Video: EEHS Cleanup

This past month, LLano Grande students have been organizing several events and projects to support what they see as a decline in the morale of the Edcouch-Elsa school district.

One of these projects included a clean-up of Edcouch-Elsa High School. The high school, faced with a reduction in maintenance staff, and a decrease in maintenance funding, has fallen into disrepair in the eyes of the students, who daily see trash piling up around campus. Moved to action, these students gave up a Saturday to clean up their campus and send a message that they are willing to help their school in whatever way they can.

The video below explains the cleanup:

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LG Students Give Advice to White House

Youth from the Llano Grande Center met in conversation with officials from the U.S. Department of Education earlier this month to provide feedback on the state of Hispanic education.

The meeting, held at the University of Texas – Brownsville campus, was part of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans (WHEEHA), which involves a series of community forums being held across the state to hear from educators and students about the barriers facing Hispanic students in U.S. classrooms.

The Llano Grande group included Vivianna Rodriguez, Niella Martinez, and Angie Rodriguez – all Edcouch-Elsa High School class of 2009 – and Nadia Casaperalta, EEHS 06, an anthropology major at Kalamazoo College who is working with the Center this summer.

During the meeting, the Llano Grande Center youth and staff held dialogues with White House officials including Juan Sepulveda, head of WHEEHA, and other local educational leaders including teachers and university presidents. Providing feedback based on their own personal stories of struggles they faced in school – particularly related to the high-stakes pressure created by the state-mandated accountability test and No Child Left Behind – the Llano Grande students brought unique perspectives into the room, especially since they were the only youth in the conversation.

According to Sepulveda, the information gathered from these dialogues will be compiled into a report that will then inform future policy recommendations made to Congress and the White House.

The Llano Grande Center has a history of becoming involved in and informing educational policy, with Center youth and staff having participated in various forums and testimonies throughout the years.

Nadia Casaperalta (EEHS 06) speaks to participants at the meeting.

Nadia Casaperalta (EEHS 06) speaks to participants at the meeting.

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LG Visits Hawaii For Conference

Llano Grande staff were invited to the Aloha State this summer to participate in a Place-Based Inquiry that focused on exploring indigenous methods of evaluation and assessment.

The meeting was organized by the University of Hawaii – Manoa as part of the Catalzying Community Foundations (CCF) initiative sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

As participants in the meeting, Llano Grande provided its own perpective of evaluation that attempts to move away from traditional models involving statistics, but instead focuses on deeper forms of inquiry that include storytelling – both oral and digital – and respect for local culture. Center staff even produced a digital story while at the conference to highlight the power of this medium.

The CCF is a collective of philanthropic and community change groups from Hawaii, New Mexico and Florida who will be meeting several times to explore ways of fostering greater forms of change in communities.

The Llano Grande Center will be hosting a meeting of the CCF during Summer 2010, where participants will learn to use digital storytelling as an evaluation tool.

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LG Youth Selected For National Advisory Board

Llano Grande student Edgar Diaz, who graduated this past June from Edcouch-Elsa High School, was selected from more than 300 national applicants to serve as an Associate Board Member for the State Farm Youth Advisory Board.

He is one of 17 youth from across the United States and Canada selected through a competitive process based on youth leadership experience and a telephone interview. The State Farm Youth Advisory Board includes students ages 17 to 20. As a leadership board, they oversee a $5 million-a-year State Farm funded initiative.

Edgar was critical in helping his school and the Llano Grande Center write the grant application for the recently awarded $100,000 Youth Advisory Board grant. Under this program, he is leading a group of students who will serve as college application mentors for the local community, providing guidance to students and their parents on the various aspects of applying to college, securing financial aid, and preparing for the transition into a new learning environment. He and his team have already partnered with the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg, TX, to host a financial literacy training this summer that will benefit youth and community members by providing assistance in financial planning for college.

The Youth Advisory Board will oversee the awarding of grants to student-led service-learning projects, which will address important community issues like teen seatbelt use and disaster preparedness. They will work in a virtual environment and convene for four meetings throughout the next year. The first 2009-2010 Board meeting will be at State Farm’s Corporate Headquarters in Bloomington, Ill. on June 29.

“Education is the most important issue in the world. It provides fairness, peace and structure, but a lack of education causes abuse of power. I believe all people around the world deserve a chance to improve their education, no matter age, race, or gender.” said Edgar Diaz

Edgar will serve a one year term with the opportunity to serve an additional year. He will commit about 15 hours a month to the board. As an Associate Board Member, Edgar will receive a $3,000 scholarship. He will be considered for a second term as a board member and an additional $5,000 scholarship. Board members use the scholarships for post-secondary education at a four-year, two-year, or vocational training program.

“These exceptional students are already leaders in their communities,” said Fred Marsh with State Farm, Texas Zone Vice President of Operations. “This investment in young people reflects State Farm’s sincere commitment to tapping the passion and expertise of our younger generation.”

In February, the board awarded grants to youth-led service-learning projects that addressed disaster preparedness, driver safety, financial education, environmental responsibility and access to higher education/closing the achievement gap.

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LG Students Learn Finances

Fifteen Llano Grande students are participating in a financial literacy workshop hosted this week by The University of Texas-Pan American.
The training comes as part of a student-led initiative called Financial Aid and College Education Specialists (FACES), in which the students are becoming experts on the college application process in order to provide guidance to their peers and local families.
As part of the expertise they are gaining, the FACES students are learning about various topics including budgeting, saving, banking, and credit card use, essential knowledge for any graduate who is expected to take on more responsibility for themself after high school.
Students will benefit from their learning as they transition into financially independent adults, but will also be sharing their learning with other youth and community members as they launch their peer mentoring program on issues of college admissions and financial planning for college.
This training is made possible through a Hispanic Serving Institution Assisting Communities (HSIAC) grant awarded to the University of Texas Pan American

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YAB Presentation Photos Online

State Farm formally announced Llano Grande student Edgar Diaz as one of 17 young people from across the U.S. selected to be a member on their Youth Advisory Board at a presentation held at the Llano Grande House on July 21, 2009.

Photos of the event can be viewed HERE .

The press release about the event can be read HERE .

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LG Hosting Free Training on Service Learning

The Llano Grande Center, with support from the State Farm Good Neighbor Citizenship grant, will be hosting a free full-day seminar in October for teachers and students on service learning.

This workshop, scheduled for November 13, will enable teachers and students to understand the elements and benefits of service-learning and to design service-learning projects for their own classrooms. Because State Farm is committed to supporting service learning in more classrooms across South Texas, this workshop is open to teachers and students from across the Rio Grande Valley.

As part of the workshop, the Llano Grande Center will share its own curriculum for service learning, as well as examples of some of the success stories to come out of Edcouch-Elsa High School. One of those successes includes a group of students who organized an awareness campaign to inform teens about the dangers of distracted driving.

“Being involved last year in Llano Grande’s Ready, Set, Drive project was life changing,” said Angie Rodriguez, a 2009 Edcouch-Elsa High School graduate who helped to organize the cleanups. “It’s not about just giving my time to a service project, but about changing myself, seeing others change as well, and learning things I may not have learned otherwise in a typical classroom.”

Teachers who participate are eligible to recieve a free Flip camcorder ( to document whatever service learning projects they initiate at their own school.

A brochure of the workshop can be downloaded HERE. For more information, or to register for the workshop, please call Associate Director Delia Perez at (956) 262-4474. Because space is limited, teachers are asked to register as soon as possible.

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New Date For Service Learning Training

The service learning training being hosted by the Llano Grande Center has been rescheduled for Friday, November 13, 2009. More information on the training can be found HERE. A brochure for the training can be downloaded HERE.

The training will be held from 9 a.m to 3:30 p.m. at the Hampton Inn & Suites located on Nolana and Expressway 281 in Pharr.

Registration for this FREE event is open until October 30. For more information, or to register, please call our office at (956) 262-4474.

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Llano Grande to be featured on “Today” Show

The Llano Grande Center will be featured on national television Thursday, October 22 as part of a weeklong NBC News series called “A Woman’s Nation” which takes an in-depth look at the changing role of women in the workplace The story, which focuses on Llano Grande Center Associate Director Delia Pé²¥z, will air during the “Today Show.”

Reported on by “Today Show” correspondent Jenna Bush-Hager, the piece highlights Pé²¥z as an inspirational role model for young women, because of her accomplishments, but also because her work with the Center creates new opportunities for young women to succeed. The feature will also highlight the work of the Llano Grande Center as a model of assets-based learning that looks beyond deficits to encourage young people to achieve.

Pé²¥z is a native of the Monte Alto community just north of Elsa, the youngest of seven children to parents who had little formal education. Before graduating as salutatorian from Edcouch-Elsa High School, she was part of the student group that initiated the Ivy League college trip at EEHS. Delia attended and graduated from Yale University and returned to help develop the Llano Grande Center as a teacher. Her work as the chief manager of the Center focuses on developing leadership in young people as a way to prepare them for college.

The feature on Pé²¥z and the Llano Grande Center is part of an NBC News series developed by former NBC reporter Maria Shriver titled “A Woman’s Nation” which reports on the emergence of strong women in roles beyond the home. Data being reported on as part of the piece highlight how women now – for the first time – make up 50% of the nation’s workforce, and how more than 50% of graduate degrees are now earned by women.

The story on Pé²¥z and the Llano Grande Center will also feature interviews with students who have been influenced by Pé²¥z and continue to be involved in the Center’s programming. Maribel Saenz, a Llano Grande Board Member and a senior at the University of Texas-Pan American; and Samantha Herrera and Angelica Rodriguez, both seniors at EEHS, sat down with Bush-Hager to answer questions about their experience with Llano Grande and the role women have played in their lives.

The “Today Show” airs weekdays from 7 to 10 a.m. on NBC affiliate KVEO, channel 23, cable channel 8.

The Llano Grande Center is a community-based non-profit that operates in conjunction with the Edcouch-Elsa school district to revitalize the local community through youth. The goals of the Center include creating access to higher education, engaging students in community change initiatives and developing leadership that respects local history and culture.

For more information, please contact our office at (956) 262-4474.

For more information on “A Woman’s Nation” please visit

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