New UHV students move into dorm (video)
Patricia Pico, 35, held back her tears as she watched her daughter settle into her new home.
From the two-hour drive from Houston to waiting in line for registration and housing, the past few days have been busy for incoming University of Houston-Victoria freshman Patricia Hernandez, 18.
And although this will be her daughter's first time to live away from home, Pico took solace in the fact that Hernandez won't have to do it alone.
Hernandez and Alivia Henry, 18, have known each other since third grade. They went through middle school and high school together, and now, they'll be rooming together their first year at UHV.
"I know that if I need anything, she'll be there for me," Hernandez said. "It's nice to have a piece of home right next door."
Total fall enrollment is expected to exceed last year's final enrollment number of 4,336 students, wrote Katy Walterscheidt, UHV marketing specialist, in an email.
This fall, the university has more than 300 first-time in-college freshmen and has exceeded capacity at two of its three dormitories.
And because of the overflow, Henry and Hernandez were assigned to live in Jaguar Suites, which was originally planned to be a sophomore residential hall.
"It's a bit of a shock to be a freshman and living here," Henry said. "I hope nobody looks at us differently for living here."
Aleshia Dumas, 40, Henry's mother, traveled alongside Pico and her daughters to help move the freshmen into their dorm rooms at Jaguar Suites.
The two Lamar High School graduates learned about UHV after one of Dumas' co-workers at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center encouraged her daughter to apply.
At first the two seniors were split between attending Sam Houston University and UHV, but after comparing financial aid packages, UHV came out ahead.
Hernandez, who is a third generation Mexican-American, received a Pell Grant of about $5,000 for being the first person in her family to attend a university.
Last year, 40 percent of UHV's student were Pell Grant recipients.
In the spring, UHV was named a Hispanic-serving institution by the U.S. Department of Education, making them eligible for more federal funds. Hispanics made up 49 percent of the university's 2012-13 freshman class.
Henry was not eligible for a Pell grant but did receive a UHV Guarantee Scholarship of about $1,000.
The two mothers have been friends since their daughters met in elementary school.
"They're besties," Dumas said in reference to the freshmen. "And we've always helped each other out."
Pico had Hernandez, her oldest of five children, when she was 16 years old. She ended up dropping out of high school but returned later to earn her GED and now works as a teacher's aide.
"It's a big achievement for me to have my first one go off to college," Pico said. "It's like I succeeded."
Dumas was in college when she got pregnant with Henry, her only daughter. She took a five-year hiatus from school to raise Henry and then returned to earn her degree.
As products of single-mother homes, Hernandez and Henry said they hope to finish the year with good grades and proud parents.
"My mom didn't get to go back to school until I got to elementary school," Henry said. "My family helped me get here and keep me motivated."
At the end of the night, the freshmen returned to a nearby hotel to spend one last night with their mothers.
"It's been a really crazy day," Hernandez said. "But I'm looking forward to being on my own and experiencing new things."