Wednesday, April 10, 2019
  Community, Around Campus

By Priscilla Ramirez

 Winning Essay

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – Family and support are the two words that matter the most to Amanda Cruz, an interdisciplinary studies sophomore at UTRGV.

She expressed her gratitude for every ounce of help from those around her in the winning 2019 Family of the Year essay contest.

Surrounded by three generations of family, Cruz, from Edinburg, was awarded her winner’s plaque at the UTRGV Homecoming Men’s Basketball game in February. The night was exactly how she imagined it would be, she said, with her relatives by her side during the game. But the past year was a completely new path for her.

“When my husband and I planned our baby, I wanted to go back to school in order to show my son that, if I can do it, he can, too,” she said.

Cruz wrote fondly about her husband, and about both their families, whom she describes as her lifeline of never-ending support during those first steps to her bachelor’s degree and early childhood teaching certificate.

“I thought it was going to be hard, since I had my life set in a routine,” she said. “I had a 7-month-old baby, so motherhood was new to me. And then I started going to school, so it was a lot.”

The opportunity to write about her family’s dedication and support came by chance. Thinking she had missed the original deadline, she was pleasantly surprised to find it had been extended. That gave Cruz the push she needed to put into words how much she loves her family.

“I saw the picture they had on the flier of last year’s winner, with the plaque, and I thought, ‘That could be my family up there, being recognized,’” she said.

As the winner of the Family of the Year contest, a program coordinated by the Office of Student Involvement, Cruz was awarded $500 V-Bucks to spend on campus.

Kristopher Nava, coordinator for mentoring and transition services for Student Involvement, said that when families are involved in their student’s education, those students are more likely to succeed and graduate.

“The Family of the Year contest is important, as it allows students to show appreciation to their family for all the help and support they provide to the student,” he said. “Family support can be a major help to students who are struggling with classes or with daily life situations.”

Cruz said she was excited when she got the call that she had won the essay contest.

“It didn’t fully sink in until I was off the phone,” she said. “I remember telling my husband – I think the funniest thing was telling him and my family that I wrote an essay just for fun.”

Cruz was recognized for her award again by throwing the first pitch at UTRGV Baseball’s Selena Night on April 6 in Edinburg.


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.