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Our success has never been more important: BISD Baccalaureate Ceremony

May 24, 2010

Yesterday I had the great pleasure of speaking at the two baccalaureate ceremonies for the graduating seniors from the Brownsville Independent School District. The students marched in dressed in their graduation robes that matched their school colors and sat politely, but excitedly, in the first of several events arranged for them to celebrate their graduation. Two ceremonies were required because the Rivera High School gymnasium wasn’t large enough to hold the hundreds of graduates and their families. Each ceremony began with the posting of the colors by one of the junior ROTC units and with the pledge of allegiance to our nation and states flags. An invocation was offered, and a choir dedicated an inspirational song carefully chosen to honor the graduating seniors. Many students were chosen to take part in the ceremony introducing platform guests and translating the proceedings into Spanish. As each student took their place at the microphone, the audience of proud students would applaud and cheer loudly competing one with the other to see who could make more noise in support of their fellow graduate.

The students sat in long, neat rows on the gym floor while the bleachers on either side were filled with parents and family members. Inevitably, a child in the audience would cry out loudly trying to interrupt the proceedings, but failed to receive much attention in comparison to that being given to the ‘stars’ of the evening on the gym floor. School board members took their turn at being introduced some waving to the audience and standing modestly like proud parents themselves. All seemed to enjoy the band music that was led in one case by a former UTB/TSC music major that I recognized.

It’s sometimes easy to forget the parents that hesitate to attend school events because they’ve had to rush over after work still dressed for the sun … or the mother who must carry her younger children with her because there is no one else to care for them … or the grandfather that must be wheeled into the gym so that he can witness for his grandson. I saw several guests with UTB/TSC shirts on; not the kind that you might wear golfing or exercising, instead the kind we distribute for work. I also saw the look on the girls’ faces when I was introduced and imagined that they were very much in awe that I looked so much like them in an antique version.

Many of the students that I saw yesterday will be ours very soon. More than 5,000 of them have already begun to earn college credit through our dual enrollment programs at no cost to them in tuition. Another 200 attend the Brownsville Early College High School and come to campus every Friday for classes. They’ll be the experts when they arrive next fall knowing where all the buildings are and where to get their parents to drop them off. They will arrive having also earned college credit for courses while still in high school tuition free. And most will still be the first in their family to attend college, most will qualify for federal financial aid, and most will still need one to three developmental courses before beginning college classes.

Our work continues to be the most important economic engine for our region; our challenge among the most difficult as we try to educate a majority of first generation, low socio-economic freshman; our success never more important than now, when our ailing nation needs us the most.

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