The day approached. Garment bags, unused since last year, unzipped and dusted off. Regalia placed on the shoulders of the leaders of the institution. Tassels and hoods to honor achievement in academic excellence arrive in a rainbow of colors. We, the teachers and administrators, gathered in our finery to reminisce about a long, yet successful academic year. Bubbles flew skyward, umbrellas shielded us from the liquid sunshine of the moment.
And then, we saw them approaching. The 1,700 students who will be receiving degrees on this commencement day. The 1,700 reasons we all do this work. Royal blue from head to toe, with honors cords and diversity scarves they walk, a little taller today.
The bagpipes begin, in two lines we process on the field, find our places to stand on either sides of the aisle, the welcoming group to the class of 2016. Led by our Dean of Student Engagement, the students walk onto the field to take their rightful place as graduates after many a long journey to this place.
We are seated as our College President takes the stage. He announced the important people and speakers and then he paused. The week before in Orlando there was a mass shooting of 50 Latinx people at a LGBTQ nightclub. The President, member of that community felt this pain deeply. He read a poem he wrote the night before entitled “Feel our Pulse”. There was not a dry eye among us. As he finished speaking and the Bagpipes began to play Amazing Grace to honor the lives lost in this tragedy, the sun shone through the clouds for the first time. In fact, the clouds started to dissapate, and a rainbow appeared. It did not rain another drop all evening.
Next, our student speaker was invited to the stage. This remarkable young man started as a running start/high school student in spite of his high school counselor telling him he shouldn’t go to college, the military was the right choice for him. Once at SPSCC, he became a peer mentor to help other students, he started the Black Student Union and coordinated many service projects to help out community. This compassionate young man is going pre-med. He wants to be a doctor for two reasons, 1 to show other African American youth that you can succeed in the medical field. And 2, he has watched his mother struggle with health issues his whole life, and he wants to be the one to cure her incurable disease. He spoke words of strength and wisdom to the crowd, an inspiration to us all and a friend to so many, this young man is our future.
After his speech, the announcement of degrees started. Dental, business, nursing, humanities, art, welding, automotive, culinary and the list goes on. We are a community college, women carried their babies across the stage, at one point I heard a little girl say, “that’s my Grampa graduating”. We are the goregous rainbow of society and today was a day to see us shine.
As the last student walked across the stage, the class of 2016 was announced. The graduates, families and friends rejoiced. Hugs and bouquets of flowers filled field. As I watched the celebrations, I thought to myself Congratulations class of 2016, this is your day, from this moment you can do anything, spread your wings and FLY