Ceremony celebrates 2005 honor roll schools of South Texas
Posted: 03/23/2006
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Sixteen schools from South Texas were honored at The University of Texas-Pan American March 21, during the Texas Business and Education Coalition (TBEC) - Just for the Kids Honor Roll Schools of South Texas awards ceremony and dinner.

UTPA's Vice President for Enrollment and Student Services Dr. John Edwards (left) and UTPA President Dr. Blandina Cárdenas (center) presented an award to Yvonne R. Zamora (right), principal of Mims Elementary School, at the awards ceremony on March 21.
The honor roll schools are recognized for being the best performing public schools in the state and most consistent performers in educating all student groups over a three-year period of time.

UTPA President Dr. Blandina Cárdenas thanked the school leaders and educators in attendance and said UTPA is the only University and region that celebrates the TBEC honorees in this way.

"The schools that are being recognized here represent the top one percent of schools in Texas," Cárdenas said. "Not only do you represent the top one percent, but you achieved that recognition among the most difficult conditions of any schools in the state of Texas."

Cárdenas told the crowd that it is important to create a college-going mentality and the belief that college is attainable in the minds of children as early as possible.

"We've got to work together not just to prepare our students academically, but to prepare them personally so that they can make the transition to college and so their own horizons and possibilities are expanded exponentially," Cárdenas said. "Join us in that movement to create a college-going, college-valuing, and college-prepared culture in our schools, families and communities."

Dr. John Edwards, UTPA's vice president for Enrollment and Student Services and the master of ceremonies, congratulated the schools on their achievement.

"Our futures are intertwined through the teacher training program and the teachers we graduate and send to you and the students you graduate and send to us," Edwards said. "We are the beneficiaries of your work and your successful students and that's why we honor you this evening. What you do is vital to our University, our families and the future of South Texas."

Executive director of TBEC, John H. Stevens, said the schools in attendance represented excellence in Texas public education and the real heroes in society.

"The reason we formed the honor roll program is we know there are public schools out there that are doing the kind of job that you are doing," Stevens said. "You are the best of the best."

Stevens announced that this will be the last year that Just for the Kids will partner with TBEC for this event. The selection criteria will also be clarified this year, so more schools can achieve the honor and learn from those who received the award in the past.

Dr. Ana Maria Rodriguez, interim provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, congratulated the schools on their accomplishment of meeting the demanding comprehensive performance standards necessary to receive the awards.

"We are sincerely grateful for the hard work and dedication that you and those you represent have demonstrated throughout the years," Rodriguez said. "Please be assured that the University understands that the foundation you build as your students move through the public schools makes a real difference for us as we receive them as our future UTPA students."

Pictured from left to right are Greg LaMantia, Joe's son; UTPA President Dr. Blandina Cárdenas; Joe LaMantia Jr., who was honored with the Bridge Builder Award; Derrelene LaMantia, Joe's wife; Dr. John Edwards, UTPA's vice president for Enrollment and Student Services; Dru LaMantia and Linda LaMantia, Joe's daughters-in-law; Dr. Ana Maria Rodriguez, UTPA's interim provost and vice president for Academic Affairs; and Steve LaMantia, Joe's son.
Joe LaMantia Jr. was recognized with a Bridge Builder Award for his contribution to thousands of South Texas students. LaMantia established one of the first scholarships for women athletes at the University and was also instrumental in the Hispanic Scholarship Fund which has raised more than $5 million and has awarded more than 2,600 scholarships in eight years. LaMantia is also the founder and chairman of South Texas Rising Scholars (STARS), which provides scholarship awards to students in South Texas to attend the college of their choice. Since its inception, STARS has awarded more than 2,100 scholarships to South Texas students and has become the premier scholarship foundation in South Texas.

"South Texas has shown itself in the best of the best," LaMantia said. "Everyone in this group realizes that education is the single most important issue in our society. With it we can accomplish anything, but without it we cannot accomplish very much. Thank you all on behalf of STARS."

The following schools were recognized at the ceremony and presented awards by Rodriguez: Yturria Elementary School, Brownsville ISD; Del Rio Freshman School, Del Rio ISD; Liberty Elementary School, Eagle Pass ISD; Canterbury and Escandon Elementary Schools, Edinburg CISD; George West Primary School, George West ISD; Kelly Elementary School, Hidalgo ISD; I.D.E.A. Academy, I.D.E.A. Public Schools; Karnes City High School, Karnes City ISD; Bonham and Milam Elementary Schools, McAllen ISD; Mims Elementary School, Mission CISD; Ben Franklin and North San Juan Elementary Schools, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD; Santa Maria High School, Santa Maria ISD; and Airport Elementary School, Weslaco ISD.

Sixteen of the 89 schools chosen for the 2005 award were from South Texas. Mims Elementary School was recognized for its sixth time on the honor roll.

For more information about TBEC Just for the Kids Honor Roll visit