May 22, 2009
By Pablo Jaime Sáinz
José Mondragón’s family is proud of him.
He was one of 51 students who participated in San Diego City College’s traditional Chicana/o and Latina/o Graduation Ceremony on Saturday, May 16, at Lyman Saville Theatre.
For Mondragón and his family, the ceremony was a symbol of the hard work that has led him to become the first member of the family to attend college.
“It was very empowering,” said the 20 year old student, who received an associate’s degree in liberal studies. “To see myself and my peers walk on that stage after pursuing our education was great.”
Mondragón is transferring to the University of California, Santa Cruz, this fall, where he plans to major in sociology and community studies. He said that during his time at San Diego City College he always felt at home.
“SDCC is a good school for Latinos,” he said. “It was a pretty welcoming environment, a good place for us to be. The school offers lots of activities, clubs, and student organizations like MEChA. This entire environment encourages Latino students to keep going, it motivates us to continue our education.”
Conducted in English and Spanish, the Chicana/o and Latina/o Graduation Ceremony at San Diego City College honors Chicana/o and Latina/o graduates and their families. Although the ceremony is open to all students of any ethnicity, the event highlights the dedication and hard work of Latino students in college.
The first Chicana/o and Latina/o Graduation Ceremony took place in 1970, right after Chicano Studies programs were being implemented all over California, said Enrique Davalos, professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies at SDCC and one of the organizers of the graduation ceremony.
“The event’s goal was to celebrate the creation of these type of programs that allowed students to learn about their heritage and their Mexican roots,” he said. “It was recognition that students of Mexican origin had a place in higher education.”
Today, when Chicana and Chicano Studies programs are a reality in many college campuses across the state and the nation, and when Chicano and Latino studies permeate throughout the curriculum and across disciplines, Davalos said that the graduation focuses on encouraging Latino students to pursue their education.
“High school students who attend the graduation ceremony with their graduating brothers and sisters see first hand that attending college is a goal that’s reachable,” Davalos said.
For English Professor Oscar Preciado, the ceremony “reflects City College’s progressive culture.”
Preciado added that the event “gives Latino students and their families an intimate venue to celebrate this milestone. Sometimes for Latinos who often come from working class families, this is a very rewarding event for parents.”
Mondragón said that he will always remember this ceremony, which represents a major point in his academic career. He said he will cherish the moments and the opportunity he had to celebrate this accomplishment with his family.
“It was amazing,” he said. “My family was just happy, excited.”