Texas Border Business
PHARR – Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District (PSJA ISD) alumna, Irma Alvarado, was recently recognized for being one of the first known Hispanic female graduates of Texas A&M University and for paving the way for other graduates. Alvarado was recently featured in a “Beyond the Books” panel by the nonprofit Aggie Women.
Irma Alvarado first graduated from PSJA High School in 1966. She was the very first in her family to graduate from high school and pursue a post-secondary degree from Texas A&M University where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Education in 1970.
In addition to being among the first known Hispanic female students to attend Texas A&M University, she was also the very first from the Rio Grande Valley and PSJA ISD. According to Alvarado, while most of her female peers were highly encouraged to stay in the Rio Grande Valley with their families during that time, her parents always encouraged her to explore her horizons and fulfill all her educational dreams.
“Back in those days, female students could only attend Texas A&M University if they were married to a current student or from a prominent family,” shared Alvarado whose husband graduated from Texas A&M University in 1969. “Education opened all doors in my career.”
Despite the challenges and barriers she faced, the 73-year-old shared she was committed to her education and making a difference for other students. Fueled by this goal, she continued with her studies earning a Master’s in Education from Antioch College in 1974 and a Counseling Certificate from Pan American University. She worked as a teacher for Donna ISD and as an At-Risk Counselor at PSJA ISD in Edith & Ethel Carman Elementary in San Juan from 1992 through 1994.
Due to her dedication and perseverance, her accolades include being recognized as a “Siempre Hispanic” by Texas A&M University, recipient of the Aggie Women’s Legacy Award in 2016, and having an Aggie Learning Center named after her the “Alvarado Community Center”.
According to Alvarado, her love for education and giving back was first sparked by her parents and teachers at PSJA ISD.
“As a teenager, my time at PSJA are some of my happiest moments,” said the alumna who has 25 years of experience as a teacher, counselor, and as a mentor developing leaders. “Finally, I will be able to tell my story to my community, my PSJA friends, classmates, and teachers who had a great influence in my life. It is a testament of the great work PSJA ISD is doing in preparing students to compete with other students in the state.”
Regarding how education has transformed since her time as a PSJA ISD student, Alvarado shared being proud of the changes and rigorous academic opportunities offered to all students.
“So happy to see how enrollment has changed so much,” she said. “So proud to see the quality of the buildings and the district unity and integration. All the opportunities, resources, and scholarships.”
Grateful for her journey and the opportunities she’s had, Alvarado shared some heartfelt advice with all current students.
“Work hard and be focused. Stay on course. Be careful who you hang around with as they can influence who you are,” she shared. “I think my story is a story of hope and encouragement to any student who is struggling financially and not being able to have the encouragement and support to achieve their dreams. I am here to tell them they can do it. Anything is possible if they so desire it.”
About Irma Alvarado
Irma Alvarado graduated from Texas A&M in 1970 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Education. She also received her Master’s Degree in Education from Antioch College in 1974. She later received her Counseling Certificate from Pan American University known today as the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg, Texas.
She is married to Erasmo Alvarado Jr., and has 4 grown children, two of her sons are graduates of Texas A&M University. She is one of the earliest known undergraduates Hispanic Women from Texas A&M University. In 2006, she was one of the honorees at the “Siempre” Hispanics at Texas A&M celebrating 130 years and an exhibit with her story was displayed at the Cushing Memorial Library. Three years later, in 2009 the students from the Aggie Access Learning Communities honored her by naming one of the learning centers, the Alvarado Community Center, after her.
In 2016, Mrs. Alvarado was one of the honorees by Aggie Women for the Aggie Women’s Legacy Award. In 2019, Mrs. Alvarado was selected by the students of the Texas A&M Architecture Department to be part of their project “ THE SPIRIT TOLD” an exhibit Spotlighting her for her spirit of Encouragement. That same year, she was presented with the Servant Leader Award by the Texas Baptist Convention and Dallas University for her leadership in Texas.
Since her graduation, she has been passionate about educating others, guiding them, and leading the way to attend Texas A&M University. She has 25 years of experience as a teacher, counselor, and as a mentor developing leaders. Mrs. Alvarado remains very active serving on different boards and committees throughout the state. She is currently working as an office administrator. She is a business partner and owner of Alvarado Architects, Inc.