College students preparing for graduation

By Carla Galindo, Pulse staff writer

Palo Alto students commit to complete college.
Photo by Carla Galindo.

On April 24, students signed a pledge to graduate, promising to be dedicated to their education and finish their associate’s degree.

This first-time event was sponsored by several organizations, including Phi Theta Kappa. The “Commit to Completion” signing was held in the Student Center Annex, and all students were invited to take the pledge.

“[By signing ‘Commit to Completion’] it is going to remind me that I made a commitment to finish college and to graduate and transfer; it’s like something that encourages me to look forward to tomorrow,” said Leopoldo Martinez, a sophomore Accounting major.

A promise to become educated becomes a reality for Martinez and more than 800 graduating students on May 16, 2013. The annual commencement ceremony will be held at the Freeman Coliseum at 7 p.m., where Mayor Julian Castro will be the keynote speaker.

From the 834 students who have applied for graduation so far, approximately 445 students are walking the stage, and the number is increasing.

“We’ve been getting students that did not want to walk the stage and now they do,” said Aracely Reyes Bowling, senior adviser for graduation.

Angel Gonzales, a sophomore Criminal Justice major, said, “[I am] planning and hoping for my family and friends to be there for me for support and to see me get rewarded for something that I worked hard for.”

Rosie Castro, interim dean of Student Affairs and director of the Center for Academic Transitions (CAT) explained that the requirements for applying for graduation is completing 42 to 60 college-level hours or more of course work and speaking to an academic adviser for a degree audit. Even lacking two courses or up to eight hours would be acceptable for students to walk the stage.

“Our goal with ‘Commit to Completion’ is to inform all the students around campus the importance of getting your associate’s degree,” said Leonila Espinoza, president of Phi Theta Kappa and a 2012 graduate of Palo Alto College.

At the “Commit to Completion” drive, Dr. Michael Flores, Palo Alto College president, said that on average somebody who earns an associate’s degree earns more than somebody who just has a high school diploma.

Another benefit of graduating with an associate’s degree is that four-year public universities must transfer all 60 hours toward a bachelor’s degree, which is normally 120 hours. The associate’s degree marks the half-way point of a bachelor’s degree.

The process for all graduating applicants is having their academic information reviewed by one of the senior advisers at the Center for Academic Transitions (CAT), who includes Aracely Reyes Bowling, Sara Passement or Amanda T. Morales. For applications that were submitted through the PAC website or paper format, students will be notified if they have met all the course requirements. The advice the graduation advisers give to students is to constantly meet with your academic advisers, be familiar with your degree plan and know your catalog year.

Aimee Hernandez, a freshman Vet Tech major, signed “Commit to Completion,” has met with her adviser and understands her course requirements. She said, “I need to finish my hours and then apply for the program.”

Last year, 940 students graduated in the 2012 academic year.  Numbers have been slightly reduced. Castro and Bowling explained that it is a combination with the course catalogs not being included in the new Banner system, students not applying for graduation or students taking the wrong courses.

“This is my third year. It took me this long because some classes were not available, and I had trouble with too many courses that I had to retake,” said Joe Rodriguez, senior Logistics major.

Espinoza said 42 students have signed the “Commit to Completion” pledge.

“We’d really like to make it a part of the Palo Alto culture, so that the phrase “Commit to Complete” is recognize and people come to this college with that expectation,” said Carolyn DeLecour, Phi Theta Kappa faculty adviser.