New UTEP football Head Coach Sean Kugler. (Domingo Martinez/Borderzine.com)

UTEP football – New coach, new attitude, new season

EL PASO – After nine seasons, the University Texas at El Paso head football coach Mike Price decided to retire in the final year of his contract, in November 2012. A few weeks later UTEP Director of Athletics Bob Stull hired former UTEP offensive linesman, assistant coach and Pittsburgh Steelers assistant coach Sean Kugler. The players expect Kugler to take UTEP football to the top like the last two head coaches did. “Our new coach is a real strict guy,” said wide receiver Jacob Garcia a sophomore majoring in criminal justice.  “It’s goanna be a positive impact with the team because we’re going to have more discipline with him and the new coaching staff. It can help the team do our best on Saturdays and maybe win more games and go to a bowl game,” said Garcia.

This year's Senior Games have over 300 participants that will compete in over 15 events. (Luis Barrio/Borderzine.com)

El Paso’s senior athletes still compete to win after all these years

EL PASO – On a recent March morning, 76-year-old Armando Uranga sat on the gymnasium bleachers dripping sweat and catching his breath. He had just played a strenuous 20-minute game of basketball with three other competitors as part of this year’s El Paso Senior Games. After playing in the games for the last 12 years, Uranga considers them his fountain of youth. “I felt like I was in my backyard like when I was a kid, it was so much fun,” said Uranga, who has already competed in the 5K walk, the 3K walk and plans to participate in Saturday’s track and field event at Montwood High School. In its 31st year, the El Paso Senior Games are a beacon drawing residents to get out and be physically active or go watch the community’s senior athletes compete.  With a variety of events, the games are for persons 50 years of age and older who participate in activities ranging from swimming to cycling, basketball to track and field.

Paisano Green Community (Amber Watts/Borderzine.com)

El Paso struggles to fit families into public housing after sequestration cuts

EL PASO – Families living in public housing will find their quarters shrinking as a result of the federal budget slashing known as the sequester, but local officials say they hope to avoid putting anybody out on the street. “We are hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst,” said Shane Griffith, El Paso Housing Authority (HACEP) public information officer. HACEP had already been planning how to meet the needs here when the spending reductions cut of $85 billion in revenue to non-exempt domestic programs for the next 10 years were declared in late March. The housing assistance payment (HAP) standard, which is the federal subsidy allocated to landlords of the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program, has been reduced from a proration of 99 percent to 94 percent. The proration for the operating subsidy of the Public Housing Program – the funds HACEP receives to operate its 46 public housing properties – has been reduced from 92 percent to 77 percent.

Former MLB player gives back to Imperial Valley

IMPERIAL, Calif.- After playing 24 years of professional baseball for nine different teams and 13 major organizations and being a 2008 World Series champion for the Philadelphia Phillies, Imperial Valley native Rudy Seanez returned to his home to help inspire young and old alike. “I’ve always lived here. This is home. I grew up in Brawley. My family is here, so that was factor number one,” said Seanez in an interview at his Seanez Sports Academy.

Trevor Vittatoe former University of Texas at EL Paso (UTEP) star quarterback is now an independent corporate distributor for Direct TV. (Andrea Castro/Borderzine.com)

With pro leagues out of reach, many college athletes fall back on their education

EL PASO – Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, arguably two of the greatest athletes of all time, started their pro careers right after high school, skipping college. But for college athletes shooting their last basket or throwing their last touchdown, the end of a season means a transition from a life of organized athletics to a real world of hope and frustration. Although they have one advantage – a college education – in reality a lot of players who do exceptionally well on the college field or court struggle with the fact that they’re out of the limelight once their senior season is over. “It was a hard adjustment at first because you’re used to a routine of practicing and being with the guys,” said Trevor Vittatoe, former University of Texas at EL Paso (UTEP) star quarterback. “After trying for two years, I’ve fallen short of making an NFL roster.”

While Vittatoe waited to get picked by an NFL team, working to make ends meet slowly became a part of his life.

Cleaning up a neighborhood in Calexico, Calif.

CALEXICO, Calif.– “This city has been on a tight budget lately, but we can’t just stay here and wait for a miracle, we have

to do something about it because this is where our children are going to grow up,” said Saul Garcia during the Kennedy Gardens neighborhood clean-up on Saturday March 9, 2013. Garcia joined forces with Javier Gonzalez, the KG Neighborhood Watch leader, to organize a cleanup for the Kennedy Gardens neighborhood and park in Calexico. Gonzalez wanted to organize an event where residents of the neighborhood and volunteers from the community got together to fix, paint, and clean up their parks and streets. Gonzalez and Garcia worked hard to get permission from the city as well as garnering donations for supplies. The City of Calexico and the Imperial Irrigation District provided paint and tools for the event.

Is a pair of shoes really worth a life? (Ellisia Shaefer/Borderzine.com)

Some sneaker-heads think Air Jordans are to die for… others die for their sneakers

EL PASO – Winter cold is blowing and Christmas trees and lights are set up around the mall as a line stretches around the Cielo Vista Mall into the Foot Locker on the drop date for the latest Air Jordan 11 “Playoff” sneakers. Worn by the National Basketball Association’s phenomenon Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls. The Jordan Brand has remained a popular and growing one-billion-dollar investment even after Jordan retired. The release of a new model Air Jordan still causes a shopping frenzy among the so-called sneaker-heads – consumers who will go to any extremes to buy a pair of the shoes at an average price of $185 every month. The fascination sneaker heads have with these shoes goes beyond just the Air Jordans, says Bryan Polk a sneaker-head living in Baltimore.

Few local restaurants offer menus in braille for the vision-impaired

EL PASO – Trying to pick from the vast number of dishes on a restaurant menu can be challenging, but imagine not being able to see the menu. Blind or vision-impaired persons must deal with that anomaly. Only a few restaurants in El Paso offer braille menus to their blind or vision-impaired customers, according to phone interviews with 21 local restaurants. The only ones were the national chains Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Applebee’s, and BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse. Some 21 million adults – about 9 percent of the U.S. population over the age of 18, reported having vision problems, according to the 2011 National Health Interview Survey prepared by the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Dead Bolts is one of only three other men’s roller derby teams in Texas. (Amber Watts/Borderzine.com)

The renegade Sun City Roller Girls shoved the Dead Bolts into El Paso men’s roller derby

EL PASO – Glares from overhanging lights reflect off of a sprawling shiny concrete floor, as the skaters whizz by poles and stay within the “white invisible lines” of the flat track where they practice. Wobbly players wear their helmets for safety and insignia. One marked with a yellow star struggles to pass the pack, and fumbles through a wall of men who will either block or assist him. Ivy Ashley Marie Ruiz, or as the derby world knows her, Miss Prettie Poison, is a 23-year-old student at the University of Texas at El Paso. She coaches fellow veteran roller-derby players and the “fresh meat,” which is the six-week derby 101 program for women, and now men, who are trying out for the five-year-old Sun City Roller Girls league.

La nueva franquicia de los Indios, ahora auspiciados por la UACJ, espera que los aficionados abracen sus nuevos colores, blanco y azul. (Iliana Estrada/Borderzine.com)

Los Indios de la Universidad Autónoma presentan una nueva oportunidad en el fútbol profesional de Juárez

CIUDAD JUAREZ – La desafiliación del equipo de fútbol Indios de Ciudad Juárez del máximo circuito del balompié nacional, ocurrida en diciembre de 2011, causó sorpresa y desolación entre los miles de aficionados y seguidores que en ambos lados de la frontera jamás dejaron de apoyar a su equipo del alma. “Era increíble que apenas hace dos años antes estábamos en semifinales de la Liguilla y ahora el equipo estaba desapareciendo”, recuerda con nostalgia Jesús García, un fanático del club quien en ese entonces siguió de cerca la noticia de la repentina disolución de su equipo de fútbol preferido. Jesús, al igual que miles de simpatizantes de la oncena juarense, quedó de pronto sin la oportunidad de poder disfrutar del fútbol profesional en una ciudad que durante el último lustro fue castigada por la ola de violencia y crimen. La causa de esa repentina culminación, según se informó, fueron los adeudos económicos que la directiva mantenía con sus jugadores. Parecía que todo llegaba a su fin.