The agreement will set up a collaborative effort by SDSU and UABC to work together to better their English programs for their students.
During the graduation ceremony, Rosa Marie Hernandez, 37, of Brawley was the only student to be named summa cum laude with a grade-point average of 3.8 or above and Elizabeth Juarez, 24, of El Centro was awarded the outstanding student award as well as being named a magna cum laude graduate, with a grade-point average of 3.6 or above.
"It's not something you expect and it makes you feel good," said Juarez of receiving the outstanding student award.
"It has been very hard because living in a home with only my mother meant I had to work while attending school and I had to make a great effort to get good grades and get this type of an achievement," said Juarez.
Juarez was born in Watsonville and moved to the Imperial Valley in 1989, immediately after the big earthquake hit in San Francisco.
"I guess that's why we decided to come down here," she said in jest.
She graduated from Central Union High School in 1996, a semester before her class. She attended Imperial Valley College and then transferred to SDSU.
On Thursday night she received her bachelor's degree in liberal studies. She said she wants to teach, preferably junior high school. She already filled out some teaching applications.
She gave some advice to students having difficulties while studying: "Continue, even if you have to come to school at night. It'll be very good to you because you'll be able to progress."
Hernandez has a completely different story. For a wife and mother of three, earning a bachelor's degree in liberal studies at age 37 proves anything can be done.
"It's very difficult because I have a family. I've had a lot of support from scholarships and my family. My husband and my kids have been very supportive," she said.
"Their have been many times when my little one will be waiting up for when I get home late so that I could tuck him in," she added.
"I have missed a lot of parties and had to stay home on the weekends because I'm doing homework," she said.
Hernandez was born in Mexicali and moved to Marysville when she was 5 years old. At age 16 she married and the couple moved to Toppenish, Wash., in 1981.
In 1983 she went back to school and got her general education diploma. In December 1997 she moved to Brawley and started her education again, attending classes at IVC.
In summer 2000 she transferred to SDSU-IV.
She talked about the summa cum laude honor.
"I wasn't aiming for it but in the back of my head I was thinking I had to get the highest honor I could," she said.
"It cost me a lot of sleepless nights. I would go weeks without sleeping at night, taking two- or three-hour naps during the day, but I wanted to do the best that I could," she added.
"I waited a long time for me to go back to school, and finally, the time came and I said to myself I would do the best that I could and accomplish my goals. I worked really hard for it," she said.
She also said she couldn't have done it without the support from her entire family.
Hernandez will start the teacher credentialing program at SDSU-IV in the fall and said she wants to work in education.
>>Staff Writer Mario Rentería can be reached at 337-3441.