Saturday was graduation day at Stephen F. Austin State University. More than 1,100 students received their diplomas from SFA. More than 870 candidates received their bachelor's degree, while close to 300 got their master's, and 8 have their doctoral degree.
Words of encouragement for their future came from the Consul General of Mexico, Carlos Garcia de Alba. That's a timely selection considering the Hispanic population is the fastest growing ethnicity in Texas. A Texas Higher Education report says if Texas does not close its education racial gap, the poverty rate among family households could increase by 3 %. Recent enrollment trends put Hispanics at 35 % of the state's goal to have 340,000 Hispanics enrolled in Texas colleges by 2015.
Hispanics are also among the fastest growing population at SFA. Charmayne Mann nervously waited her turn to walk across the graduation stage. She's the first generation to graduate from college in her Hispanic family. "It's been a long journey,but I'm proud that I've come this way. I think it's important for my family to see that I made it through."
Mann is among a growing number of minorities at SFA graduating according to SFA President Dr. Tito Guerrero. "If you take the 5 year look at the situation our fastest growing student enrollment has been among African Americans. If you take it on a year to year basis the fastest growing has been among Hispanics."
Hispanic degree holders go against all odds according to the Consul Ggeneral of Mexico. Garcia de Alba says Mexican adults come to the USA for work and, because of the Mexican culture, often send their children the wrong message. "Most of them communicate the same message to their kids. In other words they say to their kids, 'Don't waste time, let's go to work, lets find a job.'"
But Mann got a much different message from her parents. She knows her chances of getting a good job increase with her degree in Interdisciplinary Studies. "I think that it is important to finish school and continue to go to college, become educated, get a good job and be able to support your family and make it through life."