Photos: Ava Weintraub
When student speaker Paniz Rezvan took the stage in front of a crowd of graduating students and beaming friends and family, she told her story before coming to Pierce. An immigrant from Iran, she broke into tears when she told of how her family was split up due to visa troubles, and how her sister had to stay in Iran.
At the 64th Commencement Ceremony at Pierce College, students, parents and faculty recognized graduates’ struggles and celebrated what lies ahead for them.
As one speaker at the ceremony, Yasmin Delahoussaye, put it, every person in the crowd had a struggle as part of their story. Delahoussaye, the Vice-Chancellor of Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) and a former employee at Pierce, gave herself as an example. Out of all her siblings, only she would go on to get a college degree, she said.
“Be proud of that story,” she said.
One graduate, Monica Lopez, who’s transferring to Cal Lutheran, went to Pierce to start over. After dropping out of CSUN to work fulltime, she tried opening a restaurant in Orange County.
The business failed, and after that she decided to go back to school. Her child and family were her biggest motivators to go back, she said.
When asked what the biggest lesson she learned was, she said, “Not to give up on yourself.”
Her mother, Deborah Lopez, said she’s noticed great changes in her daughter, who’s the first and only child of hers to attend college. Since attending Pierce, she’s learned discipline and responsibility, and she expects her daughter to continue her education and “reach for the stars,” she said.
Her daughter agreed.
“I’ve grown a lot as a student, and as a mother and daughter, ” Lopez said.
Other graduates settled on a path for the first time at Pierce. Juliet Piper, who’s transferring to UCLA, feels that Pierce gave her time to figure out what she wanted to do.
“It was really mellow and easy going, [that] helped with making decisions,” said Piper, who decided to major in World Arts and Culture.
Her mother, Jackie Piper, is glad that her daughter has narrowed down what she wants to do in her life.
“She’s definitely more decisive,” Piper said. “She’s always been focused, but now she’s even more keenly focused.”
For her daughter, the most important thing she learned at Pierce was how to be self-sufficient.
“It helped me be independent, to do my own thing,” she said.
For some graduates, attending Pierce has been a long commitment. Patrick Shannon, who’s transferring to CSUN, took his first class at Pierce in 1998. Shannon owes his long stay at Pierce to the atmosphere the college provided.
“[The school’s] always been really helpful,” Shannon said. “The teachers here are really good.”
Rezvan, during her speech, said coming to appreciate the college was one of her biggest realizations. After being rejected from all the UCs she applied to, she was reluctant to attend community college.
So reluctant, she moved from her home in Orange County to Los Angeles. She wanted to avoid going to her local community college and running into the same friends from high school.
But after making new friends and getting involved in a number of activities at Pierce, including becoming the president of the Alpha Gamma Sigma honor society, she changed her attitude. Although she’ll be moving on to attend UC Berkeley in the fall, she’ll always be glad that she attended Pierce, she said.
“I don’t regret coming here, rather I’m proud,” she said.
Photos Emad Abbasi