CCA Students Celebrate Diversity With a Unique Graduation Ceremony

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Graduation season is upon us. As students look toward their future, with their sights set on future careers, or perhaps continuing on to four-year institutions, many students are pausing to celebrate their achievements in the moment. One of these celebrations took place on Saturday, a week before the Community College of Aurora’s official 40th commencement ceremony. 

CCA celebrated its diverse and unique student body with a cultural graduation ceremony consisting of students with varying backgrounds, identities and traditions. Gathered together at the Beck Recreation Center in Aurora with their families and supporters, these students marked their momentous achievements with a stole ceremony, bestowed upon them by their cherished supporters. 

Marco Vasquez, Assistant Director for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) says the event is a sort of celebration before the celebration. “We wanted to highlight the diversity we have in our community, especially with our student population,” he said. CCA is home to the most diverse student population in Colorado. Students from a wide variety of backgrounds are represented on campus through student groups, as well as various task forces and councils. For instance, CCA is a federally designated Hispanic Serving Institution. The title highlights the school’s unique role in filling a major place in educating Aurora’s diverse community. 

Represented groups included LGBTQAI+, Hispanic and Latino students, Black students, Indigenous and Native American students, Middle Eastern and Desi-American students, and Asian-American students.  

Thanks to this special ceremony, distinct traditions and values are put front and center, many times with family and friends celebrating alongside graduates. “They are uplifting their cultural heritage in a space where we can celebrate their success,” Vasquez said. “In addition, we also provided support for their families to attend the celebration as well. So, that’s what’s unique about it. Students bring a supporter of their choosing.”

Several CCA organizations had a hand in organizing the event, including TRIO Student Support Services, Concurrent Enrollment and the Cultural Center. Dr. Angela Marquez, Vice President of DEI and CCA’s Chief of Staff says


this collaboration acknowledges all the shared identities of the students, but also the uniqueness of their own lives. 

In addition to celebrating their own identities, organizers of the event say the most rewarding part of it is that many graduates get to share the moment with their families, or someone who helped support them along their journey. 

“It’s a big celebration that brings in their families, or whoever their support people are. Many times, the decision to go to college is not one that the individual makes on their own. They have family help them make that decision, to help them to persist and complete,” Dr. Marquez says. During the event, several instances stood out as shining examples of these support systems. Dr. Marquez recalls one graduate who was joined by her young children on stage.  The kids had the honor of bestowing the stole on their mother, capturing the essence of the moment. 

Organizers say they were intentional about finding other ways to underscore the various populations represented at the ceremony by bringing in an array of food trucks that offered different cuisine, including Thai, Mexican and Indian food. 

The attention to detail, and the success of the event was a marked growth from last year’s inaugural ceremony. Vasquez says it was well-attended, even though it was only the second time the school hosted it. Ninety-one students took part, with more than 300 guests in attendance. That’s a significant increase from last year, which included 20 graduates. 

Next year Vasquez expects it to grow even more, with a goal of 115 graduates. “We’re thankful for the city of Aurora and the department of DEI for getting us that venue,” he says. But he is setting his sights on an even bigger venue with the hopes that it expands. CCA is gearing up for its 40th commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 4. Click HERE to visit CCA’s commencement web page for all the details on this year’s event.

Photos by: CCA Dept. of Strategic Communications