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The University Star




The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Uvalde victim remembered by family, Texas State

Veronica+%28left%29+and+Jerry+%28right%29+Mata+supporting+Faith+with+a+picture+of+Tess+at+Faiths+commencement+ceremony%2C+Friday%2C+May+12%2C+2023+at+the+University+Events+Center.

Veronica (left) and Jerry (right) Mata supporting Faith with a picture of Tess at Faith’s commencement ceremony, Friday, May 12, 2023 at the University Events Center.

Trigger warning: This article contains discussion of gun violence. 
It’s been one year since the shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 19 students and two teachers, one of those victims being 10-year-old Tess Mata, sister to newly graduated Texas State student Faith Mata.
Faith recently graduated with a degree in psychology on May 12. Although graduation can be an exciting time for students, the Mata family began that day off to a rocky start.
“When I woke up, it was really hard,” Mata said. “I told my parents, I didn’t want to walk. I don’t want to walk the stage. I don’t want to go to graduation. I don’t want to get dressed up. I don’t want to have to see everybody else with their siblings and with their whole family.”
Faith’s mother, Veronica Mata, said graduation day was a bittersweet experience.
“You know, you don’t want to be sad, because it’s, it’s supposed to be something exciting for Faith,” Veronica said. “We wanted to make sure that she had her day too, because she did work you know, she worked hard for it.”
To honor the legacy of her sister Tess, Faith decided she didn’t want to participate in the traditional river jump after graduation alone, but chose to jump in with a picture of Tess.
“The emotions were high,” Faith’s father, Jerry Mata said. “I mean, it’s a lot of things go through your mind and a lot of things that you wish wouldn’t have happened.”
Veronica sees how important this moment was for both of her daughters.
“I knew that she was there with Faith and I knew that, you know, once she jumped in that water with her she was in there with her,” Veronica said.
According to Veronica and Jerry Mata, attending Texas State like her big sister was one of Tess’s dreams. 
“Once we took Faith, Tess fell in love with the university,” Veronica said. “So every time we would go, that’s all she wanted to be.”
Texas State University started a scholarship, the Tess Marie Mata Scholarship, at in Tess’s honor. The scholarship will provide financial aid and support to current and incoming College of Health Professions students who are passionate and determined to make a difference.
“We were just really excited to hear and to know that, you know, Tess’s legacy was gonna live on through Texas State,” Veronica said. “So we were we were excited in knowing that she was going to be able to help another student.”
Texas State also sent the Mata family a certificate to celebrate Tess as an honorary Bobcat. 
“I didn’t want her legacy to just end,” Faith said. “Like I want her to live on somewhere, somehow, someway.”
Texas State University President Kelly Damphousse heard about Tess and encouraged the university to help honor the Mata family.
“My wife and I are donors to that account and we’re just encouraging people to donate to it so that we can, we can honor her forever,” Damphousse said.
Faith recalls her memories of May 24, 2022, and what happened that day from her sister was killed.
The day began with a text from her cousin informing her of something taking place at Robb Elementary. Faith was in San Marcos in her apartment getting ready to go to work while the messages began to flood in. At first, one straight story couldn’t be produced, but instead, a load of rumors.
“I didn’t think anything of it, like it could never happen to us, you don’t think the worst,” Faith said.
Veronica had informed Faith that a little girl had been shot, along with a teacher that just so happened to be Tess’s. 
“This didn’t seem real, but a child had been shot,” Faith said. “And I guess that really didn’t click to me.”
As time went on, updates were given to the Mata family as the number of students that had been shot went from one to eight.
“I just remember, like, feeling like this feeling of like, I don’t know, it was just like a sense of like I need to know she was okay,” Faith said. “In my head I was like, ‘this can’t happen to my family, like this can’t happen to me… I remember I just sat on my bathroom floor and I was just, I was just crying and praying and saying, ‘Please don’t take my sister away like, don’t do it please, if there’s anything I’m asking for like, I’m asking you to leave my sister… please, like I need her in this life’.”
Following this, the public relations director for the Uvalde CISD, Anne Marie Espinoza released a statement informing all families that all the children were safe and secure. Finally, that moment of hope the Mata family was looking for had finally arrived, for a brief moment.
Parents were told that all students would be on buses and dropped off at a safe location to be picked up. Jerry Mata waited for his child that never got off a bus.
“At this time panic kicks in, because I’m like, ‘if Tess would have made it out why isn’t she in one of those buses?'” Faith said.
Faith’s roommate drove Faith her back home to Uvalde. On her way back home, she began calling hospitals, hoping to find some answers.
“I think that was the ugliest feeling ever, is I had to ask if they had any John Doe patients,” Faith said.
As she arrived to Uvalde, media surrounded the whole town. 
Faith met with her family and were put into a room with other families, where they were asked to give a DNA swab in order to identify the bodies. After the DNA collection, the Mata family and surrounding family members of other children sunk in to a panic.
“Everybody loses their mind, everyone is crying, everyone is yelling, everyone is screaming,” Faith said.
The Mata family did not find out Tess was one of the confirmed victims of the shooting until 11:30 p.m. that night.
“I remember walking in and like I just see the look on my mom’s face,” Faith said. “Like she just looked at me like, with such like, apologetic eyes. Like if she was sorry.” 
Following this tragedy, Faith began to take over and become her family’s caretaker.
“I feel like sometimes now like the roles are reversed with my parents,” Faith said. “I’m the one taking care of them now. And I don’t, I don’t know, like I am not mad and you know like I’m not petty about it either. You know they lost a child… they lost a 10-year-old child.”
Veronica and Jerry Mata became speechless when asked if they feel Tess would be proud of them for all they’ve done within the past year.
“When I talked to her when I can at the cemetery and night I just tell her to give me some kind of sign that I’m doing the right thing,” Veronica said.
The Mata family encourages every Texas State student to vote in order to make a change in gun laws, making the legal age to possess guns change from age 18 to 21.
“If they don’t go out and vote, I mean, that change is never going to happen,” Jerry said. “Every vote counts.”
To donate to the Tess Marie Mata Scholarship, visit www.catfunder.txstate.edu/o/texas-state-university/i/catfunder/s/tess-marie-mata-scholarship.

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  • Faith Mata jumps into the river with a picture of her sister Tess after graduating, Friday, May 12, 2023 at Sewell Park.

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