Editor's Note: This graduation profile is the first of a continuing series on area high school and college graduates.
Eastern New Mexico University graduating senior Irving Avalos in front of the College of Business, a domain he's ruled academically and socially.
Age isn't the only thing that differentiates Irving Avalos from his graduating class. His mentors and peers describe him a model student and a great person.
The 20-year-old from Tatum is graduating in May from Eastern New Mexico University, where he's studying business administration with an emphasis on finance. Avalos is finishing school in three years because he entered ENMU as a sophomore due to dual credit courses he took while in high school.
"He's accomplished a lot at a young age, but he had the maturity and the responsibility," said Tim Cunha, business law professor at ENMU and one of Avalos' mentors. "He's the kind of person you can count on for everything you ask of him."
He was valedictorian of his graduating class with a grade point average of 4.3. He continued to thrive in academic settings, leaving his name at the top of the list for students who were being considered to speak at ENMU's honors graduation breakfast.
At first, Avalos admits that the only confidence he had when he started at ENMU was in his intelligence. But he said college has aided in the growth of his social skills, and his good friend Alan Kinlund agrees.
"Irving is an extremely smart, bright, gifted individual who has moved throughout his collegiate career very quickly, impressing people with his academic traits," said Kinlund, ENMU's student body president. "His leadership abilities are rare for a person of his age."
In June, Avalos will begin working for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) in San Francisco as a bank examiner.
Avalos interned with the FDIC last summer in Austin, practicing risk management which required him to review the performance of banks.
Avalos said his family serves as his inspiration and their support and encouragement has played a role in his academic success.
More importantly, Avalos said his parents' success story is what keeps him grounded as he continues to achieve.
"They're a true example of the 'American Dream'," Avalos said. "They practically came from nothing and now they have established themselves."
His parents met in California while working at an airplane parts factory. His mother came from Mexico and his father from El Salvador.
They moved to Tatum when Avalos was 2. His father worked at an oil field, and his mother cleaned houses.
About four years ago, his father started his own company in the oil industry with the contacts he's made over the years and his company is now worth about $500,000, according to Avalos.
Despite his father's success, Avalos says his parents remind him of where they started.
"They taught me to appreciate what I have and to be charitable and giving to others who don't have the resources," Avalos said.
"Go out and experience the world and everything it has to offer," is what Avalos plans to tell his classmates on graduation morning, speaking from experience. "People shouldn't be closed-minded about reality and the world is so much bigger. The more experience you receive, the better the person you'll become."
What: ENMU Spring 2012 Commencement.
Where: Greyhound Arena.
When: 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 12.