Hundreds of thousands of young people are receiving their college diplomas this month in the United States, a group of new graduates that includes Hispanic students who have managed to defy the odds to earn their college degree.

While just 13 percent of Latinos graduate from college, the lowest rate of any U.S. ethnic group, some students from families that arrived in the United States from Mexico and other parts of Latin America refuse to let those daunting statistics hold them back.

Such is the case of Jesse Mora, the first member of his family to attend university and one of the only young people from his mostly Hispanic neighborhood in California to continue his studies after high school.

"At my high school, 80 percent of the students were Latinos and only half managed to graduate. Of them, very few began higher education," Mora told Efe.

Mora was born in California but spent most of his childhood in the Mexican state of Michoacan due to family reasons and immigration barriers. When he returned to the United States at 9, he did not speak English and was put in a special class for Hispanic students.

Although he helped his father in the fields on weekends and during school vacations, Mora said his dad told him from a very early age: "work hard in school so you don't have to work hard in the strawberry field."

Mora said it was not easy to make the transition from his Hispanic surroundings to a private university, where he was on scholarship and surrounded by students who were mostly white and from affluent families.

"I was the only one from my high school who was there and so at first I became friends with people from other minority groups, such as Asians or African-Americans who also had received government aid because of their parents' financial situation. It became easier to fit in as the years went by," Mora said.

Integration into American society was the main concern of the parents of Raquel Thompson, a Panamanian who arrived in the United States with her family as a toddler and went on to graduate from Yale University.

"Two of my sisters arrived in the United States at 9 and 10 so school was very difficult for them. They put them in a class that was for kids with learning disabilities and not just difficulty with English. They didn't go on to college," Thompson told Efe.

After that experience, Thompson's parents decided to speak only English at home for the benefit of their younger daughters, two of whom became the first members of the family to attend university.

Raquel told Efe that she left her entire family speechless the day she told them she had been accepted by Yale.

"U.S. public schools still don't know what to do with immigrant students who don't speak English, so you have to make a huge effort not to get left behind," she said.