On June 9, 2023, a wide range of departments and organizations in the University of California, Riverside, came together to host a special family banquet celebration for the graduating class of 2023 composed of student parents and caregivers. This year marked their 2nd celebration and comprised of about 30 graduating scholars, consisting of both undergraduate and graduate students. Organizations present included the Women’s Resource Center (WRC), Early Childhood Services, Chicano Student Program (CSP), Undergraduate Scholars, Alumni, GradSuccess and Graduate Student Parent and Caregivers Association.
Throughout their day attendees, whether they are graduates, children, or volunteers, had activities like lawn games, mocktails and catering by Citrus Grove. The ceremony began with an opening statement by two student-parents, Lucerito Lopez and Gabriela Almendarez. Then, a few speakers delivered their own statements. Afterwards there was a special parent scholar recognition segment before closing it off with pictures of the graduating class.
Director Nina Ruedas of the WRC mentions how the “WRC is really fortunate to have two student-staff, one of which is graduating. They helped a lot with the programming, the organizing and getting everyone together as well. Student-parents are very fortunate that they have a lot of different departments who care about them deeply.”
One of this year’s graduating student-parents, Nancy Carranza, who received her Ph.D. this year, and who also helped organize the program shares a little bit about her hopes for future family graduation events. “The organizations this year were able to get some help to make the event happen this year, they even got a part of the CCAMPIS Grant, which was dispersed to support student-parents. I think it would be great for it to be an officially recognized graduation by the university. Our goal would be down the line to have the Chancellor’s office take on student-parents as a diversity initiative, so it is not just the WRC trying to get resources to make these events happen, but to have a wider support center. It would be nice to see a student parent task force that’s coming from the Chancellor’s office.”
Carranza continues sharing that this year that they had to accommodate almost double the number of attendees as the year prior. This year, preparation for the graduation event started rather late, so next year they are aiming to recruit more people to volunteer and begin preparation earlier. She further mentions that “when non-parents are able to volunteer or come out to certain activities, it helps student-parents. It’s hard for the parents to volunteer and have their kids with them at these activities at the same time. So when non-parents volunteer for these activities, it’s a great way to give back to the UCR community and fellow students, and also just appreciate and help student-parents feel included in the community.”