May 22, 2009
By América Barceló-Feldman
SAN MARCOS- As the new beginning and recognition for the Latino students, Palomar College celebrated the first graduation in its history of Hispanic students.
The Latino commencement is the first of its kind a privilege that Hispanic students will have in the future thanks to the five million dollar grant provided by the federal government under the education program Title V: Hispanic Service Institution.
This financial grant was intended for community colleges in California with more than 25 percent of Hispanic students enrolled.
Palomar, located in San Diego North County, was one of the first community colleges that received this grant to support Hispanic students in pursuit of higher education.
The final use of the $5 million has not yet been determined. Currently, the college is in the process of planning different programs and projects to support Latino students.
The federal grant will provide one million dollars annually for the next five years. These economic resources will support Latino students with study groups; mentors; counseling in the first year; new classes; books, materials and activities.
According to officials these services will be available for the school year 2009-2010, staring next fall semester. Nevertheless, this school year the officials and professors decided to honor the efforts of the Hispanic students who finished their studies this spring.
“It is a dream, all of us, professors and Hispanic officials have fought many years to have our students recognized. This first Latino celebration opens many doors, we are very excited to have this event,” Joe Madrigal, Vice President of Student Services said.
In a joyful party last Saturday May 16, the Hispanic students that graduated were honored for their achievements and efforts. This event was organized by Student Service, Financial Aid Departments and the student group MEChA.
According to Madrigal this event was more than a celebration, it was the beginning of a new phase for the Hispanic students on campus and the entire Latino community in North County region.
“We really want to recognize these students’ academic triumphs to make their families feel proud of them, this will encourage young generations to follow this example. We are surrounded by a large Hispanic community, and we need the numbers of this population segment to increase in this college”, Madrigal said.
The Hispanic celebration took place before the general graduation commencement ceremony of Palomar Community College, scheduled for Friday, May 22. There, the Latino students will wear their ‘Mexican sarape’ that they received at the Latino graduation as a sign of pride in their roots.
“The idea is to celebrate our Hispanic students, to invite them to come with their families to celebrate their success together, so that this community recognizes and applauds the efforts of these young people,” Madrigal said.
More than just a happy party, this ceremony was the first link in the coming changes at this education center for Latino students.
This minority group faces various challenges in Palomar College, some of which include lack of resources, services, and information that support them in their studies.
The celebration itself was a good example. Even though there are 306 Latino students who will graduate this semester, only 25 of them attended the celebration in their honor last weekend because of lack of information about it.
In spite of the smaller than expected turnout, for the administrators and professors this event was successful because it opens the door to continue recognizing the Hispanic population, and this will be an incentive to attract younger generations, who in the future will be benefited.
According to Madrigal, this Latino celebration was not yet organized with the federal funds of Title V, but only with the support of his department, MEChA and Financial Aid. However, he thinks this event is a good example of how these resources could be used to support Latino students.
“This will encourage them to feel part of this school. In the future this aid will inspire more young people continue studying. This is our way to fight school desertion among Hispanics”, the official added.
According to Madrigal, the number of Hispanics dropping out of high school is alarming, and even more the reduced number attending a university or pursuing higher education. For this reason, Palomar is recognizing the efforts of those who graduate with pride.
“This event is to awake our community, to see in our graduates an example of dreams fulfilled and know they ‘can do it,’ and this College is supporting them”, the official ended.
During the event the Hispanic graduates heard inspirational speeches of Chicano Studies, Multicultural and Spanish professors who encouraged them to continue reaching their goals to achieve success.
Professors Christine Moore and Luz Garzon congratulated the graduates’ families for the enormous sacrifices they made to support the students to accomplish their degrees and certificates.
“There had been many years of discrimination and struggle, but thanks to our fight the Hispanic community has many opportunities. I congratulate all these students because they worked hard to reach their dreams, they overcome obstacles with tenacity, delivery and persistence and we must applaud these efforts”, John Valdez, chairman of Multicultural Studies Department said.