A special graduation ceremony for about 150 Latino students at Cal State Northridge is scheduled today in the school's University Club garden.
First held in 1969 by a group of Chicano students and professors looking to assert their cultural identity at the school, the annual Chicano/Latino Graduation ceremony now celebrates the range of Latin American heritages at CSUN.
At the event, friends and family members will be treated to folklorico dance performances and live music. The graduating students will also appear in the traditional garb of their countries.
Raising $45,000 during the school year to hold both the ceremony and an evening banquet dinner in Downtown Los Angeles, the students hope the day will serve as thanks to those who have supported their educational efforts, said Raul Ruiz, a Chicano Studies history professor who helped coordinate the ceremony.
"A lot of these students come from very poor backgrounds," said Ruiz. "Many will be the first in their families to graduate from college.
"This day is a testimony of success for the students and those in the background who sacrificed a lot to make sure their kids could stay in school," he said. "The support these students received from their families has been crucial to their having made it this far."
In the context of recent debates surrounding Proposition 187 and affirmative action, Flavio Robles, a CSUN junior who helped coordinate the event, said that element of support should be a dominant theme during this year's ceremony.
"It's important for us to remember to help our own people," Robles said. "Most of us come to school to do that. We have people graduating who are going to be doctors, engineers and teachers. They should help others to do the same."
By doing so, said Robles, minority college graduates can counteract negative images associated with their races during political debates.
Ruiz agreed. "This generation [of Latinos] has been slammed hard . . . by some politicians," he said. "They are simply asking for a chance to become worthwhile contributors to society."
The Chicano/Latino Graduation ceremony is scheduled today at 9 a.m. in the University Club garden. A formal dinner will be held at 6 p.m. at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles.