A small but persistent group of students witnessed a dream coming true last week with the first-ever Native and Indigenous Commencement Ceremony on Wednesday at Cal State Bakersfield.
The event inside the university’s Icardo Center culminated years of work by two on-campus organizations hoping to not only recognize but inspire a population of students averaging about two dozen members per semester.
“I feel our native and indigenous students deserve this,” said Christina Contreras, chairwoman of CSUB’s Indigenous Faculty and Staff Association, as quoted by a university online publication. “They deserve a ceremony that’s going to honor them in a culturally significant way.”
Participation was open to Native and Indigenous students graduating in the spring semester and those who completed their studies in 2022.
President David Silva of the Native and Indigenous Student Coalition, formed two years ago, said he was “beyond pleased” with the event.
“This allows us to provide a foothold for future student leaders, staff or faculty that want to continue the work Christina and I have accomplished,” the university quoted him as saying. “When a higher learning institution puts programs like this in place, it allows the younger generation of students to visualize themselves in a higher education setting where they are recognized but also seen, rather than being invisible.”
Added Contreras: “There's a lot of work that needs to be done, a lot of outreach that needs to be done. We need to have more visibility for our native and indigenous students on campus.”