Delta College’s annual Commencement ceremony returns to the Stockton Arena for the first time in three years this Thursday, with nearly 900 students to be honored for their resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A total of 2,595 students have applied for graduation during the 2021-22 academic year, seeking a total of 4,905 degrees.
“Our students have encountered many challenges, and they have persevered,” said Delta College Acting Superintendent/President Dr. Lisa Aguilera Lawrenson. “They may have pivoted to online learning or attended classes in person with strict COVID-19 protocols. They may have cared for children or family members, worked several jobs, faced housing insecurity or food insecurity, experienced health challenges, or been the first in their families to attend college.
“Even with these responsibilities and challenges, they stayed the course and amidst changing conditions related to the pandemic, completed their academic goals. We are incredibly proud of their accomplishments.”
Thursday’s 87th annual ceremony begins at 6 p.m. at the Arena. For more details, visit deltacollege.edu/commencement.
Read on for the stories of two special speakers who will be featured during this year’s Commencement.
Student Speaker Linda Golden-Brown
Linda Golden-Brown is a wife, a mother, and a fulltime employee with an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job.
So how, you might ask, did she manage to earn a college degree at the same time?
“I just told myself, ‘One class at a time, Linda,’” she said with a smile. “One class at a time. It may take longer, but I’ll finish stronger.”
And that’s exactly what she’s done. Golden-Brown will walk the stage at Delta College’s 87th annual Commencement ceremony with an associate degree in Arts & Humanities.
This wasn’t her first go in college. Years ago as a young woman she attended Cañada College in Redwood City, and then transferred to Alabama A&M.
After Golden-Brown became pregnant, her mother urged her to continue her studies, noting that she would be able to finish her degree around the time she had her child.
Instead, Golden-Brown took a “pause.”
A 28-year pause.
“I knew I would finish eventually,” she said. “I didn’t know I would be 54 years old, but thank you, God, I’m here, I’m breathing and it’s never too late.”
Many of her classmates at Delta are young enough to be her own children. And she loves that. It makes her feel young again. It has helped power her through many late nights of reading, writing, and researching.
Does her journey stop here? “No,” she says. “I have to get that bachelor’s and then I have to get that master’s. I don’t know if a Ph.D. is in my future, but…
“One class at a time.”
Alumni Speaker Dr. Lee Juarez
Less than a decade ago, Lee Francine Juarez was working at Denny’s to help support her family while also juggling a full load of classes at Delta College.
She never dreamed that in 2021 she would be earning her Ph.D.
But that’s exactly what she’s done. Dr. Juarez now works at Paul Quinn College, a Historically Black College and University in southern Texas, where she supports students in the same way that she was once supported at Delta and at other institutions.
Looking back, it’s hard for Dr. Juarez to describe how she persevered.
“There were times when I was working 40 hours a week on top of school,” she says. “I really don’t know how I was able to balance everything, to be quite honest. I was the first in my family to go to college, and I worked a lot because I wanted to contribute to my family. I didn’t want them to be in a position where they had to sacrifice certain things for me to get an education.”
While studying at Delta and working, Dr. Juarez somehow found time to assist at the chemistry lab and serve as a study coach with Disability Support Programs and Services. It was as a study coach that she realized how much she enjoyed working with students. Which is why, after she transferred to U.C. Merced in 2013, she decided to go into higher education. Dr. Juarez attended graduate school at Penn State, and is now special assistant to the chief administrative officer for compliance at Paul Quinn College.
From Denny’s to doctorate, in less than 10 years.
“The push and support I got from my family and the mentors I met along the way made all the difference,” Dr. Juarez says.