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Gavilan College will present 1,122 degrees and certificates to graduating students — including 230 from San Benito County — at the annual commencement ceremony to be held this week. As per tradition, the afternoon starts with a procession of graduates walking from the Arts Quad, along Sycamore Lane, over the bridge, and into the gymnasium, where they are greeted by family and faculty. The Associated Students of Gavilan College (ASGC) will offer a reception outside the theater, while the graduates are assembling.

The ceremony will begin with the national anthem, performed by Gavilan College student Mike Rock, followed by welcoming remarks from Gavilan College Superintendent / President Kathleen A. Rose. ASGC President Omar Lopez will then address the graduating class before Dr. Rose introduces the Keynote Speaker, Gavilan College alumnus Danielle Rhinehart.

Rhinehart has worked in music promotion, helping up-and-coming artists find a foot-hold in the industry. For five years she organized the artists for the Morgan Hill Mushroom Mardi Gras. She earned her associate of arts degree in liberal arts at Gavilan College and went on to get both her bachelors and masters degrees in communication studies from San Francisco State University. She was recently published in the New York Times bestseller, Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It. The book is a collection of essays that tell the stories of people who were inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert’s novel.

Instructor Ken Wagman, president of the Gavilan College Faculty Association, will present faculty scholarships, and instructor Jennifer Nariwill induct the new lifetime members of the Rho Alpha Mu Honor Society. 

Board of Trustees President Laura Perry will confer the honorary degree on community member Cecilia Ponzini. Ponzini has served on the United Way South County Council, has been a member of the El Toro Community Advisory Board, represented the Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce as an Ambassador, and is a member of the Morgan Hill Kiwanis Club. In 2013, she co-founded the Edward (Boss) Prado Foundation with her husband, in honor of her son, Edward. In 2014, they opened Cecilia’s Closet and Food Pantry, providing clothing, food, and supplies to the needy in Morgan Hill. 

Ponzini was recognized as the Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce 2014 Woman of the Year, and is a recipient of a resolution from the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors for philanthropic work within the Morgan Hill Unified School District as well as being an alumna of Leadership Morgan Hill’s class of 2014. In 2015, she was a recipient of the 10th Annual Morgan Hill Community Foundation Philanthropy Award.

Dr. Michele Bresso, vice president of instruction, will present the Outstanding Scholar Awards, one to TJ Owens Early College Academy/Gavilan College student Rayleene Miranda, and one to Gavilan College student Andy Christian Tan. 

Dr. Bresso will then present the candidates for graduation to the Board of Trustees. The names of all candidates will be read aloud by Faculty of the Year Mari Garcia and Part-Time Faculty of the Year Meredith Hurley, as the graduates cross the stage to receive their diplomas. The ceremony ends with the conferring of degrees by Dr. Rose, marked by the traditional move of the tassle on each graduate’s mortarboard from right to left.

Admission is by invitation only — each graduate received a limited number of tickets due to the large size of the graduating class, however the ceremony will be live-streamed at, and there will be overflow viewing for non-ticket holders in the Music Hall on the Gavilan College campus.

Gavilan College graduation by the numbers:

  • 1,249 degrees and certificates will be presented
  • 270 Associate of Arts (AA) degrees
  • 83 Associate of Arts for Transfer (AA-T)
  • 145 Associate of Science (AS) degrees
  • 98 Associate of Science for Transfer (AS-T)
  • 648 Certificates
  • Some students have earned more than one degree or certificate.

WHEN: Friday, May 26

Graduates gathering and reception: 5 to 6 p.m.

Processional and Ceremony: 6 to 7:30 p.m.

WHERE: Gavilan College Gymnasium, 5055 Santa Teresa Blvd., Gilroy