On Saturday, May 25, hundreds of families and graduates will gather to celebrate San Diego Continuing Education (SDCE) and San Diego Unified School District’s joint 2019 commencement ceremony. The day will be a particularly special occasion for the Vizcarra family because not one, but three generations of graduates will walk across the stage to receive their GED at the same time.
Deon Winters, a former gang member, will address the graduating class as SDCE’s Student Speaker. The ceremony will take place from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm at San Diego Convention Center, Ballroom 6A, 111 W. Harbor Drive, San Diego.
SDCE is California’s largest community college noncredit institution and the adult education division of the San Diego Community College District (SDCCD).
The ceremony will honor adult learners and will award 177 diplomas and 6,006 certificates in more than 75 career areas including Cyber Security, Fashion Design, Child Development and Automotive. Students will be recognized with academic cords of achievement based on completion of a high school diploma or equivalency (white cords), a career training certificate (blue cords), or an advanced level English as a Second Language certificate (maroon cords).
“SDCE is a rich representation of San Diego’s most marginalized communities. Our students are among the most diverse in California culturally, ethnically and educationally.” said Carlos O. Turner Cortez, Ph.D., President of SDCE. “As adult learners returning to school, their courageous choice to enroll in SDCE after facing many hurdles in their lives will open doors to new opportunities for themselves and for generations to come.”
3-GENERATIONS OF STUDENT SUCCESS
Diana Vizcarra, 44, and her family arrived in San Diego from Tijuana, Mexico. Family includes her mother, Linda Ramirez, 75, her son, Jesus Vizcarra, 20, and her niece, Noemi Cruz Perez, 18. Over the last year, they spent more than just the holidays together, they shared the same classroom at SDCE’s Cesar Chavez Campus, and the same dream, to finish their GED.
“Before today ‘GED’ was just a big word to me… a giant wall. I couldn’t cross it, for me it was a lot of work,” said Diana. She attends classes in the evening after working long days at Kaiser Permanente as an Environmental Services worker. Following graduation, she hopes to become a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN).
Diana’s son Jesus was turned away from his former high school in eleventh grade for falling behind in credits. “At first it was a bit embarrassing because I didn't finish my high school diploma and now here I am. I am finishing my GED with my mom,” he said. “She would tell me every day what it meant to her. It wasn't just a piece of paper. After a few months it was not embarrassing anymore. I saw in her eyes what it meant to her for me to finish.” After SDCE, Jesus, who turns 21 in June, will pursue a career with the United States Department of Homeland Security.
STUDENT COMMENCEMENT SPEAKER
Deon Winters, SDCE’s 2019 Student Speaker and Culinary Arts Graduate, spent most of his twenties in between prison and probation, although he had always tried to pursue his academics. “I am one of the stories you read about or see in the movies, from the streets to the classroom. But my story is nonfiction. Growing up in Southeastern San Diego you’re already labeled by law enforcement.”
Winters wanted to cook his whole life and that decision is what brought him to today, completing SDCE’s free Culinary Arts program, located just a few miles away from his home in Lincoln Park. “To see people be happy for me and to have people constantly congratulate me is way different than what I’m used to.”
Winters credits Chef Liz Trevino at SDCE for helping him fight for his education. “I was ready to give up on this when I had to go through the courts again.” The 30-year-old explained his probation officers attempted to pull him from school. “Now I don’t have to deal with them at all anymore and it’s because of this school and Chef Liz. The judge saw my progression and commitment and she liked it. I’ve never been this free in my life.”
Winters aspires to help previously incarcerated students who often want an education but don’t know how or where to begin and to feed the local homeless populations through his culinary projects.
Hundreds of students who earn a diploma or certificate from SDCE transition to the SDCCD’s City, Mesa and Miramar colleges.