First-gen student wins more than grad cap contest
Dual credit graduate, high school valedictorian adds to list of accomplishments
By Misty Browning
Yareni Cabrera didn’t start with the goal of winning Weatherford College’s cap decorating contest, a fun social media poll before WC’s Commencement ceremony. As a first-generation student, it was a surreal moment just to attend her college graduation with her friends and family before completing high school.
While her mother was pregnant with her, Cabrera’s parents immigrated from Mexico. The family, including Yareni’s three brothers, eventually settled in Gordon, her father working in a rock quarry and her mother a housewife.
The translation of the Spanish verbiage on Yareni’s winning graduation cap is a simple yet powerful dedication to her parents, who left everything behind for her and her siblings to attain the American dream.
“The cap means, ‘For my parents who got here with nothing, and they gave me everything,’” she explained. “Originally, I thought I would get some likes, nothing major, but then it took off with support from my school, the community, and people from Weatherford that I knew.
“People were sharing the post and telling their friends to like it. When I won, it was a surreal moment. It was nice having my family and school staff there cheering me on, especially with my situation. It was nice, and I felt like I accomplished something big for my family and school.”
The cap received more than 2,000 votes in the contest leading up to WC’s May Commencement and was just one more in a long line of accomplishments for Cabrera.
When she first started taking dual credit courses, she had her sights set on completing her associate degree, but because of her busy school and sports schedule, she didn’t think she could get it done.
“That was a lot with my sports and handling my high school courses,” she explained. “I played every sport Gordon offered—cross country, basketball, track and softball. It was a very busy schedule.”
Finally, Cabrera spoke to her counselor and laid out a plan for both graduations. It was an accomplishment that felt almost like a dream.
“I thought it would be too good to be true because there were semesters I was taking only one class,” she explained. “My senior year, my counselor and I talked and figured out I could get my associate’s, but I would have to do a lot. I planned to take a winter semester and a mini semester, but instead, I placed out of some Spanish courses and took five courses the spring semester of my senior year.”
Not only did she complete her associate degree, but she graduated from Gordon High School three weeks later as her class valedictorian.
Cabrera was involved in WC’s Upward Bound Program. The federally-funded program provides opportunities for students to succeed in high school and, ultimately, pursue a college education.
“I loved it and loved everything we did and the staff members,” she said. “That was an amazing thing to be a part of. Of all the things I’ll miss from WC, I’ll miss the people I’ve had relationships with the past four to five years.”
Now that she’s finished at Weatherford College, her next step is majoring in education at Tarleton State University, intending to become a bilingual elementary teacher. After that, she said she might pursue welding and CMT training. One thing she is sure about is she wants to get married, start a family and do “the normal things” that people do after college.
As for those who are thinking about taking dual credit courses but are scared to take the plunge, Cabrera has some simple advice for you, “go for it!”
“I remember it being a scary situation trying to start dual credit classes and trying to get ahead for myself, especially being a first-generation student,” she said. “For me, it was a whole new world.
“My advice is to try it and see where it takes you. You will have so much support from your school and family and those who hear your story and what you are trying to do. Countless people will support your decisions and your journey.”