IT graduation

Sonjiala Hotchkiss

“I’m good, but I’m not that good,” professor Rose LaMuraglia said when faced with student Alice Hernandez, who didn’t know how to turn on a computer when she started the Excellence Through Pride Information Technology and Business Training Program.

Hernandez graduated from the program as its most-improved student along with 14 of her classmates. The graduation ceremony took place Feb. 17 on campus.

“Success in higher education really does take a village,” City College President Terrence Burgess said during his address to an audience intermixed with bouncing babies, relatives, friends, professors, tutors and administrators.

“I am a product of my environment,” valedictorian Lemmie Donaldson said, crediting those same audience members for their contributions to his success. Donaldson was one of three students who graduated with a 4.0 grade point average. Salutatorians Patrick Armenta and Tyler McLinden also graduated with 4.0 averages.

Donaldson worked part-time while attending classes from 8 a.m to 5 p.m. each weekday and putting in extra effort for the program on nights and weekends.

“He sacrificed a lot of sleep,” Melanie Donaldson said of her husband, as she held their infant daughter, Kafina.

LaMuraglia showcased the success of the Excellence Through Pride graduates, saying the amount of work they took on was “amazing” and noted that the class completed 31.5 units in less than seven months, with an average GPA of nearly 3.7.

LaMuraglia and professor Leroy Brady started Excellence Through Pride in 2010 with the help of an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act training grant. The seven-month program trained students to be help-desk support or computer network administrators.

Directors chose 20 students for the inaugural class out of more than 100 applicants who interviewed for the need-based program, which covered the costs of tuition, books and job placement for the participants.

“I believe more in myself and find more of a self-worth,” McLinden said. He expressed his appreciation for being given a “second chance to improve and go to school.”

Brady said that he and LaMuraglia got the idea for the program after noticing that students who took both his business classes and her computer science classes wrote better business plans. Brady and LaMuraglia had less than two months to organize and implement the program after receiving the grant in May 2010.

“We are celebrating entering the job market,” Armenta said, hitting on a key aim of the program.

Excellence Through Pride partnered with the San Diego Urban League and employment agencies to help graduates find jobs. The program also uses grant money to pay the cost of up to three information technology certification tests for students, Brady said.

Mary Benard, City College vice president, and Randy Barnes, dean of Business and Information Technology, presented the graduates with certificates as cameras clicked around the audience. In addition to their certificates, valedictorian Donaldson received a $75 gift card, salutatorians Armenta and McLinden received $50 gift cards and most-improved student Hernandez received a $40 gift card.

“We will not disappoint,” Hernandez said. She said that she was excited to start an internship with SettlementOne following graduation.

Several graduates will start internships at City College and with Nubia Leadership Academy in San Diego.

Monique’s Gifts and Catering provided food for the event, which was staffed by workers from Students In Free Enterprise at City College.

Graduation ceremonies for the second and third groups of students who entered Excellence Through Pride will be held on March 17 and June 17, respectively. The ceremonies will take place at 3 p.m. in room D-121.