Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti encouraged the first graduating class of Los Angeles College Promise community college students to use their higher education to contribute to the success of the city during a special celebration at Cal State LA on Wednesday.
“We need your brilliance. We need your grit. We need your hope,” Garcetti said to the students and their families who filled the theatre of the Luckman Fine Arts Complex for the 2019 Los Angeles College Promise Ceremonial Graduation.
The May 29 ceremony was a milestone for the mayor’s Los Angeles College Promise initiative, which provides students with free full-time, first-year tuition at the nine Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) community colleges.
The program serves graduating seniors from Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) high schools and charter high schools and aims to increase the number of community college graduates, university transfers and workforce-ready students in the region. Students also receive priority enrollment and a dedicated support team providing academic and student support services.
Los Angeles College Promise is a partnership between the LACCD, LAUSD, the city of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, UNITE-LA and private philanthropy.
Cal State LA President William A. Covino welcomed the guests and congratulated the students and their loved ones. “Students, you are not only transforming your lives with this education, you’re going to transform the lives of your families, your communities, and the future of Los Angeles,” Covino said.
LACCD Chancellor Francisco C. Rodriguez encouraged the students to use their education to do good in the world. “You are the pride and the promise of our community,” he said.
Decked out in black caps and gowns with gold tassels, the students beamed with pride as they walked across the theatre stage to receive certificates of achievement. Families cheered from the crowd as they watched their graduates shake the mayor’s hand. The students will officially graduate June 4 during ceremonies at each of the LACCD community colleges.
The graduating students first enrolled in community college as part of L.A. College Promise two years ago. The passage of a state law in 2017 granting one year of free community college tuition to students statewide allowed L.A. College Promise to provide a second year of free tuition for the students in the program.
“It’s exciting to be in the first group of graduates because the program is such an awesome opportunity for so many people who need it,” said Nuria Cedillos, as she waited excitedly for the ceremony to begin. Cedillos, who will graduate from Los Angeles Valley College, will enroll at Cal State LA in the fall as a psychology major. She hopes to one day be a therapist for teens.
“As long as you follow your dreams,” she said, “anything is possible.”
Nearly 5,000 students from LAUSD and charter schools participated in the program during the past year, a number that’s expected to grow. Garcetti pledged at the ceremony that by 2022 10,000 students will be part of the program each year.
“We are proud to work with Mayor Garcetti and our community college partners to create pathways to higher education and help our youth and their families realize their dreams,” said Jose A. Gomez, Cal State LA executive vice president and chief operating officer.
Since the start of L.A. College Promise, full-time enrollment of first-time LAUSD graduates at the nine Los Angeles community colleges is up 56%.
“You are making history. The world is better because you believed in yourselves,” Mónica García, president of the LAUSD Board of Education, said to the graduates.
Other speakers included L.A. College Promise and Los Angeles Harbor College graduating student Llisela Mateo, LACCD Dean for Student Success Deborah Harrington, LACCD Board of Trustee Scott Svonkin and California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley.
Oakley, who previously served as superintendent-president of the Long Beach Community College District, was a leader in creating the Long Beach College Promise, which helped inspire L.A. College Promise.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Oakley emphasized the impact the city, Los Angeles community colleges, schools and Cal State LA can have in helping the region thrive.
“Together we can make a world of difference for our community,” Oakley said.