May 6, 2019 – AURORA, Colo. – The Community College of Aurora on Thursday night, May 2, honored more than 20 Latinx students who will graduate this month from the college.
The students, many of them first-generation graduates, were celebrated for their achievements during an hourlong ceremony at CCA attended by their friends, family and college staff. The students received serapes that they were encouraged to wear with their traditional cap and gown at CCA’s commencement ceremony May 11 at the University of Denver.
The event, now in its third year, is organized by CCA’s Latinx Faculty and Staff Association. CCA was designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution in 2017, which means the college has an undergraduate Latinx student population of more than 25 percent.
The Latinx graduation celebration serves as a way for CCA to recognize students who make up such a large percentage of the college population, said Courtney Butler, one of the chairs of LFSA.
“We want to honor and celebrate our students who identify as Latinx,” Butler said. “We want them to enjoy this event with their families and we want them to know we care about them.”
Ruby Martinez Gomez, 20, was the student keynote speaker at the event and delivered her remarks in both English and Spanish.
Gomez started taking concurrent enrollment classes — which allow ninth-, 10th-, 11th- and 12th-grade students to enroll in college-credit courses while in high school — at CCA as a senior at Gateway High School in 2017 and continued at CCA after graduating from Gateway. While at CCA, Gomez participated in the college’s RockSat-X program and visited the NASA facility in Wallops, Virginia. She will transfer to the University of Colorado Boulder in the fall to study aerospace engineering.
“I’m a first-generation student and I thought coming to CCA was a good stepping stone,” Gomez said. “A lot of first-generation students have issues with getting help.”
Once Gomez came to CCA as a full-time student, she was amazed at the opportunities CCA presented.
“When I found out about the robotics team and the NASA team, I said, ‘Wow, you can do that here?’” Gomez said. “CCA seems to have less resources than other colleges but still managed to offer these programs and stand out from other community colleges. You never associate community colleges with NASA.”
Henry Reyes, 20, will also attend CU Boulder in the fall to study electrical engineering. Being a first-generation student and attending classes with other Latinx students with shared experiences has meant a lot to him, he said.
“None of my parents had the opportunity to go past high school,” Reyes said. “Being surrounded by people with similar circumstances, it helps me to realize that I am not the only one.”
Added CCA President Betsy Oudenhoven: “CCA’s event honoring our Latinx graduates was an evening of celebration, pride and community. The faculty and staff of the college were honored to join these students and their families to recognize their success.”
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About the Community College of Aurora (CCA)
The Community College of Aurora (CCA) provides high-quality instruction and student support services to Aurora and Denver, Colorado. The college offers courses on two campuses, online and through its high school concurrent-enrollment program, helping students prepare for employment or transfer to a four-year institution. For more information, visit www.ccaurora.edu.