AUSTIN (KXAN) — This time of year Littlefield Fountain is the place to be. University of Texas graduates flock to its waters in their cap and gowns, along with their friends and family, to get the best graduation pictures with the UT Tower in the background.
It’s a special moment for everyone involved, especially for first-generation students who are accomplishing a family milestone. The university estimates there will be 1,400 first-generation students graduating with a bachelor’s degree this weekend.
‘I’m the first in my family at many things’
Noelia Delgado is the middle child of five kids. Raised in Lake Whitney, Texas, north of Waco, Delgado was not used to bigger class sizes. Her graduating class in high school was just 106.
“That was one of the big classes,” Delgado said with a laugh.
She was accepted to her dream school at the University of Texas, and although her mom wanted her to go to school just a little bit closer to home, Delgado made the move to Austin. It was a first for her and her family. She is a first-generation student.
“I am the first in my family at many things. It’s a lot about figuring things out on my own while seeking a lot of mentorship,” Delgado said about going to college as a fist-generation student.
Even though she could not rely on her parents for college advice, she said they were her biggest supporters.
“It wouldn’t have been possible without them. They’ve been there to support me and they’re my biggest cheerleaders,” Delgado said.
If being a first-generation wasn’t hard enough, Delgado also had to overcome one of the biggest obstacles in the past century: the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit during her freshman year.
Delgado is a Kinesiology and Health Applied Movement Science major with certificates in Business of Healthcare and Pre-Health Professions. She worked at Ascension Seton hospital and saw first-hand the devastation of the virus.
“We had a lot of COVID patients, so that was really hard just dealing with some of those losses and having to cope with that,” Delgado said.
She then participated in an independent research study with Central Health, where she interviewed families in the Austin’s east side discovering the effects of the pandemic on that population. She said the work reminded her of her own parents.
Reflecting on the past four years, Delgado said she is a different person from when she first moved here.
“I proved to myself that I was able to achieve all of that and learn so much from, like who I am and what I can do,” Delgado said.
She is now moving to Fort Worth to attend the University of North Texas Health Sciences Center’s physician assistant graduate program.
Her advice to other first-generation students is to take every opportunity that is presented to you.
“Even if it’s a little scary or uncomfortable because it is where you have the most growth,” Delgado explained.
The university wide commencement is happening at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
On Saturday you need to be aware of road closures around the university. San Jacinto boulevard from E. 24th street to Martin Luther King Jr. boulevard. Robert Dedman drive will be closed from Dean Keaton street to MLK Jr. boulevard as well.