EDINBURG - The day began early, as a team of UTRGV faculty and staff set about creating a community butterfly garden, part of a project to beautify the atrium in the College of Education and P-16 Integration (CEP) atrium in Edinburg.

The group, which included Dr. Patricia McHatton, dean of the CEP, met with 20 members of Unidos Por RGV on Saturday, July 15, to dig in on the new garden. Unidos Por RGV works collaboratively with UTRGV to advance community engagement, one of UTRGV’s core priorities.

Moms and daughters, grandmothers and grandsons of all ages participated. In partnership with UTRGV facilities personnel, they worked to create an environment that is aesthetically pleasing, vibrant and welcoming, not just to students, but also to their families.

“We came together as a community, with the university as equal partners,” said Esther Herrera, operations manager of La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE). “We met several times to visualize what would make the area more inviting to families. The result we envisioned is a welcoming environment, so that young children can connect early on with the university before they reach the age of attending as students.”

The community garden is one of the university’s ongoing collaborations with Unidos Por RGV, which plans to continue to work with the Office of Community Engagement and Assessment and other university groups.

“This project is really unique in that we brought the community together and asked them what they thought, and what they felt we needed to do in order to change our environment,” McHatton said. “And then they made it happen!”

The Annie E. Casey Foundation, a private philanthropy organization based in Baltimore, Maryland, awarded a grant to UTRGV that supports the work of developing the institutional infrastructure for community engagement at UTRGV. Through this support, an authentic stakeholder engagement framework has been created, yielding such outcomes as the family-friendly spaces initiative.