United ISD names college after former Korean War veteran Laredo educator

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Korean War veteran, husband, father, and jack-of-all-trades educator, Elias Herrera entered the world of education and became a supporter of education throughout Laredo. And despite his passing in 2016, his legacy will continue.

On Friday, in UISD’s 60th year, an official groundbreaking ceremony was held at the former United High School campus. It will now serve local students as Elias Herrera College, in honor of Herrera’s 40 years of dedication to the district and as a catalyst for the start-up of the entire district.

The ceremony was unfortunately postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic last year, but that could not prevent administrators, teachers, students, friends and family from meeting to talk about the creation of UISD and the value Herrera brings to new and old students.

According to UISD Superintendent David Gonzalez, Herrera was part of the foundation upon which the district sits in the 1960s. Along with many other speakers, Gonzalez praised his dedication as he held a plethora of positions, d ‘jobs and responsibilities during his 40 years before retiring in 1977.


Elias Herrera was an advocate for education in the region, especially for children from economically disadvantaged families. Born in 1929, he graduated from Martin High School, then joined the 82nd Airborne Division before being honorably demobilized. After years of engineering studies, he decided to turn to teaching, a year before obtaining his engineering degree.

This decision would impact the community of Laredo in a way that residents of the time would not have realized at the time. Despite the many obstacles and adversities, he and many of his relatives began to create a new school district.

However, since a new neighborhood does not inspire confidence in terms of education and job security, Herrera chose to take on these responsibilities himself.

He has been a principal of Nye Elementary, Nye Junior High School, director of lunch programs, director of transportation, director of janitorial services, director of school elections program, district disciplinary officer, assistant superintendent, superintendent, founder Directory and Photographer, Coach and Suite.

UISD communications officer Alexander Meyer said that after watching a video dedicated to Herrera, the biography was the short version of his actions and accomplishments. To strengthen the bond between the audience and Herrera, his family shared more about who he was and how his daily life impacted students in the fledgling neighborhood.

“I don’t think he wanted all the fuss,” said his wife Olga Herrera.

She indicated that he was a very humble man and that he would constantly work to make the district work. In some cases without a salary or title, she said, explaining that due to the low funding of the district, he was also the district recruiter and bus driver.

“He got up at 4:30 am, there were three things he had in his pocket: it was his wallet, the keys to the school bus and the rosary,” she said. “He loved doing this route because he was like, ‘Olga, you should see the sun come up in the morning, they were beautiful.'”

Through a series of bus changes, he would do his best to transport the children across town to their designated schools. Plus, he always encouraged students to work hard, play sports and ask for help when they needed it, Olga said.

In one case, a student asked Herrera if he could take her to pick up her prom date across town. Without hesitation, Elias, Olga and the student jumped into the vehicle and drove, regardless of the distance, she said. Once picked up and dropped off, Herrera handed the student a dollar in case he needed it.

“He was the kind of man he was, he would give the shirt off his back if you needed help,” she concluded.

Between the multitude of responsibilities he has taken on throughout the district, the staff he has invited to join the district, the care and assistance he has given to students, even the co-signing of loans on multiple occasions. , all of Herrera’s contributions paved the way for the first class graduation at United High School in 1965.

Sixty years later, Elias Herrera Middle School has moved to the old and nostalgic United High School campus. The school has 43 classrooms, nine science rooms, three computer labs, two specialized teaching rooms, large music rooms, meeting rooms, a security room and a recently renovated gym.

It is the 11th college, its colors are orange, blue and yellow, and its mascot is a hawk. The mascot of choice is another commemorative sign for Herrera, as he coached a small league team whose mascot was also a hawk.

The principal of the school is Carlos Martinez, who has said that while he doesn’t know or meet Herrera, he wants to emulate his dedication to the campus. Now part of the Herrera legacy, Martinez said he understands the expectations are very high for him and the staff.

“The support was endless, the pride everyone took to make sure this happened,” he said. “I’m not going to lie to you, it was a little difficult at first to open a new campus as a new principal with new staff during a pandemic … but what do you do when you have good colleagues and good staff Support ? You go through it, and you get there.

He added that the falcon mascot has additional meaning, as each letter signifies an attribute taught and cherished on campus. H represents honor, A is attitude, W is wisdom, and K represents kindness. EHMS students are expected to maintain these attributes and be hawks throughout their school day and beyond.

Juan Herrera and Rosana Saldivar, Herrera’s children, attended UISD in the 80s and 90s and remembered their time as students under the watchful eye of their father / principal. They spoke of their father’s commitment and the same HAWK ethic he lived with during his tenure as a trustee at Nye. From promoting Broadway productions, to bringing community and the arts together, to advocating that all students need an education, much of the time has been spent caring for the neighborhood.

The children of Herrera are proud of the achievements and decisions made. Juan said his dad would say the most important thing in life is time – time spent with family and time spent working to be the strongest.

version of oneself, leading to real impacts.

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