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Virtual commencements for very real accomplishments at Cuyamaca, Grossmont colleges

Posted on: May 26, 2020 12:00:00 AM

Contact: Della Elliott

The Grossmont and Cuyamaca College classes of 2020 will make their mark in history in virtual commencements as graduates in the era of COVID-19.

Almost 2,745 graduates from the two colleges will receive 5,754 degrees and certificates in virtual ceremonies held June 3 for Cuyamaca College and June 4 for Grossmont College.

Digital processions of electronic slides featuring the accomplishments of individual graduates will take the place of the traditional march of regalia-adorned students, faculty, staff and administrators. With the spread of COVID-19, the colleges opted for online commencements to protect the health and safety of the community.

With many earning multiple degrees and certificates, 785 graduates are eligible to receive 1,180 degrees and 233 certificates at Cuyamaca College at 5:30 p.m., June 3. The next day, in an online ceremony at 5 p.m., 1,957 graduates are eligible to receive 2,822 degrees and 1,519 certificates at Grossmont College.

The graduates and their families and friends of graduates will be logging  on to and  to watch the event, and can post celebratory messages on social media at #CuyamacaGrad2020 or #griffingrad2020.

Lynn Neault, chancellor of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District, praised the resilience of students who had to complete their courses online after the college campuses were shut down in mid-March following statewide shelter in place orders.

“Many graduates have had to overcome incredible obstacles to earn their degrees and certificates,” the chancellor said. “One thing that the past two months have taught us is that you never know what challenges are around the corner in life.  What is important is to turn adversity into opportunity, and that is what our amazing students have done. I am so proud of the perseverance of our students and welcome everyone to join the colleges in celebrating the achievements that each degree and certificate represents.”

Each college selected a student speaker to address their fellow graduates. Like the rest of the ceremony, their speeches were recorded beforehand and included in the video that graduates will view.

“It is an unprecedented time, but our graduates have performed spectacularly to remain focused on their educational goals,” said Cuyamaca College President Julianna Barnes. 

Cuyamaca College student speaker

Kyrie Macogay, Associated Student Government of Cuyamaca College president, said she plans to talk about her journey of self-discovery during the COVID-19 shutdown.

“It’s a strange time, with lots of uncertainty,” said Macogay, a past Governing Board student trustee. “But it has given me time to think about something I think is important. It’s a question. ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’”

Noting that she has wanted to be a marine biologist, a veterinarian and a nurse at different points in her life, Macogay said what she describes as “the pause” has made her focus more broadly on the type of person she aspires to be.

“I want to be the type of person who inspires others,” she said. “I want to be the type of person who is passionate. I want to be the type of person who is persistent. As long as I am passionate, persistent and imaginative, I can do any job or career I choose.”

Graduating with four associate degrees – Social Science of Transfer; History for Transfer; University Studies: Science and Mathematics; and University Studies: Social and Behavioral Sciences – she plans to attend San Diego State University in the fall.

Early on, she said she planned on pursuing the sciences academically and professionally, but her experiences at Cuyamaca College have opened her eyes to the possibility of pursuing studies in the social and behavioral sciences.

“My professors and counselors see my potential and passion about political science, sociology and especially history,” said Macogay, who has a twin sister, Kristie, who is the student government president-elect for Cuyamaca College.

Grossmont College commencement


At Grossmont College, President Nabil Abu-Ghazaleh said it is remarkable that even considering the upheaval caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the 1,957 graduates in 2020 exceed last year's number by 5%; another record for the fourth consecutive year. 

“The students recognize the value of the education they receive at Grossmont College and have persisted in achieving their goals, and our faculty and staff have remained steadfast in supporting them," he said.

The personification of grit and determination is student speaker Jonathan Whitney.

“Junkie. Tweaker. Homeless. Depressed. Uneducated. Felon.”

Whitney cites these words as descriptions of himself five years ago, when he reached a juncture in his life that would have led to three conclusions: death, prison or a complete turnaround and reconstruction of himself.

Thanks to five years of sobriety, more than 180 hours of community service and his two years at Grossmont College,  he is graduating with a 3.4 grade point average, two degrees for math, two for physics, a University Studies degree and “a certificate or two.” He transfers in the fall to pursue a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering at California State University, Long Beach.

“Coming from a family with no college-educated mentors, I will be the first person to graduate with any sort of degree,” he said. “That is why during my college career and since making my life-or-death realization, I have made it a point to try and immerse myself in college life.”

Whitney said on-campus jobs at the library and as a tutor, as well as his service as a student representative on the Citizens Bond Oversight Committee, helped him acquire the tools to become more grounded, realistic and optimistic.

“I started with words you could have used to describe me before,” he said. “In the end, I close with words that you can use to describe me now: accomplished, educated, optimistic, role model, sober, and finally, happy.”



Kyrie Macogay

Jonathan Whitney

  • Grossmont
  • Cuyamaca
A Member of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District