Ceremony honors Latino students’ success, heritage

By Maria Luisa Veloz

The Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) held its inaugural Mi Gente Graduation on June 5. The program honored the educational achievement of Latino students from all nine campuses and celebrated the district’s diverse mosaic of Latino culture, music and heritage.

Actors Danny Trejo and Constance Marie (“The George Lopez Show”) headlined the event, which also included Aztec dancers and mariachi music.

More than 60% of LACCD students are Latino, with the largest percentage being of Mexican American descent, and significant numbers of Salvadoran, Guatemalan and Honduran students. The Mi Gente Graduation celebrated all of these cultures with a procession of flags carried by students to start the ceremony.

The Mi Gente Graduation is the first such ceremony in the 53-year history of LACCD, marking a significant milestone for the District and an important example of its continued leadership in inclusivity and equity, and honoring its students’ success in culturally relevant ways.

“LACCD prides itself on welcoming all students, particularly those from immigrant backgrounds who are often the first in their families to go to college,” LACCD Board President Gabriel Buelna said. “We are excited to hold this celebration of the Latino heritage and culture represented by so many of our students and look forward to making this an annual tradition.”

KTTV reporter Gigi Graciette served as the celebration’s Mistress of Ceremonies, introducing the speakers, including Buelna and LACCD Chancellor Francisco C. Rodriguez, as well as Trejo and Lopez.

Trejo gave the inaugural Mi Gente Graduation Keynote, while Constance Marie delivered the keynote address. In addition, three prominent Latino entertainers served as name readers for the graduating class: actors Richard Montoya, Fabian Alomar, and producer and comedian Jeff Valdez, who pioneered English-language Latino programming. They were accompanied by popular artist Emilia Cruz.

The Mi Gente Graduation speakers have deep roots in the Los Angeles community and their examples provide a roadmap for success for LACCD students — most of whom are first-generation college graduates — to pursue their dreams through education.

“At LACCD, our strength and resolve derive through the rich, cultural diversity of our students, like those represented through this celebration,” Chancellor Rodriguez said. “The Mi Gente Graduation Celebration allows us to honor and celebrate the Latino and indigenous heritage of our students and their family members in a manner that respects their past and foreshadows the future through education.”

Watch a video from the ceremony here, and learn more here.

Maria Luisa Veloz

is the legislative and government affairs officer at the Los Angeles Community College District.