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Partnership Creates Youth Leadership Academy to Address Poverty in South Texas

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Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez and South Texas College President Dr. Ricardo Solis. Courtesy Image
Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez and South Texas College President Dr. Ricardo Solis. Courtesy Image

Texas Border Business

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McALLEN, Texas – Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez and South Texas College President Ricardo Solis signed a memorandum of understanding on Thursday that will form a unique partnership to create a Youth Leadership Academy aimed at training future generations of policymakers about the complexities of poverty and how to mitigate its effects locally.

Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez and South Texas College President Dr. Ricardo Solis. Courtesy Image

With initial funding provided by a federal AmeriCorps grant, this partnership will help in the development of a VISTA program on STC’s campus, which will research and create a curriculum for a leadership academy.

VISTA, which stands for Volunteers in Service to America, is a nationally recognized program that was the brainchild of President John F. Kennedy to address poverty in America.

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This VISTA program will involve a collaboration between Hidalgo County and STC that will entail researching poverty in Hidalgo County and then creating a curriculum that will target area youth about the complexities of poverty and how the tools of government and nonprofits can be used to alleviate poverty.

Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez and VISTA Project Director Amai De La Fuente. Courtesy Image

At least 30 percent of the Hidalgo County population is believed to be living at or below poverty levels. This compares with 14 percent for the State of Texas and 12 percent for the country. This disparity in the rate of poverty prompted Judge Cortez to create the Prosperity Task Force, which is working on short- and long-term goals to alleviate poverty locally. The Task Force initiated the request for the federal grant.

“My administration has made alleviating poverty a top priority since I came into office,” Cortez said. “And STC has been steadfast in its support of our efforts. This latest partnership creates a unique opportunity to tap into the educational expertise of STC as well as gives us the opportunity to recruit STC students to participate in the VISTA program.”

“Judge Cortez has said the poverty rate in the Rio Grande Valley is higher than our state average, meaning that many of the students we serve fall within these numbers, and it is our responsibility and due diligence to help alleviate this issue,” said Solis. “And this partnership is one more way that STC is helping to fight poverty.”

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Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez signing MOU. Courtesy Image

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