Commencement holds special meaning for Physical Therapy student
By Jan Jarvis
“My parents worked so hard in low-income jobs just to provide for us,” Ruiz said. “They’re the reason I have been so driven to do something with my life.”
For now, that something is graduating Saturday with a Doctorate in Physical Therapy, a challenge made all the more difficult by an unthinkable loss. Days before her second semester at UNT Health Science Center, Ruiz learned that both of her parents and her younger brother had been killed in an accident involving an 18-wheeler.
Ruiz said she wanted to quit school. But inspired by her parents and buoyed by faculty members and her classmates, she made the decision to keep going.
“My parents were at my white-coat ceremony, and they were so proud of me,” she said. “It is so emotional knowing they won’t be here for my graduation, but at the end of the day, I’m doing this because I want to honor them.”
Ruiz is among 709 students from UNTHSC’s Class of 2018 who are expected to graduate Saturday during the Commencement Ceremony at Texas Christian University’s Schollmaier Arena.
Among those graduates will be 44 others who are earning their Doctorate of Physical Therapy, many of whom helped Ruiz get through the loss of her family.
“I was afraid of failing school because my mind just wasn’t into it,” Ruiz said. “But I had classmates who helped me prepare for tests and faculty members who supported me so much.”
While coping with her own grief, she managed to give back to the community by participating in a Trinity Habitat for Humanity project, volunteering at a prom for individuals with physical and mental disabilities and helping injured runners at the Cowtown Marathon.
Although her classes were challenging, she reminded herself that she has wanted to be a physical therapist since high school. Her parents nurtured that dream and worked long hours so she could attend college, then graduate school. She plans to work in geriatrics after graduation.
When she attends commencement Saturday, her brother Sergio, along with other relatives and friends will be there to cheer her on. However, it will be her parents that she will be thinking about when she receives her doctorate.
“My parents are the reason I kept going,” she said. “That kind of love and support never really ends.”
Those who cannot attend the ceremony can watch online at https://livestream.com/unthsc