Celebrating Santa Rosa Junior College grads' paths to success

  • Cruz Martinez, bottom right, leaves his the SRJC Commencement Ceremony with his diploma in Santa Rosa on Saturday, May 24, 2014. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)

Cruz Martinez never expected to get to college, let alone graduate.

"I came here as a dare from my wife," he said of his decision to enroll in 2008. But on Saturday he was in cap and gown, holding his newly minted diploma from Santa Rosa Junior College.

Martinez, 53, was one of a half-dozen graduates singled out among the approximate 1,470 who participated Saturday in SRJC's 95th annual graduation.

SRJC Commencement Ceremony


They were honored for overcoming especially adverse circumstances, including poverty, cancer, debilitating physical injury, domestic violence and substance abuse problems.

But Saturday, above all, was a day of marking achievement for all the graduates in the 2014 commencement held outdoors on the college lawn under majestic oak trees.

"How fortunate we are to be part of a community, state and country that values education," SRJC President Frank Chong told the audience. "We're here to witness the wonderful celebration of accomplishment."

He said the opportunities in the changing world are enormous and "you must be prepared to lead."

He got a laugh when he added "lead yourselves to financial independence so your parents can have a break."

Keynote speaker was SRJC alumna Dr. Colleen Finnegan, a physician who is chief of Kaiser Permanente's HIV Department in Portland. Ore.

She spoke of her childhood dream to become a ballerina that changed to wanting to pursue a degree in medicine after losing friends, dance partners and teachers to the AIDS epidemic that hit the ballet world especially hard in the 1980s.

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