“It has served as an example to others as to how student initiatives provide a vital role in shaping the total college experience,” Siegel wrote. “You earned every part of this. I am very proud of you,” he added at the end of the letter. Baez will receive the award tomorrow night at a Commencement Eve Celebration.
Baez credited his grandmother and late mother for being the inspiration for his educational pursuits. While a student at Lawrence High School, his grandmother — Alida Baez — was his guardian. He lived in her home.
“My grandmother is in a nursing home now, but will be attending the graduation on Saturday,” Baez said.
“To have her watch me walk across that stage is going to be such a great accomplishment. My grandmother and mother were main forces pushing me toward college. So, I was determined to make them proud,” he said.
Initially, college didn’t come easy for Baez, who was on academic warning for his first two semesters. It was difficult to get good grades, while working 30-plus hours per week while being a student and commuting to class, he said. Things drastically changed for the better when he cut back on his part-time work hours and moved to the UMass campus and spent more time on being a student..
“Once I got on campus, I saw the benefits of getting involved and getting engaged in student life,” Baez said.
“Eventually, I got it together. I wasn’t the best student, but once I started getting involved, my grade point average started getting better, and it’s been above 3.0 for the last five semesters. Had I not moved onto campus. I don’t think I would have ever graduated,” he said.
While not a Dean’s List Student, his grades are good enough to further his education. Yesterday, Baez learned that he has been accepted into a two-year master’s degree program at the Graduate School of Education at UMass Lowell.