SAN MARCOS, CA (May 26, 2023) — Hundreds gathered at the San Marcos campus for a ceremony filled with moving tributes and stories of perseverance as the class of 2023 Palomar College graduates were honored on Friday, May 26, 2023. For those who couldn’t attend, the event was live streamed on Palomar’s website and can be viewed online.
Dr. Star Rivera-Lacey, Superintendent/President presided over the ceremony. During her remarks, she recognized the challenges and hurdles faced by students during their journey toward commencement. “Many of you have defied odds, shattered barriers, and overcome countless obstacles, seen and unseen, to get to this special moment! Through this accomplishment, you have proven that life circumstances do not determine your destiny, nor do they confine you to a predetermined path,” she said.
Nearly 600 graduates participated in the ceremony. In all, the college awarded over 4,000 degrees and certificates approved during the 2022-23 academic year.
The commencement speaker was Travis Ritt, Ph.D., winner of the Palomar College 2021-22 Distinguished Faculty Award for full-time faculty. Dr. Ritt teaches history and reminded the graduates that the past is just as important as the present and to reflect on their many achievements. He stated, “do not stress over failures or the changes that will certainly take place in life and it is perfectly OK to take new paths to achieve your happiness.”
Nick Casas, Vice President of Sales at Enchanted Rock and former Palomar College student was recognized as the 2023 Alumnus of the Year. Unfortunately, Mr. Casas was unable to attend the ceremony and asked that his thoughts be shared with the graduates. On his behalf, Faculty Senate President and Professor of Media Studies, Wendy Nelson shared, “no matter what you may think, life always has a new plan and new chapter ahead of you. Keep a circle of trusted people around you that will always push you to be the best person you can be in business or life.”
Many of those who graduated on Friday persevered through the turbulence of the COVID-19 pandemic to earn their degrees and certificates. The 2022-23 academic year marked the full-scale reopening of the San Marcos campus and education centers in Fallbrook, Escondido, and Rancho Bernardo.
Palomar’s 2022-23 Associated Student Government President, Christopher Robin Garcia Mendez, congratulated the class of 2023 and spoke of the power of education. Mendez, an undocumented student, shared that he never expected to be a student leader standing on stage speaking to his peers. He thanked his many mentors and said, “While I am the first undocumented student leader at Palomar College, I know that I won’t be the last.” He went on to say, “Palomar College is an institution that embraces diversity and welcomes all students.”
This year’s Valedictorian was Gabrielle Le, whose story illustrated the benefits of a bicultural upbringing and the engaging student experience at Palomar College. Le is a co-founder of a student club that is focused on ending menstruation stigma and providing equitable access to menstrual products to women who can’t afford them.