How the educational family formed by Lyford CISD and its community has benefited students for generations
By Anne Bannister
“Students don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
Eduardo Infante, superintendent of Lyford Consolidated Independent School District, a rural public school district of 1,500 students in the Rio Grande Valley, knows his students succeed when they are treated like family. That’s why generations of Lyford residents have regarded their public schools as an extension of the community, and consider the success of their students a personal matter.
Infante, a 1976 Lyford High School graduate, explains: “Once a kid knows that you care about them, the sky’s the limit, and you can really work with them and they’ll want to work with you. They know you’re there for their best interests – to prepare them for life after high school, whether it’s college or the workforce. You teach them that academic success is important, as are the things you teach in a family, like hard work, service, and sacrifice.”
Lyford CISD students feel this support. And after graduating, many students choose to either remain in, or return to, small town Lyford.
Infante explains this phenomenon,“You go back to where you are loved. You go back to where you were given opportunities by people that cared for you.”
“When you are a family, you see each other through the good and the bad, you don’t stop loving people, and they’re always a part of you.”
The hallowed halls of Lyford High School (LHS) reside as a cornerstone of the local community. The town, full of proud alumni, supports and celebrates the school district. In return, they demand excellence for future generations.
(Top Student Photo) Travis, Gabriela, Chase, Adriana, and Marcos are currently seniors at LHS.
The Busse Savage’s are a farming family that have attended school in Lyford for four generations. Alison graduated LHS in 1992 and currently serves as the school board president. Her children are current students and recent graduates. Her father, Gary, graduated in 1968 and served nine years on the school board. His father Henry Jay, better known as Buck, graduated in 1944.
Alison initially left Lyford after graduating, but the family farm and deep roots brought her home.
“I work for a large communications company and have had the opportunity to move on more than one occasion and chose not to,” says Alison. “This is where I wanted my kids to grow up. There is a huge comfort in knowing that when I send them to school in the morning that I know the majority of the teachers in the building. The kids in his classroom are kids whose parents I went to school with, or whose grandparents have coffee with my dad at the local co-op den. In a world that we live in today, you don’t feel the security that you once did. Lyford affords that. It gives that to us and it gives that to our kids.”
Gary nods in agreement, and adds, “In our community when somebody’s in trouble, just about everybody else tries to help them out in any way they can. If we drive anywhere in the county, we know whose house is whose. This type of camaraderie, and friendship it means something and people come back to it a lot of time when they leave from here.”
Lyford CISD School Board President Alison Busse Savage shares a moment in the board room with her father, Gary, and Grandfather, Buck.
Father and son, Jack and Cody Scoggin, are proprietors of Scoggin Farms, a 10,000 acre family-farming operation raising cotton and grain sorghum. Jack graduated from LHS in 1956 and Cody graduated in 1986. Cody’s son is currently a junior at LHS and his daughter graduated in 2016.
“This school means a lot to us as a family,” Cody says by way of introduction.
Jack elaborates with a story about his own father, “My dad did not go very far in school, because he stayed home and worked. I think he saw the importance of an education. He saw to it that all of us kids–there were five siblings–finished high school. Two went on to college. I just went one year to college and came back and started farming.”
“I came along after that and attended here at Lyford and went on to Texas A&M University,” Cody adds. “I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Systems Management. At the time, I didn’t have an intention to come back to Lyford. I went out and worked in the cotton gin industry for a few years. But if you’re a farmer and you’re in the agricultural business, you’re tied to the land. It’s a generational-type industry. As an only child, I eventually worked my way back here. My dad and I run our business together. I can see in my own kids the desire to continue to further their education. I have one at Texas A&M right now. I have another one looks like he’s one his way. I’m already starting to hear a little bit about, ‘Well, graduate school…’ or, ‘Do I want to go to law school?’ I think that my late grandfather’s commitment in education is seeing itself through in our family.”
As businessmen, the Scoggins value the role of the school district in ensuring the town’s ongoing prosperity.
“We have a lot of synergies here in Lyford between our school and our community. I think it’s a huge advantage to the community to have a pipeline of not just well-educated kids, but kids with practical and leadership experience. There’s just some things that a school the size of Lyford can afford its students,” Cody says.
Lyford, Texas is a farming community thirty minutes up the road from Harlingen. The area is locally renowned for its sorghum and cotton production, large annual Veteran’s Day celebration, and great public schools. Featured right: Father and son, Jack and Cody Scoggin.
Marina Quilantan Rivera graduated LHS in 1983. When she started to raise her own family, Marina decided she wanted her children to go to the same school that she had gone to. Furthermore, as she became an involved parent in the district, Marina joined the school board in order to serve all of the children in her community.
“I think that a lot of our success here at Lyford,” Marina says, “is because we are a true family. We care about each and every student. We truly do. If there are successes to be celebrated, we celebrate together. If there’s something going on with somebody or somebody loses a child, then everybody mourns together.”
Marina took a deep breath and continued. “I say that because I lost my daughter five years ago. She was a sophomore.”
The accident occurred homecoming week, and came as a blow to the entire town. Marina didn’t want the funeral to disrupt any of the homecoming activities, including the Friday night football game against the district’s rival. Knowing the whole school was too devastated to carry on, the board and superintendent cancelled the game and other homecoming activities. “That to me was very touching and emotional that the school would do that. She was a good student and a role model. Not only were the high school students impacted, but so were the middle school and elementary students. I didn’t know that. I didn’t know that all these different level of students were feeling the loss. That was very touching and meant a lot to me, as a mother.”
Marina has also had many opportunities to celebrate the good with Lyford CISD, including her son’s graduation and postsecondary success.
“I also want to share that my son graduated from here in 2016, last year. He was the valedictorian of his class. Incidentally, so was my daughter who passed. He’s at Texas A&M, College Station.” John is finding success in college, he joined the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets, and was named Outstanding Freshman of the Year by his unit.
“I think that says a lot that he came from a district this size and was able to shine and get selected as Outstanding Freshman,” Marina says. “Coming to school in Lyford helped build his character and who he is. He was a leader in our community, and he is a leader at A&M.”
John Rivera, the 2016 valedictorian of LHS, exemplifies Lyfords core values–hard work, service, and sacrifice. John is finding great success as an undergraduate at Texas A&M.
On a rainy November morning, the entire population of Lyford elementary, middle, and high schools bundle up in jackets and scarves and walk the short distance to the town’s football field. A stage is set up in the center of the field, decorated with red, white, and blue. To the right of the stage sit several rows of Veterans and their families. Beside them, the high school band–its members wrapped up in clear plastic ponchos–performs anthems that honor military service. In the stands students wave flags and cheer for the honorees. For the duration of the ceremony, students exercise leadership roles. Four students share the role of Master of Ceremony, taking turns at the mic, JROTC students present the flag, the band performs patriotic tunes, and a lone trumpeter play taps to honor fallen soldiers.
Lyford CISD started its annual Veterans Day ceremony in 1988. A middle school teacher, John Viegas, approached the district with the idea of the ceremony. His father was a World War II veteran who landed in Normandy, France, shortly after D-Day. John felt called to express his gratitude and honor his father and the other veterans in the community. The ceremony has grown in importance to the town ever since, so much so, that in 1994 an esteemed guest, Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sergeant Lucian Adams, described Lyford as “The Home of Patriotism.”
Love of country tied to the values of family and community are paramount to Lyford and its culture of emphasizing leadership, community, and character.
Jaime Guerra and Kacey Capelo-Guerra are a teacher power couple at LHS, and LCISD alumni who graduated in 2002 and 2004 respectively. They have watched the Veterans Day celebrations grow over the years from a small gathering to a large statewide event.
As Kacey tears up reflecting on the power of event, Jamie describes its importance: “I think it gives a chance for these kids to see the real heroes we have in our community. They don’t have to be movie stars or live somewhere else, they’re right here in our hometown. I think that’s a positive thing for our district.”
“It’s not a name that you have just to have, that’s not right. If you’re a home of patriotism then you’ve got to teach love of country, service and sacrifice, and love for your community.” –Eduardo Infante, Superintendent
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