Riverside City College celebrates difficult academic year with drive-thru graduation

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By Cheetara Piry

Students honked their horns and twirled orange and black pom poms to celebrate their graduation at Riverside City College’s first drive-thru ceremony.

 Although the COVID-19 pandemic did not allow for the class of 2020 and 2021 to attend a traditional commencement ceremony, students still lined up inside of their cars in a steady flow to receive their diplomas.

Wolde-Ab Isaac, RCCD’s chancellor, said the event was the best that it could be in this unconventional situation. He said this option provided a happy medium, allowing families to celebrate the important day rather than not having a graduation or a completely virtual event.

“It gave me a chance to talk to each of them about what their future looks like and what they want to do,” Isaac said. “It’s very important to see that they all have ambition and that this is only a stepping stone for them so I am very proud.”

Isaac was pleased to hear some students wanted to come back and become professors at the college.

“Those are the kinds of things that are inspiring,” he said.

Genesis Gamboa Orona graduated with an associate degree in early childhood education. She preferred to have a traditional ceremony, but the experience was pleasant, given the situation. Nevertheless, her time at RCC had been very productive and she thanked her professors for setting her up for success. 

“They all helped me get a job and educationally, I have a job lined up at the preschool as a teacher,” Orona said.

Another graduate, Adeline Gouenen, was an international student who had attended various colleges and universities across the country. However, the abundance of support she received from RCC felt like “a home away from home.” She was pleased to have had a drive-thru ceremony rather than a virtual event.

“Regardless if it was a drive-thru or not, for students, we understood the work that we put in,” she said. “And for Riverside City College to actually take the time to organize something like this, that is something for us to be grateful about.”

Kyla O’Connor, RCC dean of enrollment, alongside FeRita Perna Carter, vice president of student services, worked hard behind the scenes to get the event up and running. They were satisfied with how it turned out, and they were happy to give the students a chance to be celebrated, appreciated and respected.

“I feel so bad that they were not able to do a face to face commencement because of COVID,” Carter said. “This is just one way for us to be able to see them and them to see us before they head out for their next chapter of success.”

Volunteers waited at the end of the event to congratulate the students with “Go Tigers!” signs and handed out yard signs recognizing the achievements of each student. 

Gregory Anderson, president of RCC, was very happy with the college’s very first drive-thru commencement ceremony.

“We’d prefer to have it as a normal ceremony, but we’re gonna invite folks back next year if they want to come back next year, we’re gonna let them do it,” Anderson said.

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