Category: Education

$4.75 million TAMIU CARES Program grants emergency funds to students

$4.75 million TAMIU CARES Program grants emergency funds to students

By Jessica Rodriguez
Director of Photography
Published Monday, May 4, 2020

On April 24, TAMIU announced it will give emergency grants to students thanks to the TAMIU CARES Program. These funds could begin disbursing to applicants as early as May 8.

As one of the many universities which received this emergency grant from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act approved by the Department of Education, Texas A&M International University was awarded $9 million. This amount was based on the number of students enrolled who qualify for the Pell Grant and those who do not. According to the CARES Act, the money would be split in half so $4.75 million will go to the university and the other half provided to students in the form of grants, refunds, loan forgiveness or campus-based waivers.

TAMIU President Pablo Arenaz said this emergency aid would help students directly affected by COVID-19.

“Thousands of TAMIU students and their families have been impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” Arenaz began in an email sent to students, faculty and staff. “ Some students may even be questioning their ability to continue their degree dream. The availability of this assistance will be a welcome relief and we are thankful to our congressional delegation for their leadership on this.”

Those interested may look up additional information at https://www.tamiu.edu/cares/.

Jessica Rodriguez | Bridge Photo Illustration
A TAMIU student reviews the TAMIU CARES Emergency Funds website for the spring semester.

Because of this aid, the University set up the TAMIU CARES Emergency Fund. The money would go directly into the form of emergency grants distributed during the spring, summer and fall semesters for 2020. In order to access these grants, students must apply through an online application. TAMIU requested students apply through this application with supporting documentation of unforeseen hardships due to COVID-19, which include: food insecurity, urgent medical expenses, utility bills, school expenses, and on-campus and off-campus housing. Other requirements may apply.

In addition, students must have a FAFSA file with TAMIU or be eligible for Title IV student assistance.  TAMIU Finance Director Laura Elizondo said TAMIU has 5,760 students who currently meet Title IV eligibility and can qualify for this grant. However, some students have not started or completed their FAFSA, so that number might increase or change. As of last week, about 1,478 students applied but numbers continue to increase.

Elizondo said she and the committee in charge of the TAMIU CARES Program are looking closely at the applications and said all details are important in determining whether a student is eligible for the grant. She said some applications show students focused on their needs for the spring semester, while others did not.

“There’s a lot of students who are submitting, ‘I need help in the summer for tuition,, well this is not the summer right now,” she said. “Anybody who’s submitting right now for applications for summer or next fall they will close up the application and let the students know at this time we’re not processing summer applications. You need to wait and come back and apply later in May. Right now, we have to concentrate and pay out our spring needs.”

She said they are focusing on students who expressed urgent need of funds.

“If you do not own a computer and now you have to work from home and you use a credit card to purchase a computer, that’s a perfect item that we can help reimburse you for,” Elizondo said. “If you do not have internet at home and now you have to add it, that is a perfect item that we can help you pay for. So some students are giving us a lot of [information] while others are not saying much.”

Jessica Rodriguez | Bridge Photo Illustration
A TAMIU student reviews the TAMIU CARES Emergency Funds website for the spring semester.

Moreover, she said if a student does not submit enough documentation for a claim, the committee will contact that student with an email or mobile phone number on file and allow them 48 hours to resubmit any photos of bills or proof to tamiucares@tamiu.edu and someone there will upload the documents for them onto their application.

Elizondo said the first round of funds will go out at the end of the week, possibly May 8 and onward.

For those who do not receive any money for the spring semester, they can still apply for the summer and fall if they are enrolled for classes. The summer application opens up on May 18 and August 17 for fall. Elizondo said summer applications will process through the end of May, June, July and even August because of the different summer sessions students might be enrolled.

She also said it is extremely important for students to apply because this money goes directly to them.

“Students don’t have to confirm what they use [the money] for,” Elizondo said. “If the student said they need it because x,y, z and then they get the money and something else happens and they need it for something else, that is their prerogative. They decide. They don’t have to come back and give us any type of proof of what they used it for.”

A BankMobile account is recommended in order to receive the funds. She encourages people to be patient and know that the University is doing everything it can to help the students during this time.

In addition, students can still apply for other grants like the Student Emergency Grant, the Texas A&M University System Emergency Regent’s Grant and the Lamar Bruni Vergara Emergency Fund—all with their own eligibility requirements.

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QUARANTINE CORNER: Dealing with the pandemic – Part 2

QUARANTINE CORNER: Dealing with the pandemic – Part 2

By Jessica Rodriguez
Director of Photography
Published Monday, April 27, 2020

[Editor’s note: The following is the second installment in a series of articles about different Texas A&M International University students, faculty and staff who are working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope their stories can be as inspiring to you as we found them to be.]

Staying at home 24/7 during an almost catastrophic pandemic can be daunting. However, for Texas A&M International University art student Elkin Cortez, he sees this as an opportunity to get back to his creative ventures.

Cortez possesses multiple talents, including art, photography and even a knack for making YouTube videos in his spare time. He says that now, more than ever, he can focus on his passions.

“I am spending a lot of time on my favorite activities during this quarantine,” Cortez said. “Activities such as painting, drawing, videos and photos.”

For many students, the transition from regular college life to a secluded online routine can be challenging. Cortez came to TAMIU from Miguel Aleman Tamaulipas and returned home when the campus transitioned to online classes.

“My routine changed completely because I was living on campus and now I am at home with my family,” he said. “Therefore, the living routine is different.”

COVID-19 undoubtedly altered people’s lives but there are always ways to reshape this new way of life. Students now have time to explore new hobbies and get creative at home. Because of what is going on in the world, new leisure activities can be helpful, both physically and mentally.

He said that although many students are in different situations, he still encourages them to get as creative and productive as possible.

“Try to be as efficient as you can with the time you have,” Cortez said. “Try to strengthen your skills or develop new ones if it’s possible.”

Submitted images | courtesy Elkin Cortez
Elkin Cortez paints in his room during the stay-at-home quarantine.

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Education students tackle the blocks

Education students tackle the blocks

College relaxes grading system

By Andrea Martinez
Bridge contributing writer
Published Monday, April 20, 2020

TAMIU’s College of Education holds one of the highest graduation rates in the University. However, the College does not allow students who do not pass the teacher certification exams to move on to Blocks II and III of the program.

Up to three blocks exist for education students in order to graduate, yet some students are finding a difficult time graduating due to incomplete blocks.

“We want to demonstrate to the school districts that these students showed that they are knowledgeable in the subject they teach,” Associate Dean Alfredo Ramirez Jr. said. 

The intent of this process is to help students prepare for Block III, as this is the final block necessary to graduate. It is also known as clinical teaching; students acquire field-based experience, which is required by the state. At Texas A&M International University, students who do not pass the certification exam cannot go out and gain this experience.

“It is a very stressful thing,” Ec-6 bilingual emphasis major Elia Diaz said, “since I spent three years of my life dedicated to this major for me to get stuck and not be able to move on.”

Difficulties can increase for students since they need to pass not one but four exams for their teacher certification.

Something that helped relieve students included the return of the grading system to normal.

Ramirez said that it was brought back because “Our students now are performing at a higher rate on the state certification exams,” Ramirez said regarding the change in the grading system.

This lifted some weight off some students’ shoulders.

“It was a relief having a normal grading system [again],” Diaz said. “There were some A’s that I missed because of the grading system.” 

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LEAP program offers choices

LEAP program offers choices

By Alejandra Pena
Bridge contributing writer
Published Monday, April 13, 2020

With an early acceptance program, TAMIU students can fulfill their dreams of attending a graduate or professional program.

The Laredo Early Acceptance Program is a partnership between Texas A&M International University and the University of Texas Health and Science Center at San Antonio.

“LEAP is a program where students take an agreement where they will be guided through courses and other requirements to be accepted into the program of their interest in UT Health,” LEAP student Desireah Rodman said.

There are five programs available to LEAP students, as well as various advantages that come with program participation.

“Some of the benefits that come with being LEAP students is that we have direct mentoring with the director of health admissions as well as we get to meet some of the faculty and staff from the specific programs of our interest,” Rodman said. “We get to see what makes us strong applicants in order to continue to better ourselves when it is time to apply.”

With LEAP, the program’s goals are to help students develop plans for a successful future.

“LEAP gives us a roadmap for success and acceptance into the programs of our choice,” Rodman said.

The Biology and Chemistry Department in the College of Arts and Sciences guides students to necessary courses needed in order to gain acceptance into the school.

“I would recommend this program to other students interested in the medical field, yet not specifically medical school, because this program offers many tools that students can utilize to accomplish their goal as a healthcare provider,” Rodman said.

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New additions made to the College of Nursing

New additions made to the College of Nursing

By Amber Davila
Bridge contributing writer
Published Monday, April 13, 2020

The College of Nursing and Health Sciences underwent several changes; it continues adding to its variety of degrees.

Now the college offers different types of majors and certifications. Texas A&M International University students can major in more than nursing alone.

“The College of Nursing now has communication disorder, kinesiology non-certification, nursing and starting this fall, we will have public health,” academic adviser Anna Buentello said. “So, that’s a new program upcoming [this] fall semester. This is for the students that are not admitted to the nursing program. We’re gonna recommend that they do the public health program because it has similar requirements with a lower GPA.”

In the nursing program alone there were minor changes, including one affecting the entrance exam.

“In the nursing program itself, nothing has changed besides requiring a 75 or better on every subject in the HESI,” Buentello said.

The College of Nursing expansion includes adding another staff member to its ranks for new programs.

“Felipe Rodriguez is our new academic success coach for the College of Nursing and Health Sciences. He is part of our department since last semester in late November,” Buentello said.

With the additional staff member, students should get better assistance in selecting courses, programs and degrees within the college.

“I will be advising the health sciences, which are public health, kinesiology and communication disorders,” Rodriguez said.

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Students showcase talents during WBCA youth festival

Students showcase talents during WBCA youth festival

By Vanessa Santos
Bridge Contributing Writer
Published March 30, 2020

Some of Laredo’s most talented voices and dancers performed in the WBCA Youth Song and Dance Festival to celebrate Washington’s Birthday Celebration.

This event was sponsored by IBC Bank on Feb. 8 at the Guadalupe and Lilia Martinez Fine Arts Theater at Laredo College.

“I love to bring my family to these events to show them the importance of supporting our local talents,” Juan Jose Garcia said.

Garcia attended the Washington Celebration events each year since his childhood. His mother and father brought him to these events, which he said he loves and wants to pass on that tradition to his own children.

Parents provided support to their performing children by wearing their child’s school shirt and cheering them on while on stage.

“This is my second time performing and I like to see my mom so excited when I am dancing,” young DD Hachar Elementary School dancer Tessa Garza said.

In addition to Laredo talent, IBC granted two high school seniors a $1,000 academic scholarship. Esmeralda Hernandez and Juan Capetillo were selected based on their community involvement, academic merits and extracurricular activities.

One of five children in her household, Hernandez attends Hector J. Garcia Early College High School, currently ranked No. 26 in her class with an “A” GPA. She is an active member of the Newspaper Club and is a volunteer at the library. Esmeralda has been involved in the SCANN Program, Chick-fil-A Academy, National Honor Society and Border Patrol Program. She plans to attend Texas A&M International University to pursue a degree in environmental science and botany.

Capetillo is from Dr. Leonides G. Cigarroa High School, ranked No. 18 in his school with a current GPA of 4.0. He is involved in orchestra, VMT mariachi, the CHS Mariachi and all-region Mariachi members, and plans to attend the University of Texas at San Antonio to pursue a degree in music education and history.

“Having community involvement shape the minds of our young students might just make a difference in Laredo’s future,” mother of two Grecia Tello said.

Tello said she teaches her two children, ages 5 and 7, that community involvement is the essential role to success and, “It has been proven today.”

Apart from the $1,000 scholarships, there were five schools awarded $300 donations courtesy of IBC. The schools included: Prada Elementary Dance Team, F.D. Roosevelt Elementary Cheer Team, St. Augustine High School, San Isidro Elementary Raptorettes and Martin High School Cheer.

The WBCA Youth and Dance Festival brought many talent groups from dancers to cheerleaders to show their talents. The Washington Birthday Celebration was founded in 1898 and continues to grow to be a month-long celebration.

After six whole weeks of events throughout the city, the festivities came to a close with the big , bright fireworks diplay on Feb. 29, leap year day. WBCA’s way of ending the annual events with a bang.

As of now, there is no word regarding next year’s plans.

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‘Invisible Graves’ focus of speech

‘Invisible Graves’ focus of speech

By Andrea Martinez
Bridge contributing writer
Published March 30, 2020

Near the U.S.-Mexico border, there are high numbers of unknown dead migrants. These migrants are buried in trash bags in forgotten unmarked graves.

Professor Kate Spradley, a forensic anthropologist at Texas State University, presented “Invisible Graves: Migrant Deaths in the Texas Desert” at TAMIU. She quoted Sheriff Martinez of Brooks County, Texas, “For every person found, there are at least five that are not found.”

Spradley said Brooks County is recognized as “Death Valley” for all the migrants passing through. It is a little further from the border; however, it bears the highest migrant death toll for Texas border towns since 2009. They bury the unknown migrants in the Sacred Heart Burial Park. Most were found in trash bags—about 12 migrants in one grave. They were also buried along with personal belongings and trash.

“Until 2013, people were buried and forgotten in unmarked graves in Brooks County,” Spradley said.

She said Arizona’s medical examiner tries to identify the victims and contact each family. In Webb County, there is a medical examiner; however, they also try to help six other counties in this assessment, making the work more difficult.

One of the other counties the medical examiner takes care of is Cameron and Willacy counties. Spradley investigated the site with her students and they found that when they were told they would find 31 buried bodies, they found up to 70 instead.

In Cameron and Willacy counties, they have paupers’ graves, along with migrants, buried in the middle of nowhere. Paupers are people who died and could not afford proper funerals; however, they lived in the U.S. and likely died of natural causes. Spradley said her team could tell the difference because of the way they are buried. Migrants are kind of just thrown into trash bags with their personal belongings and maybe some trash. Paupers’ graves, on the other hand, are buried with a certain position and are placed more carefully.

When she removed personal belongings found in the graves, she and her team washed them and tried to see if there was anything to help identify the body.

“People carry a variety of things with them when they migrate,” Spradley said. “Personal effects are key for family.”

She mentioned a story of a migrant who died and his sister recognized his shoes and that is how she was able to place a name on the recovered body.

“What about the unidentified bodies that were cremated and the ashes were mishandled?” history major Joshua Grajeda asked Spradley during a Q&A, following her presentation.

“Texas Court of Federal Procedures … you are not allowed to cremate unidentified remains but about five years ago in the health and safety code, they put in there that you can … when approved by a county judge,” Spradley responded.

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Student staff of The Bridge receives honors

During its end-of-semester dinner and awards, several members of The Bridge Independent Student Newspaper Fall 2019 staff were honored for their journalistic work on the paper. The event was held Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 11, at Cheddar’s restaurant in Laredo, Texas.

In addition, promotions were announced: Current Editor-in-chief Matthew Balderas graduates tomorrow, Dec. 12, and current Staff Writer David Gomez Jr. was promoted tonight to become the new editor-in-chief. Current Staff Writer Erick Barrientos was also promoted to the rank of Managing Editor. While both are fairly new to college journalism, they have stepped up to the plate and worked well as a team. In addition to her continuing duties, Director of Photography Jessica Rodriguez will also be picking up the mantle of Director of Social Media for The Bridge. Current Staff Writer Nayelle Acosta steps up to join the newspaper design staff. Current Bridge Illustrator Tomas Cruz will be shifting positions to focus on monetization as the new Advertising Director for The Bridge. Jennifer Rodriguez joins the staff as a photographer. Brandon Valdez joins the staff to help with social media.

The Bridge Hall of Fame Inductee for Fall 2019: Editor-in-chief Matthew Balderas, “For his long-standing service to The Bridge from rookie reporter in 2017 to editor-in-chief and chief designer in 2019, for helping grow the student newspaper and journalism program at TAMIU, and for his countless hours behind the curtain, performing the magic.”

  • The Bridge Best Rookie for Fall 2019: David Gomez Jr.
  • The Bridge Best Deadline Management for Fall 2019: David Gomez Jr.
  • The Bridge Reporter of the Semester: Erick Barrientos
  • The Bridge Photographer of the Semester: Jessica Rodriguez
  • The Bridge Best Editorial for Fall 2019: “Is 33 larger than 39,773? … asking for a friend” by Matthew Balderas
  • The Bridge Best Opinion Column for Fall 2019: “Our ol’ payphone reflects past, present, future” by David Gomez Jr.
  • The Bridge Best Illustration for Fall 2019: “Are you still listening?” by Tomas Cruz
  • The Bridge Best Photo Illustration for Fall 2019: “God the Mother representatives startle students” by Jessica Rodriguez
  • The Bridge Best News Story for Fall 2019: “God the Mother representatives startle students” by Erick Barrientos
  • The Bridge Best News Photo for Fall 2019: “Climate strike raises environmental issues” by Erick Barrientos
  • The Bridge Best Feature Story for Fall 2019: “Goodbye to a dear friend” by Erick Barrientos
  • The Bridge Best Feature Photo for Fall 2019: “Dance concert displays student creativity” by Jessica Rodriguez
  • The Bridge Best Sports Story for Fall 2019: “Men’s soccer wraps up historic season” by Allan Rodriguez
  • The Bridge Best Sports Photo for Fall 2019: “Men’s soccer wraps up historic season” by Matthew Balderas

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Stanford professor talks immigration, US way of life in lecture series

Recently, the public discourse has been focused on immigration issues, such as Trump’s wall and the recent changes to DACA. Tomás Jiménez, a Stanford associate professor of sociology, spoke on campus Sept. 19 about his new publication “The Other Side of Assimilation: How Immigrants are Changing American Life.”

Continue reading “Stanford professor talks immigration, US way of life in lecture series”

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New Concerns Over State Funding

Drastic cuts to funding are a growing concern for universities in the Texas A&M system. Senate Bill 1, introduced earlier this year as part of the state’s General Appropriations Bill, may result in double-digit budget cuts for several system campuses for the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

Continue reading “New Concerns Over State Funding”

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