Student Commencement Essays

Commencement Essays

Each of these submissions represents the diverse lived experiences and different student voices that make up the El Camino College student body. We are proud to honor and celebrate them all this commencement season.

2024 Student Commencement Essays

Good evening, everyone—teachers, family, friends, and especially my fellow graduates today. Today's a big day for all of us, like standing on the edge of a cliff but in a good way, because we are all in this together. It has been a crazy ride; I am honored to share this moment with you as we gather to celebrate our achievements. 


Today marks not just the culmination of our academic journey but the beginning of a new chapter in our lives. As I stand before you, I am reminded of the path that led me here—a path filled with challenges and milestones, much like the stories that each of you holds. 


My family of five, including me, my parents, and my two older siblings, moved to the U.S. five years back from a small country from Southeast Asia - Myanmar, chasing hope and a dream to reunite with my eldest brother. That leap of faith was not easy. My brother came to the US with the hope of studying higher education in the most powerful country in the world. He struggled like everyone else with a new language. He struggled financially. He took every part time job he could do as an international student. He started at El Camino College and graduated from CSULB and he is currently working as a consultant (healthcare analytics) at Kaiser Permanente. He now has a beautiful wife, and his American dream has fulfilled now. 


He has been my idol since we reunited and became whole again. He guided us and introduced us the American system, but he always let us do our jobs on our own. He always tells us ‘Research,  research, research’. He always says nothing comes in a silver platter. That always stuck in my head, and whenever I need to find out something, I always Google, YouTube, and all the other resources I can find. I cannot thank him enough for being a star in my family’s lives. 


After we moved here, with a family to provide for, I dove headfirst into the workforce, taking on any part-time job I could find. The road was tough, but thanks to my brother, I carried a strong desire to succeed. Learning English was a rollercoaster, but it taught me a lot about life here. My parents struggled with the language more than I did, so I became the designated translator at home, handling everything from doctor’s appointments to official paperwork. It is a big job, and it is exhausting, but what they have done and sacrificed for us beats everything I am doing for them right now. It is my way of saying thanks, and I would not have it any other way. 


Eventually, I found my way to El Camino College, where I immersed myself in student life. However, in the race for my academic pursuits, I found myself facing a much higher mountain to climb – my own mental health. 


I was an A plus student back in my country. I had a lot of expectations of myself, and my family did as well. I thought I could excel well but once I received a C in my math class, I could not help myself but thinking I am a huge failure and disappointment to my family. For the longest, I could not handle the failure because I grew up receiving praise and applause from my environment. The weight of expectations, both internal and external, bore down on me, threatening to drown me in despair. In 2021, I felt defeated. That’s right you guys, I felt hopeless, while avoiding darkness, then a ray of hope changed everything - I made new friends, and they gave me a hope to survive. I never really mentioned it to them, but I thanked God for bringing these amazing people into my life. I met them through an international student hangout called Spectrum. Thanks to my brother for taking me to this hangout, it led to me meeting American-born leaders who have contributed to my life. They are here today now in the audience. A special shout out to them for fulfilling my life. And thank you and I love you all. My brother also introduced me to another church hangout group called Chat Lab, and I am proud to say they are my family here in the US. A shout out to them as well. 


Before I conclude my speech, I would like to point out why we have the ‘American dream’. My country's education system is so much different from the western system. Our lives and our whole career depend on the GPA or scores from the final exam of senior year. That one score determines what school you are going to go to, what major you will be in, and what career path you will choose. And your life ends there if you don’t get high scores. High pressure would be an understatement. 


Here in the US, there’re so many opportunities to explore no matter how old you are. You could be 30 years old, and you can still go to college and get a degree. I was able to get up on my feet again because I know it is only going to take myself to start finding more opportunities and start working on them. I would like you guys to take a moment to think about the endless possibilities we have in this country. That’s me and my family’s American dream. 


We all need to learn how to accept failures. Accepting failure is not just a necessity but a valuable aspect of personal growth and learning. By embracing failure, we allow ourselves to explore new paths, deepen our understanding, and develop empathy for others' struggles. Life is not always ups or always downs, as is the flow of the ocean, but of course there will be storms and thunder. We just need to rise to the surface once the waves hit us from every angle. Failures are like survival techniques. We learn from them. We embrace them and we use them to come back to the water surface and escape from drowning in life’s water. And then, we take a deep breath, and we continue with our lives. 


I would not be standing here without my family, my friends, and everyone who has supported me throughout my journey here in El Camino College, and special thanks to the EOPS program who has given me lots of support and opportunities to stay on the right track in my academic journey. I’m also thankful to every professor, every staff member, every program I am in, and every job that I have taken on campus and thanks to my supervisors. Every hand that has been offered to me shaped me the way I am now, and I am proud of the person I have become today. 


As we close this chapter and look forward to the next, I leave you with a thought that has guided me through my darkest times and brightest days: "Life is too short, so take your time." Cherish each moment, embrace every opportunity for growth, and never forget the strength that lies within us to overcome adversity. 


So, as I stand here today, I am reminded of the collective strength we all share. The journey to this moment has been heavy difficulties, but it has been significantly improved by every obstacle we have defeated and every small joy we have cherished along the way. 

 Congratulations, Class of 2024. We did it, and the best is yet to come. 

Hello everyone and everybody, my name is Bria Brooks Walker, and today, we stand on the precipice of a new chapter, a chapter inspired by the indomitable spirit of warriors. As we gather here, adorned in our caps and gowns, we are not just celebrating an academic milestone, but a testament to our resilience, courage, and unwavering determination. In the spirit of warriors, we have faced countless of battles throughout our educational journey. We've grappled with challenging assignments, overcome moments of self-doubt, and pushed through obstacles that seemed insurmountable. Each struggle has forged us into the warriors we are today, equipped with the strength and tenacity to conquer whatever lies ahead. But our journey doesn't end here. Like warriors, we are called to embark on new quests, to venture into the unknown with bravery and conviction. Whether we pursue further education, enter the workforce, or chart our own path, we must approach the future with the same fearlessness and sense of purpose that defines a warrior. As we step into this next chapter, let us remember the lessons of perseverance and camaraderie that have guided us thus far. Just as warriors rely on their comrades for support and encouragement, let us lean on each other as we navigate the challenges and triumphs that await us. As we continue to grow and evolve, let us never cease to cultivate our minds, to expand our horizons, and to embrace the endless possibilities that lie before us. Congratulations, fellow warriors. Today, we stand on the threshold of greatness, ready to seize our destiny and conquer the world. Thank you. 

Good afternoon administrators, faculty, staff, friends and family, and most of all, the graduating Class of 2024! 


It’s great to see everyone here as we celebrate this watershed moment in our lives. Whether we are graduating after one year, or ten, and whether we are continuing our educational journey or going directly into a career, we are all breaking new ground and I am going to miss all of the students, staff, faculty, and crazy squirrels of El Camino. 


In the coming months, we will feel apprehension, and maybe some fear as we transition to a new era in our lives. Later, we will feel stress, worry, and even anger as we try to make a better future, for both ourselves and our world. 


Those feelings are completely normal because we live in uncertain times. Our world is one afflicted by war and by famine. A world that can provide few guarantees. 


Which is why it's important to mark moments like this graduation. Here, we sit side-by-side with people from every background, but with the same goals, and a shared experience. Here, we celebrate the achievements of the past years, the culmination of hours of meetings in the student government office. Hours of practice in the fields and gyms. Hours upon hours of studying alongside PASS mentors and with professors. For many of us, late November was a particularly trying moment. Personally, I felt like I would break down from my responsibilities in ASO, debate, classes, and college applications, and many of us had harder schedules. But, whether it was debate or robotics, political science or physics, we made it through, and here we are today. 


Some of our fellow graduates are not here and I regret that. They are entering a world where  they will need memories like this. Others are held back by their fear of change, but we must move forward. In our darkest times, we will look back on this commencement to remind us that we can endure and accomplish great things. Moments like these will motivate us to continue moving forward. Emily Dickinson once wrote, 


“Hope” is the thing with feathers - 

That perches in the soul - 

And sings the tune without the words - 

And never stops - at all - 

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard - 

And sore must be the storm - 

That could abash the little Bird 

That kept so many warm - 


In short, this moment proves that we can preserve, that we can and that we have succeeded in  a trying world, and that gives us the hope to continue. 

I came from a place where people work for getting $1 per day, so they can pay for eating today, then will do the same every single day. These people don’t receive financial and day care assistances like in the U.S. We must survive ourselves in Madagascar. Schools are not people' priority even though they want to. Others may go to school, but if teachers are not missing, then classrooms are empty or there are no chairs and tables to accommodate students. Here, we may not have enough money but can go to school, earn a college degree, and create a better lifestyle. I could have made excuses to withdraw from school since I am a wife, mother, and a part-time worker while I am a student. However, I am thankful to El Camino Community College to provide Bill and Mary Kim scholarship to me and trust me to be a Presidential Ambassador for two school years. I want to come back and serve together for the best of ECC students. Moreover, I’ll transfer to CSUDH for my BA in Public Relations and Advertising.  

I was so worried about many things like English is my second language, I only have French education background, I just moved abroad for the first time, the Covid-19 pandemic caused a disaster, I didn’t know the American culture, and I am very far of my whole family and friends. However, I enrolled myself directly when I was sure that I would get the support of my husband who was here and still here with me since the beginning. I started when my daughter was in preschool, and now she is in first grade. During her school spirit day, she drew a blue bell and shared with her classmates that she wants to be an El Camino student when she grows up. 

I also grabbed this opportunity to become the first generation who graduates from an American Community College, and I made it! It is wonderful. Moreover, I am honored to be able to go back to school and show the world that we all can when we want.  

Congratulations to all warriors! 

Today, it is an absolute honor for me to speak and to stand here before the El Camino College Class of 2024 to celebrate a pivotal day in all our lives.  


When I look at the audience, I think of all the journeys we have taken to be sitting here today. One aspect that stands out to me is perseverance. I am sure the journey getting here hasn’t been the easiest.  


When I hear perseverance there are a couple of people that I think of immediately. Tara Westover received her Ph.D. at Cambridge University and has been a New York Times bestseller since 2018. She was raised in a Mormon, doomsday survivalist family. In her childhood, she did not attend school. She did not attend school until her first day of college. She did not know a lot of important information due to having lack of classroom experience and education, but she persevered. She started in 2004 and graduated with her Ph.D. 10 years later. When I hear her story, I think to myself, “Can you imagine not going to school as a child to graduating from Cambridge?”. Since then, she has received numerous praise and awards. Another person who showed great perseverance like Westover, was an artist who was said to lack imagination. When he opened his first company in the Midwest, it wasn’t successful and went bankrupt soon after. He moved to Los Angeles to pursue another company but that did not work out either. It wasn’t until the late 1920s, when he created Mickey Mouse that he saw success. You can guess that I am talking about the famous, Walt Disney. He showed great perseverance by not stopping at any failures. He knew what he wanted, and he kept pursuing it. Today, it is a multi-billion-dollar company and continues to grow. If you can take anything away from today, it is to persevere. You have all come so far already and I am proud of every single student sitting here today.  


Lastly, I would like to thank all the students for being so friendly and making El Camino feel like a family. I want to thank the support systems of all the students. You play a major role in every one of our lives and we would not be sitting here without you. I would lastly like to thank the faculty. Thank you for pushing us to succeed. I am grateful and will truly miss this experience and all the friendships I have made along the way. Good luck with all your future endeavors and remember to always persevere. I believe in every single one of you. 

Welcome fellow graduates, faculty, friends, and family.  

You know it's funny where you think you’ll be compared to where you end up. For example, I thought I would graduate in two years, and almost 4 years later I’m still going strong. I didn’t know what I wanted out of life, but I knew I hated my job. So in 2020, I started my first semester at El Camino College. A month after the pandemic hit, and as an unmotivated 20-year-old, I felt as though I was left to figure it out on my own. What a great way to motivate the unmotivated huh? For the next couple of semesters, I carried this undeveloped work ethic with me and I landed myself on Academic Probation for four semesters. Before coming to El Camino, I felt like I was never good enough so my attitude and behavior reflected that. I carried that into my relationships and my schooling. I didn’t want to try, I didn’t want to do better, I didn’t care where I ended up. I would look around me and it seemed like everyone was so much better off than I was. They were going places, doing things, and making opportunities for themselves. I looked at myself and asked why can’t that be me? So how do you get out of that? You should probably talk to a therapist or a life coach because I don’t know you. But how did I get out of not feeling good enough? Let me tell you. In 2022, unbeknownst to my mother I quit school. I just couldn’t take the pressure of deadlines, failure, and the fact that I didn’t know what I wanted. I thought that this choice would take the stress and pressure off, but instead, it only amplified it. I felt yet again I was left to figure it out on my own because I didn’t want to seem like a failure. I didn’t want any feedback on my choices. Although I ultimately didn’t want to face the repercussions of my decisions, I knew that what I didn’t want most was to keep feeling the same way. So how did I stop feeling like I wasn’t good enough? I asked for help. Right before the fall semester started I talked to the brilliant people at the EOPS office who sat down with me and helped me formalize a plan to graduate. By Spring 2023, I was enrolled in Interpersonal Communication taught by the renowned Jason Davidson, who inspired me to give this speech. I am proud to say I will be studying Interpersonal Communications at Cal State Long Beach this upcoming fall. Aristotle said ‘’We are what we repeatedly do’’. This phrase to me means that we have free will and the potential to go as low or as high as we think we can. We can break the chains set by ourselves or those around us. To reach levels that haven’t even been created yet. Whether we have no idea what we want out of life, have been on academic probation, or feel left to figure it out on our own, that doesn’t define us. What ultimately defines all of us is our ability to ask and give help when we see it’s needed. Congratulations El Camino Warriors, Class of 2024! 


Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, esteemed faculty members, distinguished guests and most importantly our graduating class of 2024. Welcome to our El Camino College Graduation and commencement ceremony. Today we come together to celebrate the culmination of years of hard work, dedication, and perseverance and today June 7, 2024, you have defined yourself as warrior. A warrior, according to Webster’s' dictionary, is a brave and skilled fighter or combatant who engages in battles or conflicts often for a noble cause or in service of a group. While many know the title, few acknowledge the many layers of its meaning. Warriors are often viewed from a physical aspect; however, the strongest quality of an adept warrior is their mind. Fellow classmates, you understand what it means to be a warrior and what it takes to become one. As a warrior, it is our duty to instill the morals and merit in the title we all express and carry as a warrior. During my journey here at El Camino College it has made me a warrior through being a single parent, an employee with many different jobs, life experiences overcoming trials and tribulations and today being triumphant through my journey here I became a Warrior. I realize though the journey has taken me some time as a warrior I had to be personally had to be prepared with life experiences to share with others while following through with my educational goals. I understand now that everyone's journey does not take the same amount of time, but never let it stop you from the journey itself. It may have taken us all some time to get here but we did it with the support of our families, friends, and self-determination. 

Being a warrior extends far beyond physical combat and includes being able to demonstrate resilience, determination and strength when facing adversity and challenges in other aspects of life. Your journey as a warrior has had to be one with strategic planning, using your mind and skills to balance life. Many of you are providers balancing two jobs, parents taking care of your children, first generation college students paving the way for your family's future, the list is endless. As a warrior you made up your mind to be a winner utilizing your mind to stay the course and allowing your education to be your defense. You have developed mental toughness, continue to define your purpose in life, have gained skills, and embraced values in a broader view. 

 As a warrior you have shown a level of leadership, diplomacy, ethics, and morality in all areas of your life. You have demonstrated not to just your family, professors' colleagues, and educational establishment that you are a fighter you have shown yourself what a warrior you truly are. Your actions have guided principles of bravery, loyalty, and commitment to the community, your family and most importantly yourself. So, today we participate in a warriors' rite of passage, which is a significant milestone in your life. This is one thing about being a warrior that no one can take from you. Once you are a warrior you are always a warrior. Congratulations to the warriors who are before me today. We won the battle but please continue to fight because the world needs warriors like you. 


Good Afternoon esteemed faculty, staff, family, friends, and most importantly the Class of 2024 -Welcome. 


My name is Nathalie Illescas, I’m a first-generation student and it is with immense honor to be sharing this pivotal moment with you all. Most of us have been eager to transition out of El Camino College to embark on a new journey. Now that it has finally arrived I find myself torn as this means we part ways with friends who have been a source of inspiration, advisors who have served as mentors, and individuals who have undeniably shaped not only my life but the lives of my fellow peers. 


As we begin a new chapter in our lives I would like to share some words of encouragement. While we have made personal growth and have overcome many academic challenges we have also faced various moments of doubt and uncertainty. It is natural to question our abilities and to think we are not doing enough, or if the major we are choosing is the right choice. Imposter syndrome is also very real. However, it is important to acknowledge that each one of us is on a journey, a journey that is unique and tailored to each one of us and it's shaped by our own individual experiences and aspirations. Whether you are transferring to a four year institution, exploring new opportunities, or starting your career, remember that success is not measured by the accomplishments we make. It is by our courage and the resilience we demonstrate along the way. Embrace the challenges, learn from the setbacks, and stay true to who you are even when facing all the doubt and adversity life has to offer. 


As this speech comes to an end I would like to thank the advisors of the Inter Club Council and the Associated Student Organization Ricky, Austin, and Tyler. Thank you, for serving as my mentors. To the members of both organizations it was a pleasure working alongside all of you and cannot wait to see what the future holds for you all. You have greatly impacted my life and have taught me life lessons that I will cherish forever. Most importantly, I would like to thank my mother who has been the biggest support system throughout not only my academic journey but life itself. She is someone whom I look up to and who continually inspires me everyday with her resilience, bravery, hard work, and determination. Mami, thank you for teaching me to always work-hard, dream big, and never give up.  


To the Class of 2024 I want to congratulate you all for your hard work and dedication throughout your time here at El Camino. We did it! 


Good afternoon. It is of great honor to welcome students, families, and faculty to graduation day at El Camino College. Every one of you has made an impact on the graduates who sit here today. 


Carl Jung once said, "I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to be." That is something that in a society like the one we live in, costs some of us more than others, but we all struggle with it. There have been so many paths, several shortcuts that have presented themselves in my journey first as a daughter, then as a mother and finally as a student where I found myself tempted to take. I remember that on several occasions I thought I had lost my way when I broke down along with the ten years of the life that we built together, but as more time passed I was able to understand that there is actually a lot of truth in that sometimes, letting things go is an act of much greater strength than defending or enduring. 


When I think about this moment, standing here surrounded by this beauty of students taking part in this great achievement as a Latina, first-generation and youngest of five college student, I am overwhelmed by a heart full of great gratitude to God and to life, for giving me the opportunity to see how two beautiful souls, working in the fields and selling aguas frescas back in our home country, Mexico, who started working from the early age of eight years old can see today that their great effort and enduring love for our family has not been in vain. There are not enough words to thank you, mom and dad. This achievement is ours. I love you both with all that I am. I will now say this in Spanish for them, No hay suficientes palabras para agradecerles, Ama y Apa. Este logro es nuestro. Los amo con todo lo que soy. I would like to thank my siblings Angel, Hector, Lupita and Cristina for their unconditional love and support in all the seasons of my life. Thank you to my friends, the ones that stayed with me through it all, who loved every bit of me even when I was unlovable. 


Being here at El Camino has been an amazing experience and I am so grateful for all the support and encouragement I received from all my professors during my stay here but I would like to say a special thank you to Professor Susie Tummers, my math professor. Thank you very much for helping me dig deep into the radicle of solving the square root of my life, for helping me see clearly the path when it darkened and collapsed, but mostly for lifting my wings and my sight and reminding me that even when an eagle's wings are damaged they are extremely strong and solid to return to the heights. Congratulations my class of 2024 this is where we part ways but we will always be in here (touch heart).Thank you. 


I stand before you today, as your speaker for this year’s commencement. It is with great honor that I am privileged to speak for this year's class. I stand before you today as a student who went through challenges to get to this point in my life of where I am today. I’m sure you all felt exactly what I am feeling, that you had something to prove not to others, but to yourself. I am grateful for the support systems I had here that allowed me to succeed in my classes. I’ve had so many places to grow during my time here: I got to present research at UCI during their conference with the help of honors faculty, participated in the Student Leadership Institute, had the opportunity to tutor, and founded the first ever Google Developer Student Club on campus. 


I remember my first time on campus was directly during my time as a Warrior Peer Mentor. Applying to this position out of high school, I knew this was my chance to start fresh on this new journey wondering where my path would take me. I was quite taken aback by the perseverance of the students I had encountered during my time here. Here I met you guys: single parents, people coming back to finish their education from decades ago, high school students taking a step ahead, those who came from the roughest of roughest hoods, US veterans, continuing students affected by the epidemic seeking a comeback, high school graduates like me, seeking a second chance. I learned that you guys are the “living embodiment of it’s never too late to chase your goals”. Some of you have achieved your lifelong goals, but some of you are just a step towards your goal. 


Seeing you in the library, MESA, seeing you from class to class, drinking red bulls late at night during finals madness week, in the study rooms practicing problems and reiterating concepts over and over again, seeing you fall asleep with your books on your lap, laptop on the table, and pencil in hand all because of a 20-hour work shift to provide for your families, you all should be proud of your accomplishments. You have fought bravely and persistently in the midst of battle to get to your destination. You fought like true warriors. 


And with those flashbacks, I tell you this: Don’t underscore your achievements. You sacrificed everything to be here. You took the risk, you made the sacrifice, and now you are rewarded for your tenacity because you fought till the very end. 


Go out there, and with the pride of an El Camino Warrior, keep striving for your dreams. Make me this promise. Make each other this promise. 


From a proud warrior,