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Starr County Student Rises from the Ashes to Become a College Graduate

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Katlynn Ambriz recalls the day when a house fire destroyed everything her family owned. Now set to graduate this Saturday, Ambriz is grateful for those in the community who came together to aid her family in their time of need. STC Image
Katlynn Ambriz recalls the day when a house fire destroyed everything her family owned. Now set to graduate this Saturday, Ambriz is grateful for those in the community who came together to aid her family in their time of need. STC Image
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By Joey Gomez

RIO GRANDE CITY, Texas – South Texas College student Katlynn Ambriz still recalls the terrifying day that her family’s dreams went up in smoke.

A broken heater caused a house fire that destroyed all of her family’s possessions and her Rio Grande City home, which had housed her family for generations.

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“I remember we lost everything, and we felt like everything that made us a family had just been torn from us,” Ambriz said. “But as we all came together, we began meeting people who had the amazing heart to help us. It motivated me to begin volunteering and become active in my own community, which has led me to my future career plans.”

In the fall of 2021, the mother of two and first-generation college student said she had no reservations about looking for a degree in Social Work and enrolling at STC.

Now more than two years later, Ambriz is expected to graduate on Saturday with an associate degree in Social Work and will be transferring to continue her education at either the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Texas A&M Kingsville or Our Lady of the Lake University to continue her education and work towards her bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in Social Work. 

She will be among the 2,683 graduates who will receive a certificate or associate degree during STC’s commencement exercises.

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“What has always kept me going is knowing that I am the first in my family to get a degree,” Ambriz said. “My two kids also inspire me because I am working for a better life for them. I want them to see that I never gave up on my goals, even when there were major obstacles in my path. Receiving this degree just proves that what I am doing is paying off. I plan to keep going and never stop learning.”

Among her many accomplishments, Ambriz is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, an international organization that provides opportunities in leadership and service for scholars who maintain a grade point average of 3.5 or higher.

As a member of Phi Theta Kappa, she has also most recently been named to the All-Texas Academic Team and was among a group of students recognized at a special medallion ceremony in Dallas in April.

The All-Texas Academic Team celebrates outstanding community college students who plan to transfer to four-year institutions or join the workforce. Texas is one of 39 participating states that host All-State Academic Team ceremonies through Phi Theta Kappa.

She has also been named to the National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS), a national honor society with over 750 chapters and more than 1.8 million members at institutions nationwide. NSLS provides a step-by-step program for members to build their leadership skills through participation at their campus or online.

“I am among those students who really want to help, and who has a passion for helping people. The most important message I have for those with similar goals is to just have patience,” Ambriz said. “In my case, there were lots of times when I wanted to give up until I realized that the best things in life never come quickly. It takes time to get to where you want to be, but it’s so worth it.”

With graduation close, Ambriz said she will always remember how, in the aftermath of the house fire, there were still people in the community who came together to aid her family in their time of need.

That experience, as tragic as it was, still inspired her own career as a social worker with the goal of giving back to others.

“Even with everything that has happened, I am still persevering, and I plan be the first in my family to get a bachelor’s degree and then a master’s degree. I keep going striving for my kids,” Ambriz said. “I hope to make a change in my community with the goal to help kids that really need that help and their families.”

STC will host its Commencement Ceremonies on Dec. 9 at the Bert Ogden. Arena at 9 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

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