With black robes, a silver sash and giddy excitement to complete the outfit, only two weeks away before graduation, students prepare to walk the stage to receive their degrees and certificates.
This year’s commencement will be on June 6 at 6 p.m. in Rocky Young Park. However, there will be changes implemented to accommodate the families and friends of students participating in the ceremony.
According to Pierce College President Kathleen Burke, graduation is a time that brings the campus together.
“Commencement is always wonderful. It’s a celebration of our students and their families and what they’ve all accomplished,” Burke said.
Among this year’s speakers is Associated Students Organization senator and fellow graduate Lauren Robin, who is receiving an associate’s degree in social science and behavior and an AD-T in economics.
Using her past experiences with making difficult decisions and following her gut, Robin said she hopes to inspire others to believe in themselves and “do what’s right for you.”
“I’m proud of myself for saying yes, because public speaking is a big fear of mine,” Robin said, “But when people doubt me and say, ‘I don’t know if she can do it’, I always say, ‘Well, now I’m going do it. Maybe I wasn’t going to before, but now I will.”
Following the steady growth of graduates and commencement attendees through the years, this celebration will be bigger than ever, according to Dean of Student Engagement Juan Carlos Astorga.
“We have slowly grown in the number of students participating in commencement, and I think that’s because of enrollment increases, but also because people place more value in their education and importance in the ceremony,” Astorga said.In 2009, 448 graduated, and just last year, that number rose to just under 700.
Astorga said that if he was a betting man, he would confidently put money on 725 attending graduates.
In addition to a rising number of graduates, the 2017 commencement ceremony will see a number of other changes.
According to Astorga, the Board of Trustee has cracked down on Pierce’s budget and they “have really started to look at how we can be more fiscally responsible with the commencement speakers.
According to Vice President of Student Services Earic Dixon-Peters, Pierce cannot spend Program 100 money on external speakers. Therefore, the college is trying to have speakers who won’t charge a fee, he said.
Dixon-Peters said that Pierce is now trying to have only student speakers to make commencement a more student-oriented event.
“The ceremony is not about external speakers,” Dixon-Peters said. “If you ask anyone, oftentimes they don’t remember who their commencement speaker was. Our focus now is to make it a true student event, and we hope having student speakers will achieve that.”
Astorga agrees and said that not only will an internal speaker be more accommodating to the budget, it will also create a stronger sense of community at commencement.
However, despite all past problems, Astorga said he relishes each commencement and is optimistic to see even more graduates attend.
“When the students recess, they approach their friends and families and they receive those hugs and the pride in their faces,” Astorga said. “It doesn’t have to be a relative, it can be a friend, a peer, a professor who says, ‘I’m here, I see you and I’m celebrating with you’. That’s the most beautiful part. That community and opportunity to be so incredibly proud of someone and their accomplishments. That’s invaluable.”