Commencement Traditions

*These all all my own opinions and do not reflect the views of UCR. 


4 years. 4 long years. 


4 years of crying. The tears rushing down the sides of your cheeks, trying your best to retain the information you were studying the night before your exam. The tears you shed as you called your mother on the phone to calm you down after an anxiety attack took over your entire body because you fear failure. The tears you couldn't even watch hit the floor because your eyes were too flooded with water as you sat outside of the financial aid office. Sitting there in a panic after being told that you still need to submit more documents. The panic of not knowing if you’d be able to pay for school.


4 years of sweat. The sweat you felt drip from your temples as you panicked to meet deadlines that, in hindsight, you should've better managed your time for. The mornings you woke up in a cold sweat because, once again, you snoozed your alarm and now you're running to make it to your 8 am quiz. The sweat in the nape of your shirt as you ran mile after mile desperately trying to burn off freshman 15.


4 years of losing sleep. Sleepless nights because you have 2 essays, a quiz, and a problem set due the next day. Sleepless nights because you promised you'd only have one drink but somehow ended up drunk but still can't miss your Friday classes. Sleepless nights because sometimes, your stress literally eats away your exhaustion until you find yourself staring at a blank ceiling while laying in bed, but not being able to get any shut-eye as your mind is running far too fast for a break.

(photo courtesy of


4 years. 4 long years. For one moment — commencement.


What we've waited for. What our families have waited for. The reason why we stuck it out. Because as first generation students, walking school grounds and hearing our names called: that was the light at the end of the tunnel. It was the public announcement that even though we didn't have the guidance, we did it. Lost and all, we made it. Regardless of how hard it got, we seen it through. And we were the firsts.


It's a milestone. We've had them our whole lives. First steps, first words, puberty, quinceñeras, first boyfriend you took home to meet your parents, first college acceptance. Our families have been with us every step of the way. And somewhere between the first day your parents dropped you off at kindergarten to now, your education wasn't just about you anymore. The goal isn't just for you anymore. It was an ode to your parents that this all happened because of them. Y siempre le hemos oído, "Quiero una vida más fácil para ustedes que la que yo he tenido." 


And that was the moment that it hit you like a bag of bricks. You graduating college doesn't just mean the world to you. It means the world to those who came before you. Las que te ayudaron y las que te apoyaron. Y aunque teníamos ganas de renunciar la academia, no teníamos fuerzas para rendirnos. Porque todo era por y para ellos. Todo para ver el orgullo en sus ojos cuando cruzamos.

(photo courtesy of


4 years. 4 long years.


For one moment. 


A moment that our parents knew we were destined to achieve, but still instilled us with enough confidence so that we could believe it ourselves. A moment that set the foundation for the siblings that come after us. A moment that taught us that no matter what run-down city we came from, we too deserve this. Just as much as the next person.


One moment that UCR has tried to change. From the removal of our names being read aloud to the relocation of the ceremony, it is all utter disrespect. It’s insulting. A spit on all our hard work, on the time we lost, and the life we won't get back. We sacrificed for this moment. The point of it all was to come full-circle. To finish what we started, WHERE we started. To receive our well-deserved recognition on the grounds that commemorate everything we went through to get it. 


UCR, you had one job. And you failed catastrophically.