We Exist to Assist
By Alexis Harborth
Almost 30 years ago, Tina Butler attended a conference that changed her life – and our community.
In 1991, Butler and her Del Mar College coworkers, Gloria Reed and Dr. Helen Gurley, traveled to Austin for the state conference of the Texas Association of Black Personnel in Higher Education (TABPHE).
The three women knew youth in our community needed the support and guidance that the group offered. That’s how Butler became one of the original co-founders of the Corpus Christi Chapter of the TABPHE, a 501c3 nonprofit organization.
“We formed in 1992. Our first initiative was to start a mentoring program called The Village at Del Mar. It started with just 35 students.”
The Village at Del Mar assisted students with whatever they needed to succeed, from scholarship information to educational advising.
The group met quarterly, and each person was assigned a mentor, following the students all the way to graduation.
“We organized to fill a void for students,” Butler says. But the group soon realized the help couldn't just be limited to college students. They branched out to also support and mentor elementary, middle, and high school students. “We concentrated on four areas: education, leadership, health and wellness, and the arts.”
As children and students were being aided by TABPHE, Butler’s own child was being brought up in their midst. Her daughter, Simone, grew up around the group and as she became older, she also got involved.
“Growing up, I went to conferences and participated in the group’s events,” Simone recalls. “I saw some opportunities and fundraisers that TABPHE could try. My mother had served as president for nine years, and then the next president had a 2-year term. After that, I decided to run for president.”
Beginning in 2012 at 31 years old, Simone became the group’s president for the next six years. “I wanted to make sure goals were set, and for us to try other events and do more mentoring,” Simone says. “We held more events such as Mandela Day Corpus Christi, and as the community heard of other mentoring and leadership events, we would look into implementing [them] here.”
That was how TABPHE-CC embarked on a new initiative called Barbershop Books. This successful outreach placed libraries of books in barbershops for children to take and read. Its key goal is maintaining reading skills throughout the summertime.
They have been working on a celebration for Juneteenth, which commemorates the abolition of slavery in Texas. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, how this important holiday will be honored and celebrated this year is being reworked. Be sure to visit their Facebook and website to stay connected.
This incredible mother-daughter duo is equal parts endearing and impressive. They have made a great impact on the Coastal Bend community, helping to fill gaps as well as blaze new trails. Their passion, dedication, and decades of selfless volunteerism have ensured support and guidance for countless lives, and generations to come. TABPHE’s motto is We Exist to Assist, and it’s clear that mission is lived out and achieved every day.
Corpus Christi's chapter of the Texas Association of Black Personnel in Higher Education aim to:
• Act as advocates for minority students
• Award scholarships to undergraduates
• Hold observances of historical and ethnic holidays
• Inform the community on current issues in higher education
• Hold professional development workshops
• Present information at local school districts