Delta College Class of 2017 to Graduate 1,837 Students
Student Speaker, Renee’ Royster-West – Guest Alumna, Cristal Harris
Originally known as “The Junior College of the College of the Pacific” in 1935, San Joaquin Delta College will hold its 82nd Annual Commencement on Thursday, May 25, 6 p.m. at the Stockton Arena. Delta College Superintendent/President Dr. Kathy Hart, will preside over the ceremony, featuring student speaker, Renee' Royster-West, and guest alumna, Cristal Harris.
The Class of 2017 will graduate 1,837 students, with 2,934 degrees awarded. Students will receive Associate in Arts and Associate in Science degrees, with many graduates earning multiple degrees. Additionally, 1,030 Delta students earned 1,149 certificates, signifying the completion of specialized or technical training in specific career fields. The ceremony will also honor 17 students that earned perfect 4.0 GPAs during their Delta College academic careers. Congratulations all!
Delta College’s 2017 student commencement speaker and Weston Ranch grad, Renee’ Royster-West, explained that high school was “A time of innocence.” The lifetime Stockton resident was still searching for a career path. As with many of her friends, she looked to continue her education. However, the grim reality of the skyrocketing costs of jumping immediately to a four-year college eventually brought Renee’ to Delta College.
If you believe it, you can achieve it!
“There was a lot of negativity thrown my way,” explains Renee’, “but going to Delta College ended up being one of the best decisions of my life. I saved money, learned a lot as a person, and the professors really want you to succeed.”
Renee’ soon discovered a communication skills talent that she had not fully explored in high school. “I realized I had a passion for it.” Her public speaking skills caught the eye of forensics professor Kathleen Bruce. Professor Bruce encouraged Renee’ to join Delta’s debate team. Renee’ enjoyed the challenge. Her debate and argumentation skills were put to the test against practiced students. “Forensics makes me think logically and react quickly and sharply to arguments.”
Renee’s experiences at Delta College reinforced her belief that “helping other students reach their academic goals was vital.” She put her communication skills to good use at Delta’s Reading, Writing Learning Center as a tutor, and as a reader for Professor Nicole Brown’s English classes. Service to her classmates came with the territory. “I’m gratified that I can help students achieve success just by lending my time."
An excellent student, Renee’ has twice been recognized at Delta’s Academic Senate Outstanding Student Awards Ceremony for her accomplishments. “I thank my family, friends, and mentors for their support, including: Professor Nicole Brown, Professor Adrianna Brogger, and Professor Anita Gautam.”
With an Associate’s Degree in Communication Studies in hand, Renee’ will be transferring to the University of Southern California to complete her education. Ultimately, Renee’ has a dream to become a director or actor in film or TV. “If you believe it, you can achieve it!”
Renee’ felt applying as Delta’s commencement speaker was the perfect opportunity to pass on her experiences and advice to classmates. “I wanted to encourage students on their journey. This is a big accomplishment, but just a step in their passage. Keep going for it!”
Renee’ will have her opportunity. “I was confident, but still surprised when I was selected.” Ultimately, Renee’ found that her perspective changed to the positive when she attended Delta College. This will be the focus of her message. “I want people to know that when they change their perspective, their lives will change . . . It’s all in the mind. If you believe it, you can achieve it!”
2011 Delta College graduate Cristal Harris will be the college’s first guest alumni speaker at this year’s ceremony. Ms. Harris will share her inspiring story of perseverance against all odds in pursuit of an education. Though homeless at 18, her journey of success started at San Joaquin Delta College in Fall 2008. The Weston Ranch grad had ample experience in fine arts; she dreamed of being an artist who worked with chalk pastels. Initially, the truth of her existence dampened those ambitions. Cristal’s life would pivot in another direction at Delta College.
Cristal Harris, Guest Alumna
Discover the “why” of your motivation!
“The staff, faculty, students, and administrators at Delta wove a fence of protection around me,” said Harris. “It’s no exaggeration that I had no future, no plans, no real goals and no tools for success. I came to Delta College hopeless, hungry, and afraid for the future . . . I left Delta brimming with courage and full of the education needed to go to UCLA.”
Cristal tells students that the first key to overcoming harsh circumstances and finding success is to seek help from those around you. “There were many times when I doubted if tomorrow was worth the trouble. I looked to my support groups: the church, staff at Delta, faculty, etc. It reminded me that it was all worth it in the end.”
Harris emphasizes that community colleges foster the success of real human beings – of people who are poor or challenged as outsiders in life’s social strata. “These people go on to become technicians, mechanics, college counselors – and even lawyers.”
Harris will have graduated from The University of San Francisco’s School of Law by the time Delta’s commencement ceremony takes place. Her goal is to help those less fortunate by becoming a public defender and law professor. These new dreams of service to community were ignited at Delta College.
Cristal Harris is honored to have been selected the college’s first alumni speaker, and believes she is the embodiment of what a community college education fosters. “I grew to have a vision, a dream and goal at Delta College. I no longer wanted to just exist; I wanted to impact the world in meaningful ways.”
Cristal’s commencement speech will focus on finding the “why” of one’s existence as a motivating force. She says it was her “why” that got her out of bed in the morning and put her to sleep at night. “One of my ‘whys’ is my niece Destiny. When I get tired of pulling another 6 a.m. all-nighter study session, I remember that Destiny is behind me. She needs me to be an example that she too can be a successful educated black woman."
Cristal Harris finishes, “It is imperative for students standing in the same shoes I once stood to discover who they can become – not just because someone told them, but because someone like them achieved it.”
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