Ana Orozco Cortez is the daughter of immigrants that came to the United States to pick grapes for a living. As the first in her family to earn a college degree, Cortez’s story is inspiring but it is not unique.
When President Joseph Sheley asked first generation college graduates to stand at the ceremony for the California State University Stanislaus’ College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and the College of Education on Friday morning the crowd rippled as hundred of graduates rose to their feet. Sheley stood among them — a first generation college graduate as well — and reminded the Class of 2014 of the instrumental role their degrees will play in their personal sense of accomplishment and their futures.
“This is a prize that no one can take away from you. You are now a college graduate,” said Sheley.
As the student speaker Cortez inspired her fellow graduates by noting the trials she faced in changing the landscape of her life from an uneducated background to academic success complete with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. Cortez’s persistence in the face of adversity is a trait shared by all of the graduates who overcame personal and academic trials to earn their seat at the ceremony.
While the over-night study sessions and finals may be over, the more than 2,500 CSU Stanislaus graduates with degrees and teaching credentials entering the workforce may face continued hardship in trying to obtain a job in a less than healthy economy. However, Sheley reminded the graduates that their newly confirmed degrees will set them apart for the rest of their lives.
As a shining reminder, standing among the new graduates were also three Golden Grads — those who graduated from CSU Stanislaus 50 years ago when classes were taught at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds. Hanna Mary Giesbrecht Hoyt, Marita McElvain and Etta Weaver were present at the Friday morning ceremony to accept a gift from Sheley and serve as examples of the timelessness and diverse applications of a university degree.
As families and friends were present to support the thousands of graduates on their accomplishment, the inspiring speeches by Cortez, Sheley and president of the Associated Student Body Mariam Salameh charged students with one job: to continue to pursue their goals once they leave the CSU Stanislaus campus.
“This is a campus that holds the whole region’s dreams. You are the region’s graduates. You are the region’s future,” said Sheley.