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Getting To and Through College: My Advice as a New Grad

By Mark Vargas | May 30 2018

It’s crazy to think that it was six years ago when I first spoke at a Destination College Press Conference. I was a sophomore at Brooks Academy of Science and Engineering, I was the Chairman of the San Antonio Youth Commission, representing District 3, and I was really nervous. But I was also excited, along with my fellow members who were there at cafécollege that morning, because we realized the importance that Destination College week meant to achieving our new mission: to empower the youth to succeed.

Destination College Week gave us an avenue to not just inspire kids and get them excited about college, but to give them the tools necessary so that they can complete it. Fast forward to two years later when I was a high school senior. There was another big press conference where I announced where I was going to school, Seattle University, which was exciting because my friends didn’t know, my parents didn’t know, I didn’t even know, but when I was at that podium it just felt right.

On top of that Molly announced that First Lady Michelle Obama was going to be speaking at UTSA on College Signing Day. She gave an amazing speech that day, and one part has particularly stuck with me. On graduating high school, she said, “Reaching a milestone like this means you just raised the bar, it gets higher.”

It didn’t really occur to me at the time, but I thought about it and it makes sense: you graduate high school, you get accepted into college, you grabbed that bar. Now you must finish. But often, we forget about all the work that needs to happen in between before you get to that bar. You have to reach higher. Well, after four years of reaching as high I can, on May 12th, I received my political science degree from St. Mary’s University.

Mark Vargas speaks at the 2018 Destination College press conference. Above, he speaks at the 2014 kickoff and press conference

As you can tell, that was not where I said I was originally going to go. I transferred schools, something I never expected to happen. But the pathway that leads to college is not always a straight shot. A lot of times, you will encounter bumps and it might feel perilous. “It’s too expensive. I am not sure what I am doing. I do not know where to go.” But you have to remember you are not alone. You have your friends, you have your family, but most importantly, you have San Antonio. We are rooting for you, we recognize that we are stronger as one. That is what inspired Michelle Obama to launch #ReachHigher, that is why she chose San Antonio as the kick-off city. Because we saw back in 2010 that we needed to do better.

My message to all the high schoolers that might be reading this is to Reach Higher. Remember that we are a City on the Rise, but in order for us to become the city that you deserve, you have to reach higher than ever before. We celebrate our Tricentennial this year: that is 300 years of culture, 300 years of accomplishments, 300 years of history, history that is still being written. But the moment is about to come when you are responsible for writing that history.

There was a time, back in 2010, during that first meeting day for SA 2020, and they asked my generation, “What do you want your city to look like in ten years?” They knew that we were going to be the ones leading the industries one day. Now, as my generation gets ready to take the reigns in the workplace, we pass the torch to you all. It’s your turn to start thinking about what you want your city to look like. As Molly Cox can tell you, it does not end in 2020, it keeps going.

So wherever you end up, around San Antonio, the state, the country, or the world, come back. We want to see what you learned. When you start applying and getting those jobs tell us, “I have some things I can teach you,” I can guarantee you we will be listening and be very happy to learn.

Mark Vargas

Mark Vargas is a life-long San Antonian who recognized the importance of civil service early in his childhood. Having worked with various organizations, such as the San Antonio Youth Commission and SA2020 as an ambassador, he has strived to spread that very message. Having recently graduated from St. Mary's University, he looks forward helping make San Antonio the city he envisioned back in 2010.

View all posts by Mark Vargas

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