Honoring the ‘Resilience’ of Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander Gaels at the 22nd API Graduate Celebration

For members of the Class of 2024, the event was a chance to mark how far they’ve come amidst unprecedented times—and the loved ones who helped them get to where they are.

by Hayden Royster , Staff Writer | May 22, 2024

When describing the students honored at the Intercultural Center’s 22nd Asian and Pacific Islander Graduate Celebration on May 18, one word repeatedly arose: “resilience.” 

In one sense, the word has always been representative of API Gaels. Many of this year’s graduates are the children of immigrants or international students from Japan and China; some are the first in their families to earn college degrees. But the Class of 2024—who entered Saint Mary’s in 2020 amidst a global pandemic—has had a uniquely bumpy journey, acknowledged Samantha Alberto-Caro ’12, Director of Residential Experience, Interim Director of the Intercultural Center, and emcee of the event.

“Our [API] graduates have had to make extraordinary efforts to find, rebuild, engage, and sustain a community during a tumultuous social and political climate,” Alberto-Caro said, her voice reverberating throughout Saint Mary’s Chapel. Those gathered in the pews nodded and murmured in agreement. “It reflects our resilience, strength, and the rich cultural heritage that shapes who we are.”

The keynote speaker for the celebration was Taylor Sylva ’24,  a Psychology major and graphic designer for the Intercultural Center. As she noted, tenacity was handed down to her. “From a young age, I’ve been taught resilience and strength,” she said. “Whether it came from my parents, my older sister, my aunt, or my badass Filipino grandmother, those around me taught me to work hard and never give up.” 

Students at thw 2024 API Graduate Celebration standing on the Chapel steps
Extraordinary efforts: Nearly 40 Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander Gaels were recognized at this year's API Graduate Celebration. / Photo by Sofia Mastroianni

Alongside red graduation stoles, awards were presented, and more than usual. Chi-An Emhoff, an associate professor and department chair of Kinesiology, received the Faculty Award for her exceptional commitment to Saint Mary’s API community.  

Additionally, there were not one but two recipients of the Student Leadership Award, voted on each year by Saint Mary’s API students. One was Biology major Ysabelle DeLaCruz ’24, a Student Ambassador and Vice President of Student Affairs for the Asian Pacific American Student Association (APASA). The second was History and Art History double major Angelica Johnson ’24, former Vice President of Cultural Engagement for APASA and member of SMC’s Diversity Organization Council.

As Alberto-Caro noted, students like DeLaCruz, Johnson, and Sylva “have had to make extraordinary efforts” during unprecedented times. Is it any surprise, then, that Saint Mary’s API grads of 2024 have that much more to celebrate?

Snapshots from the 2024 API Graduate Celebration