More than 9,600 students from Valley public colleges and universities graduated this month as Spring commencement activities came to an end for students from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, South Texas College, Texas State Technical College and Texas Southmost College.
STC graduated more than 3,700 students, UTRGV graduated more than 3,100 students, TSTC graduated more than 400 students and TSC graduated more than 400 students as well.
Growing up in Progreso, Abraham Mora says he has always had to confront misperceptions about life and education near the border. As he prepared to step up to receive his associate degree from South Texas College on May 11, Mora, 18, recalled the challenges he faced, and explained how there is an opportunity to be positive about the future.
“The town of Progreso is very small and sometimes we’re looked down upon, mainly due to the education level, but what people don’t know is there is lots of talent here, and when it all comes down to the roots of education, we have great teachers who inspire us,” Mora said. “I have a Hispanic background, both my parents came from Mexico City, so I’m basically the first generation here, and I plan to start a great future.”
Mora says STC gave him the opportunity to start planning for his future career while still in high school. He received an associate degree in Interdisciplinary Studies and plans to attain his bachelor’s degree in mathematics so he can pursue a career in teaching.
“South Texas College has given me the opportunity to start my career. I really would have no idea what to do in that aspect, so I depend on my counselors,” Mora said. “They have helped me choose my career path by talking to professors who have the same career path I want to take. Counselors at my high school and at STC have really guided me towards what steps I should take. That is very important.”
South Texas College awarded a posthumous degree to Kevin Chavana, who passed away in January 2018. Family were on hand at the 6 p.m. ceremony on May 11 to receive Chavana’s degree in Advertising and Public Relations.
“We always knew Kevin was going to reach the sky, he was not even with us today but still received this great accomplishment and left behind a great legacy for the family,” said Chavana’s sister, Mayra Montoyo. “Everything he started he finished. Spiritually, he will always be with us. He was the best sibling anybody could ever hope to have.”
Dr. Patricia Alvarez McHatton, executive vice president for Academic Affairs, Student Success, and P-16 Integration at UTRGV, who led the ceremonies, enthusiastically congratulated the Vaqueros on their special day.
“UTRGV Class of 2018, congratulations, and ‘Forever Orange,’” she said proudly, holding up her fingers in the university’s spirited “V” formation.
“Remember, your contributions will build the future, bring innovation, serve our communities, transform the Rio Grande Valley, the state of Texas, the country and, yes, you will Inspire the World,” she said.
Graduate Alyssa De Leon, from San Benito, said she always knew she would graduate with a degree from the UTRGV College of Sciences. She originally was a chemistry major, but it wasn’t until last year that she decided to switch to biology. She said the decision was impulsive, but it was the right thing to do.
De Leon, who plans to pursue a career as a dietician, wants other students, some who are just starting college, to know: “It’s going to be a crazy four years, but do your best. Don’t be scared to ask questions, join organizations, make a lot of friends, make a lot of memories. But never forget, academics is priority.”
For graduate Maria Neyra, a Los Fresnos resident, the road to earning her degree had its bumps, but she got it done with perseverance and support from family and friends, who were with her every step of the way, she said. Neyra, who never gave up on her dream of earning a degree, said it took her five years, and now that she is done, she plans to follow her first passion – teaching. Neyra is applying with Teach for America and would like to stay and work in the Rio Grande Valley.