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Evergreen memories: LJISD holds tree planting ceremony to honor those who have passed

This article originally appeared in the Friday Nov. 8, 2019 issue of the Progress Times.

20 new trees were planted on La Joya ISD grounds last weekend.

On Nov. 2, the La Joya Independent School District held a special tree planting ceremony honoring and celebrating the lives of former students, employees and trustees who have passed. Their families gathered at the LJISD Transportation Complex early Saturday morning for breakfast before visiting the new saplings outside.

20191102 LaJoyaISDTreePlantingJose Garcia, the principal at Treviño Middle School and a member of the Tree Planting Memorial Committee, said the district’s goal was to show respect and appreciation for the contributions each honoree made in different capacities.

“We honor the impact [the] loved ones have had on La Joya ISD,” Garcia said.

Superintendent Gisela Saenz spoke on the importance of remembering those who have contributed to the success of La Joya ISD.

“This event provides us with the opportunity to proudly connect with our community, our alumni and our students as we honor those who have made an everlasting mark at La Joya ISD,” Saenz said, describing the history of the district. “We have a legacy of excellence, and we have a strong commitment to our community.”

Saenz said they value and respect everyone who has advocated with the district to make education a priority, saying those being honored worked tirelessly for the improvement of the future.

“We reflect on their lives and as we acknowledge the unique contribution that each one of them made to make our district what it is today: a strong and vibrant district,” Saenz said. “By planting a tree in their memory, we will forever have a permanent place to remember their love for La Joya ISD.”

Saenz noted that the district would be providing a “green and sustainable space” for all future generations in La Joya ISD. Board President Esperanza “Espie” Ochoa said the day was bittersweet.

“For us here at La Joya ISD, it’s about those who made an impact on our district,” Ochoa said. “From our students, who still carry much love in our hearts, to our staff that work tirelessly and are dedicated to our district, to our mentors that guided us. We know that we could not make this happen without the support and assistance of a great community, partners and advocates.”

Ochoa said the honorees will forever be remembered for their commitment, dedication and passion to La Joya ISD.

Mary Lily Garza, the principal of Camarena Elementary and a member of the Tree Planting Memorial Committee, said there is power in remembering loved ones.

“Sitting together, retelling family stories, looking through family photos or using family recipes that take us back to the old days are just some of the ways that we keep the memories of our loved ones in our hearts,” Garza said. “The hope trees planted today symbolize the everlasting contributions these individuals gave to La Joya ISD. To help it grow and flourish.”

Garza said that over the years the trees will grow taller and spread their branches, and La Joya ISD will remember the people behind the tree who helped students excel.

The 20 people honored were: Cynthia Flores (La Joya HS student, class of 2009), Heriberto Flores, Jr. (sub-custodian for 20 years), Petra Garza (bus driver for 21 years), Adalia (Lala) Morin (bus driver for 17 years), Raul Salinas (custodian for 12 years), Gricelda “Chela” Flores (custodian for 21 years), Ricardo Zamora (police officer for 24 years), Lazaro Hernandez (security officer for 20 years), Juan Lopez (maintenance painter for 28 years), Verseidy Hernandez (student from Dr. Americo Paredes Elementary), Alejandro “Alex” H. Saenz (Director of Music Education for 35 years) Irene Garcia (school board member for over 40 years), William “Billy” Leo (school board member for eight years), Idolina “Linda” Alaniz (CNS cafeteria cook for 31 years), Magda Garza (computer proctor for five years), Ronda Ruby (social studies teacher for 25 years), Jorge Flores (safety officer “604” for 26 years), Maria Zarate (security officer for 15 years), Elias Macias III (student from Academy of Health Science Professions) and Saragosa Salinas (school board member).

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