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The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The celebration continues despite commencement cancelation

Photo illustration of graduates at Hughes Stadium at City College Sunday, May 10, 2020. This year due to the closure of all college campuses, the commencement for the City College class of 2020 has been canceled. (Photo illustration Sara Nevis/[email protected]/photos from Jessie Rooker and Sara Spitler)

By: Sara Nevis | Photo Editor | [email protected]

By: Rose Vega | Editor-in-chief | [email protected]

As a sea of graduates in caps and gowns filed into Hughes Stadium, Dr. Davin Brown scanned the crowd for one student in particular. She was on a mission to find the student she had helped the previous semester but whom she’d never met in person. The student was a formerly incarcerated single mother who had been having some difficulties in her last semester while finishing her degree to transfer to Sacramento State. 

As vice president of student services at City College, Brown has been involved in a lot of graduations over the years but recalls this memory from the 2019 commencement as one her most memorable.

“When her name was called, I stood up, and she crossed the stage,” said Brown. “I gave her a hug and introduced myself. She hugged me so tight and told me ‘thank you.’ It was a reminder of why we do what we do and how important commencement and graduations are.” 

However, this year due to the closure of all college campuses, the commencement for the City College class of 2020 has been canceled. City College President Michael Guiterrez said that he is saddened that the commencement ceremony will not take place, but he still sees this as a time to celebrate graduates’ accomplishments. 

“Symbolically, graduation has always been a wonderful reminder of what we do, and to just see the students with their friends and family and the joy that they have in their faces and that they’ve had a sense of accomplishment,” said Guiterrez. “It’s hard to top that for what we do in our jobs. But with that said, it’s still a time to celebrate.” 

Kim Goff, supervisor of admission and records, has been a part of planning commencement ceremonies for the last 10 years at City College. Normally at this time of year the campus would be busy with all the final preparations: renting the stage, chairs and sound system, creating the commencement program, working on scripts and speeches, checking on caps and gowns, opening boxes of diploma covers. 

“These are certainly unprecedented times,” Goff said. “[I am] so sorry this happened this semester for these students.”

This decision to cancel commencement was made by a district-wide committee based on the survey sent to all Los Rios potential graduates, according to Goff. The committee looked at many options for the graduates with a virtual graduation as one of them. Student feedback from all Los Rios colleges indicated little interest in holding virtual ceremonies. 

“I don’t think anything could replace walking across the stage,” Goff said. “You just can’t replicate that kind of event in a virtual environment. I completely understand it, and this is the right thing to do.”

Brown explained that before the district made the decision to cancel commencement ceremonies, the colleges wanted to honor the students the best way possible.  

“We would’ve been remiss if we didn’t take into consideration the interests and desires of our students, and we put that paramount,” said Brown. “And the respondents spoke loud and clear, and so we decided to honor what their interests were, which was not a virtual commencement but, in fact, an opportunity to celebrate them in different ways.”

According to Goff, each graduating student will receive an official Class of 2020 tassel, a letter from Gutierrez and the official commencement program. Graduating students will also be able to share their graduation stories and experiences on City College’s social media outlets. The graduating students will still have an opportunity to walk the stage in a future commencement ceremony.

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“Our primary goal is how do we not lose the moment?” said Brown. “How do we honor the students’ accomplishments in the moment, in the time that they truly anticipated and expected to be honored in a way that’s meaningful for them, at the same time still creating opportunity for them to participate in a commencement ceremony later down the road if they choose to do so.” 

Brown said she understands what some graduates are feeling. As a first-generation college graduate herself, she knows the importance of celebrating academic accomplishments. 

“I know what it’s like to get to that point and be the first one in my family to have made it to that point, and to have been faced with something like this, I know it would’ve been disappointing,” said Brown.  

While saddened by the cancelation, Brown said that holding a physical commencement wouldn’t be safe in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“As long as I’ve been in this career field, commencement has been one of the most exciting times for me in the various roles that I’ve played,” said Brown. “So it’s disheartening that it had to be canceled, but understanding that it’s no one’s fault. We’re putting our students and community members at paramount and making sure that everyone is safe.”

This is the third City College graduation for Guiterrez in his 24 years as an educator, and the first time he has seen a commencement canceled. 

“The students have worked really hard, and they deserve everything that they’ve accomplished, and so this is still a celebration,” said Guiterrez. 

Guiterrez recalled his first commencement as president of City College three years ago. 

“It almost felt like a Saturday morning football game at a major university,” Guiterrez said. “You see people walking from the different parking lots, and some of them are walking from the neighborhoods.” 

He said that walking toward Hughes Stadium and seeing the crowds of smiling faces from students and their families is a memory he won’t forget. 

“It was truly magical, and I had not experienced something like that before where we were all on a mission trying to get to the same place but to a place of celebration,” said Guiterrez. 

Despite the cancellation, both Brown and Guiterrez expressed their pride in City College’s 2020 graduates. 

“Sacramento City College has been known as the people’s college. It’s a place where people come, they stay, they finish, and they return. [I encourage] the students to return, the graduates to return when they can,” said Brown. “Return for the memories, return to give back to other students and remind them that they are more than capable of achieving the same level of success that they have and that we will always be here for them. 

“And congratulations to the class of 2020.” 

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