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Commencement Season Has Commenced

Education: Three hundred receive diplomas during ceremony at Moorpark College. Schools in Oxnard and Ventura will hold graduations later this week.


MOORPARK — Thousand Oaks resident Michelle Moroney has visions of dorm life, the Bruins and tromping through Westwood dancing in her head.

But on Wednesday, the 20-year-old mathematics and economics student was savoring the accomplishment that helped get her admitted to UCLA: graduating with honors from Moorpark College.

"Moorpark is such a good school, I learned a lot," said Moroney, clutching a diploma to her chest after the college's 33rd annual commencement ceremony Wednesday on the campus quad. "I'm totally proud to say I went to Moorpark."

While the college's chamber music ensemble played Mozart, nearly 300 graduates celebrated their personal milestones, many with hugs and kisses from family and friends.

Moorpark's ceremony marked the beginning of commencement season for the county's three community colleges. Ventura College holds graduation exercises this afternoon, while on Friday, Oxnard College is set to issue diplomas to more than 200 graduates.

Usually only a fraction of the graduating class participates in commencement, college officials said. Moorpark officials said they issued degrees or certificates to more than 800 people this year.

With his tennis shoes and long shorts visible under his unbuttoned black gown, Jansen Wendlandt was all smiles as he talked of his plans to major in biotechnology at UC Davis and to one day work for Amgen Inc. in Newbury Park.

The Simi Valley resident said he attended the east county community college for his freshman and sophomore years to save his family money.

"It's cost-effective," said Wendlandt, 20. "But they also have a great biotechnology program."

While most of those participating in the college's commencement ceremony had earned associate in arts degrees, others earned certificates in specialized fields of study.

Mary Elizabeth Eklund, 38, said she had wanted to earn a certificate in child development before some of her four children attended college themselves.

"They are getting up there in years, and I didn't want to be in school with them at the same time," said the Simi Valley resident, who teaches kindergarten in a private school in the San Fernando Valley. Her 19-year-old daughter, Nicole, plans to attend Moorpark in the fall, Eklund said.

Student and faculty graduation speakers repeatedly praised the college. And campus administrators used the opportunity to showcase some of the talent the college has produced over the years.

"Alumni have such a warm and fuzzy feeling about the place," said college spokeswoman Jeanne Bailey, who invited alums Dennis Gillette, the mayor of Thousand Oaks, and Simi Valley Councilman Glen Becerra to a reception before the ceremony.

Sheriff Bob Brooks, who graduated from the college in 1974, gave the commencement address. He said he figured out his career choice while at Moorpark, and picked up a love of learning. He has since earned bachelor's and master's degrees and teaches a graduate public policy course at Cal Lutheran University.

During his address, Brooks called on Moorpark students to build meaningful, fulfilling lives.

"Your education has potential to make you more than just the next millionaire," he said before the crowd of nearly 2,000. Recalling Winston Churchill, the sheriff added that the most admired people in history are those who also serve their communities.

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