MSJC to Celebrate Record-Breaking Class with Virtual Graduation Ceremony on Thursday
Yolanda Diego will have much more to celebrate than the average graduate when she
serves as the student speaker of Mt. San Jacinto College’s virtual graduation ceremony
on Thursday. The 37-year-old Hemet resident started to pursue her higher education in the early
2000s, when she attended community college in East Los Angeles, where she grew up.
But substance abuse, some time living on Skid Row in downtown L.A., and a growing
family paused that journey. In January 2018, just a few weeks after having a baby,
the mother of eight children and a stepdaughter began pursuing her communications
degree at MSJC, determined to finish what she started. “All the help and the resources that I got from MSJC were what I needed to succeed.
Without those resources, I probably would be lost,” said Diego, who also celebrates
10 years of sobriety this month. “It’s never too late.” On Thursday, May 21, Diego will speak to the largest graduating class in MSJC history
when it holds its inaugural virtual graduation ceremony. The college will hold its
annual ceremony online to reduce the spread of COVID-19 during the current pandemic.
Mt. San Jacinto College will award a record-breaking 3,554 degrees and certificates to 1,958 graduates. That’s 251 more graduates than last year, when the previous record was set. The graduates will earn a total of 3,246 associate degrees and 308 career certificates, as some students earn more than one degree, certificate or a combination. Menifee resident Brandy Donini, 46, first attended MSJC in 1998. But life took priority. She raised a family, suffered a cancer scare, and worked several great jobs over the years, but an instinct for helping others convinced her to return to MSJC to pursue a degree in nursing. This final semester at MSJC has reaffirmed her calling. When COVID-19 testing sites launched in Riverside County in mid-March, Donini and a few of her fellow MSJC nursing students were among the first to volunteer their efforts at Storm Stadium in Lake Elsinore. After all these years, Donini looks forward to finally graduating from MSJC.
“For those of you who don't think it's possible, it is, it really is when you set goals and you put your mind to something,” the honors students said. “And I'm not talking long-term goals. I'm talking short-term goals. Make sure you meet the short-term goals and that you know what you need to do to reach your end goal. In conclusion, don't give up. Life happens to everybody.”
The graduation ceremony will also feature speeches from MSJC Superintendent/President Dr. Roger Schultz and MSJC Interim Vice President of Instruction Dr. Jeremy Brown; and video interviews with Student Government Association President Victor Llamas, a San Jacinto resident who will head to the University of California at Berkeley to pursue a bachelor's degree in math; Student Trustee Allison Salas, a Menifee resident who will return to MSJC in the fall as she pursues a career as a registered nurse; and Bernardo Britto, a nursing major originally from Nigeria who now lives in Banning and plans to transfer to Cal State San Bernardino.
As for Diego, her educational journey will continue when she joins her oldest daughter in college this fall.
“I’m walking into those doors at Cal State San Bernardino hand in hand with my daughter,”
Diego said, choking up. “I walked her into her elementary school in kindergarten,
and now she’s walking me through the university doors.”
MSJC’s summer 2020 registration is open. The eight-week summer session begins June 1 and six-week session starts June 15. For more information on getting started this summer, visit www.msjc.edu/summer.
Mt. San Jacinto College serves more than 27,000 students in a district covering 1,700 square miles from the San Gorgonio Pass to Temecula.