SMC grads reflect on their goals and achievements

The concrete stands at Santa Monica College's Corsair Stadium were filled with cheering families and friends of the graduating class of 2014. With a record high of 600 students participating in the graduation ceremony, topping last year's 500, many cheering sections cleared the nearly crowded stands to allow for others to take their place once their graduates walked the stage. With many international students participating, the SMC Alumni Association, which also provided transferring students with buttons to advertise their destination universities, hosted a live webcast of the ceremony hosted on their website. The Corsair took to the field after students stepped off the stage to bring you their stories of what their path means to them. Estela Morales Associates Degree in Art, transferring to UCLA

Lopez_Grads02 Estela Morales is not just the first female graduate in her family, she's also the first graduate her family has seen at all. "It means the whole world to me, this an amazing experience," said Morales. "I want to set the standard for my nieces, for my cousins, and for the females in my family, the males too." The 60-year-old student walked the stage with stoles for both her high GPA and involvement in the Adelante Program. "I may be 60, but I feel 25," said Morales. She also wants to prove to others that you can learn and succeed at any age. Her preferred media in art are sculpture, oil painting, and graphic design. Transferring to UCLA to further her education and art, she plans on focusing her work on different cultural expressions and what brings them together. "Even though we are different we come as one," said Morales. "We've got to help one another in order to get bigger."


Adonis Burrell Associates in Communication Studies, transferring to Loyola Marymount University


Working a 40-hour work week, Adonis Burrell felt like a non-traditional student still going to SMC at the age of 26. After starting at SMC in 2006 to drop out for work, Burrell returned with a new interest and a changed major. "I felt drawn to Communications because i used to be shy, an introvert," said Burrell. "Now I like to communicate and give speeches." Previously skipping his middle school and high school graduation ceremonies, he walked the stage with stoles for his participation in the Black Collegians Program and his work as a President's Ambassador.


Aubrey Sassoon Associates in Liberal Arts - Social & Behavioral Sciences, transferring to UCLA


When Aubrey Sassoon first started at SMC, she was known as Ben. She started her transition in the fall and believes everything is going "amazingly." First majoring in Photography, then Cosmetology, she turned to Anthropology because of her encouraging professors. "They really let me see that Anthropology could be a wonderful force for good," said Sassoon. "The profession as a whole has committed itself entirely into a 180 of its sketchy past and has become a global champion of human rights." She pointed to segregationist pseudosciences such as eugenics as beliefs that anthropological sciences have left in their past. Sassoon has been Anthropology Club president,  a commissioner for the Associated Students board, and a student representative on DPAC subcommittees. Transferring to UCLA, she is already getting scholarships and opportunities like the opportunity to participate in the UCLA Grand Challenges research initiative in which she gets to work closely with faculty at UCLA and receiving the Edward Scott Morrison scholarship from the UCLA LGBT Resource Center. "It's so great that they are able to give scholarships to students who are very marginalized, and it's really a force for good," said Sassoon. "I was very happy to get that scholarship. I mean, God knows I need the money."


Madeleine Sundberg Associates in Communication Studies, transferring to USC


Another student who never walked the stage before Tuesday's ceremony was Madeleine Sundberg. "I definitely think everybody should walk the stage," said Sundberg. "Why not take every opportunity to celebrate before you're done?" She professes sometimes not feeling like she had a life outside of SMC because of her high involvement, but she feels she has made some of the best friends of her life at the school. After walking the stage with stoles for her high GPA and involvement in Phi Theta Kappa, the now former Future Alumni Club president chanted, "Fight On!" in honor of her destination college of USC. "I have a lot of friends who are leaving, they're going different places," said Sundberg. "So it's nice to have this one last thing."


DeAndria Milligan Associates Degree in Art


Swamped in graduation adornments, DeAndria Milligan left the graduation smiling. With the support of her family & friends, Milligan was one of many grads that walked the stage at Corsair Field with high hopes. With her Art degree with a Fine Arts focus, she feels the ceremony is a testament to the hard work she put into her work, both with her art and her general education classes. "I was always in the BC (Black Collegians) office, always in EOPS office," said Milligan. "They were a big help." She attributes her success to her strict scheduling and learning better study habits, while still keeping up with campus events.