It may not be exactly the ceremony they expected, but nearly 700 graduates-to-be are participating in San Joaquin Delta College's 85th annual Commencement ceremony to be held virtually at 10 a.m. June 6.
All told, this is one of the College's largest graduating classes on record, with 2,114 graduates earning a total of 3,082 degrees and 539 certificates.
The virtual ceremony will include many of the same features as traditional Commencement, right down to the conferring of degrees and the turning of the tassels. But the virtual celebration will also feature new twists like video clips submitted by some of the graduates themselves, bringing viewers a more personal and intimate experience.
"We know some students articulated their disappointment that we could not hold an in-person ceremony this year, but the fact that 682 students have chosen to participate in the virtual ceremony shows how excited they are to graduate from Delta," said Superintendent/President Dr. Omid Pourzanjani. "We're thrilled that so many of our students have embraced this new way of experiencing our ceremony, and we're immensely proud of them for persevering through what has been a very difficult Spring Semester. We can't wait to celebrate with them on June 6."
More details on accessing the ceremony will be available at deltacollege.edu/commencement.
As is the case every year, two special speakers will highlight virtual Commencement. They are:
Student speaker Se'Quoia Drew
The COVID-19 pandemic flipped college students' lives upside down this spring. And Se'Quoia Drew is the first to admit that at first, it was hard to feel excited about a virtual Commencement ceremony.
But consider what she has to celebrate.
Originally from the Bay Area, Drew became the first member of her family to graduate from high school in 2009. While most of her friends headed off to college, she stayed home to work two jobs and help her mother raise her two younger brothers, who are on the autism spectrum.
If that wasn't enough, Drew suffered a work-related injury that resulted in major knee surgery. Struggling to walk, she gained weight and became depressed. A college education seemed out of reach.
"Long story short, I got out of bed," she said. "I joined the gym. I lost 150 pounds. I decided it was time for me to further my education here at Delta."
Drew decided to earn a degree in sociology. She credits Delta with giving her the resources she needed to succeed, including a work-study job in the financial aid office.
"We may fall a thousand times," she tells graduates in her Commencement speech. "So what? Pick yourselves back up, be confident, and chase those dreams and goals of yours."
Alumni speaker Samuel Maloy
Samuel Maloy never thought he'd be a teacher. He never thought he'd work in a hospital.
Somehow, he ended up doing both. And he wouldn't have it any other way.
Maloy is not only a graduate of Delta College's nursing program, but he now teaches there as an associate professor. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, he is helping train the next generation of nurses.
And by the way, he remains on the front lines of the pandemic as he still works as an emergency room nurse.
Getting to this point in life wasn't easy. Maloy was initially rejected from several nursing schools. Eventually he found a home at Delta, but the challenging program was made even more difficult by the fact that he had to work multiple jobs on the side, making French fries at In-N-Out and sweeping the floors at a hair salon.
Sleep-deprived, Maloy failed some college courses and had to repeat them.
"I felt like a failure," he said. "I felt like I would never become a nurse."
But he never quit. Nor did his closest supporters. During difficult times, whether you are struggling to get through school or enduring a crisis like COVID-19, Maloy says the key is to press on and remember those things you can control: your decisions.
"You have to continue on, and you have to decide how to act when the unexpected occurs," Maloy tells graduates in his speech. "So I encourage you to decide to be willing to grow and pursue the change, face obstacles with a positive attitude... Decide not to give up."