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Delta College confers degrees during annual Commencement
Delta graduates
It was an evening of celebration on the Delta College campus as the Class of 2024 received their degrees. Photo Contributed

San Joaquin Delta College celebrated its 89th annual Commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 16 with students attending celebrated for their hard work and perseverance.

A total of 2,696 Delta College students applied for graduation in 2023-24, seeking a total of 2,930 degrees and 808 certificates.

“Our graduates have encountered many challenges during their academic journey, but they stayed the course,” said Delta College Superintendent/President Dr. Lisa Aguilera Lawrenson. “They may have been the caregiver for children or family members, or worked several jobs. They may have experienced challenges putting food on the table or finding secure housing. They may have faced health problems. Even with these responsibilities and challenges, our graduates pressed on and their achievement shows tremendous resilience, commitment, focus, and courage.”

The ceremony was hosted at the Adventist Health Arena and included remarks from both a graduating student and a Delta alum.


Student Speaker Cheyanne Gaines

Cheyanne Gaines isn’t a mom, exactly, but as the oldest daughter in a family raised mostly by her father, the 22-year-old Delta student has been a motherly figure for years.

Her brothers and sisters celebrate her on Mother’s Day. She attends their school field trips. She keeps up on their homework.

“I want to make sure my younger siblings have the role model that I never had,” she said.

And so, she’s making history not once, but twice. Four years ago, she was the first member of her immediate family to graduate from high school. And now, she’s the first to graduate from college.

She’s sending a message.

“My brothers and sisters talk about it all the time,” she added. “‘I can’t wait to go to college,’ they say.”

Blazing this trail wasn’t easy. But Gaines said Delta’s faculty and staff gave her the support she needed and shaped her into the role model she is today. She now plans to transfer to Stanislaus State and pursue a degree in psychology, with her ultimate goal to help members of the Black and African American community who struggle with mental health challenges.

“This is not a small accomplishment,” she pointed out, “but it’s also just the first of many.”


Alumni Speaker Rajan Nathaniel

When he graduated from Stanford University two years ago with a degree in political science, Rajan Nathaniel was invited to speak at his Commencement ceremony – an incredible honor from a prestigious university.

But the address he delivered as Delta College’s 2024 alumni speaker was even more meaningful.

“Being able to speak to community college graduates, at my alma mater, in my hometown … That, to me, is the greatest opportunity of my life thus far,” he said.

That’s a strong statement, for an up-and-coming political strategist who at the ripe old age of 24 is chief of staff to a member of the United States Congress. Nathaniel is the youngest person in America to currently hold that position.

Even while still a student at Stanford, he served as chief of staff and policy advisor to Stockton Mayor Kevin Lincoln. He also served as a senior advisor to former Ukrainian Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk, and has managed political campaigns, served on boards, and worked with an international think tank.

It all started when he was just three years old, watching a presidential press conference on television. He then followed in his mother’s and father’s footsteps to Delta College, where he immersed himself in political science and also began to better understand the role that higher education plays in realizing the American dream.

“Delta College students are experiencing life – they’re raising families, they’re immigrants seeking opportunity, they’re trying to not only make ends meet but get ahead,” he said. “I want to try and provide context for what their education means, not only for them personally but for their community, and how we can use our education to create hope and build a better world.”