Student holding mortarboard with image of Virgen de Guadalupe at Latinx Graduate Celebration 2023

Latinx Graduate Celebration 2023 Highlights the Community’s Role as Change Agents

“We are those who inspire change,” says Cristian Ramirez Rodriguez ’23. He was one of many Latinx graduates who delivered moving remarks at the event.

by Mike Janes, Office of Marketing & Communications | May 31, 2023
At an event abounding in powerful and inspirational messages, the comments made by Cristian Ramirez Rodriguez ’23 about the Latinx community stood out.

“We are those who inspire change,” he said. Rodriguez, who earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics, offered his insights during the 25th annual Latinx Graduate Celebration, which took place on May 19 at the Saint Mary’s Chapel.

The Latinx Graduate Celebration is an annual event coordinated by Saint Mary’s Intercultural Center that honors the students of the Latinx community and their allies. In addition, for many attendees the event serves as a celebration for the parents and families who taught the importance of education, supported their students, and encouraged them as they made their way through college.

The event opened with introductory remarks from master of ceremonies Rogelio Lopez, Director of the College’s Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Dance program. He thanked Saint Mary’s Intercultural Center for its role in organizing and supporting the event before welcoming Brother Michael Avila, FSC, ’70 to the podium. Brother Avila called himself “a proud graduate of this institution,” having earned a degree from Saint Mary’s in 1970 before returning in 1984 to serve in a variety of educational roles.


Brother Michael Avila
Brother Michael Avila, FSC, delivered the invocation at the 2023 Latinx Graduation Celebration. “Each of you graduates is evidence that your family is moving forward,” he said. / Photo by Gerry Serrano

Brother Michael shared an anecdote about his mother, and what she would often tell friends when he and his siblings were growing up.

“As long as just one of our sons or daughters turns out well, we’re moving forward,” Brother Michael’s mother would say. “Well, each of you graduates here today is evidence that your family is moving forward.” His mother, no doubt, would be a proud parent today.

Following Brother Michael’s invocation, a procession of new Latinx graduates offered stirring remarks about their academic journeys, often expressing gratitude toward family members and others within the close-knit Saint Mary’s community.

“We’ll continue fighting, and we’ll continue having our voices amplified,” Ashley Hernandez ’23 said. “Our ancestors lived through us, so we need to honor those who came before us.”

Ashley Hernandez ’23, whose LinkedIn profile describes her as a “resilient first-generation college student with a passion for advocating and empowering others,” was presented with a student leadership award, voted on each year by Latinx graduates and given to a graduating Latinx student. Hernandez, recipient of a Bachelor of Science degree in Counseling Psychology, has served as a Lead Peer Mentor in the College’s High Potential Program; a Student Assistant at Saint Albert Hall Library; a Research Assistant in the Psychology Department; and as a Crisis Counselor Volunteer. 

Hernandez spoke about her passion for advocacy on behalf of the Latinx community during her time at Saint Mary’s, and her hope that it will continue with the Latinx students who come after her. 

Ashley Hernandez speaks at Latinx celebration
Ashley Hernandez ’23 was recognized with a special student leadership award at this year's Latinx Graduate Celebration. “I have never met someone more committed to helping our community than Ashley,” said Cristian Ramirez Rodriguez ’23 in presenting the award. / Photo by Gerry Serrano

“We’ll continue fighting, and we’ll continue having our voices amplified,” she said. “Our ancestors lived through us, so we need to honor those who came before us. I hope future generations here will continue this important work.” 

In presenting the award to Hernandez, Cristian Rodriguez declared, “I have never met someone more committed to helping our community than Ashley. She helped hundreds of her fellow students, and there are no words to fully describe how proud I am of her and grateful for her work on this campus. I’m looking forward to her next steps post-graduation.” 

The Latinx community is integral to the cultural richness and diversity of Saint Mary’s College and, indeed, the entire Bay Area. The many strengths and assets the community brings to the College are highlighted and celebrated at the Latinx Graduate Celebration, including its work ethic, multilingual skills, strong and supportive family networks, and career and life aspirations that drive Latinx students toward academic success. 

Congratulations to all of our Latinx Gael graduates for all they’ve done as students and as part of the Saint Mary’s community! 

Check out more photos below:

LEARN MORE about Saint Mary’s Intercultural Center.

WATCH MORE: Recordings of the 2023 Saint Mary's Undergraduate and Graduate and Professional Studies Commencement Ceremonies.


Story updated June 1, 2023.