BELTON — The spring graduating class of Texas A&M University-Central Texas marched across the stage at the Bell Expo Center on Saturday — 369 students in all.
The total pushed the university’s cumulative count to over 7,000 graduates since its inception 10 years ago.
Friends and family cheered the new grads on as they received their diplomas.
Graduates represented diverse backgrounds and circumstances, but all shared the common dedication and passion to their education and the betterment of their futures.
“We studied together; that kind of helped. We motivated each other to do best. And we’re pretty competitive so we were both trying to pull an “A,” said Alfredo Reyes, who graduated with his brother Jonathan Reyes.
The brothers drove all the way from Dallas to attend the ceremony.
Though two years apart in age, they attended Texas A&M simultaneously to earn bachelor’s degrees in aviation science and management. They plan to use their degrees as a springboard toward a career in aviation,
One brother, Alfredo, plans to take to the skies as a pilot, while brother Jonathan plans to stay grounded as an aviation manager.
Brian Haywood found the benefit of being a student while holding a position of caliber at Texas A&M as chair of the Alumni Association.
“I can move forward and actually apply what I’ve learned as a student,” said Haywood, who said being a student and chair of the Alumni Association gave him a unique perspective on how to close the gap between students and alumni.
Haywood graduated with a Master of Science in Management and Leadership.
Graduates were excited about the future but also reflected on the journey it took to finally see the graduation stage.
“All this is for her; I defied the odds being a single mom, going to school,” said Kiana Elmore, who mentioned that some people were skeptical about her decision to pursue a degree regardless of her family situation.
Elmore is a single mother to a 1-year-old girl and graduated from Texas A&M with a degree in Liberal Studies and is on her way to getting her Alternative Teaching Certificate.
“It’s an incredible story and it just drives me; once I figured out my family and where we came from was my why it was easy to make accomplishments and be successful,” said Moussa Sylla regarding his career journey and a motivational concept he adopted through watching motivational speakers in which people are challenged to find their “why” in life, thus finding their life’s purpose.
Sylla graduated with his bachelor’s in business administration and was commissioned in the U.S. Army through the Green to Gold program in tandem.
Now freshly graduated, Sylla will begin his next chapter with a unit in Korea as a finance officer.
Both Texas A&M and the graduates marked accomplishments at the graduation that will leave them looking toward the future.
“It’s a historic time,” said Texas A&M-Central Texas President Dr. Marc Niggliazzo in speaking to the graduates. “Tonight, we go over 7,000 graduates. You are the graduating class that will break that number.”