Cerritos College ‘CAR-MENCEMENT’ drive-thru celebrates the 2021 graduating class

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Vincent Medina

Cerritos College graduating class of 2021 celebrated their achievements with a socially-distance commencement ceremony on May 28, 2021. Many students decorated their cars with streamers and stickers.

The Cerritos College graduating class of 2021 celebrated their achievements during a drive-thru commencement ceremony in the college parking lot on May 28. 

Counselors and professors cheered through their masks and as the graduates drove by to receive their temporary diploma.

The “CAR-MENCEMENT” ceremony began in parking lot 10, then flowed through the parking lots to the administration building, where graduates received a temporary diploma until their official diploma or certificate arrives in the mail. 

Faculty Senate President Denis Falcon, estimates that over 40 thousand students received a degree or certificate in the spring 2021 semester. 

“It’s good considering it’s a COVID-19 year. Enrollment was down across the state, in our area it was down 6%,” said Falcon. 

California Community College enrollment decreased 12% between fall 2019 and fall 2020, with an estimated loss of 186,688 students. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students endured a year of remote learning.

For more than a year, Cerritos College students looked at the faces of their instructors and fellow classmates framed in tiny boxes through a computer screen. 

Auto tech major Greg Soto said now that he’s earned his degree, he’s going to focus on his career. 

“I work as a technician at a dealership in Signal Hill, so I’m just gonna try to move up and go from there. In the future I could try to get a bachelors in automotive technology,” he said.

“It’s been a lot, I’m working full time with three kids,” said Veronica Samson who will be pursuing her BSN at Cal State Dominguez in the Fall, “I know this isn’t like the traditional graduation ceremony, but it’s nice.”

“I wanted to be in that stadium,” said technology major Hiram Francis pointing at Falcon Field, “but mostly I’m just happy to be with my kids.”

Francis will be attending Cal State Long Beach to continue his education.

Many parents struggled during the pandemic as their children were also remote-learning. Students who were also parents needed to balance school, work and their children during the pandemic. 

“I feel so proud and so grateful and inspired by them,” said Dr. Henrieta Hurtado, EOPS professor of counseling. “It’s amazing to see students with their three children and they’re graduating with highest honors.”

Graduates were able to enjoy their commencement ceremony with their family and friends as they rode through the celebration. 

“I would like to see this as an option in the future,” said counselor Dr. Anita Hill. “Not to replace the ceremony necessarily but as a separate event. It’s more personal and intimate to be able to wave to them.”

As CDC and California health guidelines continue to change, the board of trustees and college administrators emphasized that the college will continue to adapt to meet safety measures for fall 2021. 

“As long as people keep getting vaccinated and following the rules set by state and local government and as long as the rates keep dropping, we expect to be an open campus again,” said Vice President of Academic Affairs Rick Mirandes.  

“Nothing is set in stone yet as far as 50% reopening in fall,” said trustee board member Zurich Lewis. “The plan is to fully reopen in spring 2022, but it is subject to change.”