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UTRGV grad to ring the traditional bell in honor of her mother, a cancer survivor

‘The beginning of my journey’

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Jasmine Leija, of Brownsville, and her mother, Silvia, at the taping of the UTRGV virtual commencement. Leija was selected as one of eight women to ring the bells for the university’s various colleges and schools. (Courtesy Photo)

Texas Border Business

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By Letty Fernandez 

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS –  A few weeks ago, Jasmine Leija was videotaped for the Virtual Commencement ceremony. As she rang the bell for the College of Fine Arts, she thought of her mother, Silvia.

“My mother rang the bell when she finished her chemotherapy treatment in 2019. That was a huge deal for me and our family,” Leija said. “Now it’s my turn to ring the bell, to show my mom and my family what I have accomplished.”

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When UTRGV hosts its Fall 2020 Virtual Commencement on Saturday, Dec. 12, she will be one of eight women selected to ring the bells for the university’s various colleges and schools. 

Leija, of Brownsville, will graduate with a Bachelor of Music Education degree. As the first person in her family to graduate from college, Leija wants to be a role model for her younger siblings. 

“I want to be able to show them that if I can do it, they can to. I also aspire to become an effective educator who not only can teach students about music, but who also can instill in them the excitement and passion one can only experience by learning and performing,” said Leija.

Leija performed in many of the music ensembles at UTRGV, like the opera company, university drumline, jazz orchestra and wind symphony. She said participating in those ensembles prepared her to be a teacher. 

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“All these experiences I treasure and are thanks to my enrollment at UTRGV,” said Leija, who plans to attend graduate school. “Ringing the bell might symbolize the end of something special, but for me, it’s the beginning of my journey.”

The ringing of the commencement bell is a tradition that began in 2001 by legacy institution UT Brownsville/TSC. To be selected to be a bell ringer, students apply during the fall and spring semesters. 

The other students selected as bell ringers for the 2020 Fall Commencement ceremonies are:

·     Cassandra Longoria – College of Education & P-16 Integration 

·     Valeria Luna Palacios – College of Engineering & Computer Science 

·     Jessica Escamilla – College of Liberal Arts 

·     Natalia de la Garza – College of Sciences 

·     Kathryn Mendoza – Robert C. Vacker College of Business & Entrepreneurship 

·     Edna Analee Cano – School of Social Work. 

·     Olga Campos – College of Health Professions. 

Ceremonies for all the colleges and schools will begin at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 12.

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