by Lidia Grande-Ruiz
A few weeks ago, I got an email during work asking me to fill out a survey. The survey described how Cal Poly Humboldt is considering a commencement ceremony at a venue in another part of California. If I responded “yes,” I could be graduating closer to home. But Arcata has become my home now. If I were to graduate back in LA, yes, I would be surrounded by my mom, cousin, and childhood friends, but I think I would feel lost and disconnected. I would feel like something is missing, and that would be my peers.
While another graduation closer to home might sound ideal to those struggling financially, some are not pleased with the idea–myself included. For me, I want to graduate in the place where I attended my classes and made connections to help further my career. Where I formed friendships with my peers and roommates that will last a lifetime, laughed and cried about everyday life occurrences, and crossed paths with people from different backgrounds. I want to be in the place where I had not only a successful college experience, but also an adventure. Graduating in Humboldt county would fulfill my dreams.
My mom and I have been planning (and saving) for my college graduation and have started telling our loved ones where to go and when it is. When I told my mom about this survey, she was upset with me because she wanted to see me happy on my graduation day. She agreed that if I were to go back to LA I would be depressed because I would not have my peers by my side.
I have had my heart set on Humboldt since high school. It was my motivation to strive for the best. Many thought I was crazy, that I would not succeed and have many opportunities being in a rural small town. But Humboldt is where I saw myself smiling very big and wide, walking across that stage.
To have this survey sent to me felt like Humboldt stepped on my heart with high heels. It hurt. I was overthinking where graduation was going to happen. Is it actually going to happen? Am I going to walk the stage with my friends and mentors cheering me on to the next chapter of my life? Are me and my mom going to cross ‘Graduating Humboldt’ off my bucket list?
All I want is a graduation. But not just any graduation–a graduation proving that this first-gen Latinx student went farther than LA and explored their options in an area where people least expected.
I ended up saying that I want to graduate in Humboldt. Not only am I standing up for myself in the present but also to the 17-year-old who wanted just one thing: to attend Humboldt and be able to say, “I went there and came out as a whole new person. Mom, we did it.”