The University of La Verne honored 2,337 graduating students from Spring 2020 and Winter 2021 in a series of virtual commencement ceremonies, and featured a speech from Dolores Huerta for the College of Arts and Sciences, delivered by her daughter Camila Chavez, on Jan. 30.
Huerta is an American labor leader and civil rights activist who co-founded the National Farmworkers Association with Cesar Chavez. Huerta has been nationally recognized and received awards including the Presidential Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012, which is the highest civilian honor in the United States.
“Hello students, on behalf of the president of the Dolores Huerta foundation and my mother, I am proud to join you on this special occasion,” Camila Chavez said.
A group of about 200 students, dressed in their caps and gowns, watched the speech via Zoom, their images displayed during the virtual commencement livestream. Under their photos were inspiring senior quotes. Despite the quick appearance of their faces, tears and smiles were painted across the screen as Chavez delivered the speech.
“The Dolores Huerta Foundation is working to address systemic issues through policy solutions,” Chavez said. “One of the ways we’re working to improve the quality of education for all is advocating for ethnic studies to instill pride in students of color and teach all students the contributions of immigrants, African Americans, and communities of color.”
Chavez’s five-minute speech detailed the work of her mother and Cesar Chavez, and how their movement has inspired better work environments and provided aid in embracing communities as one.
“As Dolores loves to say, we are all one human race, homo sapiens,” Chavez read. “Our human race began in Africa. That means we’re all Africans in different shades and colors. And unless you’re Native American, we are all immigrants.”
Chavez closed the speech congratulating the graduates for completing their respective degrees during the tumultuous times, and reminded them that their success is a beacon of hope for a better future.
Abigail Humphrey, a Winter 2021 graduate who earned a bachelor of arts in English, enjoyed the graduation ceremony despite the complications with the pandemic.
“Although I’m sad I wasn’t able to walk across the stage, I was grateful that more of my family was able to watch with it being on Zoom,” Humphrey said.
Jerry Solorzano, who earned his bachelor of science in business administration, also attended the virtual graduation experience, but was not particularly happy about the University’s efforts.
“Considering the amount of time the school had to try and plan this commencement, the ceremony was lackluster to say the least,” he said. “However, I enjoyed the speech about finishing college in a longer time than most because it showed that everyone’s journey is different but we can all be successful.”
The commencement ceremony also included speeches from President Devorah Lieberman, Provost Jonathan Reed, former Associated Students of La Verne President Madeline Ruiz and Caroline Le, who earned her master of science in physician assistant practice as part of the first ever cohort to graduate from La Verne’s physician assistant program.
The full commencement video featuring all of the College of Arts and Sciences speakers and graduates can be found on YouTube here.
Deja Goode can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.