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Graduating students celebrate culture, identity

By Lesly Velasco Guerra, May 10, 2022

As commencement season approaches, the Office of Student Equity, Diversion and Inclusion celebrates its annual Cultural and Identity Graduation Celebrations, held from May 7 through May 15.

Seven different celebrations are included: Undocugraduation Bronco Dreamers, Womxn of Distinction, Lavender Graduation, Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Graduation, Pan-African Graduation, Native American Graduation and Raza Graduation. The celebrations are open to any graduating CPP student and organized by the cultural and identity centers on campus.

Wendy Cordova, interim senior coordinator for the Office of Student Equity, Diversion and Inclusion, explained the purpose of these celebrations are to unify a community and represent each other in both the cultural and identity celebrations and the university wide commencements ceremony.

“We host these ceremonies for our students to honor achievements, both academic success and personal,” said Cordova. “These personal milestones where we also incorporate cultural and identity practices into the celebrations.”

Each celebration is catered to the specific culture or identity. Raza celebration often hosts Aztec dancers or African drumming is performed at the Pan-African Graduation. Additionally, Cordova explained that each celebration offers their participants a heritage or visibility stole, a pin or item that represent the community they are part of.

“It’s a way that we make sure that our students’ identity is at the forefront of their milestones,” explained Cordova. “We know that for our students these celebrations and these milestones are not just for themselves, it’s about the family, the loved ones, the communities, the supports that have helped them push through and persevere to this great milestone of achieving their bachelors, their masters and, in some cases, their doctorates.”

Aside from family and friends, faculty and staff are also invited to celebrate the student’s success. Cordova explained that students in various ceremonies are able to nominate a faculty or staff member to the event. The Womxn’s Resource Center, for example, awards a Women of Distinction Award to a faculty or staff member to celebrate achievement of women across campus.

Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Graduation will be seeing some changes from previous years. The graduation celebration was previously named Asian Pacific Islander Graduation but was changed to be more inclusive and honor Desi Americans as well. Along with the name change, the color scheme is now blue, when it used to be red and yellow. Assistant coordinator for the Asian Pacific Islander Center, Alyssa Alegre explained the blue represents the sea and the change in color was to embrace that they are all connected through the sea.

The cultural and identity celebration have been around for over 30 years. When COVID-19 hit, these celebrations were held online over Zoom and still received a high number of participants. Cordova stated that this year’s celebration wasn’t finalized to be in person until late December, leaving coordinators and their teams a limited time to organize and get the word out.

The most recent addition to the celebration is the Undocugraduation Bronco Dreamers celebration. Their first celebration was held in 2017 and took place as an end of the year celebration with the then student club, Demanda Estudiantil Para la. Igualdad Educational. Senior Coordinator for Undocumented Student Services, Mecir Ureta, detailed that this year’s celebration preparation moved quickly.

“The most important thing is celebrating this major milestone of undocumented students and the undocumented community,” said Ureta. “Undocugrad is not only for undocumented students, it’s for all the communities that identify with the journey of being an immigrant in this country or with the migrant community.”

Participation in these celebrations is open to anyone regardless of major or degree and are scheduled at different times so students can participate in more than one. Students don’t need to be an active member in a cultural or identity center.

“They are not just events,” said Cordova. “They really are celebrations, they are community rooted, and they are a form of I would say activism. Showing up and saying, ‘I’m here, I’m represented, and I did this for my community.’”

Feature image courtesy of Baim Hanif

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