Wednesday, June 20, 2018
  Around Campus, Community

By Amanda Alaniz

EDINBURG, TEXAS – Three, two, one – blast off!

Those exciting words kicked off Space Explorers Day at the Team Mario Fun Fridays Summer Camp on the UTRGV Edinburg Campus.

The university has hosted the summer camp – unique in that its range of activities are designed for children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder – for the past five years.

Team Mario was founded by Melinda Moreno, whose son, Mario, was diagnosed with ASD after his second birthday. The organization’s mission is to educate, support and advocate for children and families affected by autism.

‘‘There’s a new level of acceptance when a child comes to Team Mario for the first time, because that’s something they aren’t going to experience outside as easily.
—Lisa Beccera, Program Director for Team Mario’’

Lisa Beccera, the organization’s program director, said she first met Mario when he was 4 years old, when she answered a flyer for a tutor while she was attending school at UTPA. She is now a speech therapist and assists with organizing events for Team Mario, including the summer camp.

Fun Fridays Summer Camp takes place every Friday from June 8 to July 6, and each day features different themes that range from F.I.T. Kids to Superhero Celebration. The Fridays are divided into two sessions – one in the morning and one in the afternoon. This year, there were 31 participants from ages 7 to 15.

During each camp, the children participate in activities like crafts, obstacle courses, music and games. One of the activities the children completed at the space camp was learning about the lunar phases using Oreos. The volunteers helped each child split the Oreo to eat the cream to formulate what the moon looks like in its different phases.

“There’s a new level of acceptance when a child comes to Team Mario for the first time, because that’s something they aren’t going to experience outside as easily,” Beccera said. “We come across a lot of kids who probably wouldn’t typically be afforded opportunities like going to the movies, visiting a planetarium or coming to a university to go to camp. And you do see positive changes in the kids.”

The next theme for the coming summer camp on June 22 is LEGO Palooza and Mixed Reality Simulation.

To learn about Fun Fridays Summer Camp, contact Johnny Salinas, administrative assistant, at (956) 665-3358.

To learn more about Team Mario, visit


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.