POSTED: Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - 6:13pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 9:20am
Alamo, TX (News Center 23) — Senior Memorial High school student Rene Vela will be the first in his family to graduate from high school.
"To me it's important because I am taking a big step for my family, and also I am setting a goal for my little brother and little sister so they can hopefully continue in my footsteps," said Rene Vela, Senior.
Vela's father only made it to 11th grade and his mother only went as far sixth grade. But not having a high school degree isn't uncommon among Hispanic families along the border.
"Here in the Valley we have a lot of families who are also new to this country. So often it's the first generation to be graduating here in the United States or first one to be graduating at all," said Dr. Daniel King, PSJA Superintendent.
But graduation numbers are on the rise. In fact nationally, graduation numbers have reached their highest in 40 years, with over 3.1 million students graduating in 2010.
"And we have seen dramatic improvement really all across the Valley. We have seen a big improvement in graduation rate and decrease in drop out rate. Really today for the first time graduation rates here in the Valley are really right at the state average," said Dr. King.
PSJA ISD is the perfect example of positive change. The school district raised their practically failing graduation rate of 62.4 percent in 2007, to over 87. percent of students graduating by 2011.
Vela is supported everyday by his family to graduate; especially his mother.
"My mom works at Little Caesars, the pizzeria right there and it's a hard job with only minimum wage. And it's not worth it. It's better to have the education, to get a good career to get a better paycheck and have a good life," said Vela.
So with only a few months to go, Vela can't wait to replace the notes with a diploma.
Vela is ranked 36th in his class at PSJA Memorial High school and he will attend Texas A&M in the fall.