Peralta Community College District's Only Student-Run Publication
Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Trustee Paulina Gonzalez Brito addresses the crowd at Berkeley City College’s 50th anniversary celebration. The event featured a block party along with a groundbreaking ceremony for the college’s new Milvia Street building. (Photo: Marcus Creel/PCCD)
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Desmond Meagley, Staff Writer • March 4, 2024
Archives

District-wide Latinx graduation held in-person for the first time

A graduation cap with the words "Wake up your dreams and make it true" glued on the top, along with paper butterflies and a flower
One student’s decorated graduation cap | Photo by Tamara Copes

On May 18, over 60 Latinx students adorned the stage at the first-ever in-person Raíces, the Peralta Community College District (PCCD) Latinx Graduation Celebration. Held at Laney College this year, Raíces (meaning “Roots”) celebrated the educational achievements of the district’s Latinx population.

The theme of this year’s Raíces graduation was ¡Seguiré Soñando Y Seguiré Volando!”, meaning “I will keep dreaming and I will keep flying!”

All students that identify as Latinx were welcome to attend the graduation. While only about 60 students participated this year, a much larger population of Latinx students attended the main graduation ceremonies at each Peralta College.

Prior to the start of the graduation, the Laney Quad was filled with graduates in gowns and colorfully dressed friends and family ready to pose for pictures against festive backdrops. Classic Latin hits pumped from nearby speakers and free food provided by Otaez Mexican Restaurant kept everyone’s energy high.

As the graduates filed into their seats on stage, eyes were drawn to the performers of Danza, a traditional indigenous dance that acknowledges ancestral and cultural bonds. 

Danza
Photo by Tamara Copes

Natalie Rodriguez, Director of Student Activities and Campus Life at College of Alameda, delivered the opening address. She was followed by Lilia Chavez, Vice President of Student Services at Merritt College, who gave a memorial to Jennifer Briffa, a longtime educator in PCCD who passed away last year. Student speakers spoke about their challenges and reminded the audience to “trust our circle of champions” when in doubt.

During Keynote Speaker President Angélica Garcia’s address, she stepped out from behind the podium to face the students in earnest and remind them that, despite her numerous degrees and titles, she “is just a Chicana from the Central Valley,” and knows what it is like to sit in that room, on that very stage.

Latinx graduates sitting on the stage
Photo by Tamara Copes

The Raíces Latinx Graduation Celebration began at Merritt College in 2019 as a Merritt-only celebration and has since grown. Alejandro Garcia, Professor of History and Mexican and Latin-American Studies at Merritt College, says the idea for this celebration started “as a yearn to acknowledge” their Latinx students. 

Many students were part of Berkeley City College’s Puente Project, a program that assists “educationally underserved students” in transferring to four-year institutions.

This year’s in-person event was made possible by direct contributions of at least $1K from each PCCD President. For Cynthia Alvarado, one of Laney’s co-chairs, this year’s celebration was a dream realized. 

Before Raíces, there was the Peralta Association of Chicanos/Latinos de Aztlán (PACLA) which started in the 1970’s. Alvarado noted how even in 2006, when she was hired as a student worker, PACLA spoke of making this kind of celebration a reality. 

Raíces will rotate between the four PCCD colleges each year, with a planning committee that includes a co-chair from the host college.

Students who would like to register for graduation in 2024 can contact Raíces at [email protected].

About the Contributor
Tamara Copes
Tamara Copes, Columnist
Tamara Copes is a California native with a nomadic spirit and curious mind. Deep family roots in Oakland brought her back here to live as an adult and since then she has involved herself in numerous and varied community projects; determined to leave her mark. When not working, you may find her dancing to House, Salsa and Hip Hop music or rolling around town running errands and rhythm skating. Tamara most enjoys creative forms of storytelling. She is on the hunt to find her place in the literary world and has returned to a Journalism major after 20 years of pursuing other interests.
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