN, RGV – Honor Roll: Teach For America Homecoming Gala takes place at the Mcallen Convention Center on Friday, Feb. 1, starting at 6:30 p.m.

The gala will honor four legends from the Rio Grande Valley’s education arena – Shirley Reed, EdD., president of South Texas College, Daniel King, EdD., superintendent of Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD, Art Cavazos, EdD., superintendent of Harlingen CISD, and Tom Torkelson co-founder and CEO of IDEA Public Schools.

Special guests are Elisa Villanueva Beard, national CEO of Teach For America, and Martin Winchester, deputy commissioner of the Texas Education Agency. Both are Rio Grande Valley natives. RGVision is hosting the event.

“This is an opportunity for our broader, entire, Valley community to come together in support of education, our successes over the past ten years, and to contribute support for initiatives and efforts to keep that progress and momentum going,” said Jonathan Stevens, managing director of Teach For America-RGV.

“At this event we are going to be celebrating four honorees, four local educational leaders who have had a tremendous impact on educational outcomes here in the region, across the state and, increasingly, across the country. Our four honorees are Dr. Art Cavazos, superintendent of Harlingen CISD, Dr. Daniel King, superintendent of PSJA ISD, Tom Torkelson, co-founder and CEO of IDEA Public Schools, and Dr. Shirley Reed, president of South Texas College.”

Stevens said the theme of the gala is about celebrating the Valley’s progress in education and coming together in support of what is possible in the future.

Jonathan Stevens

“There is no better ambassador for that than our national CEO at Teach for America, Elisa Villanueva Beard. She is a McAllen native. She grew up here, graduated from high school here, before moving away for college at DePauw University Indiana,” Stevens pointed out.

“In college she learned about Teach for America and she learned about how Teach for America’s mission was to provide opportunities for children regardless of the communities in which they lived, and she felt inspired to join and was a teacher for several years in Phoenix, Arizona.”

“After serving as a teacher, Steven said, Villanueva Beard moved back home to the Valley where she served as executive director of Teach For America RGV.

“Elisa helped grow our region in terms of both the number of members as well as all of the resources, infrastructure and partnerships to support it and because of that she has been able to advance her career at Teach for America to become our chief operating officer and then, in 2015, our CEO,” Stevens said.

“As our CEO, she runs all 51 regions throughout the country from her home in Houston and she helps expand opportunity for children throughout the country by fulfilling Teach for America’s mission of finding top education leaders, bringing them in to teach in our most high-need schools and helping unleash their leadership in the long term from all sectors necessary in order to advance educational equity for all children.”

Stevens said Teach For America-RGV is delighted to have Winchester as the gala’s master of ceremonies. 

“Another former Teach For America member, Martin Winchester now serves as a deputy commissioner at the Texas Education Agency where he oversees educational support throughout the state of Texas. He has personal relationships and connections with our honorees, as well as Teach For America. For those who came to our Teach for America breakfast last year, A Conversation on Education and Workforce Development, Martin was one of our speakers and so people who were there know he was engaging, informative and hilarious all at the same time. So we think he will do a great job.”

Stevens said Teach For America-RGV is proud to partner with RG Vision as co-host for this event. 

“Gabe Puente started RG Vision ten years ago when he saw that a lot of time our bright spots and our bright leaders in the Valley were not being highlighted. He has focused over the last ten years on elevating stories of success, primarily focusing on education, healthcare and the business community. It is a great fit to be able to work Teach for America and RG Vision on this event,” Stevens said.

Stevens said another aspect of the gala will be featuring the beneficiaries of Teach For America’s work – students. 

“We will have a lot of students who are going to be part of the program throughout that evening, so, anyone who attends can expect to see and hear from Harlingen CISD drummers and cheer leaders, to IDEA Public School artists, to South Texas College Valley Scholars volunteers, to PSJA ISD journalism, marketing and communication students,” Stevens said.

“We will have musical performances from students from Edinburg and Harlingen, and mariachi from McAllen High School. This is going to be a fun, inspiring evening where guests are going to learn about the leaders in our community that we are celebrating. Hopefully these guests will be inspired to give back and support Teach For America so we can continue to bring in educational leaders to keep the momentum going in our community.”

For more information on tickets, tables and sponsorships go to the Teach For America website: www.teachforamerica.org/rgvgala. Or call 956-630-6781.

“We are looking for community support in big and small ways. There will be a silent auction, a live auction, and guests will be able to text a pledge to give a donation,” Stevens added.

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