Wednesday, March 7, 2018
  Alumni, Announcements

By Amanda Taylor

Winning Essay

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – Luis Cano, a UTRGV sophomore pursuing a degree in electrical engineering, has a lot to be grateful for. And he was able to put his feelings into words to become the winner of the 2018 UTRGV Family of the Year essay contest.

The family was recognized Feb. 24 during halftime at a UTRGV Men’s Basketball game at the Fieldhouse on the Edinburg Campus. The day also was part of UTRGV’s Family Weekend, which provides family members an opportunity to visit the university, spend time with their student or students, connect with other family members, and experience campus life at UTRGV.

Cano wrote that when he was very young, he was taken away from his birth parents and lived in foster homes for a while with his siblings. His aunt and uncle, Dalinda and Alex Palacios, fought to gain custody of Cano to keep him in their family.

“I’ve lived with my aunt and uncle for about 10 years now,” Cano said. “They fought the courts to gain custody for us. We won that battle, and ever since then, they’ve raised me, guided me and taught me right from wrong.”

Cano used the essay contest as an opportunity to express his gratitude toward his adoptive parents, whom he refers to as “mom” and “dad.”

“I wanted to put into words how important my family is and tell them how much I love them,” he said. “This was a way for me to show everyone how much I appreciate them for their support.”

Hosted by the Office of Student Involvement, the family was presented with a plaque and a basket of goodies. The family also was given reserved seats to the basketball game that day.

“Events like this help show the importance that we place on our students’ families,” said Jodie Dominguez, assistant director for mentoring and transition services in the UTRGV Office of Student Involvement. “They help our students get to graduation, and this is a small way to recognize and thank them for that.” 

Cano was awarded $500 worth of V-Bucks to use on campus as he pleases. But the biggest reward, he said, was getting to express his gratitude for his family.

Students in January each year are asked to turn in an essay nominating their families. Nominations are open to all UTRGV students, and essay submissions are to be kept within a page. A panel of judges chooses which essays go on to the next level, where another panel of judges reads the essays anonymously. 

Many students turn in essays to spotlight their families, but there can only be one winner each year, Dominguez said.

“It’s great to hear all these stories from students and it’s so hard to just pick one,” Dominguez said. “I get to read all of the stories, and it’s nice to read about all the support these students receive at home.”

Dominguez said Family Weekend is a way to get families connected to UTRGV and show them some of the traditions the university community celebrates.

“This is a way for families to come to the university and be able to experience campus life,” she said. “We always want to be sure our families feel connected to the university and the university staff.”

Cano said that when he heard his essay had been selected, he called his family right away.

“When I got the news that I had won, it was such a good feeling,” he said. “My aunt and uncle have treated me like their own son, and they deserve recognition. Once I called and told them we won, they were happy, too.”


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.