Ten years ago, Rosalba Rubio proved skeptics wrong that a Mexican immigrant, one of 14 children, could succeed in higher education.
Last month, she doubled down on making a louder statement when she earned a master’s degree in counselor education from Stanislaus State.
“The primary challenge is that too often many people don’t believe in you,” said Rubio, a married mother of three. “There are people who believe that Mexican immigrants can’t go forward, and try to push us down.”
Rubio, after having her children, decided to return to school for two reasons.
One was to remedy the problems she saw among Latino youth while working in the criminal justice system.
“Our youths are being jailed, and we need to start working with them at an early age,” she said.
The other reason?
“This master’s is for my three children,” said Rubio, who became a U.S. citizen in 2014.
At the 32nd second annual Chicano Commencement inside a packed main dining hall on May 27, Rubio was among a record 57 Latino graduates who took part in a ceremony that left university president Ellen Junn wiping away tears at times.
“The best thing is to hear the students, from their heart, show gratitude, appreciation and pride in their accomplishments,” said Junn.
What did Junn see and hear?
▪ Ramón Vargas (bachelor’s degree in theatre and gender studies) called his parents over and gave each one of his graduation cords in appreciation for their support. His mother kept the video camera rolling the entire time.
▪ Andrea Cruz (bachelor’s in business administration) got emotional in recalling how she often missed going out to dinner with her family, then being surprised when her parents would return with a plate of food for her.
▪ Daniel Rivas (bachelor’s in mathematics) wore a championship belt seen often draped on boxers. “I’m a champion today,” he exclaimed.
▪ Nayeli Carmona (master’s in public administration) witnessed her mother receive her bachelor’s degree. “She is my inspiration,” said Carmona about her mother.
Following the ceremony which drew twice as many graduates as last year, Rubio brushed aside any praise. The credit, she said, goes to her mother, María Ramírez.
Junn, who arrived from Cal State Domínguez Hills, knows what a specialty celebration can do to inspire students of color to go into higher education.
“I want to help grow the number of students who attend, and I want to provide additional funding for these specialized ceremonies,” said Junn, whose 31 years in the CSU system includes a couple of years at Fresno State where she has seen the country’s largest Latino graduation ceremony.
Latinos account for half of Stanislaus State’s enrollment.
The graduates and their families were serenaded by Mariachi Santa María. The event also featured Mexican folkloric and Aztec dancing.