SAN MARCOS (May 24, 2024) – Earlier this evening, Palomar College held its commencement ceremonies, to honor graduates receiving degrees and certificates that exemplify the determination and perseverance of their educational journey.

A total of 2,857 graduates were awarded 4,603 degrees and certificates, with many students receiving multiple awards.  The ceremony was held on the Palomar College athletic practice field at the San Marcos campus. 

Superintendent/President, Dr. Star Rivera-Lacey presided over the ceremonies as more than 600 students walked across the stage.  During her remarks, Dr. Rivera-Lacey spoke to the value of commitment, “the world needs your brilliance, your compassion, and your unwavering commitment to excellence,” she stated.  “The benefits of your hard work are not just limited to you; instead, they ripple out, creating a wave of positive change that can have the power to impact your family, your community, and generations to come”.  

Elizabeth “Betsy” Pain, the 2022-23 Distinguished Faculty Award winner and an educator at Palomar College for 19 years, was the commencement speaker.  Pain spoke of coming full circle as she herself is a community college graduate.   Her journey, like most, was not linear but was inspired by the passion of her professors.  A passion that she leads with today as she teaches anthropology and archeology and serves as the college’s Archeology Program Coordinator.

She discovered her love for archeology during a dig held by a community college class where she discovered an artifact, a broken piece of Spanish pottery, that was likely used by Presidio soldiers hundreds of years ago. Pain earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in anthropology from the University of California at Los Angeles.

The student commencement address was given by Associate Student Government President Christopher Garcia Mendez. He is a first-generation immigrant Latino student who will transfer to UC San Diego in the fall to study structural engineering.

The class valedictorian was 19-year-old Sophia Segerstrom, who has been attending Palomar College since she was 14.  Segerstrom took classes at Palomar while in high school, and said she found her passion for writing and literature during English classes at Palomar.

Segerstrom said she plans to transfer to John Hopkins University to earn a bachelor’s degree in English and writing seminars (also known as creative writing), then pursue a master’s and doctoral degree so that she can become a college instructor.  She said she wants to become a professor because she has been inspired by her teachers at Palomar College.

“I see how their passion for their subject matter transfers to their students, which has inspired me to want to be able to be in that position to share my love of literature and writing with others,” she said. 

During the program, Anton Greenville, Senior Vice President of Balfour Beatty Construction, was honored as Palomar College Alumnus of the Year.  Greenville attended Palomar College in the 1980s, and his parents and a son have also attended Palomar.  He has been an active member of the Palomar College Foundation. He strongly supports Palomar College and the value of community colleges.

“Community college is the leg up for people like me,” Greenville said. “You learn the skills you need, which have led to my success in my professional life.”

Greenville’s company has built numerous structures at colleges and universities, including the San Diego Supercomputer Center at the University of California, San Diego.  At Palomar College, Balfour Beatty built the Humanities Building, the Teaching and Learning Center, and is building a 40,000-square-foot classroom at the Fallbrook Education Center.

With the planned opening of the college’s first football stadium in fall 2024, this commencement ceremony is marked as the last one that will be held at the athletic practice field.  The 2025 ceremony will be held inside the 3,600 seat stadium.