Ceremony recognizes graduates’ achievements

EOPS’ 14th annual reception honors scholars


Cody Casares/The Advocate

Sociology major Shelly Baker raises here hands in celebration as she recives her sash during the EOPS/CARE CalWorks 2017 Recognition ceromony.

By Marci Suela, Art Director

When sociology major Caroline Watson started her academic career at Contra Costa College in 2014, she was a part-time student balancing her time between school, work and taking care of her one-year-old daughter.

“When I started in 2014, I was a part-time student for two semesters because I was raising my daughter, who is 4 now. I wanted to do better for her, so I decided to go to school full time, which is one of the requirements for EOPS. With their support and encouragement, I was able to maintain and graduate with a 4.0 GPA,” she said.

To celebrate the accomplishments of Watson and other EOPS/CARE students graduating this year, Contra Costa College’s EOPS/CARE and CalWORKs 14th Annual Student Recognition Ceremony was held in the Fireside Hall on Thursday.

More than 85 attendees cheered as students walked down a red carpet on an aisle between rows of chairs and received certificates for completing their requirements for their associate degrees or certificates of achievement. Students who received scholarships were given an additional certificate from EOPS/CARE.

Business major Nicholas Kavuma received four certificates during the ceremony for being a scholarship recipient, and completing his requirements for an associate degree and a certificate of achievement.

His 16-year-old daughter Joan Nanono, who was in attendance, said, “It makes me so happy to see him graduate. With the mood I felt in the room (from the cheering), it made me feel even more proud for my dad. It makes me want to work harder to get to where he is now.”

During the two-hour long ceremony a keynote speech was delivered by West Los Angeles College counselor Murrell Green to motivate students to prepare for the next step. After the awards were presented, CCC counseling instructional assistant and former EOPS student Vanessa Johnson performed an inspirational rap while EOPS/CARE and CalWORKs staff members danced behind her.

Watson, who will be transferring to UC Berkeley this fall semester, said, “This reception makes it feel more real, with me accomplishing all these things. It was powerful and it made me feel like a rock star.”

EOPS/CARE and CalWORKs Manager George Mills said the ceremony was an intimate reception for the staff and students under EOPS to acknowledge and honor their hard work because “we (the staff) think of ourselves as family to these students.”

“EOPS is about building confidence, with little in our pockets, to move forward and do great things,” he said. “We want to have the ability to cry, laugh and dance with you. We would even ride roller coasters with you — sometimes all the way.”

After they were given their certificates by EOPS counselor Dionne Perez, students were given hugs by career and technical education (CTE) counselor Jeannette McClendon and EOPS counselors Julie Skoler and Somayeh Yazdanpanah as they handed the students pins and medals with the EOPS/CARE symbol.

For students participating in CCC’s commencement ceremony on May 26, EOPS Office assistant Culoz Davis placed EOPS/CARE embroidered blue sashes on their shoulders.

“Most of our students are first-generation college students. They’re coming in without having that guidance from their families or loved ones through the process. There are also students who are not doing well economically, so they’re receiving help from CalWORKs,” Yazdanpanah said.

“Those students are oftentimes single parents and on assistance. It can be a real struggle committing to being a student here under those circumstances. We go above and beyond for them to provide that support and ensure they succeed.”

She said EOPS/CARE students are required to enroll in 12 units, must visit a counselor three times during the semester and must submit a mid-semester progress report.

Because the counselors also encourage students to share their challenges and triumphs, Yazdanpanah said they build a connection as they assist them on their journey on achieving their goals.

“Nothing beats the feeling of completion,” Mills said. “ I always get super excited during this time of year watching students graduate because it signifies the next big thing, whether it is getting a new job or obtaining a bachelor’s degree. It lets me know I’ve done my job.”