By Roberto Hugo Gonzalez
As originally published by Texas Border Business newsprint edition April 2017.
Lone Star National Bank celebrated a very special occasion with Edna Desaro, SVP and Director of Marketing, acting as master of ceremonies. The entire bank organization was selected to be recognized and named as the 2016 Employers for Education Excellence (EEE) award in the Gold category, which is the highest award recognition by the Texas State Board of Education given to businesses that win.
“Lone Star National Bank and the others like them that support our Texas public schools are to be commended, and congratulated, for a job well done,” said Donna Bahorich, chair of the State Board of Education. “Our Texas students and educators benefit greatly from their generosity and commitment.”
During a press conference at the Lone Star National Bank corporate offices in McAllen, it was announced that the financial institution had been selected and was the recipient of such a high award. The task is not an easy one, the bank’s leadership implemented policies that encourage and support employees who attend parent-teacher conferences; encourage employees to volunteer in school activities; and support employees that participate in student mentoring programs.
Lone Star National promotes its Cowboy Cash program and mascot to teach students about the benefits of savings. Other programs that benefit the students are; the Deep South Texas Financial Literacy Alliance in partnership with the Region One Education Service Center; annual financial literacy summits that have impacted more than 2,100 students; presentations about College for All in the health science and business professions; and other financial literacy outreach and mentoring programs.
The bank expects its employees to participate in meaningful community activities related to education. The EEE award was established in 2007 by the Texas Legislature to honor Texas employers who encourage and support staff participation and voluntarism in the public schools. Any Texas employer is eligible to win the award, including private companies, nonprofit organizations, and state, local, federal, and educational entities. Recognized businesses receive a plaque, and the EEE designation recognized for three years.
Lone Star National Bank through its marketing department has created different tools that deliver immediate recognition and serve as an outlet to convey educational messages to Valley and San Antonio students. One of them is Cowboy Cash, a life-size mascot by Edna Desaro. They also have a money saver Cowboy Cash; a hand size doll that children use it to save their coins for the first-time savings experience.
Lone Star National Bank also uses as a coloring book called “Let’s Learn About Savings” that teaches children the importance of saving and the value of coins and paper money. Cool messages like “Cowboy Cash is a saver and not a spender” and “Cowboy Cash wants to save money to go to college,” are used to encourage saving.
This second part of the program is the participation of bank employees; it is what makes this program unique. Sonia Falcon, Senior Vice President of the bank, said, “We are honored and excited.” She added that when the invitation was made, Alonzo Cantu, Chairman of the Board was present and he said, “you need to apply for it.”
“Immediately after he asked what categories were available, and he told me to go for the Gold Award.” Falcon stated that Lone Star National Bank started in a small trailer, today, the financial institution employs close to eight-hundred in 33 bank branches all over the Valley and in San Antonio.
“The bank’s board is so supportive of education, it’s a focus in our bank, in our institution about working with schools.” She said, “Mr. Cantu… you know, he´s very shy, but he was a former migrant, and I was a former migrant, and we are aware that education is the key to success.”
Falcon pointed out, “This award regarding financial literacy is a paramount award because we worked very hard to teach financial literacy.” She highlighted the fact that in our fifty states throughout this nation, only four states make financial literacy a requirement for a semester course at school. “Only four out of fifty states,” she said.
“People, especially kids don´t know enough about financial literacy. They don´t understand it. They´re afraid about money; they´re insecure about money. Even us as adults,” Falcon emphasized.
Also, during their events, they bring an apple made of sponge, a souvenir. Falcon told Texas Border Business, “The Tree of Knowledge was an apple tree. Therefore, children would take their teachers apples. We give these to teachers because we appreciate the knowledge they dispense to our children. And they are little stress relievers.”
Dr. Cornelio Gonzalez, the Executive Director of Region One Education Services Center, said, “This entity oversees thirty-seven school districts, and ten charter school systems, and they serve four hundred and twenty-three thousand students. That´s a lot of kids.” He said, “Each one of those children has special needs and requirements. Each of them is special and deserves special attention. It´s a huge, overwhelming challenge.”
He continued, “At Region One, we cannot do it alone.” He said, “It takes a whole village to educate a child.” He said, “Despite being such an overwhelming challenge I remember that we are not alone, our schools and educators are not alone, we have friends, we have partners that make a difference.”
He continued, “Partners that deserve recognition; one of them today is Lone Star National Bank. Lone Star that has been a fantastic partner in Region One.”
“We´re glad that the state board education has decided to honor you and recognize you. And we thank you for your support, and we look forward to continuing to work with you and with all our friends in the Rio Grande Valley on behalf of each one of those four hundred twenty-three thousand children.”
A representative on the State Board of Education representing District 2, and the secretary of the board was also present.
He said that Lone Star National Bank is the first Rio Grande Valley Gold recipient for the Employers for Education Excellence award. He said, “So I’m happy to honor such an outstanding partner like Lone Star National Bank, because of its broad and constant support in our schools. Lone Star National Bank has been awarded this recognition by the state board of education. It’s one of only four companies to earn this award in the past year, and only one of two to reach gold level.”
Employers for Education Excellence Award was created by the state legislature back in 2007. The purpose is to honor employers who encourage and support staff participation and volunteerism in our Texas public schools. Any Texas employer is eligible to win the award including private companies, non-profit organizations, state, local, and federal institutions. Businesses are eligible to receive the award at the bronze, silver, and the gold award level, which is what Lone Star won.
S. David Deanda, Jr., president of Lone Star National Bank said, “We’re incredibly humbled by receiving this award.” He continued, “One of the things about our company is we believe in giving back to the community. We know that the foundation of the Rio Grande Valley is education and it’s our kids. Our children are our future.”
Deanda said that the Valley’s future is kids “It’s education, it’s savings, it’s reinvesting in our community. He stated that the Chairman of the Board, Mr. Cantu once told him, “Never cut back on giving back to the community, because that’s the most important thing that we can do.”
Desaro told Texas Border Business that they reach over 6,000 students on a yearly basis. They receive the coloring book that teaches how to save with Cowboy Cash. The children are also visited by Cowboy Cash, a banker, and the Lone Star National Bank marketing team.
She said that teaching children to save, goes beyond what happens at school. “It needs to happen at home too, with the children and the parents. So, we’re hoping that the activity book creates that opportunity for parents to sit with their kids at home and talk them through it,” she stated.
Lone Star National Bank – McAllen, established in 1983, and has provided banking services to communities in South Texas for over 30 years. TBB