UC Merced graduating Latino students walked down the aisles of Merced Theater hand-in-hand with their parents as they paid tribute for the sacrifices their parents made for them to be able to accomplish this milestone in their lives.
The Chicano Latino Council of UC Merced’s commencement ceremony took place Saturday afternoon in downtown Merced with approximately 125 graduates.
“This is your day, yes. But did you do it alone? Nope,” said keynote speaker Carolina Castañeda, a local immigration attorney, as she asked the graduates to stand up. “Turn to your biggest supporter, whether your mother, your father, a sibling or whoever it is. Let’s give them a round of applause.”
As the theater filled with the sound of applause, Castañeda continued with her speech in both English and Spanish.
Castañeda, who was born in México and came to the United States when she was only 3-year-old, say she would be lying if she says to them everything will be easy and beautiful after graduation.
“It’s not, but you have to fight for that. You may not find a job right away, and that’s OK. You may be unhappy at your first, second, or third job. It happens. But even if that’s the case, learn. Each and every day is a day that you can learn to better yourself,” said Castañeda, a first-generation Mexican immigrant and the first lawyer in her family.
Castañeda shared a little about herself, her family struggles as immigrants in this country “in the hopes that you remember through those trying times that your future will be brighter, that having a career is beautiful but it is not everything, and that although you may feel out of place, you belong and you are meant to do great things.”
Castañeda said having a fancy title doesn’t make her better than her parents, her siblings, or anyone else, urging graduates to always remember where they came from.
“You are here because that barrio made you who you are, or the community center, or those strong women,” Castañeda said. “I am not saying go back and live there if you don’t want to, but find a way to give back. Whether it’s a high school career fair, helping with scholarships, volunteering at a boys and girls club, you can help the next generation and trust me, you heart and happiness alone is worth it.”
Castañeda told graduate to follow their dreams, their heart, but also to be prepare to fail.
“You are bound to fail. That won’t determine your future. What will determine your strength is your ability to get up after that. To realize that everything that happens in your life is a lesson, a lesson to be learned from.” Castañeda said.
Ebelin Hernández, a 22-year-old from Lancaster, walked with her mother, María García.
Hernández, the oldest of three siblings, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in bio engineering and is the first one in her family to go to college.
“I am very proud. She is my first daughter. I wish her the best for her,” said García in Spanish. “Thank God and her effort she got ahead.”