Nontraditional college student graduates from Texas A&M at San Antonio with honors
After three decades of working long days, night classes and life challenges, Joyce Raposo has completed a long, sought-after goal at Texas A&M University-San Antonio.
The growing South Side campus is where she found her writing voice. It’s where the 55-year-old San Antonio native connected with classmates and shared her life experiences. And it’s where she’s ready to bid farewell and seek new possibilities.
Raposo graduated from TAMUSA, along with thousands of college seniors in multiple ceremonies across Bexar County this weekend. Across town, the University of Texas at San Antonio is graduating its largest class in school history: 5,100 students.
Raposo, a nontraditional student, achieved stellar grades while juggling family responsibilities and extracurricular duties. The communication major graduated with a 4.0 grade-point average and an invitation to the Lambda Pi Eta honor society of the National Communication Association.
“It’s so surreal,” she said, days before graduation at the Jaguar Java coffee shop. “It gives me options. It was a goal I have always wanted to have.”
She served as editor-in-chief of the university’s online student newspaper, the Mesquite, and interned at the university’s El Espejo print magazine.
The Texas Intercollegiate Press Association awarded her first place for her feature story about Marikate Maggio, an 18-year-old freshman at TAMUSA who died in a car accident in September. Raposo was the first recipient of a $5,000 Freedom Grant from My Education Solutions for an essay about her legacy at the university.
She hopes to pursue a career as a music journalist.
Melinda Thomas, the director of admissions, said the definition of a nontraditional student has changed significantly with so many pathways to education. In 2018, the average age of students at the university was 28.
“For a lot of nontraditional students, many of their past experiences have been that they may have been at a larger institution,” Thomas said, “or just at a different point in their life where they just felt like a number, and here that’s not the case.”
Before she received her bachelor’s degree Friday, Raposo reflected on her 38-year journey. She graduated from high school in May 1981, when Ronald Reagan was president and the No. 1 song was, “Bette Davis Eyes,” by Kim Carnes. At 17, she was more preoccupied with having fun than concentrating on studying at San Antonio College.
Raposo dropped out and went to work. Her absence from academics ended at age 30, when her boss suggested that she apply for financial aid and go back to school.
She attended St. Philip’s College, where she maintained a 4.0 GPA. She went to the University of Texas at Austin but couldn’t get the classes she needed. She took classes at Texas State University and later transferred to the University of Texas at San Antonio for night classes. Her studies came to a halt when the university didn’t offer classes for her degree.
There was a change of fortune. Twelve years ago, a friend introduced her to her future husband, Robert Raposo, and they bonded right away over a shared sense of humor and attending live music concerts in Austin. They were married nine months later.
A fall down a flight of stairs left her with a brace on her left leg. One night in rural Floresville, she left a friend’s house and was bitten on her right ankle by a copperhead snake. At the emergency room, the wound required five bags of anti-venom.
While in rehab, she lost her job. The company was unable to hold her position while she recuperated, but she used her experience in the medical field to return to work as a marketing representative for Sendero Imaging.
Raposo thrived as she worked for an imaging center, physical rehabilitation center and in the medical marketing field. When her company was sold, she left, and after 15 years in her field, she couldn’t get any interviews. One thing was missing: a bachelor’s degree.
After one year of school, Raposo had to adjust her pace when they took in her husband’s niece and nephew. Her husband encouraged her to keep going.
“I would not be here if it wasn’t for him,” Raposo said. “He’s given me financial support and the freedom to not work.”
Katherine Otten commended her daughter and son-in-law for following their plan.
“She tackled what seemed like an insurmountable challenge,” Otten, 75, said of her only child. “It’s been a hard two years, with a family, and a long commute from the North Side. Once she’s invested, she’s all in.”
The founding director and academic coordinator of Jaguar Student Media, Jenny Moore, credited Raposo for her role at the Mesquite, which tells the stories of underserved students on the South Side.
“She was committed to making sure that the staff would represent the mission of the news site,” Moore said, “which is connected to the overall mission of the university to provide job preparation and a solid education to the community.”
“It’s wonderful to have a strong woman leader as an editor,” said Mesquite photo editor Deidre Carrillo, 23. “She’s one of us. She has this fire inside of her to do great things.”
The vast landscape of the South Side can be seen from the third-floor windows of the Mesquite in the Central Academic Building. Beyond acres of mesquite trees and scrub brush, Raposo could see the quadrant where she grew up near Brooks City Base. And she could see the promise of growth, as wide as the opportunities on her horizon.
Staff Writer Krista Torralva contributed to this report. | Vincent T. Davis is a reporter in the Greater San Antonio and Bexar County area. Read him on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | email@example.com | Twitter: @vincentdavis