By Kathy Chouteau
When Contra Costa College’s class of 2021 marked their virtual graduation celebration Fri., May 21, they weren’t the only stars sparkling that night. The 729 classmates were joined by friends, family and celebrities and politicians alike—including actors LeVar Burton (Star Trek) and Billy Dee Williams (“Lando” in Star Wars), actor/musician Paulina Rubio, Congressman Mark DeSaulnier and U.S. Senator Alex Padilla—all of whom submitted videos with greetings and support during a virtual celebration preceding the commencement ceremony.
Later, during the virtual commencement ceremony, Interim President Damon A. Bell, Academic Senate President Dr. Katherine Krolikowski and Classified Senate President Brandy Gibson addressed the graduates. Also on hand were students Brandon Douangsawang and Ricardo Sanchez, the Associated Student Union president, at an event filmed at the college’s Knox Performing Arts Center.
Douangsawang shared his personal experiences as a student at Contra Costa College and also the tragic loss of his mother to COVID-19. For his part, Associated Student Union President Ricardo Sanchez spoke about his family experience as an undocumented student—a Spanish-language version of his remarks were also made available on the college’s YouTube channel.
“Even though it was virtual, this event was truly special,” said Dean of Students Dennis Franco during the ceremony. “We are so happy that, in spite of the pandemic, we were able to share so much love and joy as a community. Stories like Brandon’s and Ricardo’s are what make CCC such an important place. Our students have worked hard, and they deserve every bit of praise they get.”
Included among the college’s graduating class Friday were 69 students from Middle College High School, who earned their degrees while concurrently earning their high school diplomas. Also joining the ceremony were 42 graduates from Gateway to College, a continuation high school for young adults aged 16-20, who have dropped out of high school or are unlikely to graduate.
Per the college, this year’s graduating class has collectively earned over $300,000 in scholarships, largely provided by the Contra Costa College Foundation. Graduate Yazmin Rocha was one of 72 students nationwide to earn the Jack Kent Cooke scholarship, which awards up to $40,000 annually while students complete their bachelor’s degree.
To view a video archive of the graduation events, click here.