More than 500 students were celebrated as Mesa Community College graduated the class of 2023 during a ceremony at Desert Financial Arena in Tempe on Saturday, May 3.
Students await the start of the 2023 graduation ceremony at Desert Financial Arena on May 13, 2023. (Photo by Rey Covarrubias Jr.)
The graduates were joined by family and friends in the densely packed arena seats, along with faculty and staff who supported the students throughout their education.
The ceremony began with the entrance of faculty, administration, and the ceremony officers and platform party who all made their way past the students seated on the arena floor to the stage at the edge of the arena.
Megan McGuire, grand marshal of the commencement ceremony, started by inviting MCC president Tammy Robinson to the stage.
Robinson thanked all those in attendance, and then invited Levi Pettyjohn, a performing arts student at MCC, to sing the national anthem.
As a first generation college student, and community college graduate herself, Robinson reflected on the pride she felt for MCC’s class of 2023.
“I have had the opportunity to witness your growth, your resilience and your passion for learning,” said Robinson.
Leora Smith, vice president of the United Tribal Employees Council, then took the stage to recognize that MCC campuses lay on the traditional territory of the O’odham, Piipaash, and Yavapai people.
“We recognize these communities’ deep and enduring connections to the land and honor their contributions to Arizona’s diverse culture and rich history,” said Smith.
Students also took the stage to congratulate their fellow classmates of the graduating class.
This included ASMCC presidents Micayla Berglund and DaShawn Hudgins along with class honors speaker, Shannon Poppell.
Poppell reflected on the strength she took from her mother and grandmother, who both passed before she graduated.
Eight students who died during the 2023 academic year were honored by Robinson as she announced each of their names to the crowd.
The students honored were Joseph Coleman, Richard Jacobson, Gavin George Juergen Foerstner, Jordan Koopman, Charles Mann, Tonie Negrin, Shane Rogers, Vanessa Abigail, and Urbina Aragonez.
Eight graduation gowns were set aside on arena seats to honor these students.
Steven Gonzalez gives a posthumous degree to Tonie Negrin, accepted by her surviving husband Edwin Negrin, at MCC’s commencement ceremony on May 13, 2023. (Photo by Rey Covarrubias Jr.)
The more than 500 students who took the stage received their degree and took a photo with Robinson as she personally congratulated each student.
Students exited Desert Financial Arena to await the family who cheered on the graduates.
Cedar James and Crystal James, cousins who graduated together, took great pride in their native american heritage.
“There’s not very many of us out there, we just try to hold proud and true to that,” said Crystal James.
The James family celebrates two new MCC graduates outside Desert Financial Arena following MCC’s graduation ceremony, on May 13, 2023. From left to right: Anthony James, Angelica James, Crystal James, Julia James, Cedar James. (Photo by Rey Covarrubias Jr.)
Eriz Gonzalez, an international student, was surrounded by his friends and fellow MCC students, who have supported him in the absence of his family.
“My family is back in the Dominican Republic, and I always talk with my mom, and she shares with me her support and she’s always the reason I carry on and keep going” said Gonzalez.
“I see him, I see myself in the future and well, I’m really proud of him,” said Natalea Nava, a classmate of Gonzalez and a fellow international student at MCC.