Victor Valley College’s 2019 commencement ceremony was the largest in its 58-year history, celebrating more than 1,330 graduates who’ve earned associate degrees.
As such, the event was held at America’s largest outdoor music venue, Glen Helen Amphitheater, for the first time ever to accommodate the near-600 graduates who walked and more than 7,000 guests on Friday.
“You are all examples of the college mission at VVC,” Superintendent/President Dr. Daniel Walden said. “Today, you not only accomplished your goals of completing your associate of arts or science degrees — you join a distinguished list in becoming alumni of Victor Valley College.”
The significant number of degrees earned by students this past year marks a 30 percent increase from last year, with nearly 900 candidates from this Spring semester alone. In addition, close to 400 certificates of achievement were earned among the class of 2019.
Following the National Anthem, performed by the College Singers and led by Dr. Karen Miskell, Music Department chair and vocal music director, Walden introduced the Board of Trustees, cabinet, administration, and elected officials (among them City of Adelanto Council Member Joy Jeanette, one of VVC’s first students in 1961).
College Board President Dennis Henderson spoke next, offering praises and best wishes on behalf of the trustees.
“I hope that your experience at VVC challenged you. That it broadened your horizons. Taught you both academic and life lessons,” Henderson said. “Continue to learn, continue to grow, and continue to make us proud. I know you will.”
President of the VVC Foundation, Mike Nutter, encouraged graduates to “consider paying it forward” to the students who will follow in their footsteps.
“You will not only enrich your own lives, but the lives of the people around you and the community you call home,” Nutter said.
Faculty Senate President Harry “Lee” Bennett Jr. asked the crowd to join him in thanking VVC’s dedicated faculty and academic leadership, with special recognition to retiring communication studies professor Dr. Gregory Jones.
To the graduates, Bennett said: “Your journey was not accomplished solely because of your tenacity and dedication — it was accomplished because of the support from your friends and family and the dedication of the faculty, staff and administrators of VVC.”
Dawning stoles from both the Associated Student Body Council and the Black Student Union, ASB President Tristan Wilkerson introduced himself to guests in his native language of Wampanoag, that of a Native American tribe.
“I offer you peace, love and friendship,” he said in Wampanoag before continuing with words of encouragement for his fellow graduates.
“Strategically place yourself in environments that empower you,” Wilkerson said. “Be a warrior forged in fire but tempered by knowledge and love.”
Walden introduced commencement speaker Assemblyman Jay Obernolte next, who shared his story about the many “twists and turns” his career took. From not having a plan after college to landing in jobs he didn’t seek out, Obernolte’s best learned advice is to “not have so much stress about where life is going to take you.”
“There will be many doors open to you. Your job at this stage of life is to close as few doors as possible,” Obernolte said. “And I want you to know that your community college will always be here for you. Whenever you feel like you need to brush up your skills or learn something that you didn’t get an opportunity to, you could always come back and do that.”
Executive Vice President of Instruction Dr. Peter Maphumulo gave special recognition to all of the honor graduates, Phi Theta Kappa international honors students, those who served the ASB Council and veteran students.
He also introduced salutatorian Danika Hennessy and the nine valedictorians, Isaac Carranza, Sarah Francis, Barbara Gutierrez, Ashley Langston, Joshua Sanchez, Sandra Schumacher, Yeni Serrano, Samantha Tossell and Juliyana Hasroun.
Hasroun, who was selected as the valedictorian speaker, shared her experience of coming to VVC as an English learner hoping to improve her language skills to becoming dedicated to earning the “highest grade possible in each class.”
“This moment is living proof that magical things can happen when we have the right motivation and are impacted by a strong willpower,” Hasroun said. “We’ve made it really far, my friends, and we ought to be very proud of our achievements.”