MOVE in McAllen: Missions & Obstacles Vary in Everyone

Photo: Participants play the balloon game at MOVE in McAllen Conference

“My past is not my future.”—From the name of the event to the blue letters inscribed in frosting on a vanilla cake, this phrase permeated the annual M.O.V.E. Leadership Conference hosted by BCFS Health and Human Services-McAllen.

M.O.V.E., which stands for “Missions and Obstacles Vary in Everyone,” is one of BCFS-McAllen’s initiatives for helping teens and youth overcome their past and successfully transition to adulthood. A total of 25 youth attended the conference at Echo Hotel and Conference Center on July 21. View Photo Album on Facebook

At the conference, youth listened to inspirational messages on topics ranging from conflict-resolution to the importance of post-secondary education. The youth played a problem-solving game with colorful balloons, attempting to keep them high in the air as long as possible. “They couldn’t let the balloons hit the floor, as a reminder to hold your head high while facing challenges,” said Marissa Cano, regional director for the Community Services Division of BCFS Health and Human Services.

“These young adults have all faced significant challenges, like being shuffled to countless foster homes, becoming part of the juvenile justice system, and feeling trapped by their environment,” said Cano. But she points out that the youth also have incredible gifts and experiences to enrich their communities: “They can turn their lives around with the right guidance, positive role models, and skill-building at conferences like M.O.V.E.”

Albert Castañeda, now a public relations and marketing consultant, shared his personal story of earning a college degree after dropping out of high school at age 17. Noemi Mouer, founder and CEO of the consulting firm Motivating, Inspiring and Achieving, coordinated the conference and served as the master of ceremonies.

This year’s M.O.V.E. conference was unique, marking the completion of BCFS-McAllen’s Face Forward program which began in 2013. The Face Forward program served 175 youth in Hidalgo County who had been involved in the juvenile justice system, providing case management, mentoring, and education and employment connections.

Youth who completed the Face Forward program were presented with certificates of accomplishment.

“The event was uplifting in many ways,” Cano said. “Many of them had never received any sort of certificate or award. The youth opened up; they shared personal stories and how they planned on leaving that part of their life behind.”

Inscribed on the conference handouts was this question: “Who are you?” Young adults at the M.O.V.E. conference learned they don’t need to be defined by their pasts. Instead, they can take hold of their own futures by making responsible, courageous choices. These youth are preparing to become the leaders of tomorrow, with BCFS-McAllen by their side!

To learn more about BCFS Health and Human Services-McAllen, visit