McALLEN – As a veteran, businessman, community leader, and educator Jesse Treviño says he shared the vision of many of his contemporaries at the time who believed that education in the Rio Grande Valley was the key to unlocking the region’s vast potential.
Sitting in a room in the aftermath of former Congressman Lloyd Bentsen’s successful campaign for a Senate seat in 1971, Treviño recalls the new senator challenging politicians and leaders from every corner of South Texas to form an organization that could address the region’s greatest issues.
"He (Bentsen) spoke to all of us and basically said ‘Look, I'm the Senator for the whole state of Texas, but we have some problems in South Texas that we don’t have in other parts of the state’,” Treviño said.
“He asked us to form an organization that would help push his ‘education first’ platform because he knew there were a lot of kids at the time who were not graduating from high school,” he said. “He also wanted to have someone who could bring in the industry to the area in order to create better jobs and better wages, but you needed an education to be able to work in those factories."
Treviño said he didn’t know it at the time, but the meeting would eventually start the Council for South Texas Economic Progress (COSTEP), a non-profit organization that would offer financial aid assistance to college-bound students and their families. He would sit on COSTEP’s executive committee for the next 40 years and would eventually serve as its chairman.
Over the course of more than 70 years Treviño, 94, would serve on countless community agencies and would garner numerous accolades for his role seeking to change the face of education in the region.
“If we want good jobs, better jobs and money, we have to educate more people and we have got to put them into colleges, just like STC and others are doing now,” Treviño said about the thinking among leaders at the time. “We never had that before. I believe in education very deeply because I still believe the future rests on educating the people.”
A former McAllen ISD board member and former chairman of Region One Service Center’s Board, Treviño says his greatest adventure in life has been advocating for education in South Texas. Through his experiences, he has come to understand how STC fills an important role long desired by leaders in education.
“Dr. Reed has done a tremendous job. What I like about her is that there are kids in high school that are taking courses in college,” he said. “Can you imagine of what you can save by being at home and getting at least one or two years of college to where you don't have to pay room and board and all that kind of stuff?”
Trevino began his career as a sixth-grade teacher with the Alice Independent School District after graduating from the University of Texas at Austin but decided to pursue other career options after one year in the classroom.
Still seeking to be a part of the educational future in South Texas, he would serve 11 years on the McAllen ISD Board of Trustees, including two terms as board president and nine years on the Region 1 Education Service Center’s board, including one year as president.
He was a founding board member and served as chairman of the board of the Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA) for 32 years, a non-profit organization created to promote education for all students through curriculum development, teacher training, research and technical assistance.
As one of the most prominent voices calling for the creation of the college in 1993, Treviño was initially slated to be a member of STC’s first board of trustees, but instead chose to be a part of the committee that helped organize its formation.
“STC is doing something that's needed very strongly,” Treviño said. “I believe in giving more opportunities to the people so they get as much education as they can. I know it's expensive, but in the long run, it would be well worthwhile doing. It's a sacrifice, you know, to go out and try to get an education, and I’m not just talking about high school.
“You know you don't have to go too far, you have it right here in all of the different towns. We didn’t have that in the past,” he said.