BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Texas Southmost College graduated more than 400 students, including the first dual credit cohort, during TSC’s first-ever Virtual Commencement Ceremony on July 31 that was live streamed and broadcast via Facebook Live.
TSC conferred 424 associate degrees and certificates to 413 graduates of the Class of Spring 2020. Among the graduates that earned associate degrees were 35 dual credit students from the Brownsville and Los Fresnos school districts, and Jubilee.”It’s a great feeling (to graduate). TSC changed my life,” said 18-year-old TSC Dual Credit student Dora Figueroa from Brownsville Early College High School. “I got to see what college is like. The options TSC offers in dual enrollment put me ahead.”
TSC Board Chairwoman Adela G. Garza and TSC President Jesus Roberto Rodriguez congratulated the graduates on their success and provided words of encouragement as they continue to pursue their education or join the workforce.
“We recognize that it takes a lot of people to bring this success,” said Garza. “It takes a village to help you succeed.”
Garza, a TSC alumna who decided to return to college at age 30, shared her story with the graduates.
“I was a young mother with three kids, like many of you are, and that presents a problem. We want to spend time with our kids and they demand our attention,” she said. “I had no family in Brownsville. I depended on my close friends and my spouse and, of course, you rearrange your schedule and make it happen. I’m so glad I did…Think about the role model you are for those kids.”
“I’m proud every time my kids talk about ‘my mother went to school as an adult,’ added Garza. “I want you to count your blessings because when you do, more blessings come to you. I think we are more aware of our blessings because of these trying times.”
The virtual commencement ceremony opened with panoramic views from around TSC’s Historic Fort Brown Campus, including iconic settings and historical buildings such as the Gazebos and aerial views of Gorgas Hall and the Oliviera Student Services Center, among others.
During the ceremony, TSC President Rodriguez thanked students for their persistence and courage, and reflected on the different types of learning that were observed during the past year and how students adapted to remote learning and finding study spaces at home.
“I believe we can all agree that one of the universal things we collectively learned was our capacity for adaptation during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Rodriguez. “We learned how to adapt and how to succeed, and we did this very quickly as our world changed over spring break. I marvel at how this change in behavior will shape a whole new generation as you enter the workforce. I believe we also collectively learned a new level of compassion and patience. We learned the true meaning of being Scorpion Strong.”
Prior to conferring degrees and certificates, TSC spring 2020 graduation keynote speaker U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela Jr. congratulated the graduates and spoke about his parents’ journey through TSC.
“Texas Southmost College is a unique institution that values diversity, innovation and authenticity,” he said. “My father, Filemon Vela, attended TSC before moving on to serve as a federal judge appointed by President Jimmy Carter in 1980. My mother, Blanca, also attended TSC and went on to become the first and only female mayor of Brownsville.”
“TSC helped shape both of them, as I’m sure it will help shape the paths you will now take as you complete this milestone and move on to new accomplishments,” added U.S. Rep. Vela Jr. “I realize today’s ceremony is not the celebration you expected. Instead of celebrating your graduation in person with your classmates, friends and family, you’re helping keep our community safe by celebrating with your loved ones at home.”
U.S. Rep. Vela Jr. concluded by encouraging students to commit themselves to “a lifetime of active learning.”
“In life, you may choose change or change may be forced on you as has been the case with the changes during this pandemic,” said Vela Jr. “You’ve already shown your resilience learning to adjust to these changes in achieving today’s milestone. I hope the spirit of innovation and adaptability stay with you always. This pandemic has changed our world and you will determine how we rebuild and move forward.”