Multicultural graduation celebrates students’ accomplishments

Alexandra Burrel, associate director of the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, shares her own experience as a student and encourages graduates to never doubt their journey in her keynote speech Saturday at the Unity in Diversity Multicultural Graduation Ceremony. The event also included short videos from graduating seniors, giving them the chance to thank their families and mentors. / photo by Maddie Ybarra

Andrea Molina
Staff Writer

The Center for Multicultural Services invited graduating students from the class of 2021 to join in a Multicultural Graduation Ceremony on Saturday via Zoom.

This virtual ceremony included 36 graduating students, each of whom submitted a 30-second video thanking the people who supported their journey through college. 

The event was recorded and 86 people were in attendance. 

Daniel Loera, director of multicultural affairs, and Zandra Wagoner, University chaplain, opened the ceremony. 

“The importance of this event transcends us here,” said Loera. “Today is a reflection of the University of La Verne’s inclusive and diverse educational environment.” 

Loera also acknowledged the support of the graduates’ family and friends, thanking them for their presence at the ceremony. 

Furthermore, throughout the ceremony, Loera translated the main points in Spanish for parents of students who did not speak English. 

This year’s keynote speaker was Alexandra Burrel, chief diversity and equity officer. 

“Every barrier I ever faced was meant for me,” said Burrel. “You wouldn’t be who you are today without the challenges you’ve overcome.” 

In her speech, Burrel shared her personal journey as a student, as well as all the challenges she had to overcome to accomplish her goals. 

“Being rejected and being told no, helped me build my character,” said Burrel. “I had to start accepting my failures and accept the journey.”

Burrel highlighted vulnerability as a key aspect for success. She said vulnerability allows people to grow as individuals and ask for help. 

Burrel advised graduates to never doubt their journey. She encouraged them to lean on their communities and never be afraid to ask for help. 

Graduates were also invited to share in the chat who have given them support, strength, courage and inspiration through this past year. 

Many students highlighted their family as their main support and inspiration to keep pursuing their education even in difficult times. 

After the formal speeches from University officials were over, the student videos were introduced. 

“Everything I am is thanks to you,” said Vanessa Acosta, graduate student in educational counseling, to her family. 

Acosta said she is blessed for the support of her amazing family, especially her brothers. 

Veronica Anaya, senior business administration, said she greatly appreciated her husband for always believing in her, as well as her mother and grandmother. 

“I also want to give a big thank you to my children, as they are the biggest motivation I have and the whole reason I pursued this journey,” said Anaya. 

GeBren Blakely, organizational leadership doctoral graduate, said she wanted to express her appreciation for her husband and her four girls who have helped her accomplish and balance her journey.

“Thank you for being my foundation,” she said.

Jorge Gonzalez, senior educational studies major, said he wanted to thank his mom and dad for the opportunities they provided him. 

“I followed this journey for the future generations, so they may see themselves and their culture represented in higher learning,” Gonzalez said. 

Adrian Zuñiga, senior music major, especially thanked his mom for all the sacrifices she made to make this moment happen. 

“I would like to thank my mother, my family, my girlfriend, my friends and all my professors at the University of La Verne for helping me grow as an individual,” said Zuñiga. 

University President Devorah Lieberman provided a formal congratulations on behalf of the University to students and their families. 

“Graduating from the University of La Verne, especially during this pandemic, is such a testament to you and your fortitude, commitment, perseverance and ability to adapt,” she said.

Lieberman said each of the graduating students with different backgrounds and/or nationalities have made the University stronger, better and more open-minded. 

Andrea Molina can be reached at

Andrea Molina
Maddie Ybarra

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