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A wave of college celebrations

Congratulations to this year's community college graduates! More than 4,000 students earned associate degrees and certificates of achievement from Moorpark, Oxnard and Ventura colleges. Your hard work has established your place among those who have achieved significant goals in higher education. Commencement ceremonies are happening across the country and in many parts of the world right now. There's a wave of energy and enthusiasm that's rising. Each graduate is part of that wave and an outlet for the collective momentum it's creating. It's a palpable force that inspires, motivates and, ultimately, changes lives, communities and organizations. California Community Colleges is the largest system of higher education in the nation, with 2.1 million students attending 112 colleges. They provide students with the knowledge and background to compete in today's economy. With a wide range of educational offerings, the colleges provide workforce training, basic courses in English and math, certificate and degree programs and preparation for transfer to four-year institutions in the CSU and UC systems. As graduates reflect on this accomplishment, they'll remember teachers and administrative staff who helped ? someone in the financial aid office or a teacher whose academic passion stirred interest in a subject. These individuals also celebrate the success of the community college graduates, and their counterparts at four-year universities like CSU Channel Islands are resources to help these graduates navigate the next phase of the higher-education journey. California is facing a shortfall of qualified workers and to meet this demand, CSU campuses are working with community colleges to increase the number of students attending universities and completing four-year degrees. Specific efforts include helping students and their families understand application processes and financial aid options, expanding programs that assist underserved populations and connecting more graduating seniors with job opportunities. These changes are occurring in an environment that already includes individuals eager to support others. For example, at the beginning of a recent new class year, a CI teacher noticed a student who needed assistance. The teacher asked him to speak with her after class and found out he had just transferred from a community college. He told her he didn't know how to navigate the university system. The teacher addressed his questions and took him under her wing. With her encouragement and guidance, he ended up graduating with honors two years later, the top student in his discipline. After the honors convocation, he said, "I owe everything to this university and the opportunity it has provided." Many of those making a difference on campus are students. Directly or indirectly, they impact those around them. Dallas Lawry, a CI Class of 2014 graduate, illustrates this in a speech she gave at her commencement ceremony (excerpt): "We are all a part of something great on this campus. It might be research or student government. You might work in the student union, the library or the coffee shop. But no matter where, we have all worked together, and we will all ultimately need each other as we move on to this next journey in life. "I majored in nursing. I will forever need the help of the Spanish majors to help me give my Spanish-speaking patients the best possible care in a way that they understand. If it weren't for my friends and tutors in biology and chemistry, I wouldn't understand the building blocks of my own field. "As I look to the future of health care, I will rely on psychology, economics, political science, communication and business. Information technology, you are the backbone. Without you we would not have made so many strides in medicine. Mathematics and applied physics enable correct and safe calculations, whether for designing a hospital or calculating a medication dose. But it is environmental science that will keep us all in check, making sure we are not living outside of our means. "As nursing program graduates, we will need to depend on all of you equally, just as you will depend on us." Dallas is right. Your peers and community need you. Abundant resources are in place to support graduates and great opportunities lie ahead. Let the celebration continue. The timing couldn't be better.

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