Rodriguez, who graduated from Harlingen High School South in 2007, said he knew little English when he started school and struggled to complete writing assignments. He planned to attend school near his hometown of Linares, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, but a UTPA recruiter convinced him to give the Edinburg university a try.
"As I remember, my whole family came with me in my grandmother's little old Volkswagen ... to see if I was truly accepted to study," Rodriguez said.
Indeed, he was. And shortly after enrolling at UTPA Rodriguez joined various student organizations, including the Student Government Association, of which he rose to the rank of president. He also was accepted into The Rafael "Felo" A. and Carmen Guerra Honors Program and traveled to Italy and Turkey for study abroad programs.
"UTPA was the only University that told me, 'We want to help you,'" Rodriguez said. "It may sound like any other school would have said the same, but I could tell they were truly honest by the way they looked at me."
On Aug. 20, Rodriguez will celebrate the culmination of his hard work as he is one of 867 graduates to whom UTPA is expected to award degrees during its commencement ceremonies at 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. at the McAllen Convention Center.
During the 9 a.m. ceremony, the University will bestow diplomas upon 189 students from the College of Arts and Humanities, 97 from the College of Health Sciences and Human Services, 88 from the College of Science and Mathematics, and 39 from the College of Engineering and Computer Science. During the 12:30 p.m. ceremony, UTPA will award diplomas to 178 students from the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and to 138 students each from the Colleges of Business Administration and Education.
At 9 a.m., attendees will hear from Carlos Guerra, owner of La Muñeca Cattle Co. Guerra, whose family has a long history of supporting education in the Rio Grande Valley, is a successful cattle rancher and breeder of Polled Brahman, Simbrah and Simbrahvieh cattle. He has spent much of his life in his family's cattle business, and in 1989 started La Muñeca Cattle Co. with his wife, Ofira "Sister" Guerra.
The Guerra family has been a longtime supporter of UTPA. The Rafael "Felo" A. and Carmen Guerra Honors Program at UTPA is named after Guerra's parents in honor of their contributions to higher education. The Guerra's are also active in various community and cattle industry organizations.
Carlos Garza, president and CEO of Inter National Bank, will deliver the commencement speech during the 12:30 p.m. ceremony. Garza, who graduated cum laude from The University of Texas at Austin in 1979 with a bachelor's degree in business administration, has more than 30 years experience in accounting and banking.
Garza currently serves as chairman of the boards overseeing the McAllen-Hidalgo-Reynosa and Anzalduas International Bridges, and previously served on the McAllen City Commission. He was the city's mayor-pro tem from 2001-2005.
Rodriguez, who will receive his bachelor's degree in business administration with a minor in Spanish, said he is planning to work to earn some experience before pursuing a master's degree.
He credits the Guerra Honors Program for giving him the ability to take on life's challenges, and urges current Broncs to not take the easy road.
"Never stay still, because every move that is made creates another opportunity to learn something new," he said. "Attitude is your most powerful tool to overcome any challenge and will give you the strength you need when things might not go the way you expect."
Learn more about the 2011 Summer Commencement.