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COC graduates largest-ever class

Posted: May 31, 2013 5:13 p.m.
Updated: May 31, 2013 5:13 p.m.

College of the Canyons Chancellor Dianne Van Hook, at the podium, looks out over the 1,317 members of the 2013 graduating class during the community college's commencement ceremony Friday. Signal photo by Dan Watson

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During a ceremony that was at times celebratory and at times somber, a record number of students walked across the stage at College of the Canyons Friday morning to receive their associate-degree diplomas.

The community college’s 2013 graduating class of 1,317 is the largest in the college’s 44-year history, according to Chancellor Dianne Van Hook.

This year’s class is also 9.9 percent larger than last year’s, according to statistics provided by the college.

The record-setting class brought with it a standing-room-only crowd of supporters in the college’s Honor Grove.

Friends, family members and well-wishers clapped, whistled and took pictures as graduates, led by COC’s Cougar mascot, made their way down the steps in front of Aliso Hall to their seating area.

Canyon Country resident Ashley Ivey attended the ceremony to watch her daughter, Britany Navarro, graduate with an associate degree in sociology.

“I can’t even tell you,” Ivey said when asked what the moment meant to her. “I’m so proud.”

COC’s graduates this year are a diverse group, ranging in age from 17 to 68 years old and covering 77 different majors.

Kristina Smolenski, who plans to go on to the University of Hawaii to study marine biology, said Friday that graduating from COC is one step in what has been, at times, a tumultuous academic journey.

Smolenski worked to put herself through college and, despite some family struggles, managed to turn what was a 3.2 grade point average in high school to a perfect 4.0 in college.

“Never let anyone tell you that hard work and dedication are not worth it,” Smolenski said, wiping tears from her eyes.

Regardless of the age or field of study of the graduates, Van Hook said she had one primary message for them: Continue to work hard and spread kindness in the world.

“Lean in, look forward and fall forward,” she told the graduates.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney



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