EAST ALDINE – Two long-time East Aldine community leaders were recently appointed to serve on the board of the East Aldine Management District.
They are Flor Zarzoza, a former District employee and neighborhood volunteer, and Luis A. Lucio, former dean of the Lone Star College East Aldine Center.
Zarzoza, the widow of Harris County Sheriff’s Dep. Darren Almendarez, is a longtime resident of East Aldine who met her late husband while she was working for the District in 2013. As the first anniversary of his fatal shooting approaches, Zarzoza says her late husband serves “as my inspiration” to continue her work to improve the community.
Lucio, who now works as director of special projects at Lone Star College Kingwood, is “a son of East Aldine.” The East Aldine native and graduate of MacArthur High School launched his career in education right out of high school, when he worked as a paraprofessional, or classroom assistant, at Aldine’s Gus A. Oleson Elementary School. He earned his bachelor’s and masters’ degrees at Sam Houston State University, and his doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Houston.
Zarzoza said serving on the board “is like a blessing to me because it’s where I met my husband.”
Although she still struggles with grief, Zarzoza likes to remember Almendarez’ fun-loving sense of humor. They met at the first storefront office of the district, when Almendarez “pretended” to ask her a community-related crime question.
“He made up some story to start asking me questions,” she said, with a laugh.
The mother of two children, Zarzoza was an active school volunteer who began promoting the East Aldine Management District to area businesses on her own before she was hired as an employee.
“I walked door-to-door to lots of businesses in East Aldine to encourage them to participate and support this way to improve this community,” Zarzoza recalls.
“I was a PTO parent, and I did fundraisers for field trips, or I organized activities for the kids like ice-cream socials,” Zarzoza said. “I just followed by kids from elementary, though middle and all the way through high school.”
Her daughter recently graduated from Texas A&M University and her son is attending Lone Star College.
“There are some days when we just have to take it minute-by-minute, ”Zarzoza said.
As a long-time resident and early volunteer for the District, Zarzoza said she has been very encouraged by all the progress brought about in East Aldine. As a board member, however, she wants to promote more “door-to-door” outreach to people in the community.
“I know we’ve got this great new building and hold lots of events there, but I still miss those ‘community walks,’ ” Zarzoza said.
“I have learned through the years that a lot of our community members are older community people who don’t have social media, and we don’t all get the Northeast News (newspaper),” Zarzoza said. “The best thing (sometimes) is to go door-to-door to get to know people in the community.”
Lucio said being appointed to the board is “extremely rewarding.”
“I am very, very happy about it because I think I’m going to be able to really make a bigger impact in my community,” he said.
As the newly-appointed chair of the board’s health, education and neighborhood services Committee, Lucio said one of his key goals on the board is “paving the way for civic engagement.”
“I want to educate not only those who have already graduated, but also Lone Star College students on the importance of civic engagement, and how you can give back to your community,” Lucio said. “I want them to know that opportunity is out there, to teach them the kind of political awareness on how we can get funding from strategic partners, like our state representatives.”
Like many educators, Lucio has demonstrated that he knows how to engage the community in fun, and funny, ways. At a Halloween event sponsored by the District, he happily dressed up in a pharaoh’s costume for the carnival parade. At a western-themed Valentine’s Day dance at BakerRipley, he donned western wear to supervise Lone Star students who handed out flyers.
“Anybody’s who’s ever been around kids’ education has to have a fun side,” Lucio said. When he’s not involved in higher education and civic engagement, Lucio takes time to watch his daughter play first base on her softball team.
“My summer weekends are full with softball games,” Lucio said. “And I am a big time Houston Astros fan. I love everything Astros, like (mascot) Orbit. I’ve been an Astros fan since I was since my first game at the Astrodome back in 1980.”
— By Anne Marie Kilday
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