Thousands of students – including some of the top scholars from around the country – will take part in graduation ceremonies for community colleges in San Diego and Imperial counties during commencement celebrations that begin May 16 and continue through June 5. In all, students in the six community college districts are earning nearly 11,000 associate degrees and 10,000 certificates this year. “Despite the Great Recession, our students have not only persisted, they have succeeded in achieving their academic goals and are prepared to take on future challenges,” said Melinda Nish, president of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Community Colleges Association and president/superintendent of Southwestern College. Some 142,000 students enrolled in classes last fall at the six community college districts in San Diego and Imperial counties following the passage of Proposition 30, which enabled the state to begin restoring funds to California’s community colleges. For the first time in five years, community colleges were able to add classes, resulting in enrollment increases of more than 60,000 students statewide. “Funding for California community colleges was cut by $1.5 billion between the 2007-08 and 2011-12 academic years,” Nish said. “We are happy to see the state reinvesting in higher education and committed to passing a budget that will help us deliver the more than 2 million additional degrees and certificates that are needed to address the state’s future workforce demands.” While many graduates will be transferring to some of the top four-year colleges and universities across the country, others plan to enter or re-enter the workforce amid a slowly improving economy. The San Diego County economy ended 2013 with a gain of more than 23,000 jobs, according to University of California economist Alan Gin. The forecast for 2014 calls for an additional 25,000 jobs to be added to the county, which would be enough to push the unemployment rate below 6 percent. The regional unemployment rate reached 8.2 percent at the end of 2012. According to a recent study commissioned by the San Diego Workforce Partnership, strong growth is expected over the next five years in an array of medical fields, including nursing, radiologic technology, physical therapy, and medical office support. Strong growth also is forecast for electricians, HVAC mechanics, and those in the financial services industry. Following is a list of commencement ceremonies in the two-county region and highlights of each:
Palomar College: May 16 on the football practice field at the college, 1140 W. Mission Road in San Marcos. The college will award a record 2,155 associate degrees and 1,733 certificates during the 2013-14 academic year, and an estimated 500 graduates are expected to take part in the commencement ceremony (many graduates earn multiple degrees and certificates.) Palomar will honor Alumnus of the Year Dr. Kerry Key and the commencement speaker will be Pete Ordille, 2012-2013 Distinguished Faculty of the Year. The event gets underway at 5 p.m.
San Diego Miramar College: May 16 at Compass Point, in front of the Miramar College Library and Learning Resources Center, 10440 Black Mountain Road in San Diego. Miramar will award at least 559 associate degrees and 439 certificates during the academic year, and an estimated 175 students are expected to take part in the commencement ceremony. Sean Bowers, a former star player for the San Diego Sockers who helped launch the first women’s soccer program at Miramar College, will join his sister, Dr. Rebecca Bowers-Gentry of Miramar’s Science Department, as the keynote speakers. The two were recently named as the college’s 2014 Distinguished Alumni. Also being honored is Trinh Nguyen and Mehrdad Yazdanibiouki, two of just 85 community college students nationwide to earn the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, which provides up to $30,000 annually to help with university costs. Graduation gets underway at 1 p.m. Imperial Valley College: May 17 at DePaoli Sports Complex, 380 E. Aten Road, in Imperial. Imperial Valley College is awarding a record of at least 1,141 degrees and 449 certificates this academic year, and roughly half of the 807 graduates will take part in the ceremony. The event gets underway at 10 a.m. San Diego Mesa College: May 17 at Jenny Craig Pavilion, University of San Diego, 5998 Alcala Park, San Diego. Mesa will award at least 1,107 associate degrees and 312 certificates this academic year. Among the 425 students expected to attend is Sarah Farmer, who was named to both the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society’s 2014 All-USA and All-California College Academic Teams, and as the top community college student in the state. Commencement speakers are Mesa alumni Carlos and Linda LeGerrette, founders of the Cesar Chavez Service Clubs and recipients of the U-T San Diego Latino Champions Lifetime Achievement Award. The event gets underway at 4 p.m. MiraCosta College: May 20 in front of the Administration Building at the Oceanside Campus, 1 Barnard Drive. MiraCosta College is awarding a record of at least 1,454 associate degrees and 1,168 certificates of achievement this academic year. About 500 graduates are expected to take part in the May 20 commencement, including Travis Williamson, a 30-year-old re-entry student who earned the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. The event gets underway at 5 p.m. San Diego City College: May 23 at the Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park. City College will award at least 748 associate degrees and 455 certificates this academic year, and an estimated 425 students are expected to attend the commencement ceremony. City College’s two recipients of the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, Marikris Racho and Bryce Schierenbeck are among those who will be honored, along with Chancellor’s Scholarship Award recipient Justine Guerro and Faculty of the Year recipient Professor Andrea Milburn. The commencement speaker is City College alumnus Josh Higgins, a creative director for the communications design team at Facebook who recently worked as design director for President Obama’s 2012 campaign. The event gets underway at 5 p.m. San Diego Community College District Continuing Education: May 30 at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park. Continuing Education will have a joint commencement ceremony with San Diego Unified’s Adult Education Program. San Diego Community College Continuing Education is awarding a total of 4,109 vocational certificates, 154 high school diplomas and 83 GEDs. In honor of its centennial, Continuing Education will attempt to break a Guinness Book of World Records mark for most people throwing a mortarboard simultaneously. The world record attempt gets underway at 3:30 p.m. Commencement is scheduled for 5 p.m. Southwestern College: June 3 at Sleep Train Amphitheatre, 2050 Entertainment Circle, in Chula Vista. Southwestern College is awarding a record of at least 1,552 degrees and 338 certificates during the academic year. About 500 graduates are anticipated at the commencement. Honorary degrees will be granted to retired Southwestern College theatre professor William Virchis, who founded Teatro Mascara Magica; and retired dental hygiene professor Dr. Irv Silverstein. The event gets underway at 4 p.m. Cuyamaca College: June 4 in the Student Center Quad at Cuyamaca College, 900 Rancho San Diego Parkway, in El Cajon. The commencement speaker will be Mae Brown, assistant vice chancellor of admissions at UC San Diego. The college is awarding a record of at least 706 degrees and 165 certificates to 595 graduates this academic year, with the oldest graduate listed as 69-year-old Fuad Hana Gabreil. Commencement ceremonies get underway at 5:30 p.m.
Grossmont College: June 5 in the Main Quad at Grossmont College, 88000 Grossmont College Drive, in El Cajon. The college is awarding a record of at least 1,476 degrees and 996 certificates during the academic year, with the oldest graduate being 74 years old. The commencement speaker is former longtime San Diego County Chief Administrative Officer Walt Ekard. Ceremonies get underway at 5:30 p.m.
California community colleges educate 70 percent of our state’s nurses and train 80 percent of firefighters, law enforcement personnel, and emergency medical technicians. Twenty-nine percent of University of California and 51 percent of California State University graduates began their higher education quest at a California Community College.