City College celebrates AAPI students in historic ceremony (with gallery)

First AAPI-themed graduation celebration held on May 15


Samvathna Em receives recognition during AAPI graduation celebration at A building patio, May 15, 2023. Photo by Nathaly Alvizures/City Times Media

Joel Nevarez, Sports Editor

Students along with their loved ones and members of the San Diego City College community gathered for the campus’ first-ever Asian American Pacific Islander graduation celebration at the A building patio on May 15. 

The historic occasion brought together AAPI students and faculty from different backgrounds to celebrate student achievement and success with a focus on representation. 

The recognition kicked off with the awarding of scholarships to students for both academic achievement and community involvement. 

“It’s just something that was really special for me,” said Sammitta Em, who received a scholarship and is transferring to the UC San Diego to pursue a degree in interdisciplinary computing and the arts. 

For Em, graduating at an AAPI-themed ceremony made her feel at home and hopeful for more events like it in the future.

Throughout the ceremony, students were presented with their graduation cords and encouraged to speak on the podium to attendees. 

“I’m still pinching myself now,” said Nilo Shaw Ondevilla, a fine arts major who is leaving for Yale and has been attending City since 1990. “It’s a big deal. Education is the key in solving problems.” 

Ondevilla has cherished his time at City and will continue to advocate for how special of a place it is. He hopes to come back and teach at City College after his time at Yale. 

“I represent,” Ondevilla said. “And I’m very proud.”

The celebration was one of many events happening at City College for AAPI Heritage Month, which was celebrated for the first time at City. 

“It took 100-plus years since school started,” said Masahiro Omae, dean of Behavioral and Social Sciences and a City alum. “We want to offer a different opportunity for students to celebrate who they are.” 

It meant a lot for Omae to see AAPI students get recognized and he wants those students to know that they are seen. 

After the ceremony was over all attendees were invited to the cafeteria for the reception. 

The cafeteria was filled with loved ones of graduates enjoying AAPI cuisine, including calamansi while coming together to dance to music in celebration of the student’s achievement. 

“It’s great to see, people (of) different culture backgrounds, upbringings, coming together and celebrating students’ success,” Omae said.