Good friends share the honor of ringing the UTRGV Commencement Bell

Rebeca Rodriguez, left, and Susanna Perales, friends since freshman year at Los Fresnos High School, were two of eight graduates selected to ring the commencement bell at the UTRGV commencement ceremonies. Rodriguez and Perales will ring the bell at the Brownsville Campus ceremony on Friday, Dec. 16, 2016. (UTRGV Photo by David Pike)

By Vicky Brito and Cheryl Taylor

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – DEC. 13, 2016 – Students at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley are carrying on a tradition that began in 2011 at The University of Texas at Brownsville/Texas Southmost College – the practice of ringing the university bell at the close of the commencement ceremonies in May and December.

Ringing the bell is an honor reserved for two graduating seniors at each ceremony who have been actively involved in student life initiatives, demonstrated academic excellence, and who embody the Vaquero Honor Code. For the first time, the bell will be transported from Brownsville to McAllen for commencement ceremonies there. The two bell ringers at each ceremony – eight in all, and all prospective graduates – were selected from applicants who sought to have that honor.

Selected to ring the bell at the fall 2016 commencement ceremony on the Brownsville Campus – 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16 – are Susanna Perales and Rebeca Rodriguez, who have been best friends since starting high school

“We could not believe we were chosen for this honor,” said Perales. “Rebeca and I have been friends since our freshman year at Los Fresnos High School. This is extra special, that we will get to do this together.”

The Brownsville commencement ceremony on Dec. 16 will be followed by three ceremonies at the McAllen Convention Center on Saturday, Dec. 17.

The other students selected to ring the bell at the McAllen commencement ceremonies are:

  • 9.00 a.m. ceremony: Rebecca Reyes and Alberto Adame.
  • 1:00 p.m. ceremony: Laura Cantu and Kimberly Castillo.
  • 5:00 p.m. ceremony: Marc Roque and Stephen Lopez.

In the event of a weather-related cancellation in Brownsville, that ceremony will be moved to the McAllen Convention Center, at the same time and date, 6 p.m., Friday, Dec. 16. (Notification will be provided 24 to 48 hours prior to a change of location.)


Perales, 22, graduates with a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies EC-6 Generalist / EC-12 Special Education. With a mother, sister and aunt teaching in the Los Fresnos Independent School District, Perales said, she searched out various career possibilities, but in the end could not resist the family tradition of becoming an educator.

“I knew I wanted to work with special needs children in some capacity,” she said. “And after taking my first education course and meeting Dr. Ward (Dr. Hsuying Ward, assistant professor) and Dr. Chamberlain (Dr. Steve Chamberlain, professor, both in the Department of Human Development and School Services in the College of Education and P-16 Integration), I knew this was the right path for me.”

Perales spent the semester participating in clinical teaching at Brownsville’s J. T. Canales Elementary School, where she said everyone was helpful, especially her mentor, Cristina Sanchez, in the special education resource classroom.

Finishing her studies to graduate a semester early, Perales leaves UTRGV with a 3.59 grade point average (GPA). She always took a full load of classes, along with summer classes, and still managed to be active and hold office in Student Organization for Unique Learners (SOUL).

“My involvement in SOUL was the heart and soul of my college experience,” she said. “I met so many great people. We enjoyed every minute of our many volunteer projects, and had fun in the process.

“This is my advice to students entering college life: Become involved in a student organization – something that you love and is meaningful and fun, too – and you will leave college with great memories and friends for life.”


Rebeca Rodriguez, 22, will receive her Bachelor of Arts in Communication with a 3.39 GPA. During her time at UTRGV and UTB/TSC, she was involved on campus with both institutions.

Rodriguez was a member of Communication Council, the National Society of Leadership and Success, a University Ambassador with UTB/TSC and a Student Alumni Ambassador with UTRGV. She worked on campus with Student Involvement for a year and served as a peer educator for the Super Hero Project.

“I was actually very honored and excited to find out I would be ringing the bell at commencement,” Rodriguez said. “The bell has become a tradition at UTRGV, not only with our legacy institution, and has always had a significance of achievement. I am honored, I am speechless and I’m excited. And I am really happy to be doing this with Susanna.”

Rodriguez and Perales not only are graduating from UTRGV together. They also graduated together from Los Fresnos High School in 2013.

“We were both involved on campus and I thought it was pretty awesome that we both got chosen,” Rodriguez said. “We were close friends in high school, but we weren’t as close as we are now, though.”

Rodriguez currently is applying for jobs in higher education.

“My passion is to work with students. I love working with students, and I always have,” she said. “When I started college, I was an orientation leader and that has been one of my biggest passions.”

As Rodriguez gets ready to walk the commencement stage on Friday, she reminds future graduates to manage their time wisely and to get involved on campus.

“I know sometimes we can have a habit of procrastination, but try to keep away from that,” she said.

Her advice to future graduates is, “Be involved. Be very involved. That is going to help you learn those skills that you will be using in your career.”

UTRGV Senior Writer / 956-882-8787
Informational Writer / 956-882-4330