San Joaquin Delta College will graduate 1,938 students at the College’s traditional commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 23.
Thursday’s ceremony takes place at 6 p.m. at the Stockton Arena, with the graduate processional beginning at 5:45 p.m. Superintendent/President Kathy Hart will preside.
The evening will include remarks from a graduating student who is an immigrant, and an alumnus who is a first-generation college student. Despite adversity, both showed unwavering perseverance while earning their education.
All told, Delta expects to award 2,918 degrees and 798 certificates, meaning that some of the 1,938 graduates will leave the college having earned multiple qualifications.
Here’s a look at the speakers chosen for Thursday’s ceremony:
Student speaker Arooj Rizvi
It would have been difficult for Arooj Rizvi to get an education in her native Pakistan, in part because she is a woman, and in part because she is now 27 years old.
But after getting married and immigrating to the United States nearly a decade ago, Arooj has found opportunity she might otherwise have never known.
For Arooj, education was the key to integrating into her new society. That’s why she enrolled at Delta College in 2016. She was nervous, at first, but her professors saw beyond her salt-and-pepper hair and focused on developing her mind. A job at the financial aid office also helped Arooj pay the bills while she invested in her future.
“Delta accepted me and helped me grow into the person that I had to be,” she said.
Now Arooj is earning multiple degrees, including an Associate in Arts for Interdisciplinary Business Studies. She plans to transfer to the University of the Pacific and eventually start her own business providing free ambulance assistance for homeless people, a service that exists in Pakistan.
Arooj credits Delta for valuing international and immigrant students and the positive influence they have on society, while also recognizing how hard they must work to achieve their dreams. And she’s thankful for her husband, Zulfiqar Rizvi, whose family lives in Stockton and has supported her along the way.
“Being an immigrant means you have to work 10 times harder to speak English, to make friends, to find your place in society,” she said. “And I could not have imagined that this College would take me so far, to be able to think for myself, to think about my future and to have self-worth. No, I could not have imagined all of this today without the support of Delta College.”
Alumnus speaker Alejandro Gomez
When Alejandro Gomez was growing up, most of his friends got jobs instead of going to college. They wanted the quick cash.
But thanks in part to the urging of his parents, Alejandro took a different path.
At the age of 22 he enrolled at Delta College, where he served with the student body government while also representing students on the College’s Board of Trustees.
Alejandro spent much of his time at Delta volunteering despite the fact that he didn’t have much money himself. In fact, he sometimes went hungry even as he served other students at the College’s food pantry. But Alejandro knew his volunteerism would strengthen his leadership skills and pay off later when he transferred to the University of California, Berkeley.
Commuting to Berkeley from Stockton while also raising his young daughter, Alejandro managed to earn a bachelor’s degree in history with a concentration in U.S. history. He also minored in theater, with a concentration in Shakespeare.
It wasn’t easy. He got little sleep, staying up as late as midnight to do homework, then getting up at 3 a.m to beat the traffic to the Bay Area.
“It’s so hard,” he said. “But I think people are capable of anything, and history proves that.”
Since graduating from Berkeley, Alejandro has been focused on a career path that involves helping others and giving back to the community, most recently through his work at the Reinvent Stockton Foundation.
He hopes sharing his experience will help others who, like Alejandro, are the first in their families to graduate from college.
“When I started at Delta it was really a leap of faith,” he said. “I had to do it all myself. I had to apply to Berkeley by myself. It’s difficult, but I managed to do it. Now I want to be in a position to be that influence for everyone else.”