COC celebrates Class of ’21: ‘History has its eyes on us’

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Graduates from College of the Canyons walked across the stage in a modified commencement ceremony throughout the first week of June to celebrate the completion of degrees and certificates. 

COC saw 2,360 students petition for graduation for the Class of 2021, some of whom participated in a modified ceremony where they were able to walk on a stage at the campus’ Honors Grove, collect their degrees and take photos with friends and family. 

College of the Canyons graduate Jimena Linares, center, poses for her graduation photo with dad, Ezequiel Linares, left, and mom, Graciela Berber during the 2021 “Grad Walk” celebration held in the Honor Grove at College of the Canyons in Valencia on Thursday, 06032. Dan Watson/The Signal

Prior to the graduation walk, COC held a virtual tribute to honor graduates with a formal ceremony, which featured guest speakers from COC faculty and graduating students. 

Student Bryce Van Der Klomp was the valedictorian speaker during the tribute, highlighting that he didn’t want to “pretend things were perfect” during his speech, but instead wanted to focus on honesty and speak about the strength the graduating class had. 

“When I recall what we, our class, has gone through and accomplished over the last year and a half, I couldn’t find a more suitable expression than ‘history has its eyes on us,’” he said. “We wear the same cap and gown as a dozen generations, but our achievements stand unique.” 

Kyle Jensen, left, celebrates as he walks with College of the Canyons graduate Kelli (cq) Tootle and her son, Dylan, 13, during the 2021 “Grad Walk” celebration held in the Honor Grove at College of the Canyons in Valencia on Thursday, 06032. Dan Watson/The Signal

COC Chancellor Dianne Van Hook discussed the challenges students faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, such as sudden loss of employment, becoming sick or losing someone to the virus, in addition to the transition to online learning. 

“Sometimes the most important lessons aren’t learned from books alone, but from what we experience in life,” she said. “These past 15 months have been rich with experiences and the chance to learn a lot from every barrier and every change.” 

The graduating class represents 104 majors, with a majority receiving degrees or certificates in liberal arts, business or psychology, and more than 900 students obtaining honors along with their degrees. 

College of the Canyons graduate Larisa Barlan, right, gets a kiss from dad, Lauro Barlan during the 2021 “Grad Walk” celebration held in the Honor Grove at College of the Canyons in Valencia on Thursday, 06032. Dan Watson/The Signal

Sara Quintanilla is one of 930 students in the class who received two or more degrees. 

“I started at COC about 10 years ago,” Quintanilla said. “I started taking one class here and one class there, and I was able to talk to many counselors to discuss my choices because I kept changing career paths.” 

By graduation day, Quintanilla had fulfilled the requirements for three separate degree options: accounting, liberal arts and psychology. She plans to pursue an accounting degree at California State University, Northridge. 

Many graduates will be continuing their degrees at four-year schools across the state and nation, such as Micaela Anbessaw, who plans to attend CSU Channel Islands in the fall. 

“This isn’t like a regular graduation, but I think it was kind of better because you get to be with your family and the people you care about, too,” said Anbessaw, who graduated with her associate degree in nursing. “(COC) really tried making it a happy day. People are cheering from all over the place and helping you to have a great day.” 

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