UTRGV held three commencement ceremonies yesterday at the Harlingen Convention Center. An array of emotions was seen on the student’s faces as they entered the room and walked to their seats.

“My sister!”

“My daughter!” interjected Lucy Cascos.

Cascos and her son, Dr. Sergio Martinez, had come to see his sister — and her daughter — Alexa Cascos graduate from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

The winter commencement ceremonies at the Harlingen Convention Center began at 9 a.m. Friday for the 180 students in the College of Liberal Arts. Alexa, age 20, was graduating summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

“We’re very proud of her,” said Martinez, 28. “We come from a family where education is very important. We were taught at a young age that hard work pays off. We expected nothing less from her.”

A total of 579 students graduated in three ceremonies Friday in Harlingen. On Saturday, another 2,110 students were scheduled to graduate at Bert Ogden Arena in Edinburg.

Friday, Guy Bailey, president of UTRGV, congratulated the students on their hard work.

“This is a real achievement for you,” Bailey said. “We had three goals for you. We wanted you to go to UTRGV and you did that. We wanted you to graduate and you did that. We wanted you to get a good job.”

He then smiled and said that as soon as the students made their first million dollars the university might come looking for them.

This was a special day for everyone, said state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr.

“This is a chance to congratulate the graduates who have put in so much effort into their studies,” Lucio said. “It’s a banner day for the graduates of the class of 2019. It’s the end of one chapter of your life and the beginning of the rest of your life of success.”

The students themselves were proud of their success. As they entered the auditorium dressed in their black gowns, a broad range of ages revealed themselves.

A man in a graying beard tossed aside the tassel dangling from his cap, followed closely by a young woman in her 20s. Perhaps he was receiving his doctorate? Or maybe he’d finally decided to continue his education.

That’s what Yvonne Rodriguez, 43, did. In fact, her drive and assistance so impressed administrators she was one of two women invited to do the ceremonial ringing of the bell. The ringing of the bell, she explained, means that accomplishment has been made and students are moving forward toward their future.

“I feel very accomplished,” said the mother of a 19-year-old son.

“It’s just been a very long road,” she said. “It just makes me so happy to know that it can be done. If I can do it anybody can do it. With a little hard work and determination anything is possible.”

For some, it was one of many firsts. Elijah Noriega, 22, had just graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and his whole family cheered loudly as he walked across the stage.

“I am the first in my family,” said the Edinburg native. “It feels good. I guess it was a little hard because there was no one else in my family. I had no guidance. But it was awesome.”