SJCC graduates earn over 1,500 certificates of achievement and associate degrees during the 2022-23 academic year.
San José City College awarded degrees and certificates to over 460 graduates who were cheered on by an overflow crowd of more than 2,000 at Jaguar Stadium. The college saw a record number of students choosing to participate in the ceremony.
The 2023 commencement ceremony was the first one held in the stadium since 2015, when construction projects began in and around the facility. It was also the first single ceremony held by the college since 2019, before the onset of the pandemic. SJCC celebrated pandemic-era ceremonies virtually online, in a drive-through event, and, last year, in two separate ceremonies to accommodate social distancing requirements.
“It doesn’t matter your background, how many homes you have lived in, whether you took a long break from college or pushed straight through. No matter the circumstance – yes, you can, si se puede.”Maryah Samarron, Class Valedictorian
Not all graduates attended the ceremony, notwithstanding the Class of 2023 earned 614 certificates of achievement, 146 Associates in Science, 358 Associates in Arts, 164 Associates in Science for Transfer, and 232 Associates in Arts for Transfer degrees. Transfer degrees guarantee admittance to the California State University System, complementing SJCC’s Student Pathway to Opportunity and Transfer (SPOT).
The excitement of the in-person and on-campus graduation ceremony was palpable as smiling graduates enjoyed the cool morning weather, and their friends and families watched from the stands with the help of giant TV monitors.
“How you choose to view the challenges you face in life will profoundly influence the quality of your life.”Matt Mahan, San José Mayor
Members of the Muwekma Ohlone tribe opened the ceremony with a traditional welcome song. In her remarks, SJCC president Dr. Rowena M. Tomaneng urged graduates to lead lives of empathy, especially as a lack of understanding of differences divides, marginalizes, and harms communities.
“Having empathy and compassion make it possible for you to connect with people at a deeper level and maintain healthy, positive relationships,” she said. “Having empathy and compassion will help you practice kindness, acceptance, and understanding of differences.”
San José mayor, Matt Mahan, delivered the commencement address. He told graduates that “every job has a social purpose, or it would not exist. Look for that purpose, and you will find greater satisfaction in the work you do.”
He added two more pieces of advice, including life being all about mindset. “How you choose to view the challenges you face in life will profoundly influence the quality of your life.”
And finally, he urged graduates to make space for the people in their lives. “When you strip life right down to its most basic elements, you’ll find that all you really have is your inner world, your mind, your soul, and the relationships that you have with others.”
Class valedictorian Maryah Samarron, who will transfer to San José State University, gave a heartfelt speech about overcoming many challenges as a first-generation student to reach the commencement stage. The crowd applauded and cheered when she proudly stated she was from East San José.
She humbly recounted how she thought she was being pranked when the commencement organizing committee informed her that she had been named valedictorian. She recounted how ever since she was a young girl, her passion had been writing. At SJSU, she will study screenwriting and filmmaking.
“And who knows, maybe one day I will receive an email saying that I’ve been nominated for an Oscar, and I’m sure I will still think I’m being punked,” she said.
She encouraged her fellow graduates and the audience to continue to develop their own stories of success. “It doesn’t matter your background, how many homes you have lived in, whether you took a long break from college or pushed straight through. No matter the circumstance – yes, you can, si se puede.”
“Having empathy and compassion make it possible for you to connect with people at a deeper level and maintain healthy, positive relationships.”Dr. Rowena M. Tomaneng, SJCC President
Many in the graduating class are transferring to Cal State campuses, such as SJSU, Cal State East Bay, and San Francisco State. Others are transferring to University of California campuses, such as Cal, UCLA, UC Santa Cruz, UC Davis, and UC Irvine. Some graduates will attend private universities such as Santa Clara University, Hawaii Pacific University, Texas A&M Texarkana, Ohio State University, Dakota State University, University of North Carolina, and the University of Wisconsin Madison.
Many graduates who earned certificates of achievement will go directly into the workforce with new skills acquired through SJCC’s comprehensive Career Education programs.
The commencement organizing committee planned the ceremony months in advance with the leadership of Blake Balajadia, Takeo Kubo, Juan Hilario Garcia, and Xiomara Martinez.
Featured photo by Jim Gensheimer