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Santa Monica College to Celebrate Graduation Next Week


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By Lookout Staff

June 6, 2017 -- The youngest is 17, the oldest 71. Some took decades to get there, others breezed through in a semester or two.

They are among the 3,753 students who will be awarded Associate Degrees and Certificates of Achievement this year by Santa Monica College (SMC) at the school's 87th annual commencement ceremony next Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Corsair Field.

The graduating class includes 762 international students, 309 students with disabilities and 210 EOPS students affected by social, economic, educational or language disadvantages.

Each of the more than 3,000 students has a unique story to tell, a few of which are showcased on SMC's "Graduation Stories" page.

This year's graduates include Rayford Brown, a homeless veteran "who restarted his pursuit of a college education" nearly 30 years after being placed on academic probation, officials said.

Another, Isabel Castillo, is a sexual assault survivor and the daughter of illegal Puruvian immigrants who came to Los Angeles when she six and "triumphed in spite of her obstacles."

While Micca Cao came to the United States to pursue a childhood dream and to “break free” from the constraints placed on women in her native China.

This year's keynote speaker is documentary filmmaker and producer Frank Stiefel, a resident of Santa Monica who served on the SMC Foundation Board from 1998 to 2016, six of those years as president.

"Mr. Stiefel is an inspirational individual on many different levels," said SMC Superintendent/President Dr. Kathryn E. Jeffery, noting that he is a successful executive and artist.

"Perhaps most significantly," Jefferey said, Stiefel has given "of his time and resources to support the educational aspirations of Santa Monica College students and to make innovative faculty endeavors a reality.”

Last year Stiefel completed "Heaven Is A Traffic Jam on the 405," a documentary based on the life of artist Mindy Alper that premiered at The Broad Stage at SMC and became the only film ever to win both the Audience and Critics prize at the prestigious Full Frame Documentary Festival.

This year's graduation student speaker is John Abughattas who survived a debilitating childhood illness that isolated him from his fellow students and found his calling at SMC where he made time to volunteer despite his disability.

Abughattas, who graduates from SMC with an Associate degree in General Science, has been accepted at UCLA, UC Berkeley and Columbia University. He is considering pursuing a law degree and a PhD in philosophy.

Of this year's graduating class, 58 percent are female and 42 percent are male.

White students comprise 32 percent of the graduating class, 31 percent are Hispanic, 20 percent are Asian, 7 percent are black and 10 percent are identified as "other.

The top ten Associate Degree Programs are Social and Behavioral Science, Arts and Humanities, Business Administration, General Science, Communication Studies, Political Science, Early Childhood Education, Registered Nursing, Art and Film Studies.

A reception will be held in the Quad area just east of Graduation immediately following the ceremony.

For the eighth year in a row, the ceremony will also be webcast live and available on the SMC Alumni Association webpage (


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