Between burning the midnight oil on exams and trying to pack nine months back into four small boxes, there is a lot on students’ minds as they reach the end of their Saint Mary’s year–– gratefulness, stress and relief. However, through all those pressures there is a great deal to celebrate, even before the big Commencement day. Throughout the week before Commencement, there are four cultural graduation celebrations––Lavender (LGBTQIA), APA (Asian Pacific American), Black Graduate and Latino Graduate celebrations.
Put on by student organizations and the Intercultural Center, these celebrations represent a unifying force for the Saint Mary’s community. They bring together students to celebrate their accomplishments with their friends, faculty, family and community members, reminding everyone what matters most during stressful times: for the graduating seniors, the great obstacles and adversity they overcame to achieve all that they have; and for the audience, to be inspired by the undergraduates’ perseverance and academic achievements.
Each cultural graduation followed a similar program: All graduates participating were acknowledged by a keynote address, presented with a sash and alumni pin, and given the opportunity to thank everyone who helped them along the way. At the Latino Graduate Celebration, two graduating seniors presented on behalf of their fellow graduates with speeches in both English and in Spanish. At the Black Graduate Celebration, a ceremonial rain stick was passed down amongst all the graduates, a tradition for the past 19 years. The Asian Pacific American Graduation had a candle-lighting ceremony, to signify their unity. And finally, Performing Arts Professor Reid Davis led the Lavender Graduation with a stirring speech on the power of family, love and acceptance.
The Cultural Graduation celebrations are a testament to the diverse cultures and hard-working students found in Moraga’s hills. Through times of stress and adversity, Saint Mary’s graduates continue to rise to the top and excel both as students and as members of their respective communities and cultures. This kind of strength wholeheartedly deserves to be celebrated on Saint Mary’s campus not just to commemorate their graduation, but to celebrate the fact that they are taking this strength out into the great world beyond.