Students Celebrate DVC’s Return to In-Person Graduation After Two-Year Hiatus

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Diablo Valley College sophomore Niko Fuertez – a computer science major who will transfer to UC Santa Cruz next semester – is one of the thousands of students here who missed out on the experience of a high school graduation ceremony. That’s why, for Fuertez and others, the in-person graduation event happening this week carries special significance.

“As someone who graduated from high school during quarantine, an in-person ceremony means a whole lot to me,” said Fuertez. “I’m beyond excited to graduate, and I will definitely be attending graduation.”

DVC’s 70th annual commencement ceremony will be held on May 20 at Viking Stadium on the Pleasant Hill campus starting at 5 p.m. It represents the first in-person graduation ceremony since 2019. All 2021 summer and fall graduates, in addition to 2022 spring degree and certificate recipients, are encouraged to participate.

According to registrar Gabriel Harven at the admissions and records office, “over 700 students are RSVP’d for the ceremony, and DVC anticipates upwards of 600 in attendance.” Harven said that more than 2,700 students will be receiving a degree or certificate this academic year.

Excitement appears to be building ahead of the ceremony. DVC’s transfer and career center held its in-person transfer celebrations last week at both the Pleasant Hill and San Ramon campuses, where program coordinator Yeni Galvez said the “attendance was greater than originally anticipated,” with a lot of people arriving as drop-ins.

Galvez said one male student later emailed to say “[he was] very grateful to DVC for effectively replacing the high school graduation that [he] never got to experience.”

Masks will be required during the indoor reception following the graduation ceremony, in compliance with the Contra Costa Community College District mandate. While masks are not required to be worn outdoors, it remains highly recommended. Further information on the event can be found on DVC’s graduation page.

The DVC in-person ceremony returns amid an increase in recent transfer numbers to both California State University and University of California branches. Over the course of the pandemic, the number of admitted transfer students from DVC grew by nearly 5 percent per year, according to CSU and UC admissions data from the last three school years.

Attendance at this week’s graduation ceremony will likely be impacted by the trend, as Harven said that DVC is awarding around 1,200 associate degrees for transfer.

Some DVC students nevertheless expressed a lack of interest in the ceremony, despite the two-year wait during the pandemic.

Justin Souza, a computer science major who will transfer to UC San Diego in the fall, said he “didn’t have an opinion” about in-person graduation, but noted he “would not be attending” the ceremony even if he were eligible.

Emma Wong, who is majoring in communications and will also be transferring to UCSD next semester, confirmed she doesn’t plan to attend. “I do care about a ceremony, but it doesn’t really mean anything to me since I’ve never had one,” she said.

Austin Yang, a pre-med major who will transfer to UC Berkeley in the fall, added that in his mind, “the extra workload outside of completing transfer-related courses isn’t worth the reward of an associate’s degree.”

Meanwhile, for students like Niko Fuertez, emotions about the long-awaited day are running high. Fuertez said that graduating from DVC helps make up for the “10-minute drive-thru” graduation she experienced two years ago in high school.

“From picking out a dress to go with the gown, being able to decorate a cap, and finally counting down the days till I walk the stage, it feels like I finally found something to replace a missing piece to a puzzle,” she said.