EDINBURG — A tradition that began 24 years ago was commemorated on Tuesday evening with the annual University of Texas at Austin send-off for Rio Grande Valley students.
UT-Austin President Gregory Fenves is visiting the Valley to officially welcome 415 area students to the UT family. Through a series of events, the students and their families have the opportunity to interact with university officials and learn more about the transition to college.
“In just a few short weeks you’ll be traveling up to Austin, but you are not going to forget home, you are not going to forget the Valley,” Fenves told the students at the event held at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance. “You are going to remember your families and your communities.”
The second part of the send-off takes place today (Wednesday) in Brownsville where students from Willacy and Cameron counties will be greeted.
This event was first launched in 1993 as a way to strengthen the ties between the flagship institution and the Rio Grande Valley. The events are hosted in Brownsville and Edinburg, and after the success seen in the area similar send-offs were launched in other Texas cities such as San Antonio.
Families first had the opportunity to mingle amongst university officials, alumni and other families sending their students up to Austin.
Given the cultural background of the area, which is mostly Mexican-American and strongly rooted in family ties and the desire to stick together, having events like this that give families peace of mind can be an important step.
“We got to meet the president today, we got to meet a lot of very important people from the university,” said Sally Valle, mother of Vallery Valle, a soon-to-be freshman at UT Austin. “I know my daughter is going to be in good hands, that there’s always going to be somebody there to help her out.”
For the Valle family this event brought comfort, Sally said, in knowing there is a support system for the youngest generations of Longhorns.
Vallery, 17, a graduate from Nikki Rowe High School in McAllen, is not only celebrating her acceptance into the institution, but also a $10,000 scholarship that can be renewed for the next four years. She was named the Rio Grande Valley Scholar of 2017 by the Texas Exes, a UT-Austin Alumni Association.
Using this money, Vallery said she wishes to pursue a communications degree and later decide whether to go into journalism or law.
Being the first in her family to move to what she referred to as a big university campus can be stressful, but she said knowing she has a support system makes her feel secure.
“I’m not really nervous, I think I’m more ready and excited,” she said. “I know I have so many people behind me and cheering me on. Not just my family, but all the people I met at the reception. So I know I have the resources and there’s no reason to fail.”
This is the sentiment Fenves hoped the students and parents take away from these send-offs, which he said the university plans to continue for many years to come.
“You want to know that your kid is going to be in good hands and that they are going to be successful,” Fenves said. “We want to be accessible, and open and friendly, so hopefully we are getting that across to parents.”