Posted: Oct 30, 2012 8:44 PM
Updated: Oct 31, 2012 7:21 AM
HIDALGO COUNTY - Rudy Silva Elementary School lies in the northern fringes of Weslaco, between the city and a colonia.
Juan Victor, Ruby, Daniella, Monica and Sergio are students at the school.
"We have high expectations for all children. It's just establishing strong relationships with all children, especially with our economically disadvantaged children," Rudy Silva Principal Cris Valdez said.
Valdez said more than 650 of her students are listed as economically disadvantaged.
"As you know, education is the greatest equalizer," she said.
"They come to our schools and we're ready. And we're going to do whatever it takes on our part to make sure that they succeed ... to make sure that they are college- and career-ready," Valdez said.
"For some of us, who used to be at that age and walked the hallways like those children ... that was us. And you know what, we made it," she said.
Valdez earned a scholarship to attend the University of Texas-Pan American.
Valdez is into her fifth year at Silva elementary.
"I used to be them. I was a Weslaco ISD student who was economically disadvantaged," she said.
"I know what it's like to not have clothes for back to school, or supplies. I remember my parents having to struggle," she said fighting back tears.
"We have the passion and the motivation to provide for them and make sure that they're okay," Valdez said.
Education is an emotional subject for her. It was what gave her a chance to improve her life.
"We're Silva. We're simply the best, and we believe that we are. And I know that our children will go on to do great things," Valdez said.
Great things start as simple ideas from people willing to go the extra mile.
"I could never be in an office. I have to be out here, meeting the needs of our people," Letty Cantu said. She is part of the Weslaco ISD Parental Involvement Department.
Her job takes to the colonias in the area "two to three times a week," she said.
"This is the Vallejo household ... that's the Osorio household," she said during a recent outing to a colonia just south of Silva elementary.
"There's a variety of reasons. Sometimes a counselor might need a signature on a certain document, or the phones are no longer in service. The child has missed school three days in a row, or I'm unable to get to them by phone. So I come and check what the situation is," Cantu said.
Cantu sees first-hand the living conditions in the colonias.
"Dirt floors, no electricity, no running water. But you know, as humble as they are, they always want to offer you something," she said.
Cantu said she feels safe venturing into the colonias. She feels protected by the people she helps.
Her job hasn't been easy, she said. She has had to stand up to people that would make others tremble.
"Gentlemen coming out intoxicated. ... The child not being in school for a few days. ... The child lets you in and mom is sprawled on the floor from the night before. That's very heart-breaking," she said.
"It's not a 9 to 5 job. Sometimes you take it home," she said.
"Poor people want nice things too," Cantu said.
"Be giving, be loving and see yourselves in them. See them through compassionate eyes and know that you can do something to help them," Cantu said.
She wishes more people would venture into the colonias.
"I wish they would ... to see where our children come from ... to see why they don't have their homework. Maybe they don't have electricity," she said.
A good education comes from a community that cares, she said. It can impact some of the youngest, like Ruby who is in kindergarten.
"We have individuals in our community that will stop by and drop-off backpacks full of supplies. We do provide," Cantu said.
"Weslaco ISD is a wonderful district that provides for all of our children. But there are individuals out there that go above and beyond," she said.