Each of the three incumbents up for reelection in La Joya Independent School District ‘s November election faces a challenger in The Diamond Pack, a slate of political newcomers.
The incumbents are on a slate dubbed Team Liberty, a group formed two years ago that swept the school district’s election. They are J.J. Peña in place 1, J.J. Garza in place 2 and Johnn Alaniz in place 3.
Place 1 Team Liberty
Incumbent Peña lives in the city of Palmview; he grew up in Palmview and attended La Joya ISD until his high school graduation in 1997.
He is married to Melissa Peña. Upon completing his high school diploma, Peña attended South Texas Community College and the University of Texas-Pan American, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in finance and, in addition, obtained his real estate license. Currently, Peña is a self-employed real estate broker and developer.
He is also the father to Carolina and Sofia Peña. Carolina attends school in La Joya ISD.
Place 1 The Diamond Pack
Torres, 36, graduated from La Joya ISD in 1997 as a migrant student. He earned a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies with a minor in bilingual education from the University of Texas-Pan American in 2003 and a master’s degree in bilingual education and principalship certification in 2005.
He now is owner of Torres Quality Homes.
Torres is a Palmview resident with two children: Evan Fernando Torres, who attends school within the district and Dulce Fernanda Torres, who has not begun school yet.
From 2003-2012, Torres worked for La Joya ISD as a first-grade, second-grade and physical education teacher.
Place 2 Team Liberty
Garza is a current school board member who resides in La Joya. He, too, is a graduate of La Joya High School. Garza became an advocate of children’s education early on in his life. He is married to Veronica Lucero Garza.
A strong supporter of public education, and a firm believer in La Joya ISD, Garza has his three children at La Joya ISD. Garza also heads the City of La Joya’s Housing Authority.
Place 2 The Diamond Pack
Villarreal-Veloz has lived in La Joya 18 years. She is married with four children. Villarreal-Veloz graduated from La Joya High School in 1995 and earned a bachelor’s degree in communication science and disorders from UTPA in 1999. She earned a master’s degree from Texas Christian University in 2001.
“I want our community, students, parents, teachers to have a voice and be heard and for their issues to be addressed and taken care of,” Villarreal-Veloz said. “To be the voice that they need in order for all our children to benefit, not just a few hand picked amount.”
Villarreal-Veloz has worked with children as a speech language pathologist for 13 years. She’s also volunteered as an assistant coach at the Palmview Boys and Girls Club for soccer, softball and t-ball teams.
Place 3 Team Liberty
Alaniz is vice president of the school board, and a graduate of La Joya ISD. Currently, he is an active community member that gives back to the community, and can usually be caught supporting our students that are involved in extracurricular activities.
His advice to our students is to live life to its fullest because you only live once.
Alaniz is married to Magaly Alaniz, and they have three children, Johnn Alaniz II, Jannel and Jaedynn Alaniz, all students in La Joya ISD.
Place 3 The Diamond Pack
Cantu, 26, was born and raised in Rio Grande City. She has lived in La Joya ISD for more than seven years. Cantu graduated from Texas A&M University-Kingsville in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in communication science and disorders and a minor in psychology. While there, she received a membership to the National Honor Society, Sigma Alpha Pi Chapter.
A speech therapist, Cantu owns Children’s Education Station Learning Center. She is married to Alejandro Cantu and has a son, Cristan Alejandro Cantu.
Cantu is a community volunteer, having organized Thanksgiving meals for residents in need and Christmas toy drives for children. She’s also a strong advocate for children with autism and special needs.