Last updated on May 4, 2023
At Dallas College, graduation is much more than just an annual tradition of caps, gowns and pomp and circumstance. Graduation is a time to celebrate the achievements of Dallas College students and, for staff and faculty, to witness firsthand the impact their work has had on the lives of their students.
This is certainly true for Georgia Alvarez, senior administrative assistant on the Academic Executive Support team, who has volunteered to help with graduation almost every year she’s worked for Dallas College.
For Alvarez, helping at graduation is an opportunity to celebrate with students as they accomplish an incredible milestone on their educational journey. Being the first person in her family to complete a college degree, Alvarez understands how important graduation is for those students who are achieving firsts for their families.
“Graduation is the whole reason Dallas College exists,” Alvarez said. “To help students, like me, have a better life and career. Giving back and cheering them on is why I come to work each and every day.”
But this year’s graduation is bittersweet for Alvarez. She missed last year’s ceremonies when she lost her husband, who was an adjunct professor at Dallas College’s Brookhaven Campus. They had grown up together and had been married 30 years.
Alvarez’s Dallas College team members stepped in not only to cover her graduation duties, but to support her however they could.
“My team just rallied around me. They were there for the services, they were bringing me dinners at the hospital and checking on me almost daily. They were just there for me.”
To say thank you to the team and to pay forward their kindness and support, Alvarez committed to volunteering at all six graduation ceremonies this year.
Alvarez chose to work in education because she understands the difficulty in completing an education — it took her years to earn her own degree.
“I had to work two or three jobs or save for two semesters and then take a semester course, or whatever it was, to finish. It took me forever doing it that way.”
Alvarez had initially attended a four-year university in Florida after graduating high school, but her college education was cut short by a family tragedy. Her aunt, uncle and two cousins were in a devastating car accident. Her uncle was killed and her aunt severely injured. Alvarez’s parents took in the two young children.
Helping care for her family and unable to work enough to pay for the following semester, Alvarez chose to stay close to home and attend classes at Dallas College’s Richland Campus until she could return to Florida.
But her return never happened.
Through the years, she continued to take classes at whatever Dallas College campus was closest to her, first at Richland then Eastfield and North Lake, with the goal of one day completing her bachelor’s degree.
That day did finally come in May 2010 — more than 20 years after she first started her college journey.
“It took me a long time, but I did it.”
Alvarez began her work in higher education. After working for a small private college in the Office of Student Life and for the dean of Students, Alvarez was looking for a change.
“I could feel that tug of getting older, and I always want to be relevant to my age. Since I was working with students, I was feeling like I needed to hand that baton off to someone a little younger who had a lot more energy than I did.”
Instead, Alvarez was interested in working with faculty and administration. She eventually found the perfect position at Brookhaven Campus as an administrative assistant to the instructional dean in social sciences. She later applied for a role as an assistant to the vice president of academic affairs before settling into her current role supporting the vice provosts in the School of Health Sciences and the School of Education.
Graduation and Celebration
The week of graduation will mark Alvarez’s ninth year working for Dallas College. She laughs as she remembers that first year. “I found out the day before that [graduation] was part of my role now, and I had no clue what I was doing. But I rolled up my sleeves, and jumped on in. I had great support that showed me the ropes.”
Through the years she has continued to jump to assist however needed — whether with behind-the-scenes prep work, checking in students as they arrive, helping with regalia or helping on the platform during the ceremony.
Graduation takes nearly 800 volunteers to run, and Alvarez encourages everyone at Dallas College to help where they can. Volunteers are key to making the day memorable for the graduates who will walk the stage.
“Graduation is important because these students have more obstacles than anybody can really know. Life, the last three years especially, has gotten so crazy the fact that they’re still completing is amazing in my opinion,” she said.
“You can be there, celebrate with them, support them, and they can see the excitement you have for them making this milestone that they’ve been working so hard for.”