San Diego Community College District celebrates graduate and transfer students

Baba Yiriba performing the opening drum call.

Baba Yiriba performing the opening drum call.

Johnaysha Davis-Escalera

Johnaysha Davis-Escalera

Baba Yiriba performing the opening drum call.

Johnaysha Davis-Escalera, Staff Writer

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Faculty members from the three San Diego Community College District (SDCCD) campuses collaborated to organize an event dedicated to celebrating students that have successfully completed an associate degree or certification program offered by SDCCD. On May 17, San Diego Mesa College hosted the fifth annual district-wide Black Graduates and Transfer Students Rite of Passage Ceremony.

To begin the ceremony, percussionist Baba Yiriba drummed African heritage inspired rhythms as he guided students through their honorary walk into the Rite of Passage Ceremony. Following the Drum Call, students were presented with a series of farewell speeches delivered by faculty, staff, fellow students and a special guest.

Mesa College’s Vice President of Student Services, Ashanti Hands, presented a welcome speech that highlighted the importance of graduating college. During her speech, Hands stated “This is not a place that was given to you or handed to you, you earned this place.” Hands also presented a playlist to the audience that consisted of songs and poems she felt would encourage students during their transition.

She played a few seconds ofRun Til I Finish” by Smokie Norful and recited lines from Maya Angelou’s poem titled “Still I Rise”. Hands expressed that her intentions were to remind students of everything they have overcome. She ended her speech by stating “Millions did not make it but each one of you are the ones who did.” Following Hand’s welcome speech, the audience stood to participate in singing the “Black National Anthem”.

Prior to the event, one student from each of the three campuses were chosen to speak at the ceremony. The students who shared their testimonies were Suma Massaley from City College, Ishak Mahamoud from Miramar college, and Catrina Barnett from Mesa College.

Massaley took the opportunity to share her journey of migrating to the United States of America as an international student struggling with a language barrier, to now being the Vice President of San Diego City College Student Governing Association. She talked about how her only goal was to obtain an associate Degree but because of her accomplishments, she’ll be transferring to a 4-year college to work towards earning a bachelor’s degree.

Mahamoud also took the opportunity to share with the audience about the positive effects his academic efforts at Miramar College will have on the rest of his academic career. He thanked the staff at Miramar College for serving as a great support system.

Barnett spoke about serving in the military for 14 years. When Barnett’s military career came to an end, she decided to enroll into college. When asked how she would describe her experience at Mesa College, Barnett said “Empowerment, because coming here as an older student you don’t find yourself mixing well…But more so the younger students look up to you. You become more of a mentor or guidance. And to me that is what kept me going in the classroom.” Barnett shared that graduating college aided her confidence. She expressed that being a first generation graduate student was a “huge accomplishment.”

Another student honored amongst the 60 graduate and transfer students present was Lucinda Seals. When asked how she felt about earning an associate degree in Black Studies, Seals said, “I feel accomplished. As if it’s just another notch on my accomplishment belt. “ She expressed that her time at Mesa was “phenomenal.” She explained that she enjoyed her experience with Mesa College to the extent that she is seeking an on campus employment opportunity following graduation.

Towards the conclusion of the ceremony, graduate and transfer students were recognized and presented with Kente Cloth sashes. The black embroidered sashes were gifted to students on the behalf of SDCCD faculty, and students were to wear the sashes during their commencement ceremonies.

To complete the Right of Passage ceremony, students were led out of the room, once again accompanied by drumming. After the finale drum call, students were then reunited with their family and friends. The event concluded with the serving of celebration cake and refreshments for guest to enjoy. Next year’s event is scheduled to take place in May of 2018.

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San Diego Community College District celebrates graduate and transfer students