Summer 2013 Newsletter

Ethnic Student Center’s First ESC Commencement a Great Success

Students pose for pictures at the ESC Commencement

On the evening of June 14th, approximately 300 faculty, staff, friends, family members and alumni packed the MPR for the first ever Ethnic Student Center Commencement to celebrate the graduation of over 60 ESC students.  Nate Panelo, Coordinator of the ESC, said the commencement event was “an important way to recognize the hard work our students have done academically and in their co-curricular activities, and to show Western’s support for them as underrepresented students on this campus.” 

Danielle Smith, ESC Program Coordinator and lead organizer of the event, said that the significance of the ESC Commencement is apparent when looking at the retention and graduation rates for Western’s students of color.  “We understand the reality that, for every one student who successfully matriculates, we may lose another.  This is why we believe in robustly celebrating those who complete their degrees,” Danielle said.  Nate echoed this, adding that the ESC Commencement “demonstrates to current and incoming students that graduation from Western Washington University is an obtainable goal.”

The joyous celebration included commencement addresses by Dr. Elena Pereyra , an Academic Support Coordinator in Student Outreach Services, and graduates Robel Paguio and Emmanuel Camarillo.  Each graduating student was individually recognized and given an opportunity to publicly thank the family members, friends, professors and Western staff who supported them on their path to college graduation.  The program also included a vocal performance by senior Elisabeth Scott and poetry shared by senior Dani Espinoza-Gonzalez.  “It was a standout event in that it truly centered on people of color,” Danielle said.  “We were intentional about selecting speakers and performers—the faces graduates saw speaking to them from the stage were familiar because they were alumni, advisors, and mentors. They had been a dear part of the ESC, and it was wholly inspiring to witness.”

Danielle Smith speaks at the ESC Commencement

Danielle shared that ESC graduates expressed gratitude for the opportunity to have their accomplishments highlighted in such a special way.  “One student’s story in particular really touched me,” said Danielle.  “She had close to 25 family members attend the ceremony to watch her walk across the stage and be honored with an ESC stole and pin.  She was a non-traditional student, first-generation, and from an immigrant family, so it was truly a celebration indeed. Students like her are why we do the work that we do.”

Page Updated 08.13.2013