Teach for America Honor Roll Gala Honorees Announced

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Texas Border Business

Recently, the Rio Grande Valley (Region One) was the only part of the state where all school districts received A or B ratings from the Texas Education Agency.  It takes community-wide support to ensure the success of children in our local public schools.  It also takes incredible leaders.  At its second annual Honor Roll Gala, Teach for America will celebrate three honorees: Dr. Luzlema Canales, South Texas College, and JoAnn Gama.

Dr. Luzelma Canales will be honored as the “Educational Champion.” As the founding executive director for RGV FOCUS, a collaboration with Educate Texas. Luzelma provided leadership for a large-scale collective impact initiative launched to transform college readiness, access, and success across a four-county region in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. The collaborative is comprised of over forty partners including four postsecondary institutions, eleven school districts, two workforce boards, private funders, and numerous community-based organizations and nonprofits.  Her leadership was crucial to steward the regional progress we are seeing.

South Texas College (STC) will be honored as the “Institutional Catalyst.”  Founded in 1993, STC has grown to enroll over 31,000 students, employ over 1,600 faculty and staff, and operate at five campuses and online.  South Texas College leads the nation in the number of Early College High School partnerships developed with area Independent School Districts. Additionally, STC provides workforce certifications and trainings which are responsive to local economic needs. Over the course of its history, South Texas College has seen the growth of higher educational attainment in Starr and Hidalgo County accompanied by significant and lasting decreases in the unemployment rate.

JoAnn Gama will be honored with the Teach for America “Alumni Leadership” award.  She joined Teach for America as a 1997 corps member teaching in a bilingual elementary classroom.  In 1998, JoAnn co-founded the IDEA Academy within the Donna Independent School District with fellow Teach for America corps member, Tom Torkelson. In August 2000, they opened the IDEA Academy Charter School with 150 students in grades 4-8.  As co-founder, president and superintendent, JoAnn has helped lead the replication efforts of the original school. Currently, IDEA Public Schools (IDEA) educates nearly 53,000 students in 96 schools across six regions—the Rio Grande Valley, San Antonio, Austin, El Paso, Tarrant County, and Southern Louisiana.

The Rio Grande Valley community will come together on Friday, February 7, 2020, at the Teach for America Honor Roll Gala to celebrate these three honorees and the impact they have had on educational opportunities in our region.  For more information, please visit www.teachforamerica.org/rgvgala or contact [email protected]

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