Steven Moncivais says he considered going to San Antonio for college when he graduated from Nixon High School 3 1/2 years ago.
The reality of having to live far from home, however, made him think of a more practical option. Rather than leaving home, Moncivais chose to stay in Laredo and attend Texas A&M International University at its newly-constructed campus.
Moncivais, now 21, says he is glad he made that choice. On Dec. 19, he will walk up the graduation aisle not only as a candidate for a bachelors degree in criminal justice but also as one of the three members of the first freshman class to graduate from A&M International.
In addition to Moncivais, Maria Esther Gomez, an English major, and Gladys Martinez, an Early Childhood major, both members of the first freshman class, will receive their diplomas Saturday at 9 a.m. in the Kinesiology/Convocation Building.
"At first, the thought of graduating from a university did not seem a reality. But it's here. I tried on my cap and gown, and wow, I'm graduating," says Moncivais.
On Saturday, Moncivais will join 240 candidates for graduation as part of A&M International's largest graduating class.
Moncivais, who says his priority now is finding an employment, also says he attended A&M International because he wanted to help build the University and be one of the first students to graduate from A&M International.
"Attending A&M International is like attending any other college out of town. The faculty members are top notch and have degrees from every University that you can think of. The experiences that I had were great," says Moncivais.
Like Moncivais, Gomez says she is proud to be one of the first freshmen to graduate from A&M International.
"A&M International is a second home for me. I've been spending about 12 hours daily on this campus. I will miss the collegiality that I have gained with other students and professors. I'm glad I got to study in a brand new university," says Gomez.
The open access A&M International gives its students to financial aid and scholarships is another reason Gomez chose A&M International, says Gomez.
"I think a lot of people underestimate the amount of financial aid and scholarship that A&M International offers," Gomez says, "It offers many opportunities."
Meanwhile, Martinez says she feels a special bond with A&M International since she has seen its new campus from its inception.
"I remember when we started classes, the buildings weren't ready yet, the hallways were dark. Now it's so wonderful and it's grown so much," Martinez says.
Like Moncivais, Martinez says she chose to attend A&M International because she wanted to stay close to her family.
"I have most of my family here and I didn't want to go out of town. With A&M International being here, I didn't need to go out of town. Like the motto says, 'Nothing So Close Takes you So Far,' " Martinez says.
A&M International President Dr. Charles Jennett said the University salutes all graduates, including the three in the first freshman class, for their academic effort and wishes they will continue their educational journey throughout their lives.
"We are delighted to see so many of our students succeed in their academic endeavors. We are especially happy to see members of the first freshman class graduating and starting a new A&M International tradition.
We wish all graduates the best of luck as they embark on their chosen life's journey," Jennett said.
Dr. Stephen Brown, dean of Student Affairs, says the early graduation of the three members of the first freshman class is a testament to the perseverance and tenacity common among A&M International students.
"We hope that this is the beginning of many freshman students that start and finish their education at this University. I am personally so proud of these three students, and it will be fun to greet them and welcome them as they come across the graduation line," Brown says.
This fall's graduating class includes 150 females and 90 males. The most popular undergraduate majors (with ten or more candidates) are those in early childhood education, criminal justice, bilingual education, accounting, psychology, elementary reading and management.
Countries represented in the graduating class include Bangladesh, China, Costa Rica, France, Germany, Honduras, Indonesia, India, Kenya Morocco, Mexico, Sweden, Thailand and the United States.
For further information about the Fall 1998 Commencement Exercises, please contact the Office of Public Affairs and Information Services at 326-2180. University office hours are 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.