When Samantha Rodriguez was a young girl, her family ritual was to cross the border on Sundays to enjoy an afternoon in Brownsville.
The family would walk by the Historic Campus of Texas Southmost College every weekend.
“I’ve lived in Matamoros my whole life,” Rodriguez said. “When I saw TSC, I asked my mom, ‘What is that?’ and she answered, ‘That is a college.’ Ever since then, I would say, “I want to save up and go there one day. I never knew it would actually happen.”
Fast forward to 2022, and Rodriguez crosses the bridge every day, this time as a TSC student. On Dec. 10, she will walk across the stage to receive her Associate of Arts with her family in attendance.
“It makes me emotional in some ways to look back then and being here now,” she said. “I don’t talk about it much, but my mother has cancer. She always told me you need to graduate, you need an associate degree; you need to be someone. It’s going to be important to my mom that I achieve that.”
Rodriguez’s educational journey is common to many who live in Matamoros. She began attending Brownsville ISD schools in eighth grade. With her good grades, she was given the opportunity to take advanced classes, but the next step was a challenge: learn English to keep up with her peers.
She had studied some English when she was little, thanks to the help of some Disney videos but being fully immersed in middle school was another level.
“It was really hard for me because all my life was Spanish,” she said. “I took classes in Mexico, but it wasn’t the same English as in Brownsville. It got easier when I started making friends in my AP classes. They would help me with homework and understanding lessons.”
During her two years at Texas Southmost College, she has been extremely involved. As a work-study under Ricardo Vasquez, Director of Multimedia Customer Relations and Communications, she has been tasked with taking photos, creating videos, and assisting with the TSC.edu/news website.
“It has been an absolute pleasure to work with Ms. Rodriguez,” Vasquez said. “She is brilliant, hard-working, creative, and a quick learner. Amidst the difficult challenges she has faced, she still managed to maintain a high G.P.A., obtain merit scholarships, and now she is graduating Scorpion Strong!”
Her skills have grown, and she will continue to UTRGV to pursue marketing. “It has been great,” she said. “I learned a lot. I knew nothing about marketing, multimedia and all the web pages I’ve been helping Mr. Vasquez with. He taught me everything, to be honest. I learned in about a month. He asked me in the interview if I was a quick learner and I definitely am.”
Vasquez said he knew she would be a great fit from her answers.
“When Ms. Rodriguez interviewed for the work-study position in my department, I mentioned that if hired, she would be learning web development, marketing, and photography,” he said. “I could tell by how her facial expression lit up that she would be a good fit.”
During her last few days as a Scorpion student, she has plenty of time to reflect on her last two years and her entire life.
“It’s going to be really special for my family and me. It’s been hard for me during this journey. Crossing the border since eighth grade, I’ve been waking up at five in the morning and sometimes waiting three hours at the bridge.”
The commute, the waiting, and the learning will all culminate in a memorable moment during Fall Commencement Exercises scheduled for Saturday, December 10th at 11:30 am at TSC’s Jacob Brown Auditorium.