As a first-generation college student, commencement was supposed to be a day to remember for Cindy Tong.
“City has opened up so many doors for me education-wise, and the virus hit, and now I can’t walk,” the Cosmetology major said in a phone call interview. “… I think that’s why it’s hitting me a little harder now.”
Tong studied on and off at City College for six years.
“I put in a lot of work and I deserve to celebrate,” Tong said.
The 2020 commencement ceremony for San Diego City College was scheduled at Balboa Park for May 22 — a rite of passage that many students wait a lifetime to experience.
But due to statewide restriction of assembling large groups, San Diego Community College District Chancellor Constance Carroll announced in an email that the ceremony has been postponed to summer or fall, or perhaps in a digital format.
Chancellor's Message: COVID-19 Update April 1, 2020 – https://t.co/wSKo5IxLTs
A message from our Chancellor, Dr. Constance Carroll
Information on commencement, distance learning, future online board meetings and more.#sharecity
— SanDiegoCityCollege (@sdcitycollege) April 2, 2020
There were up to 700 graduates who participated in the last ceremony held at Balboa Park in 2018. With guests included, the number rose to around 4,000 people.
“If there’s any way for us to have an in-person graduation, that is what we want to have,” said Marciano Perez, dean of student affairs, in a video call interview. “We absolutely understand the importance of students being able to walk across the stage.”
“It’s a kick in the gut to say the least, but we want to do this in a way that’s going to be safe for everybody. Ultimately that’s the most important thing.”
The school has reached out to Balboa Park to seek any availability within June, July or August, but no potential dates have been given.
All graduating students received an email regarding the postponement.
Psychology and Chicano Studies major Lupita Ibarra has been a student at City for five years.
“That’s pretty upsetting to me, it’s a big smack in the face,” Ibarra said during a phone call interview. “I actually walked at my high school graduation and that honestly made me feel so proud of myself to be able to sit in those chairs with my cap and gown and sit next to my peers. I can only imagine how that would feel the next step up.”
What she looked forward to the most was showing her parents that all the sacrifices they had made for her was worth it.
“I’ve realized that it’s not just about me, it’s about our families,” Ibarra said. “It’s a celebration for them and their sacrifices. It’s about being able to take my niece to my graduation and say ‘hey, you can do it, too.’”
The ceremony not only allows students and their families to celebrate together, but also students and faculty.
“I feel bummed out because I had hopes to see my older professors again all in one big ceremony along with the friends I was supposed to graduate with,” Communications major Edwin Mejia said during a phone call interview.
Perez also shared that he has worked and supported students as they embark on their college journey. The ceremony has special meaning for him and others at City.
“For us, when we see students walk across that stage, the same pride that your family feels is the same pride that we often feel as faculty and staff,” Perez said.
Although the decision on whether the ceremony will be held virtually or not is still too early to determine, the school is still exploring its options.
“I would prefer it to be in person, but to have it virtual would also be interesting,” Mejia said.
Perez understands that if it comes down to it, going virtual would not come close to the real graduation, but he ensured that it will still be special for students.
“Speeches will still be held, students’ names will still be called, we can still show what degrees students have earned, where students are transferring to, all those stuff we could do on a virtual platform and that’s something in a regular ceremony we wouldn’t get to do,” Perez said.
Perez shared alternative ideas he has heard from students such as putting a “City College Graduate 2020 Lives Here” sign in students’ lawns, creating a virtual yearbook for graduates or doing a drive-by ceremony.
He is open to hearing more ideas and encourages students to email suggestions to him.
“We want to make this special,” Perez said. “We want to make sure that whatever we’re doing really honors our graduates, that this is something that they can be proud of.”
In the meantime, SDCCD will continue to remotely process spring graduation applications until April 30 and summer graduation applications until July 31.
Updates regarding commencement will be emailed to graduates. Spring graduates can expect their diplomas to be mailed out by early August, while summer graduates will receive theirs in the middle of October.
For more information regarding graduation applications, visit: https://www.sdccd.edu/students/evaluations/graduation/index.aspx
Correction: This story has been changed to reflect the correct spelling of the name of Communications major Edwin Mejia. The City Times regrets the error.
Do you have suggestions for celebrating the achievements of City College’s Class of 2020? Share them with us on social media, @sdcitytimes, or comment below.