While Southern California saw thunderstorms rolling across the region and flooded streets in some areas, the scene at Pasadena City College on Friday night was bright and cheery.
More than 700 students and their families, friends, and loved ones braved a spring storm to mark the college’s 91st commencement ceremony in Robinson Stadium. In all, more than 2,500 associate degrees and certificates were awarded to graduating students in spring 2016.
Rajen Vurdien, Ph.D., who was confirmed as PCC’s 15th president in July 2015, advised the graduating students to remember that their “curiosity about the world” was key to a functional, inclusive society.
“Your curiosity, your interest in learning, means that you are not satisfied with maintaining the status quo,” Vurdien said. “When you encounter questions, you are driven to find the answers and to put those answers to good use.
“The search for answers depends upon educated, accomplished, curious young people, like each of you, to drive our region,” Vurdien added.
Veteran media executive Paula Madison, who was selected as this year’s guest commencement speaker, reminded the graduates to pay tribute to those who came before them, speaking about the importance of heritage and family, and the need to give back. “As you leave here tonight, please remember that what we are is the product of generations of hopes and goals and dreams,” Madison said. “So many people are counting on you.”
The attendees also heard remarks from Jenny Chuang, president of Omicron Mu Delta, the oldest student-run organization on PCC’s campus. “Many of us came out of high school with little confidence in who we were and not knowing what to major in,” Chuang said. “However, despite the obstacles we encountered, we sit here tonight as proof that age, ethnicity, gender, and parenthood set no limit in furthering one’s education.”
Following the pomp and circumstance of the formal ceremony, students and their families relaxed at a reception in The Quad, taking selfies and congratulating each other on their achievement.
Twins Julia and Charlotte Swart studied sociology at PCC and hope to transfer to a four-year university, including UC Berkeley, UCLA, and USC on their list of potential institutions. Charlotte remembered sitting on the field, excited by the moment of transition. “It’s a good end to this chapter in my life, I think. It solidifies everything before going on to the next stage,” she said.
Alejandro Flores, who studied administration of justice and behavioral science, graduated after three years at PCC and plans to depart Los Angeles for San Diego next week, a new enlistee in the Marine Corps Reserve. He hopes to gain GI Bill benefits to continue his studies in another program. “Seeing everybody walk the stage motivated me to participate in that one more time,” he said.