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News: Pasadena City Colleges 87th Commencement Ceremony Celebrates Student Success

The latest graduating class in the long and storied history of Pasadena City College will be presented in a commencement ceremony Friday, June 15, at 7 p.m. in PCC’s Robinson Stadium. More than 1,500 students will receive degrees. 

PCC Superintendent/President Dr. Mark W. Rocha will welcome guests and summa cum laude recipient Haebitchan Jung will give the student valedictory address.

Dr. Karen Symms Gallagher, dean of the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education, will deliver the commencement address.

Under Gallagher’s leadership, the USC Rossier School, which celebrated its centennial anniversary in 2009 -2010, has risen to number 15 among all education graduate schools in U.S. News and World Report's 2013 national rankings.

Gallagher has been a professor, scholar, and academic administrator at both public and private research universities throughout the United States. Before joining USC, she was the dean of Education at the University of Kansas. Prior to that, she directed Ohio's Commission on Educational Improvement.

The 2012 graduating class reflects the PCC student body as a whole. The class is 34 percent Asian, 28 percent Hispanic, 16 percent white non-Hispanic, 3.5 percent African-American, six percent Filipino, and one percent Native American. Women degree recipients outnumber men 927 to 600.

Juan Rodriguez is one example of student success among this year’s graduates. 

Rodriguez has always been a busy man. The 34-year-old father of six doesn’t have a lot of time in his day to just sit down and relax. In fact, he hasn’t stopped working since he’s started, at age 13.

“I’ve been working my whole life,” Rodriguez said. “I dropped out of high school to make ends meet, and make sure everyone’s OK. But my intention was always to go to college.”

And now, he’s going to UC Berkeley. 

“My older sister was the first to go to college,” he said. “She’s always been a bit of an inspiration for me, to do more than I do.”

Rodriguez enrolled at PCC in the fall of 2008, while maintaining a full-time job.

“My first two years I worked two jobs, one full-time and one part-time,” he said. “Time has always been the biggest struggle for me.”

Rodriguez worked his way through the service industry - from a cashier, to a dishwasher, to a cook - and eventually into management, where he thrived for nine years.

“Working hard has always been important to me, and for the most part I’ve enjoyed what I do, but I could not see myself performing this task for the rest of my life,” Rodriguez said.

Deciding to go back to school was a big decision for Rodriguez.

“I thought, I could do this job and it wouldn’t be bad, but then I thought, it won’t make me happy.”

His now or never moment came, and despite being intimidated, he decided to go for it.

Rodriguez initially began trying to get his GED, but after only a few weeks, decided to take the entrance exams at PCC. He was placed in college-level courses.

“When I was in high school, PCC somehow seemed more prestigious than other places,” he said. “I always had the feeling that it was just the better place.”

It’s certainly been the right choice for him.

“It has been the ideal place,” Rodriguez said. “I believe it’s helped me reach my goal.”

Rodriguez is transferring as a political science major, and hopes to become a lawyer one day, perhaps in administrative law. He’s pretty excited about going to UC Berkeley.

“They [Berkeley] are going to help cover a substantial amount of my expenses,” he said. “I don’t have to worry about tuition.”

Rodriguez was actually accepted to all the schools he applied to, including UCLA, but he chose UC Berkeley because he believes they’ll help him meet his goals.

He also will have more time for his family.

“Nobody expects to have a big family,” he said. “But life has a way of changing your priorities.”

Reflecting back on his experiences, Rodriguez is thoughtful, maybe a little bit shy, and sincerely optimistic.

“It really is all about making that transition - giving yourself the best opportunity,” he said. “I think I was a little bit lucky.”

Music for the commencement ceremony will be performed by the PCC Jazz/Rock Big Band, directed by instructor Andrea Baker Wilkerson, and by the PCC Concert Band, directed by instructor Kyle Luck. The PCC Marching Percussion Ensemble, conducted by instructor Charles Carpenter, will lead the parade of graduates into the stadium.

After the ceremony, graduates and friends will gather in the college’s Quad for music, food, and many photo opportunities. The public is welcome to attend the commencement. Parking will be free in all campus lots.

Release Date: 06/06/2012
Contact: Juan F. Gutierrez , Director, Public Relations
Phone: (626) 585-7315
Email: jfgutierrez@pasadena.edu