Celebrating Academic Success | Education

Santa Monica College holds second annual Grad Walk

On June 11, approximately 950 graduates participated in Santa Monica College’s second annual Grad Walk, an in-person event held prior to the online virtual commencement on June 16. Nearly 185 volunteers and college employees helped to make the day possible, while SMC’s Associated Students sponsored regalia for all participating graduates.

“I have been emotional all week, it is a dream come true,” said SMC graduate Khadija Backrien, who is transferring to Cal State Dominguez Hills. “I am trying my hardest for my late son to live my best life since he didn’t get a chance. I am thinking of him, celebrating him and everything I have been through—I know he is looking down and he’s proud of me today.”

Backrien’s son, William, died of a gunshot wound at the age of 14 in an unsolved crime. She dreams of owning a small business and launching a gun violence nonprofit to honor him.

“Best transfer community college, I saved a lot of money,” said graduate William Hung, who is transferring to UC Riverside as a physics major. “And I didn’t know which four-year school to go to, so I came here.”

Husband and wife Aaron and Arion Bell both graduated this year and their children were in attendance at the ceremony. He is graduating with a business management degree while she completed a degree in cosmetology.

“Right out of high school, life put me on a different path—but eight years later, here I am with my kids and my lovely wife,” Aaron said. “Today is a dream and I get to live it with her.”

Another graduate, Jose Alejandro Ramirez, received three Associate’s degrees (business, economics and liberal arts) and is transferring to Cal State Northridge.

“I was impacted by the judicial system since I was a young kid,” Ramirez said. “I got released from an institution in Venice and applied to SMC since it was local. I have been here for two years and I changed my life. The SMC RISING Program; counselors Patti del Valle, Nick Bravo and others all helped me. I took a major step here—I am grateful for where I came from and where I am today. The future is uncharted territory, but I know things are going to get better, for me and my family.”

This year, a total of 7,952 degrees and certificates will be awarded to 5,215 students. The youngest graduate is 16 and the oldest graduate is 98.

“It’s absolutely amazing,” said Esau Tovar, SMC’s dean of enrollment services. “There is no one here who won’t say that graduation is the top event at SMC. This is the culminating experience. Hearing all this cheering, you cannot help getting a little misty-eyed and emotional.”

Violet Thompson, who graduated with an Associate’s in environmental science and plans on working conservation, added, “Graduating means I can do anything I can put my heart to.”

Santa Monica College


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