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CSU Bakersfield graduates on what it means to have an in-person graduation ceremony in 2021

Posted at 11:30 PM, May 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-23 02:30:40-04

Commencement may have been untraditional this year, but some CSU Bakersfield graduates told 23ABC they were happy to walk across that stage, regardless.

“Overwhelming, amazing, [and] exciting! Super exciting,” is how it felt for 2021 CSU Bakersfield graduate, Monica Valdez to be dressed in her regalia at an in-person commencement Saturday.

Valdez is a daughter, a mother and a grandmother. Now she’s a Master’s graduate in social work, and she did it during a pandemic. Valdez's parents, Lorna Steenbergen and Paul Valdez said they're very proud of her.

“My daughter never gives up,” her father said. “We have this saying in the family that a Valdez never gives up.”

Steenbergen added that her daughter is her treasure and she’s watched her overcome whatever life has thrown her way: Steenbergen getting sick when Valdez was very young, Valdez watching her parents’ divorce and Valdez being a young mother while working full-time as a nurses’ aide.

“With all the hardships, she determined that God was going to get her through this and she believed it,” Steenbergen said. “And by her faith, it has come to pass.”

Another graduating mother of three with a master’s, Luisa Jimenez also said she cannot believe this day is here for her and the 2800 CSU Bakersfield students graduating in-person this weekend.

“It’s been a struggle, because everything changed,” Jimenez said about finishing graduate school during the pandemic. “There’s been so much going on but I just hope they watched me this entire time and know that there’s no giving up and that you gotta keep on pushing forward.”

And after a year of juggling a full time job, being a mom and studying during a pandemic, fellow 2021 masters of social graduate Vanessa Gonzalez had these words of hope for future students no matter what obstacles may come their way:

“Keep going,” she said. “It’s going to be difficult, it’s going to be tough but keep going. It can be done. It can be done.”

There are two more CSU Bakersfield graduations Sunday. They’re not open to the public. More information on CSU Bakersfield graduations can be found here.