Category: On Campus

Spring graduation falls shy of fall semester

Spring graduation falls shy of fall semester

By David Gomez Jr.
Editor-in-chief
Published Monday, May 11, 2020 

This spring’s graduation occurs at the beginning of the fall semester on Thursday, Aug. 13, at the Sames Auto Arena, due to the pandemic.

On April 17, Texas A&M International University President Pablo Arenaz, appeared in a video in full regalia, in front of the Center for the Fine and Performing Arts organ, speaking to the 50th graduating class in TAMIU history. He said the graduation ceremony, along with summer commencement exercises, would be postponed until mid-August before the start of the fall semester because of the coronavirus pandemic affecting day-to-day routines.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on life as we know it,” Arenaz told viewers of the video. “… The senior class of 2020, you have seen your last semester delivered online, and the traditions and celebrations that have always framed the senior year experience either canceled or postponed.”

Soon after saying so, Arenaz offered some good news that the postponed ceremony would still be held at the Sames Auto Arena, as so for the past four years.

“For we are TAMIU together, always,” Arenaz added.

Then around May 7, Arenaz spoke again in another video. This time in a full suit and tie, inside the Great Hall on the third floor of the Sue & Radcliffe Killam Library.

He brought up again the bittersweetness of graduation from the presentation of the flags representing various students’ countries, the student respondent speech’s heartfelt words and the roaring cannons of confetti that spray on the graduates.

Though, his new message was directly to the point–conferring of the students’ degrees.

“So by the authority vested in me, by the Chancellor, and by the Board of Regents of the Texas A&M University System, acting under the enabling legislation establishing this University, I hereby confer upon each of you the degree to which you are entitled with all its rights, privileges and responsibilities,” Arenaz said, concluding with “Congratulations!”

Arenaz then went on to say, “You have a bright future ahead of you. You have been prepared by outstanding faculty to enter the workforce, graduate or professional school …”

This message of good will was sent to all of the graduating class of 2020, but when unemployment currently resides at more than 20 percent due to the pandemic, Arenaz’s message falls on the fearful ears of job seekers.

“It … sucks,” former editor-in-chief of The Bridge and fall 2019 TAMIU graduate Matthew Balderas said about the current job market.

“I had one official job offer from a TV company and made it to second-round interviews with the Houston Astros and had just secured an interview with the Houston Dynamo right before they decided to suspend the sports season,” Balderas said.

“Unfortunately, the job offer and interviews fell through but I’m hoping once this is all over, I can backpack up where I left off, if at all possible.”

For some, Arenaz’s message of “graduate or professional school” might feel like a safer route.

“For now, I have entered into a master’s program with TAMIU for my MBA [with a] concentration of international business for the upcoming Fall 2020 semester,” Balderas said.

As of now, with businesses opening throughout Texas, and across the nation, no one knows what summer has in store.

“Our commitment on this is clear, but I must caution that we will not proceed should public health conditions force us to revisit the plan,” Arenaz said, regarding the rescheduled commencement.

“Class of 2020, I look forward to handing you your diplomas.”

For the latest updates, visit the dedicated commencement website at www.tamiu.edu/commencment/

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$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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Stimulus package falls short for many college students

Stimulus package falls short for many college students

By Alejandro Hernandez
Bridge Staff Writer
and
By Jessica Rodriguez
Director of Photography
Published Monday, May 4, 2020

On March 26, Congress passed a $2 trillion stimulus bill in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The CARES Act bill secured $1,200 for U.S. citizens ages 18 and older and $500 for every dependent child 16 years and younger as a stimulus payment in April.

While some received their checks through direct deposit, a large population still awaits theirs. Many college students became disappointed to find out they would not receive financial assistance through the stimulus. The bill did not guarantee a payment made for those claimed as a dependent on a federal tax return; this includes a significant number of college students. Even if these students are financially independent of their parents and filed their own taxes, their parents could still claim them.

According to the U.S. Department of Treasury, “The CARES Act provides for Economic Impact Payments to American households of up to $1,200 per adult for individuals whose income was less than $99,000 ( or $198,000 for joint filers) and $500 per child under 17 years old–or up to $3,400 for a family of four.” Thus, these young adults are left out: they are too old for the parents who claimed them to receive $500 for the claimed dependent and since they were claimed as a dependent, they do not qualify for the $1,200 stimulus payment.

Some of these young college students are part of the most disadvantaged populations in the country. Riled with student debt and college fees, many struggle to live on a weekly basis. A large percentage of college students work in service industry jobs, an industry hit hard by recent events, which led to many layoffs.

Sergio Martinez, double major in political science and history, said he was not eligible for the stimulus package since he is a permanent resident, a non-citizen with a Green Card or visa.

“I, unfortunately, was not eligible for the stimulus,” Martinez said. “Personally, my family was hit by [COVID-19] as one of my parents was furloughed and well, bills keep stacking up.”

He said although he was ineligible for the stimulus package, he plans to apply for the TAMIU CARES Grant, which is $9 million provided by the U.S. Department of Education to TAMIU. Half of those funds are earmarked to help students who suffered economic hardships due to COVID-19.

 “I do plan on applying for the CARES Grant,” he said. “I hope to take online classes and the money would come in handy for small repairs at home and to pay the summer tuition. Should I get the grant, I would definitely use it to ‘fix some holes’ around the house, not fall behind on rent and reinvest it for summer classes.”

On the other hand, some TAMIU students received the stimulus check, but many believe a one-time payment is not enough to carry them throughout the summer. Many students have overdue bills to pay or family members to take care of.

Psychology major Javier Lopez said he was able to file as an independent and got the stimulus check after moving out of his parent’s house. Still, he plans to apply for the TAMIU grant.

“I am the only person that is working from my family, so everyone relies on me currently for bills and basic needs,” Lopez said. “I plan on [applying], but the grant asks for past due bills. I luckily am not in that situation, but I could definitely use the help because I have been managing by a thread.”

He continued, saying TAMIU should focus on the well being of students at this time. He explains that many students, such as himself, have taken on more hours at work to help their family members who lost their jobs. Now, more than ever, money is heavy on students’ minds.

“Depending on how everything turns out, if necessary, I am willing to take a semester off to financially stabilize myself,” Lopex said.

Currently, a bill introduced by Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, and Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., known as the Emergency Money for The People Act might help those left out by the stimulus bill. It aims to give a supplemental $2,000 payment for at least six months to ensure financial stability to all U.S citizens ages 16 and up and $500 for each child, to a maximum of three. The new bill would provide payments to college students and adults with disabilities, even if claimed as a dependent. However, as the White House moves to reopen the country, chances of a new stimulus bill for the public could remain low.

A new stimulus package could mean the public would not have to return to work to pay expenses. Furthermore, supplementing state and local governments would also allow cities to extend lock-down periods, keeping businesses closed and people at home. To be sure, there is no evidence yet to support what additional lock-down time could do to the U.S. economy. As business continues to decline, so does the tax revenue from which these stimulus payments are funded.

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Comics take over TAMIU

Comics take over TAMIU

By Andrew Alfaro
Bridge contributing writer
Published Monday April 27, 2020

The kids who came of age during the comic book movie boom are now adults and want to see how far the genre can go.

In today’s world, comics are all over pop culture and every weekend it seems as if a new comic book movie was being released before COVID-19. The popularity of these comics has even made its way into classrooms with topics based on the art form.

Assistant Professional of visual communication Thomas Brown, teaches photography and writing courses at Texas A&M International University. One of the courses he offers is Writing for Comics Books, a writing intensive course. The class will be made available again in Summer Session 1 via online due to COVID-19.

The class is meant to help students learn how to develop a comic book script and become more diverse writers. Brown also teaches a brief history of comic books in the class to help newcomers get a better understanding of the genre.

In the class, students learn terminology, such as balloons and tails, and how to build a world for comics. 

“My students don’t have to write a superhero comic book,” Brown said.

 The students are allowed to write any type of comic they’re interested in. Often, people believe comics are only superhero-based, but this is just one genre of comics. Before the influx of heroes in tights, a variety of stories focused on Westerns, war, detectives, horror and even romance.

“When the students end the class, they have the script for a 22-page comic book,” Brown said.  “They just need to find an artist if they want to get it illustrated.”

The students are in control of the comic from the characters to the plot, sometimes referred to as the hero’s journey. Some other things taught in the class are how to use screenwriting software, such as Celtx, which is free.

TAMIU spring 2019 alumnus Kenneth Jones took the course and reflected on his experience.

“The 22-page comic book was easier than it sounds with all the assignments the class did before starting the comic book,” Jones said.

Comics do not only ignite a love for fantasy, but also address social issues. 

In today’s world, there are people of different ethnicity, religion, creed, gender and sexual orientation. Some readers may feel superheroes are supposed to be a certain skin tone. However, there are a multitude of heroes which can satisfy a particular walk of life and the numbers of diverse characters continue to grow.

Major social issues and events helped create beloved characters, such as X-Men, Black Panther and Shang-Chi.

“With the events going on at that time, Marvel was making a statement that people should not segregate others because they are different, but instead of poking right at racism, they made it about humans vs. mutants,” Brown said.

When Marvel did that, not only did they introduce a new team of heroes, they also created interesting new characters to the fans—all while addressing social issues.

TAMIU could potentially see similar success in comic book-related organizations, such as Anime Club, or events like STCE’s Comic Con held annually at TAMIU.

Over the years, comics continue to grow in popularity. Manga, a Japanese art form related to anime, is one type of comic book. Anime has a large and growing fan base.

Anime Club President Liza Nguyen helps organize meetings, fundraisers and events that center around anime and manga.

“The club talks about many things concerning anime and one of the things is manga,” Nguyen said. “The club used to rent out manga, which is a genre of comics. Since the club was created, it has tripled in size.”

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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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Coronavirus affects TAMIU campus

Coronavirus affects TAMIU campus

By Maria Reynero
Bridge contributing writer 
Published Monday, April 20, 2020

As the threat of COVID-19 spread, TAMIU’s policy began and continues to be following the regulations and guidelines of the City of Laredo Health Department. Since the initial spread, the campus was partially closed for many activities, face masks are required to enter campus buildings, and other initiatives set forth by Laredo.

A virus which began as a case in Wuhan, China, became an outbreak, and spread to numerous other countries before becoming a global pandemic. The coronavirus, also known as SARS-CoV-2, spread to the U.S. It can be deadly once it causes the COVID-19 disease. Anyone showing symptoms is encouraged to seek medical attention and supervision.

As of April 19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website indicates the total U.S. reported coronavirus cases at 720,630, including 37,202 deaths. These statistics include all 50 states and several U.S. territories. Texas alone shows 18,260 cases. So far, there are no reported cases in the U.S. territories of American Samoa, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia or Palau.

New York was hit the hardest, showing 233,570 cases and its neighbor New Jersey at 81,436 cases. Most other larger population states are between 10,000 to 36,000 cases each. The smallest numbers for the states are Alaska at only 314 cases and Wyoming with 423 and Montana with 426.

“[The] CDC is closely monitoring an outbreak of respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) coronavirus that was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China … Reported illnesses have ranges from mild to severe, including resulting in death,” according to the CDC website in February.

Health officials studied the virus to discover its respiratory nature, which makes it faster for people to be severely affected.

“It looks like it’s being spread through aerosol droplets,” TAMIU biology instructor Oscar Ramos said in February 2020. “That’s one of the reasons that it’s highly contagious because there are aerosols that come out of your system, and in those aerosols we have the viral particles themselves so it’s the respiratory route.”

The respiratory system is able to bring oxygen and other particles into one’s body, Ramos said, and so these aerosol droplets are inhaled as well and can contaminate nearby people.

“When there is a health outbreak on campus, whether it’s the flu, the coronavirus or meningitis, we have certain standards that we have to follow so we base ourselves on the practice of the City [of Laredo] Health Department,” Director of Student Health Services Claudia Beltran said. “They are the entity in our community that dictates what we’re going to do in a health outbreak. In this situation like the coronavirus, we have certain guidelines that we follow and the Health Department is very responsible in the fact that they send updates every so often whenever new information comes out.” 

There are certain protocols to take when a virus like this threatens a community. TAMIU officials train to prepare for a variety of health outbreaks on campus. They rely on the Health Department for a variety of necessary actions.

“An emergency response kicks in when there is any type of emergency,” Beltran said in February. “We … basically follow what the Health Department [tells] us in that instance. What we do, we start screening students or faculty or whoever it would be here on campus for symptoms that are indicative for coronavirus.

“In this case, if it were to outbreak then we go into what is called an emergency response. Basically, we would set up like a quarantine and so we would have to isolate certain people. Based on what the Health Department tells us, so if they say we would need to keep people here on campus, the living communities like the dorms or the village is where we would start.”

Since February, TAMIU began to implement plans throughout March as it followed Health Department protocols.

“…not approve any foreign travel by Texas A&M International University students, faculty and staff while the outbreak of COVID-19 remains a dynamically changing and uncertain situation. Summer programs, including exchange programs, are also on hold until further notice,” President Pablo Arenaz told all University employees in an early March email.

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Division II football team debate

Division II football team debate

By Karla Juarez
Bridge contributing writer
Published Monday, April 20, 2020

Despite its identity as a popular Texan sport, TAMIU is devoid of a football program. After all, Texas is the only state with an NFL team named after the people who live in it: the Texans.

Texas A&M International University’s Athletic Department offers most of the major sports one can think of. There’s men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, softball, there’s even a golf team and a cross country team. Nearly every semester, students wonder why TAMIU lacks a football team even though it’s often considered “America’s sport.”

While baseball continues to be called “America’s pastime,” football continues to rise in popularity for the past couple decades. According to a Wall Street Journal article, “From 2000 to 2009, the latest year for which figures are available, the number of kids aged 7 to 17 playing baseball fell 24 percent, according to the National Sporting Goods Association, an industry trade group. Despite growing concerns about the long-term effects of concussions, participation in youth tackle football has soared 21 percent over the same time span, while ice hockey jumped 38 percent. The Sporting Goods Manufacturing Association, another industry trade group, said baseball participation fell 12.7 percent for the overall population.”

“I don’t know why we don’t have a football team in this University, actually,” TAMIU history major Alan Perez said. “Can you imagine how much more publicity and students we would have if we did?

“A couple of friends of mine didn’t come to TAMIU because they didn’t have a football program here and the university they’re at right now does. A football team has, easily, 30 members. That’s 30 more tuitions coming in.”

In actuality, NCAA football teams include up to 125 players but most do not have that many. Of those 125 players, only a maximum of 85 can receive a scholarship.

Some might believe part of this is due to NCAA Div. II regulations: “Division II institutions have to sponsor at least five sports for men and five for women (or four for men and six for women).” TAMIU offers six sports for women, though: basketball, soccer, volleyball, softball, cross country and golf. Men have one less sport than women at TAMIU.

Even one member of the men’s soccer team agrees a football program could bring in more students.

“I think it’ll make Laredo and the University look more attractive and interesting,” business major Luis Diaz said, as translated from Spanish. “Which means more people will want to visit the city and attend the school.”

Another concern opponents hold in regards to adding a football program is the possible rise in tuition costs. There are precedents where tuition spikes occurred in universities and colleges after adding football to the sports roster.

“The Big Game: College Football Stealing Your Education” is a two-minute video citing that “82 percent of college football programs lose an average of $11 million per year.”

This potential tuition increase creates a reluctance to support such a program, like sophomore biology major Yadixa Teran said.

“No, I wouldn’t be OK with it,” Teran said. “We don’t need a football team at TAMIU and when you actually think about it, most of the students here are from a medium- to low-income household. So most of the students won’t be able to afford a rise in tuition.”

Diaz, however, was adamant that the program is needed for future University growth.

“Because in the end, in my opinion, it’s going to bring in more money,” he said, as translated from Spanish. “I’m OK with paying more tuition for the implementation of a football program because it’s going to improve our university by a lot.”

According to the short “The Big Game: College Football Stealing Your Education” the cause of increasing student debt is attributed to college athletic departments, more specifically, their football programs.

“Schools with strong football programs have increased tuition by as much as 65 percent,” according to Scholorships.com.

“In my honest opinion, the team would just be a waste of money,” Yadixa said. “It’s going to cost millions of dollars to just start the program, and it’ll cost much more to keep it going. They should be more focused on keeping students safe by placing cameras on campus, creating new degree programs and hiring more professors than building a new football team from scratch.”

TAMIU junior criminal justice major Alexa Mendoza said the expenses to build a football program are a lot more than most realize.

“Let’s look at what it’ll take to just start a program.,” Mendoza said. “They’re going to need the equipment. So, shoulder pads, helmets, cleats, uniforms, footballs and—oh, yeah, a stadium. Also, let’s not forget the team members and a new football coach, several actually, because it takes more than one coach to train so many members in a sport as complicated as football.

“Now, will the players be protected by an insurance plan in case they get hurt and will they also be offered scholarships? Because if they are, then where is all of this money going to be coming from? Sure, some of it can be state funded, government funded and even funded by donations, but the school, and in turn its students, are going to have to put in most of the money and that’s money the school could be using for more important things.”

Realistically, despite all the speculation, a football program might be out of TAMIU’s reach for the time being.

“A football program is not in the talks right now,” Athletics Director Griz Zimmerman said.

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DustyCup event canceled

DustyCup event canceled

By Joel Caballero
Bridge contributing writer
Published Monday, April 13, 2020

Considered by some to be the most competitive event, both mentally and physically, between student organizations, DustyCup was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Student Government Association at Texas A&M International University, which sponsors the annual event, planned to host it this semester on April 4. The event normally brings student organizations together for the opportunity to compete for bragging rights and for the winner to take home a trophy and a grant.

DustyCup is typically hosted after the Big Event, a Universitywide community service event for the local community. The event was expected to not only have a physical portion but also one for academics with general topics and TAMIU history.

SGA Vice President Mariana Rodriguez said there is more to the event than some realize.

“It promotes student engagement,” Rodriguez said, “giving organizations the time to network between one another. To add, it is fun to see how competitive it can get.”

The Traditions Committee coordinates the event and revamps it each year.

“I would love to see as many organizations as possible [get involved],” Rodriguez said, prior to the cancellation. “The event is for them to step back from studies and group business to create bonds and partnerships. Plus, let’s keep the University traditions strong.”

This year, the committee planned to swap activities and partner with TAMIU recreational sports to see what else could be brought to the table.

“Organizations should expect to see new activities this year,” DustyCup Coordinator Lesley Escalera said, prior to the cancellation. “We are always excited to partner with Rec Sports; the combination of their ideas and the committee’s always makes a successful partnership.”

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Pride events canceled for social distancing

Pride events canceled for social distancing

By Annabelle Arambula
Bridge contributing writer
Published Monday, April 13, 2020

Despite Pride Week’s existence in June, TAMIU holds pride week in April since summer is not part of the spring or fall semesters. The Campus Ally Network organization, created in 2016, is the only LGBTQ organization at the University and helps organize the campus Pride Week.

CAN President Michael Najar said the organization is small but eager to grow. As of now, the organization has 20-35 members but Najar hopes for more to join.

“We are a group that accepts people when they’re different,” Najar said. “We try our best as possible to make the school environment more friendly with us.”

He said maintaining an organization that is welcoming and accepting of different types of people is important. Pride week is CAN’s biggest event of the year. It was scheduled for April 6-10 but was canceled with all of the other campus events due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Monday, April 6, we have our first event, which is basically an information booth with free hugs and a fundraiser,” Najar said, prior to the event’s cancelation. “We just basically inform people what’s happening throughout the whole week. On Tuesday, we’re going to have all organizations and small activities that relate to the LGBTQ community.

“Then on Wednesday, we’re going to have a tribute to why pride matters. We’re going to meet at the Student Center rotunda. Basically, having panels, pictures of all those who went through the struggle of being gay or being trans[gender].”

If the coronavirus had not struck, a Pride Walk was planned with help from the Martin or Alexander high schools’ bands, he said.

“We’re going to have it here from the garden and walk from the [Sue &Radcliffe Killam] Library to [the] Zaffirini [Student Success Center],” Najar described what might have happened. “On Friday is our drag show. We’re going to have some Laredo queens and some Houston queens.”

Sophomore sociology major Melody Valdez is a CAN member.

“We’re hoping for 50 people to show up during small events and 100 or more people for the pride walk and drag show,” Valdez said, prior to the event’s cancelation.

For CAN member and senior education major Cynthia Mancha, she said her favorite part of Pride Week is “the Pride Walk because everyone comes together to show support for one another which is something that is much needed in Laredo.”

The best part of Pride Week, Najar said, is seeing different types of people and organizations coming together for the event. Many of the activities involve large groups and would have violated the maximum number of people in a location, according to the City of Laredo emergency ordinance regarding the coronavirus.

The LGBTQ community faced and still faces issues, such as housing and employment discrimination, violence, unequal healthcare and acceptance. Part of Pride Week’s purpose is to recognize the impact LGBTQ members made on the world.

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Inside the race for Mr., Ms. TAMIU

Inside the race for Mr., Ms. TAMIU

By Cesar Neira
Bridge contributing writer
Published Monday, April 13, 2020

Reaching out to the student body is the most important part of their campaign strategy, a sentiment expressed by Mr. and Ms. TAMIU. Jose Alvarez and Abigail Zuniga received their crowns, an event that caps off the annual tradition of Texas A&M International University Spirit Week.

“It all starts with the urge to become more involved with the student body,” the 2020 candidates said of their campaign.

From Jan. 30 to Feb. 8, they utilized an interactive campaign strategy on the TAMIU campus to have a greater impact on the student body. Being able to meet and communicate with the student body was of the utmost importance in their campaign process, they said.

“We wanted to have as many interactions as we could with the student body,” Alvarez said. “To achieve this goal of ours, we decided to have, like, mini-events where we could meet everyone we could.”

 They designed the mini-events around the idea of the candidates being able to give back to the student body in order to create a positive atmosphere on campus.

“We just wanted to give back to our fellow students with a fun treat or game that could cheer them up or make their day,” Zuniga said. “Overall, we just wanted to be a positive figure in the day of our classmates.”

Alvarez and Zuniga held many events throughout the week.

“On the first Monday of the campaign, we had Mangonada Monday, where we gave out free mangonadas to whoever stopped by us,” Zuniga said. “On Tuesday, we had Taco Tuesday with the same concept as the prior event.”

In order to receive their free treat, students waited in line to be served by the candidates. The intent behind this strategy was not complicated.

“It didn’t take too much thought in making sure this was the correct way we wanted to approach the campaign,” Alvarez said. “We just wanted to put ourselves out there and get to know as many people as we could.”

The student lines waited to be served, showing how many people the candidates could meet.

“The strategy 100-percent worked the way we wanted it to,”Alvarez said. “As soon as we saw the smiles on our classmates’ faces, and the amount of people we met. We knew we had done it the right way.”

The candidates enjoyed the campaign and said they would do it all over again if they could.  Being crowned Mr. and Ms. TAMIU means becoming public faces of the University.

According to the TAMIU website, “During their yearlong reign, Mr. and Ms. TAMIU will represent TAMIU at University and community events, serving as ambassadors for The International U.”

The pair of campaign mates do not shy away from the responsibility of representing the University.

“There is a great responsibility in being crowned Mr. and Ms. TAMIU, but that is a responsibility we would love to have bestowed on us,” Zuniga said. “We want to take on this responsibility and represent the University in the best way we possibly can.”

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