By Tamara Copes, Staff Writer
June 7, 2023
On May 18, over 60 Latinx students adorned the stage at the first-ever in-person Raíces, the Peralta Community College District (PCCD) Latinx Graduation Celebration. Held at Laney College this year, Raíces (meaning “Roots”) celebrated the educational achievements of the district’s Latinx population.
The theme of this year’s Raíces graduation was “¡Seguiré Soñando Y Seguiré Volando!”, meaning “I will keep dreaming and I will keep flying!”
All students that identify as Latinx were welcome to attend the graduation. While only about 60 students participated this year, a much larger population of Latinx students attended the main graduation ceremonies at each Peralta College.
Prior to the start of the graduation, the Laney Quad was filled with graduates in gowns and colorfully dressed friends and family ready to pose for pictures against festive backdrops. Classic Latin hits pumped from nearby speakers and free food provided by Otaez Mexican Restaurant kept everyone’s energy high.
As the graduates filed into their seats on stage, eyes were drawn to the performers of Danza, a traditional indigenous dance that acknowledges ancestral and cultural bonds.
Natalie Rodriguez, Director of Student Activities and Campus Life at College of Alameda, delivered the opening address. She was followed by Lilia Chavez, Vice President of Student Services at Merritt College, who gave a memorial to Jennifer Briffa, a longtime educator in PCCD who passed away last year. Student speakers spoke about their challenges and reminded the audience to “trust our circle of champions” when in doubt.
During Keynote Speaker President Angélica Garcia’s address, she stepped out from behind the podium to face the students in earnest and remind them that, despite her numerous degrees and titles, she “is just a Chicana from the Central Valley,” and knows what it is like to sit in that room, on that very stage.
The Raíces Latinx Graduation Celebration began at Merritt College in 2019 as a Merritt-only celebration and has since grown. Alejandro Garcia, Professor of History and Mexican and Latin-American Studies at Merritt College, says the idea for this celebration started “as a yearn to acknowledge” their Latinx students.
Many students were part of Berkeley City College’s Puente Project, a program that assists “educationally underserved students” in transferring to four-year institutions.
This year’s in-person event was made possible by direct contributions of at least $1K from each PCCD President. For Cynthia Alvarado, one of Laney’s co-chairs, this year’s celebration was a dream realized.
Before Raíces, there was the Peralta Association of Chicanos/Latinos de Aztlán (PACLA) which started in the 1970’s. Alvarado noted how even in 2006, when she was hired as a student worker, PACLA spoke of making this kind of celebration a reality.
Raíces will rotate between the four PCCD colleges each year, with a planning committee that includes a co-chair from the host college.
Students who would like to register for graduation in 2024 can contact Raíces at firstname.lastname@example.org.