Dallas Lawmaker Rep. Alonzo Honored With “2008 Higher Education Champion” Award . . . During the Annual TAMACC’s Statewide Hispanic Chamber’s Annual Legislative Awards Gala
Earlier this evening, Texas State Representative Roberto R. Alonzo (Dallas) was honored with the 2008 Higher Education Champion Award for his exemplary advocacy work on behalf of higher education issues in Texas, particularly as they impact Latino students and faculty across the state as well as for his active influential work as a member of the House Higher Education Committee during the 80th Texas Legislature. The award was presented by the Texas Association of Mexican-American Chambers of Commerce (TAMACC) during their annual Legislative Awards Gala which took place on Thursday, evening, January 17, 2008, in Austin, Texas, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in the Capital City. TAMACC, the business trade association which represents, advocates, and lobbies on behalf of all Hispanic chambers and Hispanic-owned businesses from across Texas, annually honors local, state, and federal legislators for their outstanding leadership, legislative advocacy, and community involvement in a number of legislative areas.
“I am truly honored and humbled indeed to receive this prestigious Higher Education Champion Award from TAMACC, an outstanding organization that has done so much for the advancement of Hispanics and Hispanic-owned businesses in general all over the state for over 30 years, including the exemplary work it does through its scholarship program to help students attend college every year. My work as a state legislator could not be done without the help, assistance, and research support of organizations like TAMACC that consistently advocate the advancement of our Hispanic growing population, not only in Texas but all over the country,” stated Rep. Alonzo.
Education in general, including higher education issues and the importance of getting a college education, have consistently been one of Rep. Alonzo’s legislative priorities since he was first elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1992, at the time becoming the first Latino from the entire North Texas/DFW region elected to serve in the Texas Legislature. “ Advocating higher education issues in general, and the importance of getting a college education, in particular, has always been one of my most time-consuming, but yet most gratifying activities as a public servant because I am convinced that it is the economic engine that can undoubtedly open so many doors of opportunity not only for Latinos specifically, but for all Texans and all communities in general. Without a doubt, the more educated our citizenry is, the higher the chances that citizens will get the higher-paying jobs, advance faster in their professional careers, but most importantly, the healthier our economy in general will be in the long run. Moreover, a college education is something that can never be taken away, and as I always tell groups of students, parents, and educators, one is never too old to get a college education either,” continued Rep. Alonzo.
“I think it is so urgently important to encourage all our young men and women to seriously consider a college education beyond high school. Today, the completion of a bachelor’s degree, at a minimum, is comparable to what the completion of a high school diploma was 15 or 20 years ago. Many jobs in today’s market require at least a bachelor’s degree to even get a job interview, as it is becoming more and more competitive to find reasonable paying jobs. Thus, it is so important that today’s students and their families start thinking as early as possible in their middle, junior and high school careers, more in terms of a college education degree rather than just getting a high school diploma,” continued Rep. Alonzo.
“I realize that for some students, an education beyond high school may be a difficult decision to make, but it is not impossible, and better yet, there are many available financial aid resources, professional counselors, educators, and many excellent student-friendly organizations like TAMACC and others that are always willing to help students and their families find ways to make this college path possible and much easier to navigate,” continued Rep. Alonzo.
“I applaud the untiring, exemplary work that organizations like TAMACC, the Greater Dallas Hispanic Chamber, and others like them, have undertaken for decades to ensure that we increase economic opportunities for all Hispanics in Texas, consistently advocate the importance of a college education for our students, help small Hispanic business owners, but most importantly, improve the overall economic conditions of Hispanics in Texas, and serve as their leading advocate before the Texas Legislature, US Congress, Corporate America, and various governmental entities. As an attorney and small business owner myself, and advocate of higher education issues in the Texas Legislature, I am fully aware of the tremendous positive impact and entrepreneurial guidance that organizations like TAMACC can have on the economic vitality of this state. As a state legislator, I often hear from constituents, including small business owners, college students, young teens, and their parents, regarding some of the obstacles they face daily in dealing with everyday issues and concerns that impact their success. I have always found the advocacy work that TAMACC and its affiliate chamber members do everyday, to be most beneficial to them when they come to me with such matters. Once again, I applaud the work of TAMACC and all Hispanic chambers across Texas, for bestowing this prestigious honor on me today. I know full well that their excellent professional work and untiring advocacy initiatives on behalf of higher educational opportunities for all students and small Hispanic business owners in Texas, will go a long way in enhancing the growth, economic development, and quality of life for all Hispanics not only in Texas, but across this nation,” concluded Rep. Alonzo.
In addition to consistently advocating higher education issues in the legislature and also being a member of the House Higher Education Committee, last May during the 80th Regular Session, Rep. Alonzo almost single-handedly help defeat SB 101, legislation that would have abolished the state’s Top 10% Automatic Admissions Law (HB 588 passed in 1997). The Dallas lawmaker worked vigorously on the House Floor lobbying other legislators to sign the petition to defeat SB 101 by a resounding 75-64 vote, including legislators from all corners of the state – Democrats and Republicans alike. The successful defeat of SB 101 meant that it kept intact the legacy of the late State Rep. Irma Rangel’s legislation – the author of that 1997 measure (HB 588 of 1997). Rep. Alonzo stood strong, tooth and nail, every step of the way to ensure that more Latinos in this state have an opportunity to attend college, and be able to afford it. As was clearly stated in an August 2, 2007, Dallas Morning News Opinion Editorial, after the 80th Regular Session adjourned, “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it,” is the attitude that Rep. Alonzo and other lawmakers had when this 1997 Rangel law was kept intact, thus keeping the doors wide open for many more Latino students to be able to go to college and become productive citizens of society. Rangel who passed away in 2003 toward the end of the session, was Chairwoman of the House Higher Education Committee in the legislature at the time the 1997 measure was passed into law; she was also a former chair of the 42-member Mexican American Legislative Caucus (MALC), one of the strongest and most influential caucuses within in the Texas Legislature for years.
Additionally, during the last legislative session, Rep. Alonzo was also able to successfully secure the necessary funding to continue the Alonzo Bilingual/ESL Scholars Program at the University of North Texas – Dallas, a loan-forgiveness and scholarship program that provides financial assistance to potential teachers earn certification in bilingual education/ESL teaching. Moreover, the Dallas lawmaker authored or co-authored various other pertinent higher education measures to attract more minority students into the engineering field; legislation to increase diversity on the Select Commission on Higher Education (SCHE); and legislation that creates the Texas Tomorrow Fund II – a scholarship/grants financial aid program, among other higher education measures.
The Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce is a private non-profit corporation with a 501(c) (6) IRS designation, founded over 30 years ago (1975) by a small group of Hispanic business persons interested in increasing business opportunities for themselves and other similar business owners. The association, with headquarters in Austin, acts as the organizational umbrella providing advocacy, technical support, programs, and services to the network of local Hispanic chambers. TAMACC includes 26 Hispanic chambers across Texas, and has over 13,000 members, including many small business owners, large companies, and corporations. TAMACC encourages opportunities in commerce and organizes local programs to improve the overall economic conditions of the Hispanic business population in Texas, as well as improve the higher educational opportunities for more Latinos to attend and graduate from college.