A. Colleen DeGuzman

Colleen DeGuzman is a staff writer for The Monitor, covering features and general assignments. She can be reached at (956) 683-4424 or cdeguzman@themonitor.com.

Duo arrested for suspected auto theft ring

McAllen police arrested a duo that investigators say used specialized reprogramming technology to steal vehicles across McAllen and Mission with remote entry systems. Police say that Raul Aguila, 24, and Angel Garabitos, 31, have stolen 10 cars since April using uncut key fobs. Some of the vehicles they’re accused of stealing include a 2018 Nissan Altima, 2016 Infiniti QX80 and a 2019 Infiniti QX80 — all of which unlock and start with a remote keypad. Both men were arrested on May 24 and were each charged for one count of unlawful use of criminal instruments, six counts of theft of property worth between $30 and $150,000 and four counts of theft of property worth between $2,500 and $30,000. Read the full story at themonitor.com

McAllen native part of heroic El Paso trauma center team after shooting

Ten months ago, all surgeons of the University Medical Center of El Paso received a text from the chief of surgery there: “Active shooter. Anybody available return to the hospital immediately.” Dr. Alejandro Rios Tovar, a McAllen native, who since 2011 has been an associate trauma medical director at the medical center, was one of the few who got that text on Aug. 3, 2019. Tovar had just gotten home in El Paso after a 30-hour shift as the on-call surgeon the night before. On his way home, he picked up McDonald’s — something he said he does not do often — because he “just wanted to go home and pass out, and eat whatever was on the road home.” Read the full story at themonitor.com

Sleeping during the pandemic: Advice on finding rest for the restless

As anxiety caused by the coronavirus continues to build, so have problems of restlessness for some — an often ignored problem that, in turn, can affect functionality throughout the day, a local physician explained. Dr. Adolfo Kaplan, a physician at the McAllen Pulmonary and Sleep Center of the Valley, said the importance of sleep is not addressed enough. Before the pandemic, approximately 30% of the population suffered from insomnia. Cases of chronic insomnia can lead to increased chances of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and several types of dementia. Insomnia also leads to obesity. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Nonprofit continues to support students to, and through, college

The transition from high school to college can be a daunting step as it is. Now, as students also face unprecedented obstacles that the coronavirus pandemic has brought to education systems, nonprofit College Scholarship Leadership Access Program, or CSLAP, has been working to support local seniors through the process of college admissions.  Through workshops and mentorship with university students, the Rio Grande Valley-based organization works with high school juniors and seniors to  prepare them for college. Workshops cover a range of topics, including professionalism, campus policy, and budgeting.  The last several months of a school year are integral for seniors to get assistance in getting ready for university life, so CSLAP has been hosting several virtual panels to answer questions they may have. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

IDEA Quest teacher holds off on grad school plans to see students through to...

He put his own educational endeavors on hold because he wanted to see his first class of students walk the stage. Though it won’t be something he will get to be able to actually see happen anymore, Alejandro Madrigal said he would not have changed a thing — the bonds he forged with his students were more than he could have asked for. The Weslaco native graduated from the University of Texas in Austin before taking his first step in the education field as an eighth grade U.S. history teacher at IDEA Quest College Preparatory in 2015 through Teach for America. The organization places teachers in schools across the country for two years, and Madrigal was placed back in the Rio Grande Valley to teach for a couple of years before going to graduate school — at least, that was the plan. “I think other teachers could attest to this too, there is something special about the first group you teach,” Madrigal, 26, said. “So, I had to see them go all the way through, there was almost no doubt that I had to stay until I saw that happen… it was OK that my plans were put on hold for just a few years.” Read the full story at themonitor.com

Interest in cycling shifts upward as RGV stays home

When coronavirus restrictions were at their most stringent, roads emptied — along with restaurants, gyms and most other places people congregate. What stayed open, though, were sidewalks, where walkers, joggers and cyclists hit the trail in numbers some Rio Grande Valley municipalities describe as unprecedented. Representatives from the city of Mission say they lack a way to measure the increase, but they have seen a dramatic uptick in the number of residents using parks like the Mission Hike and Bike Trail. “It used to be (just) the bike clubs, competitive cyclists out there,” Recreation Director Brad Bentsen said of the five-mile route. “Now it has gone back to the old family ways. You can just go out there and observe how many people are using our bike trails — it’s all day, every day.” Read the full story at themonitor.com

STHS employs technologies to clean air, surfaces as elective procedures resume

South Texas Health Systems recently acquired technology designed to filter its air and disinfect surfaces in its hospitals — action taken to ease any public health anxieties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. The new tech includes a rapid UVC disinfector, 18 Amaircare filters and four dry hydrogen peroxide generators.  Since late April, after Gov. Greg Abbott lifted restrictions on elective medical procedures across the state, STHS COO Matt Malinak said patient volume has slowly gone back to normal — but the low flow of patients is still alarming.  Read the full story at themonitor.com

Muslim community marking Ramadan with weekly food drives

The holy month of Ramadan is being observed differently this year by the Muslim community in the Rio Grande Valley. With all five local mosques in the region closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, local congregants have had to find other ways to honor the holiday. “We were hearing that a lot of people in the community are out of work during this time with the pandemic, and so a lot of people are having a hard time getting access to groceries and essential items,” Sofia Kamal, a member of the mosque, said. To address that need, the Islamic Society of South Texas decided to organize a weekly food drive. Since May 9, the mosque has been the site of where congregants have been handing out boxes of food, including vegetable oil, flour, canned soups and vegetables, along with essential items like toothpaste, soap and toilet paper. Baby formula is also available. Read the full story at themonitor.com

First baby of 1998 an Aggie grad

The first baby born in Brownsville in 1998 is now a college graduate.  Valeria Ramos’ father proudly graduated from Texas A&M University College Station in Lubbock in 1985, then her older sister went on to be an Aggie also, graduating in 2016. So, it was not a surprise that Valeria sought Aggieland.  In fact, when Valeria was featured on The Brownsville Herald’s front page on Jan. 2, 1998, J. Noel Espinoza wrote: “Brownsville’s first baby of 1998 may grow up to be a Texas A&M Aggie.” Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Local music conductor offers comfort via virtual stage

Eric Posada stood alone in a studio one day this April and conducted to nothing but a video camera. As the director and founder of Pasión, a local choir nonprofit with dozens of members from across the Rio Grande Valley, he is used to leading the group in open chapels and on well-lit stages. However, because of the pandemic, the choir’s annual summer concert was canceled and Posada hasn’t conducted in months. Still, Posada wanted to offer some kind of mental relief for the community through music — in fact, he said Pasión’s work has never been more important. Read the full story at themonitor.com