Record 1,273 Students Graduate From Allan Hancock College

The 98th annual commencement was held in The Commons on the Santa Maria campus

CommencementMAY 24, 2019--Allan Hancock College celebrated another record-setting year during the college’s 98th annual Commencement ceremony held Friday, May 24, on the Santa Maria campus.

The event included more than 500 graduates, who gathered with their friends and families to celebrate the successful end to their journey at the college.

“Allan Hancock College is your community college,” said Hancock Board of Trustees President Hilda Zacarías. “It is a place to imagine your future and a place to make it happen. Whether you are going to continue your education at the university level or start a new career, today is the day that marks the start of your new journey.”

This year, a total of 1,273 students earned a record 1,790 associate degrees in 94 different majors. The number of student graduates represents an increase of approximately 26 percent from the previous year, while the number of degrees earned equates to an increase of 17 percent. Students also earned 912 certificates of achievement, a seven percent increase over last year.

“Some say that an investment in higher education doesn’t pay off, that our efforts aren’t moving the needle,” said Hancock Superintendent/President Kevin G. Walthers, Ph.D. “When I look at our more than 1,200 graduates – a 70 percent increase since 2013 – I see an investment that is paying huge dividends for our students, our community, and the state of California.”

Dr. Walthers went on to say that commencement is a celebration of accomplishment and the embodiment of what it means to be a community college graduate.

“Parents, family and friends, the students before you are prepared to take the next step in their lives as public servants, medical professionals, educators, welders, technicians, and business owners. Many are eagerly awaiting the chance to continue their education at a four-year college or university. Regardless of their destination, we affirm that they are ready to take on the challenges.”

Walthers shared inspiring stories of students who worked to overcome challenges on their path to graduation. They included Jonathan Rojas, a first-generation college student who graduated with the help of the college’s many support services and is now transferring to UC Riverside; Jesus Hurtado, who earned an architectural drafting degree from Hancock while battling brain cancer; Lisa Ruiz, who took her first class at Hancock while serving a prison sentence and is now graduating with an associate degree in addiction studies, as well as several other students who were able to change their odds at Hancock.

“These graduates represent the greatness of Allan Hancock College, the California Community College system and the State of California,” said Dr. Walthers. “Anyone who doubts the future of our community, or the state or our nation, need only to look at this event to be reassured that the future of California is bright.”

The graduates also heard from Associated Student Body Government President Frankie Maldonado. Maldonado said his time at Hancock challenged him to be open to new experiences, including entering a public speaking contest at the statewide SkillsUSA competition, where he took home a silver medal.

“If it weren’t for the support and encouragement of my instructors and friends, I likely wouldn’t have even considered representing Hancock at this acclaimed competition,” said Maldonado.

“Graduates, each one of you is now poised to leave your mark on the world. Step out of your comfort zone, take a deep breath and take a leap of faith.”

Many of this year’s graduates already started making their mark with impressive accomplishments during their time at Hancock. Two-hundred and fifty-seven graduates received honors for having 3.5-3.99 grade-point averages (GPAs), and eight received high honors for 4.0 GPAs. They included Jennifer Cervantes, a sociology student who was awarded the prestigious Marian Hancock Scholarship at the Allan Hancock College Foundation’s annual scholarship awards banquet the previous night. Cervantes was one of 355 Hancock students who graduated with more than one degree. Hancock students Noe Chavez, David Silva Cortez, Jacob Wynn Robson and Joseph Robert Trevino graduated with a total of eight degrees each.    The most popular associate degrees earned this year were business administration for transfer, administration of justice for transfer, administration of justice and nursing.

The 2019 commencement ceremony also marked the very first graduations by recipients of The Hancock Promise, which allows graduating high school students in the Allan Hancock Joint Community College District to get their first year at Hancock tuition-free. More than 1,400 local students have received The Hancock Promise so far, including 2019 Hancock graduates Alee Lamica and Hannah Stitt.

The graduates weren’t the only ones leaving Hancock with fond memories. English professor and Academic Senate President Marla Allegre, who is retiring after 31 years at Hancock, delivered the faculty address at the commencement ceremony.

“This campus looks very different from what it did when I came here in 1988,” said Allegre. “The surrounding cities have grown. We have sent students off to attend universities around the world, to work in hospitals and law enforcement agencies, and many have even come back to work for Hancock, including some of my former students.”

Allegre told the graduates that higher levels of education were associated with higher incomes, better health and increased civic engagement behaviors such as voting and volunteering.

“As you move out into the world, you will be changing lives. Not only your own, but also the lives of your families and those you touch in your careers and in your communities. Today, you become a member of our global community, and a mentor for others who follow.”

- AHC -

Caption: Students Jonathan Rojas and Hannah Stitt lead graduates in a procession during Allan Hancock College’s 98th Commencement ceremony May 24.

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Last Modified May 24, 2019