Weber State’s Office of Access & Diversity and MEChA organization are hosting their second Latinx graduation ceremony in spring 2020, celebrating the achievements of the WSU Latinx community.
The first Latinx graduation ceremony was held in spring 2019, with about 50 students who received their associate’s, bachelor’s or master’s degrees.
Cristian Gutierrez, a WSU college access advisor, helps prepare the ceremony. He hopes to double his number with the spring 2020 ceremony. Students who are graduating in fall 2019, spring 2020 or summer 2020 can participate in the ceremony if they choose.
Gutierrez emphasized how this ceremony does not take away from the commencement. The Latinx grad ceremony is held in Spanish and English, which is specifically important for Latinx students’ families to be able to get the full experience of the occasion without any barriers.
“My pops went to my high school graduation, and the language spoken was English, which he didn’t mind. My dad was taking in 20 percent of the actual ceremony,” Gutierrez said. “At the Latinx grad ceremony, he understood everything. I remember him saying, ‘I understood everything like it was made for me.’”
At the event, graduates receive their stole and are given 30 seconds to say whatever they would like in the language they choose.
“This type of ceremony and platform really creates that space to showcase what we have done as a whole and will continue to do no matter what people say about us, and we will rise above,” Gutierrez said.
Adrian Cendejas, a WSU junior studying professional sales, believes this ceremony is a great way to feel represented.
“A lot of what we do for our parents derives from them,” Cendejas said. “You’re given a voice. It’s special to be around your people.”
Gutierrez said events like the Latinx grad ceremony are important to students of color. It’s a moment to be recognized when at times they can feel marginalized and forgotten, according to Gutierrez.
Gutierrez recognizes how WSU has been great at supporting this ceremony, and he wishes for it to grow. President Brad Mortensen also participated in the inaugural event, wearing the stole given to him at the ceremony to the commencement in front of all WSU graduates, families and faculty.
“It was beyond anything I imagined,” Mortensen said. “It was so powerful to be able to have a program that our graduates and families could connect to.”
Mortensen added how he could feel the pride from the families in the ceremony. He hopes the word gets out and more students become involved in this more intimate graduation ceremony.
Mortensen hopes programs like this inspire students to believe they can reach their aspirations.
“We all have our own identities, some of which are shaped by our skin color or our ethnicities, and it’s impossible for me to understand somebody else’s journey,” Mortensen said.
Mortensen said any group is worth celebrating their unique culture, background and journey. Some of his most enriching experiences at WSU have been where he was involved with participating and experiencing someone else’s culture or identity.
“The world is a diverse place and we can all go into our camps and think about ourselves, or we can try and understand each other and see how we can work together,” Mortensen said.