Fresno State first lady, Mary Castro, hugs a graduating student. It has become customary for Castro to hug students walking across the stage when graduating. (Courtesy of Fresno State's Facebook)

Why Fresno State’s first lady believes in giving students a hug

Graduation hugs have become a custom for Fresno State’s first lady Mary Castro. It was a recent topic in an article from local news source, GV Wire.

Castro told The Collegian that her embraces are not limited to any time and place – however meaningful they are.

Castro began her hugging tradition in 2014 when she was first invited to join in on the platform during the Chicano and Latino commencement ceremony.

Prior to that event, Castro had attended an end-of-the-year Renaissance Scholars banquet where many students shared that they would not have any relatives in the audience at commencement.

This hit Castro in the heart.

“I found the idea of them crossing the stage alone heartbreaking,” Castro told GV Wire.

Seeing the first batch of Chicano and Latino graduates cross the stage gave Castro pride. She wanted to show her joy.

So, naturally, she held her arms out for to hug the first graduate to cross her. She did that for the next 859 students, she told GV Wire.

I knew many had overcome great challenges to get their degrees,” Castro said in the article. “The least I could do was gift them with a hug from someone who was truly proud of them.”

Following Castro’s warm embraces, students took to social media to express their own gratitude. They considered her show of love amazing, to say the least.

One can still catch the first lady at Fresno State still giving hugs to students during graduation ceremonies – so long as she is invited to join the platform.

Castro told The Collegian that many students will find her before and after the ceremony just to get their hugs. And Castro’s now-famous hugs are not exclusive to graduation ceremonies.

She said that students and even alumni ask for hugs on a daily basis, sometimes when she is walking across campus or attending different events.

“[Alumni] remind me of the year they graduated and share that it was meaningful to them,” she said. The sharing of those memories will often lead to another hug, she added.

Castro said she feels honored that students continue to ask for supportive hugs and calls. She calls the experience “magical.”

“They know I believe in their ability to make a positive impact in our community,” she said. “Giving them a hug is the least that I can do.”