Katya Echazarreta, left, and Diego Bethea, right, share a moment on stage at the San Diego City College Commencement, Thursday, May 23, 2024. Photo by Bailey Kohnen/City Times Media
Katya Echazarreta, left, and Diego Bethea, right, share a moment on stage at the San Diego City College Commencement, Thursday, May 23, 2024. Photo by Bailey Kohnen/City Times Media

City College commencement ceremony celebrates class of 2024, welcomes back astronaut alumna (with gallery and video)

Organ Pavilion event features astronaut alumna Katya Echavarreta as keynote

Katya Echazarreta, the first female Mexican-born astronaut, decided to go off script to share her most personal advice during her keynote speech at the San Diego City College Commencement Ceremony.

The City College alumna, who eight years earlier walked the same graduation stage, described how, when observing Earth from orbit, astronauts experience an internal transformation.

“What you feel is the heaviest responsibility to be better,” Echazarreta said to the graduating students. “To be good, and not for you, for everyone else … to be more for our planet.”


Click on the image below to view a photo gallery of the commencement ceremony.


The Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park was the site of the 110th City College Commencement Ceremony to celebrate the 1,008 graduates of the class of 2024 May 23.

By the time the group of cap-and-gown-dressed graduates lined up to receive their degrees and certificates, a standing-room-only crowd of visitors had filled the outdoor event space. 

Family and friends carrying signs, flowers and gifts, cheered for the graduates throughout the commencement announcements.  

The 2024 City graduates formed part of a larger district-wide class that saw a 6% increase in graduates from last year, according to the San Diego Community College District.

Can’t access the video? To watch the video above, click here. To read a transcript, click here.

With Echazarreta headlining, City College and SDCCD administrators, students and faculty spoke to graduates from the Spreckels stage.

Outgoing Associated Student Government President Diego Bethea reflected on the meaning of building his legacy and how others should shape their efforts to create a better future.

“I’ve come to understand that we must be intentional,” Bethea said. “If you haven’t already thought about your legacy, I’d like to challenge you today to start being intentional about the legacy you wish to leave.” 

With her closing remarks as the keynote speaker, back on the Spreckels stage, Echazarreta came full circle.

The astronaut, now president of Fundación Espacial Katya Echazarreta, credited attending San Diego City College as the single most important decision she made in her life, not only academically and for her career, but for her family as well.

Attending City College not only allowed her and her family to avoid the costs of a four-year university, it is also where, nine years ago in a chemistry class, she met her husband.

“It really is just a City College fairy tale,” Echazarreta said.

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