Alumni are recognized as Medallion Icons

The Magnet Tribune: Bailey Yeary
Mr. Carlos Morales, Jr. accepts a recognition as a Medallion Icon in music.

Emily Garza, Staff Writer

It was a night of gratitude. Eight alumni expressed heartfelt thanks for returning to the school that helped launch their careers at the first Medallion Icons event on March 7.

A former journalism student was glad she had the opportunity to return to her roots for this recognition.

“It was an amazing feeling. It was a reminder of where I started, and an opportunity to thank the teachers, VMT founders and staff for fighting for this school because not once but more than 3 times the school has been at risk of closing,” Wendolyne Rivera Morales said in an email after the ceremony.

Former music student was excited about being a part of the evening.

“It was a great event! I feel very honored to have been selected for the first Medallion Icons event!” Jose Villa said in an email after the ceremony.

Morales was part of the first class at VMT in 1993, and her fine art was journalism with Mark Webber. Morales remembers details of how everything was when VMT first opened.

“I was part of the first class of VMT. When VMT opened its doors, we did not have a classroom. Classes were held at the San Peter Plaza, under the trees, under the sun, and sometimes at the LISD board room,” Morales said.

Villa, who was part of the high brass class directed by Robert Lopez, remembers all the productivity going on around VMT and how it helped him throughout his career.

“I remember that so much was always going on with so many events and performances throughout all of the departments. It helped me gain confidence in performing in front of others and meeting a lot of other musicians,” Villa said.

Morales remembers the school coming together as a team to create the perfect place for generations to come.

“I remember a group of teachers, leaders, and students passionate about art and communications, working together to build a school that would become the niche for future communicators and artists,” Morales said.

Villa recalls the Hispanic Heritage Festival being his favorite memory from VMT.

“I really liked the Hispanic festival. It was my favorite event and I always enjoyed every one of them. During my high school years I started my own cover band and I remember my professor Mr. Robert Lopez gave me the opportunity to perform with my band at one of the Hispanic festivals,” Villa said.

I was part of the first class of VMT. When VMT opened its doors, we did not have a classroom. Classes were held at the San Peter Plaza, under the trees, under the sun, and sometimes at the LISD board room.”

— Wendolyne Rivera Morales

Morales explained how everyone at VMT was self-driven to achieve their goal.

“But no one seemed to mind (having classes outside) because everyone saw this opportunity to pursue a career in a field that they were passionate about,” Morales said.

Villa credits VMT for helping him get to where he is now as a musician.

“VMT helped me in many ways. With the help of my instructors, I gained knowledge and experience to further my education and continue my music studies. It had always been a goal of mine to study at Berklee College of Music and VMT helped me get there,” Villa said.

Morales knew she wanted to do journalism as a toddler.

“I was very lucky that at the age of 5 or 7 years old I knew that I wanted to be a journalist,” Morales said.

Villa as well knew he wanted to be a musician from the beginning.

“I always knew I wanted to be a musician. Growing up I always looked for opportunities to keep learning. VMT was the place that reassured me that music was the profession I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” Villa said.

Morales had a positive mindset getting to the point where she is right now.

“Education, persistence, taking failures as teachable moments instead of looking at them as mistakes.  As a student, when choosing my jobs or projects I would always make sure that they were related to my career or professional path.  Even as a student when you are looking for a job never invest time on something that is not aligned to your career. Try to get into your industry as early as possible, even if you get a job with a small role in a radio station, television station or newspaper,” Morales said.

I always knew I wanted to be a musician. Growing up I always looked for opportunities to keep learning. VMT was the place that reassured me that music was the profession I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”

— Jose Villa

VMT impacted Morales and Villa’s lives in a meaningful way for their future.

“VMT shaped my way of thinking.  It made a free thinker.  Showed me to dare to do things differently, to follow my own path, and to always pursue opportunities to re-invent yourself as a professional,” Morales said.

“In many ways. VMT helped me become the musician I wanted to be but also shaped the person I am today. Learning from outstanding professors from VMT had so many benefits and taught me so many skills that I use on a day to day basis as a music educator and in my personal life,” Villa said.

Morales and Villa compared VMT when they were students to the way it looks now.

“I am very impressed with what they have accomplished with VMT.  The building, the technology, the students are using the same tools that we use in companies. What I see that has stayed the same is that passion for doing things differently and achieving excellence,” Morales said.

“I really loved the ambiance and vibe of the downtown campus. I liked how every department had its own building and how we would collaborate with others and there was always so much going on. However, this new building is beautiful. Taking the tour and learning about how much it has grown was very fun,” Villa said.

Morales and Villa give thanks to VMT for helping them be the people they are now and for allowing future generations to have a head start in their careers.

“I would like to thank (school director) Dr. (Martha) Villarreal and everyone that has believed in keeping the doors of VMT opened.  Thank you for being warriors, defenders of VMT; so that the youth in Laredo, the future artists and journalists could learn, get the skills in their fields to have a head start in their careers,” Morales said.

“VMT is a wonderful place that helped me become the musician I am today. It helped me achieve my goals and it represents excellence, innovation, and high standards. I feel very proud to have been a part of this wonderful institution,” Villa said.

Coming up and planning the first Medallion Icon event consisted of a committee with a lot of planning for a successful event. Aimee Martinez, a history teacher who is part of the committee for this event, discussed her view of the event.

“A committee made up of fine arts and academic teachers and Dr. Villarreal have been meeting since the beginning of the year to plan the Medallion Icons event. We created a mission statement, requirements for the awards, and an agenda for the awards ceremony and reception. Former VMT students were invited to apply for the award. The committee considered their professional accomplishments, successes in the fields of fine arts and communications, and contributions to their community before selecting the first recipients for the award,” Martinez said.

Martinez said the event was successful.

“The event was a total success. We were able to pay tribute to some of the most accomplished VMT alumni. The most rewarding part of the event was being able to highlight how the fine arts have impacted the lives of former VMT students. The honorees are not only deserving of this recognition, but they also serve as role models and inspiration for current and future VMT students. They prove that investing in the arts is fruitful and necessary,” Martinez said.

The honorees reacted with enthusiasm being selected as an “icon.”

“Nominees expressed a great deal of gratitude and appreciation just for being considered for the award. The honorees were elated to have been selected by the committee and made a lot of sacrifices to attend the awards ceremony or send a representative,” Martinez said.

Martinez acknowledged the faculty and staff for all the effort that was put in to make the first Medallion Icon event a good one.

“We owe the success of this event to the hard work and dedication of the faculty and staff. The music and dance departments provided entertainment and helped showcase the talent and passion of our students. The communications department helped us cover the event and ensure we have a beautiful record of what we hope will be a tradition for VMT.” Martinez said. “The art department worked tirelessly to make the reception space in the cafeteria beautiful and inviting. Mrs. Alicia Cruz-Vidaurri and Mrs. Luz Lara worked diligently behind the scenes for weeks with the planning and execution of the event. And lastly, the custodial staff ensured that everything was in place before and after the event. None of this would have been possible without the hard work and commitment of the entire VMT family.”