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South Texas Literacy Coalition Names Four Prominent Rio Grande Valley Residents as 2009 Officers

Coalition aims to ensure children and families have access to literacy services and resources

WASHINGTON, December 11, 2008—Hidalgo County District Clerk Laura Hinojosa tops a list of officers recently appointed to lead the South Texas Literacy Coalition, which was established in early 2008 to enhance learning opportunities for all of South Texas by ensuring all children and families have access to strong integrated literacy services and resources.

The coalition brings together a range of partners that includes U.S. Representatives Rubén Hinojosa, Solomon Ortiz, and Henry Cuellar; national organizations like Reading Is Fundamental; community leaders; and education experts from pre–K programs and elementary schools up to the university level. Goals include increasing the number of print materials in children's homes, building family involvement in literacy–related activities, as well as building community awareness and an understanding of literacy in general.

The following officers have been named for 2009:

President: Laura Hinojosa
Hinojosa is serving her first term as the Hidalgo County district clerk and has distinguished herself as a committed public servant. She serves as a member of the Legislative Committee for the County & District Clerks' Association of Texas and was also appointed by the Texas Attorney General's Office to serve on the Child Support Workgroup, a statewide committee that works on child support issues. Prior to her election, Hinojosa was a teacher at La Joya High School, South Texas Independent School District, and the Oratory Academy. She continues to be recognized as a leader through her affiliation with numerous community organizations.

Vice President: Dr. Dahlia Guerra
Guerra is a professor and dean of the College of Arts and Humanities at the University of Texas Pan American (UTPA) where she has taught since 1984. Guerra, a pianist, was chair of music from 1999 to 2006 and has served as dean since 2006. She is founder of the UTPA "Mariachi Aztlan" and the UTPA "Mariachi Femenil"—national award winning student ensembles that have performed for audiences throughout the United States, Mexico, and Canada. For the past four years, Guerra has directed FESTIBA (Festival of International Books and Arts) at UTPA, celebrating the arts and humanities while promoting literacy in South Texas.

Secretary: Kristy de la Garza
De la Garza, who until recently served as the director of community development for "Abriendo Puertas" Parental Education Initiative of Texas A&M University, is a classroom teacher at Barrientes Middle School. Her experience spans the disciplines of operations management, corporate training, human resources administration, and career development. De la Garza has a bachelor's degree in Health Science and Human Services.

Treasurer: Margot Durbin
Durbin is currently the assistant director at the Sekula Memorial Library in Edinburg, Texas. Her career has focused on literacy issues ranging from supervising an adult literacy program to spearheading a regional book festival. She has a master's degree in Library Science and has worked in public libraries throughout the country for almost 20 years.

Reading Is Fundamental was instrumental in the founding of the South Texas Literacy Coalition, and provided interim leadership as the coalition formed and came to appoint its own officers.

Prior to the forming of the coalition, Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), the nation's oldest and largest children and families' literacy nonprofit organization, provided more than 100,000 South Texas children with free books at least three times a year. As part of the ongoing efforts to increase South Texas children's access to print materials, the Coalition hopes to expand RIF into all schools in the Rio Grande Valley in the next few years. This year, 38 schools have been added to the RIF program, serving an additional 26,014 children throughout Region One Educational Service Center in South Texas.

All RIF programs combine three essential elements to foster literacy: reading motivation, family and community involvement, and the excitement of children choosing books to keep.

"RIF is strongly committed to the coalition's efforts to give all children in the Rio Grande Valley access to books," said Carol H. Rasco, president and CEO of RIF. "We are grateful for the support of the congressional offices, and are looking forward to working with the newly appointed officers."

Reading Is Fundamental, Inc. (RIF), founded in 1966, motivates children to read by working with them, their parents, and community members to make reading a fun and beneficial part of everyday life. RIF’s highest priority is reaching underserved children from birth to age 8. Through community volunteers in every state and U.S. territory, RIF provides 4.6 million children with 15 million new, free books and literacy resources each year. For more information and to access reading resources, visit RIF’s website at www.rif.org.

Discover the Joy!

Layla Wright-Contreras,
Media Relations Manager


South Texas Literacy Coalition Names Four Prominent Rio Grande Valley Residents as 2009 Officers