City places No. 2 in statewide healthy living contest

HARLINGEN — No pain, no gain.

The city of Harlingen placed second and the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District placed first in the medium-sized city category in the 2017 Community Challenge with efforts even more impressive than last year.

It was the second year running that Harlingen and HCISD took home major honors in the Challenge, sponsored by It’s Time Texas and H-E-B.

The awards pitted 330 Texas communities against each other with points awarded for exercising more and tracking those workouts, eating healthier, organizing group and community events and encouraging family, friends and acquaintances to jump right in.

For the second straight year, HCISD won first place for school districts with enrollments of 10,000 to 39,999 students. Last year, the city took fifth place among the state’s mid-sized cities.

“Next year we’re going to get first place!” Mayor Chris Boswell told an enthusiastic audience of 300 students, health leaders and other officials yesterday at the Harlingen School of Health Professionals.

“We finished the year with almost a million and a half points, one million four-hundred and sixty-one thousand points, behind Coppell, Texas. Even though we were second in the mid-sized category, that’s more points than Brownsville got,” Boswell said to applause and laughter.

Last year, Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez issued a challenge to Boswell and Harlingen over which city would do better in the Community Challenge. Brownsville finished fifth in 2017 in the large city category with 216,400 points.

Competitive attitudes aside, the Community Challenge and what it represents is serious business for the Rio Grande Valley. Boswell has taken an active approach to promoting healthier lifestyles to try to counter the high rates of hypertension, obesity and diabetes so common here.

Sandra Flinn, appointed by Boswell to chair his Mayor’s Wellness Council, praised the partnership forged between the city and HCISD.

“As students, you may not recognize that now, but as you get older, and then you have children and when you raise those children, you’ll understand that the cohesiveness between the city leadership and the school district leadership only creates a really awesome community for everyone to live in,” Flinn said.

Arturo Cavazos, superintendent of the Harlingen school district, said as he has before that health problems in the Valley are of particular significance to him given his family’s history of diabetes and heart disease.

“This is only possible when we change the narrative, that means we change the conversation,” Cavazos said of HCISD’s back-to-back first-place finishes. “Many things have happened in our school district as a result of the fact that we’re focusing on wellness and taking care of our staff and our students.

“These things don’t just happen because we wake up and say, ‘somebody will take care of it,’” he added. “It happens because we have great people in leadership positions, like our school board, that continue to impress on us the importance of taking care of ourselves.”

Community Challenge 2017 Winning Cities


1. Austin

2. Fort Worth

3. San Antonio


1. Garland

2. Pasadena

3. Round Rock

5. Brownsville


1. Coppell

2. Harlingen

3. Texas City

5. Pharr


1. Prosper

2. Trophy Club

3. Lancaster

Extra Small

1. Dripping Springs

2. Sabinal

3. Smithville

Top School Districts


1. Harlingen CISD

Community Challenge scoring

Points are awarded for exercising more and tracking those workouts, eating healthier, organizing group and community events and encouraging family, friends and acquaintances to participate. Scoring comes from individuals, cities, school districts, businesses and more.

It’s Time Texas

Is a nonprofit, statewide organization focused on improving the landscape of health and wellness in Texas. The organization offers free programs, tools and services to harness the collective power of Texas’ leading agencies, institutions, organizations and companies to empower Texans to lead healthier lives and build healthier communities.