Alamo Middle School renamed after Jesus “Jesse” Vela Jr. in trustee’s honor

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ALAMO — The last name Vela will be forever carried in the halls and hearts of PSJA ISD with the renaming of Alamo Middle School to Jesus “Jesse” Vela, Jr. Middle School honoring the long-serving trustee.

After decades of public service to the PSJA community, Jesus “Jesse” Vela Jr. is getting his flowers.

Vela, his family, the PSJA High School class of 66 and school officials were in attendance at the renaming ceremony today for Jesus “Jesse” Vela Jr. Middle School.

Jesse Vela Jr. pose with past PSJA High School classmates during a ceremony to change the name of Alamo Middle School to Jesus “Jesse” Vela Jr. Middle School at Jesus “Jesse” Vela Jr. Middle School on Friday, Nov. 10, 2023, in Alamo. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

Vela has served at PSJA ISD for about 40 years from being an educator, administrator to several school board positions.

Born and raised in Pharr and a PSJA High School graduate of 1966, he has been everything in the school district from a teacher, coach, migrant program director to the president of the school board.

Currently the assistant secretary on the board Vela received his Bachelor’s degree at legacy institution Pan American College and then a Masters of Education degree from Pan American University.

“It’s a very humbling feeling to be recognized this way,” Vela said. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think that a school would be named after me.”

The choice to rename the school came from a PSJA ISD board meeting where it was unanimously voted on Sept. 11.

Vela said he had to take a full 24 hours to process the decision. He added his wife Idolina Gorena Vela was very emotional when she heard the news.

Idolina, who has been by Vela’s side for over 52 years, said she started crying when she found out the news in their living room.

“We’re very proud of him,” Idolina said after the ceremony. “He has given a lot of his time and life and dedication to the district as well as to the community.

During the ceremony, members of the school district took turns congratulating Vela.

With extended family in attendance, Vela’s three sons Ariel, Omar and Hiram all gave touching words about how he has helped them in their own lives.

Hiram attended Alamo Middle School and said during the ceremony it was surreal coming back to where he went to middle school to honor his father.

Currently a transfer specialist at Austin Community College, Hiram said during his speech about the countless times when Vela helped in school and college.

“It’s so surreal thinking back 20 years ago, I am doing exactly what you did for me, for countless students at Austin Community College,” Hiram said. “And for that, I thank you for giving me that trait … you and mom have put forth so many years dedicating your lives to educating not just students but us as well. I’m forever grateful for that. We’re forever grateful. Thank you and I love you so much.”

Hiram Vela son of Jesse Vela Jr. speaks about his father during a ceremony to change the name of Alamo Middle School to Jesus “Jesse” Vela Jr. Middle School at Jesus “Jesse” Vela Jr. Middle School on Friday, Nov. 10, 2023, in Alamo. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

Vela ended the ceremony with his own speech thanking the countless teachers, coaches and people that have crossed his path and influenced him. He also thanked his parents, Jesus and Porfirla Vela who came from Mexico in search of a better life.

With many positive figures in his life Vela carried a motto of paying it forward.

“Pay it forward,” he said during the speech. “Whatever you have, help people. If it’s advice, help give advice … whether it’s through your treasure, or your service. … that’s really what transforms communities.”

Jesse Vela Jr. receives hugs from well wishers during a ceremony to change the name of Alamo Middle School to Jesus “Jesse” Vela Jr. Middle School at Jesus “Jesse” Vela Jr. Middle School on Friday, Nov. 10, 2023, in Alamo. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

Just under two months after the decision, the middle school already has the new school name on the building and the front signs.

Asked what is his favorite highlight from his decades at PSJA ISD, Vela said, “When students cross the stage to get their diplomas and you see the looks on their faces, that to me is the reason I’m on the board. That to me is the most significant thing.”

Photo Gallery: PSJA ISD long-serving member Jesus “Jesse” Vela has a school renamed in his honor