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News: Pasadena City Colleges 88th 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, May 3, at 7 p.m. in PCC’s Robinson Stadium. More than 1,500 students will receive degrees. The community is encouraged to arrive early and refrain from bringing balloons, large signs, backpacks, and bags.

PCC Superintendent/President Dr. Mark W. Rocha will welcome guests. Summa cum laude recipient Isabel Navarro will give the student valedictory address.

John Chiang, California’s State Controller, will give the commencement address.

First elected in November 2006 as the state’s chief fiscal officer, Chiang was subsequently reelected in November 2010. Upon taking office, he took immediate action to weed out waste, fraud and abuse of public funds and make the state’s finances more transparent and accountable to the public. He has proposed reforms to the state’s public pension systems, helped local governments navigate complex requirements during difficult economic times, protected California’s precious natural resources, and ensured that more than $2.1 billion in unclaimed property was returned to the rightful owners.

The son of immigrant parents, Chiang graduated with honors from the University of South Florida with a degree in finance. He received his law degree from the Georgetown University Law Center.

The 2013 graduating class reflects the PCC student body as a whole. The class is 32.6 percent Hispanic, 27.5 percent Asian, 19.2 percent white non-Hispanic, 5.4 percent African-American, 5.8 percent Filipino, and one percent Native American. Women degree and certificate recipients outnumber men 58.7 percent to 41.3 percent. 

Nathan Kemnitz is one example of student success among this year’s graduates. 

Kemnitz, 29, was a former Marine Lance Corporal who survived an Improvised Explosive Device blast during his 2004 deployment in Iraq, coming back with a Purple Heart to a hero’s welcome. It was then when he realized it was time to put up a fight.

“I was living in a crappy motel, not working because I still got disability money, not doing much but getting high all day and drinking,” Kemnitz said. “At the end, I didn’t even have a car, because I had wrecked it. I went to a good school, my parents were well off and both teachers, so I knew this wasn’t my lifestyle.”

Kemnitz attributes his alcohol and drug addiction to the depression he experienced from post-war trauma and the injuries he sustained while in Iraq. He was on a mission in search of enemy explosives outside of Fallujah when the explosion from the IED occurred. The explosion left him blind in his right eye and without feeling in his right hand, arm, and shoulder.

After spending his recovery in different military centers, Kemnitz tried to resume a life of normalcy in his hometown of Houston, Texas. Despite losing the use of his right arm, Kemnitz got a job in construction through a friend.

In 2011, Kemnitz moved from Texas to Pasadena, where he learned about the PCC and its Veteran’s Resource Center.

“I was surprised, because I didn’t think a community college offered so much for veterans,” Kemnitz said. “PCC does more than any other college in Texas or in the country from what I’ve experienced. What PCC does for veterans is extraordinary.”

Both Patricia D’Orange Martin, PCC Veterans Services coordinator, and Terry Powell, PCC Veterans Services certifying officer, reached out to Kemnitz.

“I was a person who needed that help and they could see that fear in me,” Kemnitz said. “I had attended college in Texas for a short period after I got back from Iraq, but I had felt really alone.”

“I was with all these 18- and 19-year-old kids that couldn’t relate to me,” Kemnitz added. “When I went to PCC it was different; they introduced me to other PCC veterans. It had a really good feel – a great camaraderie. People understood me. It was a safe haven. That’s what the veteran’s community is like at PCC.”

Kemnitz is graduating with a 4.0 GPA this Friday with the class of 2013. He has received three scholarships: the PCC Veteran’s Club Scholarship, the Academic Senate Scholarship, and the Rotary Club of Pasadena Scholarship. Kemnitz is awaiting acceptance from USC and UCLA. His first choice is USC, where he plans to get his undergraduate degree in history, and then attend the USC master’s program for social work. 

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. For more information about PCC’s 88th Commencement festivities, go to

Release Date: 05/01/2013
Contact: Juan F. Gutierrez , Director, Public Relations
Phone: (626) 585-7315

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