My 2020 Grad Story: Gratitude

Laura Viviana Becerra Martinez celebrates in her graduation regalia.
Rebecca A. Eckland

This semester, TMCC is celebrating our graduating class of 2020. Even though we have postponed our commencement ceremony until the Fall, we are so proud of our graduates who will still earn their degrees when the spring semester ends on May 16.  

This series of news stories demonstrate how our graduates have faced challenges and persevered to complete their degree program. Each student was asked to provide one word for their journey. International student Laura Viviana Becerra Martinez calls her 2020 Grad Story “Gratitude.” 

Happy Memories at Commencement in 2019

Becerra with her parents at 2019 commencement.

The highlight of Becerra’s time at TMCC was the 2019 Commencement ceremony, a proud moment she shared with her parents.

TMCC student Laura Viviana Becerra Martinez is an international student from the small town of Barichara, Colombia who is working toward her second degree in Communications at TMCC. Her first associate degree in Liberal Arts was awarded last year, and her best memory at TMCC was the 2019 Commencement ceremony. 

“As a graduation gift, my American host family flew my mom and dad here for the ceremony. [My parents] did not speak the language, and had never been to America before… and at commencement I know the only thing they understood was when they called my name to cross the stage,” she said. “But they were so proud.”

“This year, when I got the email asking us if we wanted to do an online graduation, I was so glad TMCC asked us... that is a moment you can’t replace. It is a moment that keeps you going, and makes you feel so proud. It is necessary to have it,” said Becerra, whose goals for the future now include a “Plan B” due to the changing nature of the world in the face of a global pandemic. Yet, her dreams continue to shine brightly.

It’s All About Communication

For Becerra, everything involves communication. “My main goal is to work for an airline, and I have been pursuing languages for a while—because I had electives, I took Italian and French classes. And I am taking communication classes because communication teaches you not only to speak but also to listen—to really listen—to people. And, that is how you get to do something meaningful in this world,” she said. 

Becerra credits the passion and commitment of her instructors for opening up possibilities through discussions of language and culture. “My favorite classes... were the language classes. The professors were so committed, and they not only taught the language, but they really introduced us to the culture. That made me want to learn the language even more,” she said.

Facing Challenges with Gratitude and Grace

Becerra at commencement.

Becerra offers future graduates this advice: enjoy the experience. [College] is a unique opportunity.”

It hasn’t always been an easy journey, however. In the summer following her first commencement ceremony, she received the devastating news that her father had passed away. 

“My world was turned completely upside down,” she admitted. Becerra returned home for the summer and took an online class from TMCC to maintain her Student Visa. “I missed my hometown, Barichara, where I was born and raised. My parents own a grocery store that sells only vegetables and fruits. The town is only ten-blocks big and the streets are made of cobbled stone.”

Becerra returned to TMCC in the fall to finish out her degree program, and to take what she thought would be the next step in her journey toward working for an airline. That dream has certainly become more uncertain—but she remains positive.

In fact, Becerra is filled with gratitude. “I just feel so grateful...for all the people who are cheering for me, principally my family. My mom is now back at home with my brother. I remember [my dad] used to ask me: ‘Hija, when is it that you are going to start working for an airline? There are so many places I want you to show me.’ My dad was a dreamer and the kindest person I ever knew.  I keep that in mind, and it keeps me moving forward. So, that’s why I am filled with gratitude,” she said. 

She is still doing the work that will enable her to pursue her dream career: she submitted an Optional Practical Training (OPT) request a month ago that would provide her with authorization to continue living in the U.S. for 12 months... if she is able to find employment. If not, Becerra will go back to Colombia. “No matter what, though, I will be OK,” she said. 

To future students, Becerra offers simple, yet powerful advice. “Enjoy the process. [College] is a unique opportunity. It won’t always be easy. Life has ups and downs and you have to keep going.”

Join us in celebrating TMCC’s Class of 2020! Visit TMCC’s Facebook page for live interviews with our graduates, and updates about their incredible journeys.