Mary Helen Berlanga (D)
Home Town: Corpus Christi
Mary Helen Berlanga is an attorney with the law firm of Bonilla and Chapa, P.C., Inc., in Corpus Christi. Licensed in 1975, much of Berlanga's practice centers on immigration, disability, and administrative law.
Berlanga is a member of the State Bar of Texas and the Corpus Christi Bar Association. She is also a member of Salvation Army Women's Auxiliary, which raises funds for needy children and adults. Berlanga has served for years as a volunteer reader in many schools in her district.
Berlanga, a Democrat, is the senior member of the State Board of Education. She was first elected to the board in 1982. When the Legislature temporarily made the board an appointed body, Berlanga served on the board as an appointee of Governor Mark White from October 1984 until January 1989, when the board reverted to an elected body. Her constituents have subsequently re-elected Berlanga to the board in 1988, 1992, 1994, 1998, 2002, and 2004.
Currently a member of the Committee on Instruction, Berlanga has previously served on the board's Committee on Students and Committee on the Permanent School Fund.
While serving on the board, Berlanga in 1989 worked with local businesses to create the "Class of 2000" college scholarship fund for the 71 first-grade students at Crossley Elementary School, a school with a high percentage of low-income students in the Corpus Christi Independent School District. The aim of the fund was to encourage students to stay in school, graduate from high school, and ultimately enroll in college. In the spring of 2000, about 50 of these Crossley students graduated from high school and received scholarships through this fund.
Berlanga received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Houston and attended South Texas College of Law.
As a member of the State Board of Education, Berlanga represents Aransas, Calhoun, Cameron, Goliad, Jackson, Kenedy, Kleberg, Matagorda, Nueces, Refugio, San Patricio, Victoria, Wharton, and Willacy counties, as well as parts of Hidalgo County.