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‘McFarland, USA’ High School Athlete Thomas Valles inspires PSJA Elementary students

PHARR - Former student athlete of the McFarland High School team, which inspired the 2015 Disney movie, “McFarland, USA”, Thomas Valles, motivated 3rd and 4th grade students at Henry Ford Elementary on May 28. 


The “McFarland, USA” movie starred Kevin Costner who plays a high-school football coach who ends up leading a cross-country track team made up unlikely students to a state championship.  


Valles was part of that small-town, predominately Hispanic, cross-country team. During his visit to Ford, he reminded students about the importance of education and to persevere despite any challenges. 


Valles shared with the students his childhood struggles, instability growing up, and motivated them. 


“I moved around a lot. My father was an alcoholic. There was domestic violence. I wanted to let these kids know today that they’re not alone. Speak up, hang in there; there is a brighter future for all of us,” Valles said. “This year of the pandemic was very difficult. We have all dealt with loss. [I want the kids to know] that we can get through this together. My parents did not have a lot of education, but they did always remind me to ‘echarle ganas’ (keep working hard).  


Ford Elementary Principal Elizabeth Alaniz thanked Mr. Valles for speaking to her students. 

“I appreciate the time that Mr. Valles took to come and speak to our students about the value of an education regardless of your socioeconomic background or academic difficulties that you may face. He is an inspiration to many, and I hope that our students enjoyed having the opportunity to meet him and listen to his story,” Alaniz said.