UTRGV celebrates military graduates with curbside graduation

University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) Military Graduate Ricardo Hartwell celebrates during a UTRGV curbside graduation celebration Friday afternoon in Brownsville.

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley held a curbside celebration for veteran and military students who are graduating this semester, continuing a long-standing tradition during commencement week that has been adopted from one of UTRGV’s legacy institutions on Friday at the Brownsville campus.

The event, which also happened on the Edinburg campus on Thursday, hopes to thank the graduates for their dedication to our country and community.

Elda Arriaga, assistant director for the Military Veterans Success Center at UTRGV, said this tradition also serves to thank the military families.

“I think of this as a tradition to keep honoring the service of our men and women and the service of the families that have sacrificed for their family members to continue their education and utilize the educational benefits to continue higher education,” Arriaga said.

During the celebration, which lasted an hour, more than 10 cars lined up in Brownsville near the UTRGV bookstore as graduates eagerly waited inside them wearing their black cap and gown with several stoles of different colors that represent organizations they were part of and even embroidered ones that stated they were veterans.

“This is a tradition that we’ve had for over the past eight years, we brought it over from one of our legacy institutions and it’s very important to continue the traditions that we have, so we have to think outside the box,” Arriaga said.

As the new graduates stopped to receive their gift bag that included their stole from the Military Veterans Success Center, several family members and loved ones stood on the sidewalk cheering them on with posters that said things such as “Proud of you” and “We love you.”

Purple Heart recipient Arturo De La Garza, an Army Veteran who graduated with a Bachelor’s in Social Work, said he feels ecstatic and ready for the future. As he tried to hold back tears of joy, he added he plans to continue his education and thanked the university for the celebration because it means a lot to him and his family.

“There’s a lot of hard work ahead of me and a lot more service to the country and to the community as well, to contribute as much as I can,” he said smiling. “It makes our heart extremely happy, a sense of appreciation to see this.”