The meaning of it all was just beginning to dawn on Martin Jimenez Gonzalez as he stood in the graduate line on the cool morning of June 19, 2022 in Riverside, California, USA. The moment was real.
At 8:00 a.m., he and several hundred other La Sierra University graduates, dressed in their puffy dark blue robes and with their tasselled and sometimes elaborately decorated caps, would soon descend the hill to their seating area under a white awning on Founders’ Green. From there, he would eventually take the stage to receive his Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice. It would be an emotional moment filled with appreciation.
“I’m really, really grateful to be here,” Jimenez Gonzalez said before the graduates began to make their way to the tee box. “I am truly grateful to be able to dedicate this achievement to my father. He passed away, unfortunately. So I’m grateful to give him that, and I’m grateful to be here with my family and to spend this day with them.
Jimenez Gonzalez was among 449 members of La Sierra University’s Class of 2022, who graduated on a day that also celebrated Father’s Day and Juneteenth. It was a throwback to the university’s longtime outdoor start on Founders’ Green that capped off two days of graduation events. Graduations in 2020 and 2021 consisted of unique drive-in events where graduates decorated their cars and drove through campus, receiving gifts and cheering on from faculty and staff lining the route. After ending college careers stressed by the trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic, many members of this year’s class were excited to return to the traditional graduation experience.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced Larissa Iannella Oliveira, a graduate in sociology and legal studies, to spend a year in Portugal taking La Sierra classes on Zoom. International pandemic restrictions prevented her from returning to the United States and to campus. “I was stuck out of the country for an entire year during the pandemic,” she said, noting that she was worried her graduation might not be the expected in-person event. “Coming here is just a success. I am happy.
Perris resident Judith Ibarra, who stood next to Oliveira in line early Sunday, was looking forward to receiving a bachelor of arts degree in psychology with a minor in forensic psychology. She aspires to become a court interpreter. Three families arrived at La Sierra to cheer his graduation.
“It just means, you know, all my hard work paid off,” she said. “All of our families are proud of us, we haven’t let them down, and it’s very special because we can be here in person. We know that for the past few years they haven’t been able to celebrate. But we are here in their honor and in our honor.
Ebubechi Ibika, a marketing and management double major, came to La Sierra from Kansas City, Missouri. The eldest of five siblings, he considered his college graduation an exemplary moment.
“It was the most beautiful experience, just the whole trip,” Ibika said as he lined up for graduation to start earlier in the morning. “You tend to look at the outcome and where you want to be, but I knew I had to do it for myself, my family, my hometown, for my siblings, and just to lead by example, if I I can do this, I can do anything,… me, my family, my brothers and sisters, all black people, we can do anything This is just the beginning, this is just the first step.
“It’s so surreal,” he added. “I’m still taking it. I think it’ll hit when I cross the stage, but it was a great experience overall. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
live for others
The graduation ceremony featured a commencement address by La Sierra University President Joy Fehr, who urged graduates to live for others and not just themselves. She told the story of a camping and hiking trip in the Canadian wilderness with her husband and in-laws, during which she broke her ankle. Thanks to the kindness of strangers, and in particular that of a young man, a member of a Canadian infantry regiment who carried her out of the mountains on his back, she was able to obtain medical attention from doctors and nurses from a local hospital. .
“When we realize that life is not about us, it is about others, when we move from selfishness to selflessness, when we do that, we find lasting, life-changing moral joy,” he said. Fehr told the graduates. “I shared my experience with you to draw attention to others in my story. They cared, they walked by, they loved someone most of them didn’t even know. Without them, I wouldn’t be here today.
“For what idea are we willing to live and die?” she asked. “Live for others, not for yourself. Walk alongside them and support them. Take them on the paths of life.
Lawrence Steven “Steve” Dorsey III, president of the La Sierra Student Union, announced the senior class’ gift – a tree to be planted on Founders’ Green in memory of those lost. “This dream has not been an unchallenged pursuit,” he said in reference to the joys, sorrows, victories and losses experienced by students throughout their college journey. “However, we will never forget the memories of those we have lost along the way… This tree will serve as a testament to the heart of the university, its students.”
Dorsey, who graduated with honors with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in religion this fall, will join a cohort of 18 students selected from various universities for an 11-month California Senate fellowship in Sacramento. He will serve as a full-time intern working on state public policy issues before entering a graduate program in psychology at Fuller Seminary next year.
During the ceremony, several graduates were recognized for awards they received from the Alumni Association and College of Arts and Sciences, HMS Richards Divinity School, School of Education and Tom and Vi Zapara School of Business.
After the ceremony, hundreds of graduates, along with their family members and friends, descended on the Founders’ Green to take photos and celebrate the occasion. Snacks and water were offered under canopies set up by the university’s three schools and its college.
Sephora Alvarez wiped tears of happiness from her eyes as she reunited with her family members. She is the first in her family to graduate and has earned a master’s degree in teaching. She will teach first grade at Loma Linda Academy this fall and has previously taught at Ridgecrest Adventist Elementary School.
“She finally made it,” said her father, Roberto Alvarez. “It means a lot as a family. [She’s] the first of six [to graduate from college]. We are so happy she worked so hard every day and couldn’t sleep for a few nights, but here goes.
“I’ve been waiting for this for three years,” Sephora said. “Yeah, it was just very difficult. So that means a lot.
Jimenez Gonzalez and his family members – 11 in total – gathered to take pictures. He showed the inscription on his graduation cap, which contained a dedication message in elegant typography for his father, who died in 2021 from the COVID-19 virus.
His sister Maria commented on the importance of the occasion. “I’m here to celebrate my youngest brother’s graduation, and he dedicated the day to my dad, and he commemorated this graduation as a symbol of the love and support he gives us all. throughout our lives,” she said. “I am more than happy to say that I am [his] sister, and that we are one family united to celebrate it and another day in life.
Chris Bauman graduated magna cum laude with a dual degree in marketing and management from the Zapara School of Business. He has received several business school awards for academic excellence, for his leadership as President of the Hispanic Business Incubator, and for his entrepreneurial spirit with the investment firm Project Utopia. . He aims to get into real estate after graduation while applying for jobs.
“It’s an incredible moment, I’m really excited,” he said after the ceremony. “It was very moving to see everyone… It was great.”
The original version of this story was published by La Sierra University.