On Oct. 22, 14 students from Denver received a bachelor’s degree through the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Puebla (UPAEP) online degree program offered through Centro San Juan Diego.
The ceremony began with a special Mass celebrated by Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila at Sacred Heart Parish in Denver. The Mass was followed by a graduation ceremony at Centro San Juan Diego where the students received their bachelor’s and master’s degrees, accompanied by their friends and family.
Since 2012, UPAEP’s online program has broken barriers in Denver by helping hundreds of immigrant students who were not able to complete their higher education in their home country. This online program gives them the opportunity to study at their own pace, and at an affordable tuition, in Spanish.
For many immigrants, UPAEP has become a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to achieve those dreams and goals that were left unfinished when they decided to migrate to the United States.
Bertha Ivonne Bezanilla Quintana, an International trade graduate, received her degree accompanied by her husband and children, who were always her motivation. Like many others, Bertha moved to Denver 25 years ago hoping to offer her family a better future. At the same time, she never gave up on her dream of going back to school one day and obtaining a bachelor’s degree.
“I don’t like to leave things unfinished. I wanted to complete my education, finish what I had started one day, even if it was something very difficult to do,” Bertha recalled.
Bertha didn’t only acquire a bachelor’s degree through UPAEP’s online program. After years of dedication and discipline, she is also about to complete her master’s degree in Organizational Management, giving her children a great example of perseverance and dedication.
For Verónica Enríquez Varela, who received a bachelor’s degree in accounting through the program, completing her education was not only a professional achievement, but also a personal accomplishment as a woman.
“Regardless of what you do to improve yourself or find better opportunities, this is a personal goal. Something that you commit to yourself as a woman, not as a mother or as a wife, but as a woman,” said Verónica. “Before coming to the United States, I was studying accounting. I dropped out of school and got married… but I’ve always had a huge desire to finish school.”
During the graduation ceremony, the top three students of each program (graded 9.5 or higher), who had not failed any course, had demonstrated academic ethics and had complied with all the UPAEP regulations were recognized with the Cruz Forjada academic award.
María Magdalena Rentería was one of the recognized students who received this award. She is currently working towards a bachelor’s degree in Social Work through the UPAEP online program. Magda, like most of the students, is a mother, wife and woman who strives to fulfill her dreams to be able to serve others in the future.
“My greatest motivation is to be able to serve God through my career, and in the future, that my daughters can see that age, circumstances, etc. do not matter,” she said.
UPAEP and Centro San Juan Diego took the opportunity to celebrate a 10-year partnership agreement, during which they have given hope to many Denver families.
“Centro San Juan Diego and UPAEP have traveled a journey together for almost 10 years, and it has been a difficult journey… but Centro San Juan Diego never lost faith, nor did UPAEP, as partners, as friends, sharing our beliefs in Jesus and in the common good,” said Luz María Padilla, instructor at UPAEP, who traveled from Puebla, Mexico to be part of the ceremony.
Father Randy Dollins, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Denver, thanked UPAEP for the partnership that has grown over the last 10 years and has given Denver immigrant families access to education.
“Here in Denver, we are proud of the unique relationship we have formed with UPAEP. We know that access to education is an important and necessary aspect for our immigrant community,” said Father Dollins.
Without a doubt, the UPAEP online program has been introduced as a transformative opportunity for people who have dared to accept this challenge. Centro San Juan Diego and UPAEP continue the hard work of encouraging people to prepare academically, but above all, to fulfill their dreams.
“Many of us arrived in different circumstances and with different needs, and many of our dreams stayed on that side of the border, in our home,” concluded Alfonso Lara, Director of Centro San Juan Diego. “But it turns out that over time, dreams do come true. This dream was achieved, and achieving it, makes you have a taste of a better and more complete future.”