Monday, June 1, 2009
Latino Graduation at CSULB
Rosa Carrillo gave me an skeptical look when I informed her that I was a reporter with the Daily 49er trying to cover the 20th Annual Chican@/Latin@vGraduation Celebration.
Why wouldn't she? After all, there were many people outside Cal State Long Beach's Walter Pyramid trying to get into the sold out event. Thank God for my validation via Student Life and Development assistant director Brett Waterfield, who congratulated me for a profile I'd written about him and the rest of the Cultural Graduations.
Carrillo, like many of the students working on the event, was volunteering her time and creativity to try and make this celebration a successful one. The Long Beach City College counselor had been in charged of the celebration in the past and was asked to return with her keen sense of organization and dead-on coordination skills.
"I think the language brings everyone together," Carrillo said about the bilingual celebration in between trips to the exit doors where graduates were lining up and arranging last minute details with security--apparently they had an issue with air horns inside the place.
As the 214 graduating students--including 30 Master's candidates--walked into the basketball court, the 4,000 plus guests stood up and began clapping and snapping photo after photo.
Women that looked like my grandma and men with Stetson hats screamed out the names of their graduates. Children would lean against the bleacher rails--which was decorated with Latin American flags--and jumped up and down with excitement as their brothers, sisters and cousins waved their zarape-embroided sashes.
Right before the celebration, I "bumped" into CSULB President F. King Alexander. With the economy throwing up on itself, I asked Alexander to level with the students and tell them what realities they will be facing in a job-less market.
"I'm really pushing students to go to grad school," he said. "The job market is tight, but once the economy recovers, they will be prepared."
After a couple of minutes on the stage, Mr. President and Vice President Douglas W. Robinson had to leave to attend other activities. On a Sunday.
I really wished they could have stayed behind and listened to Chicano Studies Professor Jose Moreno--this year's graduation Marshall--and his heart-felt speech to the graduates asking them not to be too happy just yet because the number of Latino college graduates is not big enough.
"I'm nervous, excited and angry," Moreno told the audience. "But we have to celebrate because too many of our accomplishments are not celebrated."
According to Moreno, out of 100 Latino kinder gardeners, eleven manage to graduate from the California State University system. Bittersweet celebration for the masses!
Photo by Maria Ventura