‘The beginning of my journey’

  Tuesday, December 8, 2020
  Around Campus, Community

By Letty Fernandez

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – A few weeks ago, Jasmine Leija was videotaped for the Virtual Commencement ceremony. As she rang the bell for the College of Fine Arts, she thought of her mother, Silvia.

“My mother rang the bell when she finished her chemotherapy treatment in 2019. That was a huge deal for me and our family,” Leija said. “Now it’s my turn to ring the bell, to show my mom and my family what I have accomplished.”

When UTRGV hosts its Fall 2020 Virtual Commencement on Saturday, Dec. 12, she will be one of eight women selected to ring the bells for the university’s various colleges and schools.

Leija, of Brownsville, will graduate with a Bachelor of Music Education degree. As the first person in her family to graduate from college, Leija wants to be a role model for her younger siblings.

“I want to be able to show them that if I can do it, they can to. I also aspire to become an effective educator who not only can teach students about music, but who also can instill in them the excitement and passion one can only experience by learning and performing,” said Leija.

Leija performed in many of the music ensembles at UTRGV, like the opera company, university drumline, jazz orchestra and wind symphony. She said participating in those ensembles prepared her to be a teacher.

“All these experiences I treasure and are thanks to my enrollment at UTRGV,” said Leija, who plans to attend graduate school. “Ringing the bell might symbolize the end of something special, but for me, it’s the beginning of my journey.”

The ringing of the commencement bell is a tradition that began in 2001 by legacy institution UT Brownsville/TSC. To be selected to be a bell ringer, students apply during the fall and spring semesters.

The other students selected as bell ringers for the 2020 Fall Commencement ceremonies are:

  • Cassandra Longoria-College of Education & P-16 Integration
  • Valeria Luna Palacios-College of Engineering & Computer Science
  • Jessica Escamilla-College of Liberal Arts
  • Natalia de la Garza-College of Sciences
  • Kathryn Mendoza-Robert C. Vackar College of Business & Entrepreneurship
  • Edna Analee Cano – School of Social Work.
  • Olga Campos – College of Health Professions.

Ceremonies for all the colleges and schools will begin at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 12. For more information, please visit www.utrgv.edu/commencement/fall-2020-virtual-commencement.


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.