Chief Executive Officer
Ms. Dalia Rodriguez is the Chief Executive Officer for the Rio Grande Valley Empowerment Zone Corporation (RGVEZC) and has programmatic, fiduciary and oversight responsibility over programs and services. The RGVEZC was designated an empowerment zone December of 1994. This initiative was designed to revitalize distressed communities in both urban and rural America and centered on the development and implementation of a comprehensive community and economic development strategy. During the 10-year designation over 140 projects were funded ranging from infrastructure to housing. The RGVEZC leveraged $10 for every $1 of federal investment and received national recognition for its implementation of a comprehensive community strategic plan.
When the designation ended in 2004, Ms. Rodriguez was assigned the task of dissolving the RGVEZC. However she felt strongly the agency could still continue to provide needed programs and services with a leaner staff and budget. At a Board of Directors meeting Ms. Rodriguez briefed the members on the steps needed to close the RGVEZC and made a passionate pitch to allow her to identify and apply for funding to continue providing programs/services on a lower scale. If staff was successful, she asked the Board of Directors to delay dissolving the corporation. The Board of Directors approved her request.
Ms. Rodriguez and staff were immediately successful in securing funding. RGVEZC has received funding totaling $4.5 million and has grown from 3.5 staff to 13 staff with an operating budget of approximately $800,000.
Dalia understood from personal experience the importance of reaching our youth early in order to deter juvenile delinquency. The RGVEZC applied and received funding from the Department of Family and Protective Services to run the Community Youth Development (CYD) program. This program focuses on prevention and intervention programs in the identified 78501 at-risk zip code. Key youth sub-contractors are funded to provide services for leadership, life skills and mentoring. Additionally, youth are selected from the sub-contractors to serve on a Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) that represent the area at the yearly youth conference in Austin, TX.
Also an important program that grew from a partnership to support the surviving family and friends who have lost loved ones to a violent crime is the Victims of Crime Prevention and Restoration (VOCPR) program. The goal of the program is to increase prevention and restoration, decrease re-victimization and to empower victims. The VOCPR program provides information/referral to other advocate agencies and also provides direct services to victims of: Survivors of Homicide Victims, Family Violence, Sexual Assault, Stalking, Teen Dating Violence, Human Trafficking, Child Abuse, Sex Trafficking, Forced Labor/Modern Slavery and other violent crimes.
Dalia’s personal experiences give her a different perspective when dealing with people and identifying needed programs.
“While I am not a victim of murder, I came very close to being one. For 10 years of my life I suffered physical, emotional and mental abuse by my ex-husband. Having grown up in a sheltered environment, I thought it was my fault. A domestic abuse victim goes through a kind of brain washing others do not understand. One day my ex-husband gave me a severe beating. I thought he was going to kill me. I went to work three days later with a cracked lip, black eye and many bruises. My boss at the time said “Dalia, the next time he beats you he may just kill you?” It was that day with the support and help of friends and family I made the decision to leave Robstown, Texas and ended up in the Rio Grande Valley. In hindsight, I have never regretted that decision. I only regret not leaving sooner which may have saved my children some emotional damage & scars. Programs such as VOC and emergency shelters were non-existent or few at best. However, by the grace of God and the support of people who loved me, I did not become another murder statistic! I have been where parents are when their child takes a wrong direction that will affect the rest of his/her life and I have been a victim of domestic violence feeling like no one understands and is quick to judge you”. As I look at where I once was and where I am today my life seems surreal. As the quote from Robert Brault goes........“Sometimes in tragedy we find our life's purpose, the eye sheds a tear to find its focus.”