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San Diego Continuing Education

Office of Communications


SAN DIEGO – San Diego Continuing Education (SDCE) will honor more than 1,000 graduates during Commencement at Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park on Friday, May 27, 2016 at 5 p.m. The ceremony is a collaboration with the San Diego Unified School District Adult High School Diploma Program. The graduates are a collective group: many have, at some point, fallen through the cracks of the traditional education system and chose to re-enter classrooms and complete a High School Diploma or equivalency; some have completed specific job training skills as part of a certificate program and are eager to enter the workforce; and others have mastered English as their second language.

"Más vale maña que fuerza,” is a Spanish expression that means “cleverness achieves more than strength,” said Carlos O. Turner Cortez, Ph.D., and President of San Diego Continuing Education. “A student said it to me when I was visiting a classroom in our accelerated High School Program and it stuck with me, although I believe it’s an extraordinary internal strength that enables us to achieve cleverness.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that working people with a High School Diploma earn 37% more than those who do not complete this important first step in education. In San Diego County, the difference can be even greater. EMSI reports the annual income by education level at mid-career point in San Diego County is $36,400 for those with a High School Diploma, which is 60% greater than someone with less education. SDCE’s 2016 awards include 188 High School Diplomas, a 24% increase from 2015.

SDCE’s Accelerated High School Diploma Program is rigorous. In the past year, the program has implemented an accelerated path and students are rising to the higher expectations. The program has seen a 189% increase in completion rates.

In addition to High School Diplomas, SDCE’s awards include 4,850 certificates of completion for career technical education programs and English as a Second Language certificates, an impressive 28% increase from last year.

Approximately 300 graduates are expected to participate in the ceremony, including Estefany Jacob, a representative student speaker. Estefany, a mother of two, has earned her high school diploma at age 32. Her initial goal is to start a small business as a wedding planner and this fall she will enroll at Mesa College to pursue a career in holistic health.

“Commencement is the ultimate example of how we can change lives by helping people achieve their educational goals,” said Esther Matthew, Acting Vice President of Instruction for San Diego Continuing Education. “Many students will continue to higher education as a next step in their journey, and we’re proud to be part of the beginning of their success.” Students in this graduating class who choose to pursue higher educational will benefit from 66 scholarship awards totaling more than $24,000.


The graduating class includes 25 students from the San Diego Promise pilot program, which implements the American’s College Promise for the San Diego Community College District (SDCCD). The program's aim is to cover the costs of enrollment fees and textbooks for attendance to San Diego City, Mesa or Miramar College not otherwise covered by state or federal financial aid or scholarships. A total of 200 students have been selected to participate in the pilot. “

Arianna Ruiz who is a participant in SDCE’s Adult Basic Education Program, looks to transfer to San Diego Mesa College and ultimately receive both Bachelor and Master’s degrees in Psychology. Adrianna will be the first in her family to attend college.  She has an interest in working with people who are struggling with mental disorders. Her goal is to “one day be a resource for those who are struggling and to be able to make that mission every day to help people break any bondage [from mental disorders] that they might have.”


Keiko Alerson is a single parent of a child with disabilities. At age 36, she has completed her High School Diploma and plans to attend college to study business. “I’m sad I waited so long to complete high school, and also happy I finally did.”

Fidel Ibarguen Saldana completed the Automotive Technician Certificate Program and will transition to Miramar College to work toward an AA degree in Automotive Technology.

Faduma Abdulkadir earned a high school diploma while balancing work and caring for a family. She will transition to City College and study Biology.


The graduates represented the most diverse class within SDCCD, and likely the most diverse graduating class in the nation. SDCE is an open door to citizenship for immigrants and refugees who are residents of California. The fall 2015 student population included 676 people who identified as a refugee/asylee. The graduating class represented more than 20 self-identified ethnic groups including Asian Indian, Cambodian, Guamanian and Samoan.

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San Diego Continuing Education (SDCE) is the adult education division of the San Diego Community College District (SDCCD). As the second-largest of California’s 72 community college districts, SDCCD serves approximately 100,000 students annually through three two-year colleges and SDCE. The three colleges, San Diego City College, San Diego Mesa College, and San Diego Miramar College, offer associate degrees and certificates in occupational programs that prepare students for transfer to four-year colleges and entry-level jobs. Mesa College also offers a bachelor’s degree in Health Information Management. SDCE was one of the first continuing education institutions in California to meet the standards for independent accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. More than 45,000 students are served per academic year at six main campuses in San Diego. Noncredit classes are available at no cost, including online options.

Certificate programs are offered for numerous industries including: Automotive Technician, Child Development, Culinary Arts, Healthcare Careers, Professional Bakeshop Skills and Web Security. Classes are free because San Diego Continuing Education is part of the California system of higher education. Funding also comes through business and industry partnerships.