Each cultural graduation, such as the Pan-African Graduation Ceremony, comes with its unique traditions. COURTESY OF TASHIANA BRYANT

A cultural take on graduation

Bronco Dreamers Graduation

The third annual Undocu-Graduation occurred on May 1 in Ursa Major at the Bronco Student Center (BSC) at 6 p.m., with 25 students participating this year. 

Each cultural graduation, such as the Pan-African Graduation Ceremony, comes with its unique traditions. (Courtesy of Tashiana Bryant)

Although the ceremony was an idea that took years to begin, it wasn’t until three years ago that this ceremony was first celebrated for undocumented students.

Bronco Dreamers Resource Center (BDRC) Interim Coordinator Mecir Ureta Rivera spoke about how students can still achieve their higher education goals, despite their immigration status.

“It’s a celebration of the success of our students regardless of the obstacles they have,” Rivera said. “We want to acknowledge and celebrate that despite what’s going on politically, they are still able to succeed and complete their degrees.” 

It’s a time not only to honor undocumented students but to celebrate their families, as some were unable to receive a higher education due to immigration and economic status.

Womxn of Distinction Awards

This award ceremony will take place at CPP’s Kellogg House on May 8 at 5 p.m. and is for the graduating woman and a guest who has had a positive impact in the students’ path towards degree completion. 

There are a total of three different awards, of which the Distinguished Womxn of the Year is the only award graduating students can be nominated for. 

The nominee must be a “womxn-identified person” who has impacted the community throughout her time at Cal Poly Pomona. 

Those who are nominating students must be able to state the achievements of the nominee and advocate how the nominee has been an agent of change within the community.

Lavender Graduation Celebration

The CPP Pride Center will host its Lavender Graduation Ceremony at Ursa Major in the BSC on May 9 at 6 p.m. The CPP Pride Center has been established at the university for 25 years; however, the Lavender Graduation started 21 years ago in 1998. 

Pride Center Coordinator Bri Serrano described how the Lavender Graduation came to campus and what the color lavender means to the LGBTQ community.

“Lavender is really important because it’s a combination of the pink triangle that gay men were forced to wear in the concentration camps and the black triangle designated for lesbians in Nazi Germany as well, so combining the two is lavender,” Serrano said. “It’s a recognition to LGBT students and their accomplishments.”

This year, there will be 30 students participating in the Lavender Graduation.

Pan-Asian Graduation Celebration

The Asian & Pacific Islander Student Center (APISC) will have its Pan-Asian Graduation Celebration in Ursa Major at the BSC on May 10 at 6 p.m. 

Participants at the 18th annual celebration dress differently than members of the other cultural ceremonies. 

Instead of the typical cap and gown, students participating are encouraged to wear their traditional attire or business wear. 

Once the Pan-Asian Graduation Celebration begins, handmade yarn leis will be given to graduating students. The APISC and community are very diverse on campus. Those who organize this event work with student organizations to include everyone of Asian descent. 

Two hundred students graduated in this ceremony last year, the main reason being many wanted to graduate before the semester conversion. It is expected that less students will participate in this year’s celebration.

Native American Graduation Celebration & Scholarship Recognition

The Native American Student Center (NASC) will have its graduation celebration at Ursa Minor in the BSC on May 11 at 12 p.m. 

There will be six students participating in the ceremony, which is considered a high turnout because only .05 percent of the entire CPP student population is comprised of Native American students.

NASC Coordinator Elena Seymana Nourrie explained how the ceremony first began in the late ‘90s. 

“The first unofficial Native American Graduation Ceremony was held 21 years ago on May 30, 1998 and the center had just opened that year and had one part-time coordinator,” Nourrie said. “This event celebrates students’ academic accomplishments in the spirit of our Native community and many do not know that Cal Poly Pomona is situated on the traditional territory of the Tongva people, so it is important for us to ensure we bring this to light.”

Some traditions that take place in the ceremony include an opening flag song, an honor song for graduates and a closing song. 

The Native American Graduation also provides staff and faculty the opportunity to celebrate students by giving them honoring blankets, which symbolize protection and safe travels on their next steps. 

Students will also have the opportunity to publicly thank those who have helped them along the way.

RAZA Graduation

The Cesar E. Chavez Center for Higher Education will have its 25th annual graduation ceremony at the Kellogg Arena at 4 p.m., May 11.

The RAZA Graduation is a bilingual event where family, friends, and community members come together to honor students’ personal successes and academic achievements in the spirit and traditions of the Latin culture.

This year will be the second-largest graduating class with 400 students registering to attend RAZA Graduation. 

The ceremony will include students from various Latin American countries such as Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia and Brazil. 

Pan-African Graduation Celebration

The African American Student Center (AASC) will conclude the cultural ceremonies with its Pan-African Graduation Celebration May 12 in the Kellogg Arena at 4 p.m. 

There will be 60 students participating this year.

This ceremony was started in 1993 by alumni, members of the Black Student Union and others on campus. 

AASC coordinator Tashiana Bryant described the origins of the Pan-African Graduation Celebration.

“Originally called African American Graduation Celebration, it was not until the early 2000s when it was changed to Pan-African, which allows for all countries such as Nigeria and Ethiopia to be included,” Bryant said. “Students are now given the opportunity to speak, present awards and be keynote speakers. There is also a tribute to black Greeks, in which they stroll and salute.”

A change coming to this year’s ceremony will allow students to walk on stage with two of their loved ones, and give them a chance to honor their mothers because the ceremony will be held on Mother’s Day. 

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