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Monday, May 27, 2024
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From Preparedness to Recovery, Disaster Relief Expo Empowers The RGV 

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South Texas College and Region One ESC partnered to host the annual Disaster Relief Expo at STC’s Mid-Valley campus with the goal of empowering and educating the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) in case a disaster strikes the region. STC Image
South Texas College and Region One ESC partnered to host the annual Disaster Relief Expo at STC’s Mid-Valley campus with the goal of empowering and educating the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) in case a disaster strikes the region. STC Image
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By Sara Reyna

South Texas College and Region One ESC partnered to host the annual Disaster Relief Expo at STC’s Mid-Valley campus with the goal of empowering and educating the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) in case a disaster strikes the region. 

Over 300 students and parents from various RGV school districts attended the expo which included hand-on trainings, activities and keynote presentations from Telemundo 40 Meteorologist Brenda Cantu, KRGV Meteorologist Tim Smith, Hidalgo County Precinct 1 Commissioner David L. Fuentes, National Weather Service Meteorologist Barry Goldsmith and other local officials from numerous agencies.

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Region One Coordinator and Project Director for Operation College Bound and Beyond, Rosario Franco, highlighted that for the past two years, Region One teamed up with Jeremy Hinck, physical science instructor at STC and Mid-Valley Campus Administrator Daniel Montez to accommodate the increasing number of attendees at the expo. As the event’s popularity grows, they have recognized the need to diversify opportunities for participants, such as earning micro certificate.

STC’s Center for Advanced Training and Apprenticeships (CATA) helped facilitate a short course for participating adults, a disaster preparedness certificate that focused on natural disaster dos and don’ts. 

Franco elaborates that collaborating with various STC faculty and staff on the Disaster Relief Expo provided the ideal opportunity to educate students and parents on emergency preparedness while simultaneously offering parents, many of whom are a part of the Education Opportunity Center TRIO grant through Operation College Bound and Beyond, a glimpse into the college experience. 

“Considering how big the expo is growing, we decided to bring more substance for the adults in attendance. We accomplished this by working with STC’s CATA program and invited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) certified trainer to conduct a course so that adults could earn a micro certificate in disaster preparedness,” Franco explained. “The goal with our grant is not only for our adult students to earn a GED diploma, we want them to get the feel for college, participating in a course and learn about what to do in the case of a disaster all at the same time. We are extremely happy that the departments who supported this initiative are here witnessing what they’ve been able to do for our adults.”

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Sylvia Millice, a Pharr-San Juan-Alamo (PSJA) Independent School District parent educator and site coordinator, expressed her enthusiasm upon learning about the expo. Attending the event aligned with her commitment to serving the community and supporting parents. Stressing the importance of the topic, she highlighted that as a parent, what you learn, you can eventually pass on to your children. Receiving the certificate has inspired her to share her insights by curating a small disaster preparedness presentation to help her community.

“I work for the PSJA school district, and I work very closely with parents on a regular basis. When I heard about the expo, I was immediately thrilled to be a part of this project and I brought out other parents who could benefit from this experience,” Millice said. “Exposing ourselves to the topics and trainings offered here, as parents, we can teach our kids essential life skills to survive. As a community we’re still learning how to recover from disasters that happened years ago, offering the training and certificate to us has inspired me to share what I’ve learned so I could create a 30-minute meeting to pass on a list of trainings, helpful tips and resources for others in my community.”

Weslaco Fire Chief and Emergency Manager Antonio Lopez, shared a similar sentiment about the overwhelmingly positive feedback he received at the event. He believed bringing the community together can help foster stronger connections between expert officials and local residents. 

“We made it a priority to be in attendance so that we can show our community members that there are many officials who work hard behind the scenes of a disaster to ensure they have access to essential services and safety, that helps bridge the gap between emergency services and the community so that they know we are here to help them,” Lopez shared. “It’s been eye-opening to see high school students, adults and elderly attendees participating in the presentations because that is what the expo is about, building stronger and safer communities no matter their age or background.”

STC Board of Trustee Danny Guzman, reiterated the significance of education and community resilience amidst catastrophic weather in the region, highlighting the importance of disseminating helpful resources not only during emergencies but throughout the entire year. 


“It’s important to educate the community on how to best prepare for emergencies, especially with the catastrophic weather we’ve experienced in recent years,” Guzman said. “We want to pass along crucial information about the resources available at Hidalgo County Precinct 1 and how our community can best prepare for weather-related emergencies with various services like brush pick up, road closures and just letting them know that they are not alone. At STC our main priority remains the same, doing whatever we can to keep our RGV community safe and it all begins with education to empower them with the tools needed to ensure their safety and well-being.”

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