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Paso Del Norte Health Foundation grants support healthy living; EPCC appoints trustee; more El Paso news

Paso Del Norte Health Foundation grants support healthy living; EPCC appoints trustee; more El Paso news

This is your weekly news roundup, which takes a quick look at some developments in government, politics, education, environment and other topics across El Paso.

PDN Health Foundation Awards $2.3 million in Grants 

The nonprofit Paso del Norte Health Foundation awarded 10 grants to organizations in El Paso, Las Cruces, and Chihuahua, Mexico, that are helping children and adults live healthier lives. The grants, totaling more than $2.3 million, support nutritious meals, physical activity, home gardens, teacher training and cooking education programs. Organizations that received funding include:

  • Desert Spoon Food Hub will use its award to implement a food exposure and education program to improve food literacy and fruit and vegetable consumption among 300 students from kindergarten through fifth grade in El Paso.
  • Kelly Center for Hunger Relief will provide case management and nutrition education to a minimum of 425 food-insecure adults in El Paso, San Elizario, Fabens and Tornillo.
  • La Semilla Food Center intends to train 300 educators to teach gardening and cooking skills to 3,000 students, provide technical assistance for school garden maintenance and provide cooking programming for 1,000 community members in Las Cruces and New Mexico.
  • Paso del Norte Children’s Development Center will administer the Sequential Oral Sensory Feeding program to at least 45 new El Paso patients with feeding difficulties and their families.
  • The Mustard Seed Cafe will teach healthy eating and gardening classes to at least 660 participants and provide appropriately portioned meals with vegetables at the cafe in El Paso.

El Paso Attorney Honored with Lifetime Achievement Award

El Paso attorney Carlos Cardenas has been awarded the Reynaldo G. Garza Lifetime Achievement Award from the Hispanic Issues Section of the State Bar of Texas.

Cardenas was cited for his work with the El Paso Bar Association, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, as fellows chair of the Texas Bar Foundation and for creating the El Paso Access to Justice Fair.

Carlos Cardenas

The award honors a Texas attorney who has “demonstrated a long commitment and made great achievements in addressing concerns and issues affecting the Hispanic community and who has worked toward advancing diversity and access to justice in the practice of law.” Cardenas received the award June 20 during the State Bar of Texas annual meeting in Dallas.

The award is named for the first Mexican American to serve on the federal bench. Garza was appointed in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy, and was appointed to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals by President Jimmy Carter in 1979. 

EPCC Board Appoints New Trustee to Fill Vacancy 

The El Paso Community College Board of Trustees recently appointed Jesus Mendez, 62, president of Winsupply of West El Paso in Vinton, Texas, to fill its vacant District 4 seat.

Jesus Mendez

Mendez, an El Paso native, said that he looked forward to using his experience as a business owner for 33 years to work with and support the college’s board and administration in their mission to serve students. In his application, he wrote that he wants to keep higher education affordable and accessible to students throughout the region.

The entrepreneur was one of eight applicants for the job opening created after Christina Sanchez resigned May 22 before her appointment earlier this month to fill the unexpired term of longtime County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal, who retired in June.

EPCC trustees interviewed five of the applicants who live in District 4, which is adjacent to the U.S.-Mexico border and includes homes in the Willows, South El Paso, parts of Kern Place, Sunset Heights, and into the Riverside and Del Valle high school areas. They considered professional background, leadership experience and commitment to the college’s goals, vision and mission.

Trustees, who are unpaid, set policy for the college, hire and fire the president, set the tax rate and approve the budget.

Mendez’s academic journey included stops at EPCC and the University of Texas at El Paso. He earned his welding certification from Western Technical College, and has been a licensed irrigator for more than 30 years.

According to the college, Mendez has been vice president of Common Cents Investment Group for 17 years, and has been active with Parent Teacher Student Associations within the El Paso Independent School District for the past 12 years.   

The businessman, a married father of one daughter, was sworn in June 22. He will serve out Sanchez’s term of office, which ends in May 2025. The next EPCC trustee election will be May 3, 2025, for districts 4, 5 and 6.

Foster Appointed to ERCOT Board Selection Committee

Gov. Greg Abbott has appointed El Paso businessman Paul Foster to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas Board Selection Committee. His term will expire at the pleasure of the governor.

Members of the selection committee appoint the 12-member board that oversees ERCOT,  the independent, nonprofit corporation that provides electricity to more than 27 million Texas customers – or about 90% of the state’s electric load.

Paul Foster

A former chairman of the ERCOT Board of Directors, Foster is CEO of Franklin Mountain Investments and Franklin Mountain Energy and serves as director of WestStar Bank in El Paso. He previously served as executive chairman of Western Refining, Inc.

Related: El Paso lags behind on state board appointments, representation

Additionally, Foster is former chairman of the University of Texas/Texas A&M Investment Management Company and The University of Texas System Board of Regents. He is a former member of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Texas Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors, and the El Paso Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. 

Program Offers Adults Opportunity to Earn Diploma

The El Paso Community College Board of Trustees approved Wednesday a $100,000 contract with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for its participation in the design of a program to help high school dropouts earn a diploma and a college credential.

Thirteen EPCC faculty worked with counterparts from four other community colleges in the state to develop the Opportunity High School Diploma program, which is under review by business partners. The design phase ends in September.

The program incorporates a basic high school curriculum such as math, civics, sciences and communication, as well as career and technical training to help adults who want to continue their education or be prepared to join the workforce.

Texas 2036, a nonpartisan public policy think tank, reported that 3.15 million Texans ages 18 and older – almost 14% of the population – did not have a high school diploma in 2022.

Steve Smith, EPCC’s vice president of Instruction and Workforce Education, said that the college has spoken with several area school districts about the possibility of offering the proposed program. He said the rural districts are excited about the prospect.

“They have significant populations that have some high school but maybe did not graduate from high school that can not only enroll in the high school program, but complete a career and technical education program at the same time,” he told trustees during their June 26 board meeting.

He said the college anticipates that the program would be offered at EPCC campuses, but it could spread to school district facilities if the enrollment is large enough.

The item passed 4-0. Trustees Jesus Mendez, Nina Piña and Belen Robles did not attend the meeting.

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