LEAD anti-vaping program offers Brownsville ISD students second chance

dfwnewsa | October 10, 2023 | 0 | East Texas News , South Texas News

BISD Superintendent Rene Gutierrez addresses students who participated in the LEAD anti-vaping diversion program on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023, during a ceremony at the Buchanan Fine Arts Auditorium. (Gary Long | The Brownsville Herald)

The Cameron County District Attorney’s Office and Brownsville Independent School District congratulated the first cohort of graduates in an anti-vaping initiative to help students head off the consequences of a felony indictment for vaping.

In a ceremony Tuesday morning at the Buchanan Fine Arts Auditorium, District Attorney Luis V. Saenz, deputy Sarah Pemelton and state District Judge Adolfo Cordova joined BISD Superintendent Rene Gutierrez, his administration and the BISD Police and Security Services Department in congratulating the first 14 graduates of the LEAD anti-vaping diversion program and their parents.

Saenz said when he returned to his office he world direct Pemelton to erase pending indictments against the 14 students, who were caught with vaping devices to inhale nicotine or marijuana smoke.

Each of the students received a certificate for completing the program, known by its acronym LEAD for Learn, Educate, Appreciate and Develop.

Saenz said the consequences a felony indictment can be severe even absent a conviction, including having to answer yes to a question about being indicted for a drug offense on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Students applying for financial aid or scholarships to go to college have to complete the FAFSA as part of the process.

In addition, such an indictment can disqualify an applicant from licensure in the building and other trades, Saenz said.

Este programa es algo que befeficiar todo el mundo,” Saenz said for the benefit of the many Spanish speakers among the parents, meaning that wiping out the potential indictments against the 14 students was something that could benefit society as a whole by allowing the students to pursue their dreams.

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“Who’s here with you today, your buddies that you got in trouble with or your parents who are supporting you while you get this second chance?” Saenz asked.

Introducing Saenz, BISD Police Commander Patrick Gabbert said Saenz had perfect attendance at BISD schools in the 1980s, later passed the state bar and went to work as a deputy DA for Cameron County before being appointed District Attorney in the late 1990s and was first elected to his current post in 2013.

Cameron County District Attorney Luis V. Saenz addresses students who participated in the LEAD anti-vaping diversion program on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023, during a ceremony at the Buchanan Fine Arts Auditorium at Hanna Early College High School. (Gary Long | The Brownsville Herald)

Gutierrez spoke to the students about the importance of completing their studies and making good after receiving the second chance the LEAD program represents.

After the program, Gutierrez said he had seen similar programs produce results at the La Joya and Edinburg school districts where he worked before coming to BISD.

He and Saenz both said they worked to see such a program implemented at BISD and that they hoped to see similar efforts undertaken at other Cameron County school districts.

Saenz said students in the program had to submit to drug testing, speak to their peers and their parents at assemblies, and had to continue making good grades in school.

The 14 students who received certificates and had a potential indictment erased included: Brandon J. Narvaez, Kevin A. Calzado, Leonel A. Garcia, John I. Hernandez, Hugo Heredia, Isaac Zavala, Elizabeth Zamorano, Alan Larios, Nathan I. Ramirez, Juan Antonio Perez, Carlos A. Servin, David J. Gonzalez, Christian R. Mosqueda and Avery Breeden.

Some are still BISD students, others recent graduates and college students, including one young woman whose mother accepted her certificate while she attended college classes.

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David J. Gonzalez, a student at Porter Early College High School and Carlos A. Servin, a recent Rivera Early College High School graduate, both said they appreciated the second chance and the opportunity to not have a felony on their record.

The post LEAD anti-vaping program offers Brownsville ISD students second chance appeared first on MyRGV.com.

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