NORWALK - Approximately 7,000-8,000 family, friends and loved ones gathered at Falcon Stadium on the Cerritos College campus last Saturday to share in the joy of this year's graduating class. Under clear skies and temperatures in the mid 70's, Cerritos College President Dr. Linda L. Lacy commented, "This is my 43rd commencement ceremony and I love to see the light and excitement in the student's eyes, the faculty and the families."
"It's a great event, a huge celebration, and it should be. They [the students] have accomplished so much it's just a time of joy and celebration."
About 700 students participated in this year's commencement exercise marking the 56th annual ceremony. The Norwalk-based community college was opened in 1956.
The graduates came in all shapes, sizes, ages and backgrounds. Most were receiving associate degrees and others accepting certificates of achievement.
Waiting to enter the stadium, Nita Juhasz, from Paramount, said she was receiving her Associate in Child Development and Early Childhood Education. Juhasz began her education in 2010 and this was her first time attending college.
Juhasz works in the Head Start program and attended classes at night for two and a half years. Cpl. Anthony Wright, 26, from Anaheim, was graduating in his Marine Corps uniform. He planned on transferring to Cal State Long Beach to continue his education.
A very happy Jason Guillan was with several of his Psychology Club members waiting their turn to walk up to the podium area.
Guillan, 25, a La Serna High School graduate from Whittier, wants to eventually be a professor. His friend, 21-year-old Daniel Martinez of Bell, graduated with a 3.75 GPA and has been accepted to attend UCLA.
Patrick Dolly, 35 and a graduate of Long Beach Jordan High School, completed his journalism degree and looks forward to transferring to DePaul University pursuing a Bachelor's in Communications.
"After that, I plan on going to the University of Indiana or Ball State University for grad school."
Dolly recently lost his father, Norman Dolly, so this ceremony was dedicated to his memory. He received letters of recommendation from Dr. [Linda] Lacy and Professor Walter Hammerwold. These acknowledgments of his capabilities helped secure his acceptance at De Paul, he said.
While at Cerritos College, Dolly served on the Talon Marks student newspaper in a leadership capacity for three semesters including one as Editor in Chief.
Even the band playing its rendition of Pomp and Circumstance was graduating several members. Trumpet player Alvaro Perez, 24, was walking the carpet with an Associate in Engineering. He planned on transferring to Cal State Long Beach or Los Angeles.
Perez said that he had been playing the trumpet since 5th grade at Ernie Pile Elementary School.
Accepting his Psychology Degree seated in his motorized chair, 29-year-old Michael De Pillars said that he has already been accepted at Cal State University Dominquez Hills and plans on majoring in Social Work.
With his Bachelor's degree, De Pillars wants to work with the Department of Child and Family Services. De Pillars is a graduate of Los Angeles' Crenshaw High School.
Norwalk High School and Cerritos College graduate Dr. Gary Smuts delivered the commencement address. Dr. Smuts received his doctoral degree from the University of La Verne and served the ABC Unified School District serving as teacher, principal and eventually superintendent.
Not all graduates needed voices to exclaim their plans or greetings. One student had the words," Next Stop CSUDH," painted brightly on her cap for her goal of transferring to Cal State University Dominguez Hills.
Another, 34-year-old Sharlene Mung, wrote, "I am Here," so her family would know where she was in the sea of black robes and tassels.
With her words of, "Hi Pa Bear," East Los Angeles Occupation Center graduate Natalie Bedoy was saying hello to her boyfriend in the stands. Bedoy planned to transfer to Cal State Long Beach with her completion of two more classes.
The mood was jubilant and exciting. Everyone had well-earned smiles and bright eyes as their names were announced and they received their symbols of hard work and dedication.
The college's work doesn't stop with the handing out of diplomas and certificates. Dr. Linda Lacy said, "We start Monday morning," regarding work on the next semester.
Time waits for no one.