More than 1,500 Broncs walk the stage Saturday
Esmeralda Perez is two graduations down with one to go. And they just keep getting better.
The Pharr native is the second in her family to graduate from high school and the first from college with a bachelor’s degree in social work.
“Where I’m from, people stop at high school,” said Perez. “It’s a honor to graduate and it’s getting out of the norm for me. This definitely tops high school graduation. It’s just surreal.”
Perez plans to earn her master’s in a year and hopes to work with youth after her 2013 graduation. The 22-year-old understands that college has its ups and down.
“It was like a roller coaster: good times, but stressful, but worth it,” said Perez. “You don’t know if you’re going to make it, but I did.”
Perez was one of the 1,631 Broncs receiving their degrees during the Spring 2012 Commencement held at the McAllen Convention Center Saturday. Three ceremonies were held at 9 a.m., 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.
College of Science and Mathematics graduates numbered 183, along with 279 College of Social and Behavioral Sciences graduates and 126 College of Engineering and Computer Science graduates at the morning ceremony.
President Robert Nelsen surprised the matriarchs in the audience with an early Mother’s Day gift: a serenade from UTPA’s own Mariachi Aztlán.
As for the graduates, Nelsen urged them to remember their identity as they went out into the world.
“This is Bronc Country. You are Bronc Nation. Always remember that you are a Bronc,” said Nelsen. “When you leave here today, don’t forget why you came.”
But not everyone would be leaving completely. For some of the graduates, the degree earned Saturday was the first of many. La Joya native Lorena Ramos plans to return for a master’s.
“[Graduating] means a lot. I am also pursuing my master’s. It’s really a big achievement,” said the 21-year-old. “It is just another piece of the puzzle.”
When asked what she would get upon completing the puzzle, the English graduate chuckled, “Besides money? Pride and a feeling of accomplishment.”
San Juan native Joe Barrios graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music performance.
“I did this for my children so they can continue in my footsteps,” said the 40-year-old father of a girl and two boys. “Maybe they will even go further.”
Barrios, who focuses on saxophone but also plays trombone, clarinet and accordion, said he enjoyed both the years it took him to earn his degree and the day on which he received it.
“I just had a wonderful day today. It almost seemed like it wasn’t possible, but it was,” said Barrios, who plans to pursue a master’s degree.