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Teach for America to honor local leaders and institutions

Those who have had a substantial impact on the educational opportunities for students across the Rio Grande Valley will be recognized by a national non-profit later this spring.

Teach For America announced the recipients of their third annual Honor Roll Gala that is set for later this spring at the Mission Event Center.

The three recipients include: Nolan Perez, MD who will receive the Educational Champion award; the Texas Workforce Commission, which will receive the Institutional Catalyst award; and Martin Winchester, the recipient of the Alumni Leadership award.

According to Jonathan Stevens, managing director for the Mission-based TFA location, this year’s slate of honorees have committed their careers and leadership towards starting new programs, implementing systems of excellence in schools, and remaining committed towards the promise of education to realize the dreams and full potential of all students in the Rio Grande Valley.

“This year’s honorees have had a long-term impact in a variety of different roles,” Stevens said, adding that the honorees excelled in responding to the challenges of a school year in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.  “They are focused on ensuring students and teachers are safe and that students stay connected to learning in whatever format they select.  In the middle of a challenging time, leaders such as our honorees are envisioning a future full of increased educational opportunities for students.”

The honorees are thinking about lessons learned in the last year about new ways of operating schools and programs which should continue into the future, Stevens said.

Dr. Perez, a gastroenterologist with a passion toward education, will be receiving the Educational Champion award. The award honors an individual who demonstrates individual leadership which advances educational excellence and equity for many students through a sustained commitment to supporting students, schools, and the broader community.

Perez has served on the Harlingen CISD board of trustees since 2010 and is a former member and chairmen of the Texas Women’s University Board of Regents and currently is a member of the University of Texas System Board of Regents. Dr. Perez created the RGV Mentors program to inspire high school students and assist them in transitioning into post-secondary education and has personally mentored many students such as college and medical students and residents in training. 

“From his own initial education in Point Isabel ISD to now, Dr. Perez has believed in the power of education to create opportunities and demonstrates it throughout all of his many leadership endeavors,” TFA stated in a bio for him.

The Texas Workforce Commission will receive the Institutional Catalyst award which recognizes an institution, nonprofit, governmental entity, educational institution, or business that supports students and the community as a whole.

According to a TFA news release, the TWC is the state agency which oversees workforce development efforts throughout the state, has funded several educational training programs for different skills such as community coding, internal nurse development efforts, and even a brewmaster program. 

Julian Alvarez III, the state Commissioner for Labor and a native of the Valley, will represent the commission at the Honor Roll gala.

The Alumni Leadership award is given to a Teach For America alumni who lives in the Valley and made an impact on the education field. Martin Winchester, who moved to the area to teach in the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District in 1995,  has served as teacher, principal, district administrator, and state agency official and is now the chief human assets officer for IDEA Public Schools.

According to the TFA, Winchester also served as deputy commissioner for the Texas Education Agency.

“The selection committee looked at the impact on education in the Rio Grande Valley over time and this year’s honorees represent the special opportunity to celebrate as a community the local progress in education and honor those individuals or institutions who have had a huge impact in leading this change,” Stevens said.  “The Valley is a fundamentally different place with educational opportunities for students, especially during a pandemic, because of this year’s honorees.  We have to be more flexible and provide a variety of participation options but felt like honoring our region’s educational progress was more important than ever this year.”

The Honor Roll Gala is set for Saturday, April 17 as a hybrid event will have options for in-person participation at the Mission Event Center or as a virtual event that can be watched at home.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit

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