EDINBURG - Hidalgo Masonic Lodge No. 1036 held their annual award and scholarship ceremony Thursday May 11.

This year two teachers and four students were recognized for their efforts by the organization, which is part of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons.

All six received the Mirabeau B. Lamar Award of Excellence. Named after the Republic of Texas’ second president who is known as the “Father of Texas Education,” the award is bestowed upon students and educators that demonstrate outstanding personal achievement in academics, citizenship or community service.

Seniors Kimberly Garza and Cristian Gallardo of Veterans Memorial High School, Almadelia Vega of Robert Vela High School, and Megan Navarro of Edinburg North High School were honored first. In addition to the Mirabeau B. Lamar Award of Excellence, the students were also awarded the lodge’s Corwin C. Connell Masonic Scholarship of $1,000. With the money, the students plan to continue their education and pursue careers in the medical, pharmacy and IT fields.

Rae Llasos, the lodge’s Worshipful Master who presides over ceremonies, had a few words for the seniors as they prepare to head out into the world.

“I know you will need more than this to finish college, but this may be a little something - it can start something or help you finish something - so that one day when you are successful, you can become a river of blessing for others,” he said.

Exemplifying Llasos’s sentiment of giving back were the educators being celebrated. Third grade teacher Monica Ditto of Dr. Pablo Perez Elementary was recognized for her 25 years of service. Her dedication to her students and her commitment to keeping parents involved in their child’s education earned her a District Teacher of the Year Award previously. Years later, her continued efforts were an inspiration to the lodge’s members as well as her co-workers, who joined her for the ceremony. As she accepted her award, Ditto was reminded of her grandfather.

“One of the most important things that my father shared with us about him was the importance of an education and of being that light to go forth and to share with others our blessings, our smile, our positivity, whatever we can do to make every day just a little bit better,” Ditto said.

Educational Columnist for the Valley Town Crier / The Edinburg Review Christine Ardis was the second educator honored. Ardis, who retired from McAllen High School in May 2013, earned her degree in deaf education. After moving to the Valley in 1983 from Illinois, Ardis worked to have sign language offered as a foreign language course for McAllen high schoolers.

While teaching, Ardis earned her M.F.A. in creative non-fiction and began her journalistic career. She now consults as a communications expert and continues to inform Valley residents of important topics through her articles. For Ardis, the award was secondary to the evening’s theme.

“I think that is the greatest message…you guys have blessed us tonight with such a beautiful award and all of us are tasked with going out to bless other people in this world. So, thank you very much,” Ardis said.

To learn more about Hidalgo Masonic Lodge No. 1036, visit hidalgo1036.org.