UTRGV professor receives Community Service Award from NAHRO Texas Chapter

Francisco Guajardo, Ph.D., a professor and C. Bascom Slemp Endowed Chair in Education at the UTRGV College of Education and P-16 Integration, has received the 2015 Community Service Award from the Texas Chapter of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials, for his work with the families and staff at the Edinburg Housing Authority. (UTRGV Photo by Kristela Garza)

By Melissa Vasquez 

EDINBURG, TEXAS – APRIL 11, 2016 – Since 2012, Dr. Francisco Guajardo has shared his time, knowledge and ideas with the families and staff at the Edinburg Housing Authority (EHA).

That dedication, along with his drive to make a difference in the world, has earned him the 2015 Community Service Award from the Texas Chapter of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO).

His efforts to improve the lives of the children and families living in Edinburg public housing did not go unnoticed by the EHA staff, who nominated him for the award.

Guajardo, Ph.D., a professor and C. Bascom Slemp Endowed Chair in Education at the UTRGV College of Education and P-16 Integration, with assistance from UTRGV students in a class in Educational Leadership and a Mexican American Studies independent study group, helped establish five reference libraries in each EHA public housing community. He also inspired creation of the Edinburg Housing Authority Youth Leadership Association and initiated several educational and leadership initiatives for EHA residents.

“Because of the way he has partnered up with us and the positive changes we have seen in our residents, we nominated him at the state level,” said EHA Executive Director Rodolfo “Rudy” Ramirez.

Ramirez said he calls upon Guajardo’s expertise every chance he gets. And the fact that Guajardo grew up in public housing in Elsa makes him relatable, Ramirez said, an encouraging example for the children currently living in public housing.

“He is a champion for housing,” Ramirez said. “He has all these awesome credentials that might intimidate people, especially people from housing. But as soon as he says he is one of them, that curtain just drops.” 

Guajardo, one of the founding directors of UTRGV’s Center for Bilingual Studies, recently was named the founding executive director of the B3 Institute at the university. In his new position, he collaborates with faculty in colleges, centers and programs to frame the bilingual, bicultural and biliterate mission of UTRGV.

Guajardo said he considers himself an “engaged professor” in the community, and hopes that via his new position he can help expand the meaning of “service” at UTRGV.

“Service is when you are helping people in the community have better organizations in the private or public sector outside of this institution,” he said.

Guajardo’s ultimate goal in collaborating with the Edinburg Housing Authority is to get the university more broadly involved in creating change for the children and families in public housing.

“What I am imagining is that we can have a lot of chunks of the university engage with the housing authority,” he said. “We’ve talked about this as a vision. So we can have a big program that is very research-based, very thoughtful and very strategic, and very regional.”

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