The following is a press release from Santa Monica Community College.
This June, Jasmine Christmas, Jose Rosales, and Tafari Alan will be among 6,162 Santa Monica College (SMC) graduates receiving a total of 8,557 degrees and certificates. SMC’s first fully in-person commencement since 2019—the college’s 93rd Commencement Ceremony—will be held at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, June 13, at Corsair Field and also webcast live on the SMC Graduationwebpage (smc.edu/graduation). U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations for Management and Reform Christopher P. Lu is this year’s commencement speaker.
Christmas, Rosales, and Alan have each overcome personal and societal obstacles to persist and fulfill their goals at Santa Monica College. Below are brief versions of their inspirational stories; more stories like theirs are posted at smc.edu/spotlight/graduation-stories.
Optimism, Empathy & Kindness: Jasmine Christmas
Through some extraordinary alchemy, Jasmine Christmas turned adversity into a super-fuel propelling her to academic heights. She survived sexual assault and cervical cancer while in her teens, and today she still struggles with PTSD and bipolar disease.
Yet, Christmas graduates this year with associate degrees in general science, double majoring in pharmacology and psychology. That makes nine total credentials earned at SMC. She holds previous degrees in social and behavioral science, arts and humanities and general education, plus an array of professional certificates. She will return to SMC next fall to complete certificates in early childhood education and American Sign Language.
Jasmine Christmas intends to be a pharmacist, and she is taking a route few students travel: she has applied directly to doctor of pharmacology (PharmD) programs without a bachelor’s degree. Thanks to her multiple AAs and practical background as a pharmacy tech (she has worked full-time at Walgreens & CVS since 2017, Ralphs since 2022), she hopes to show graduate admissions committees she’s got what it takes to succeed.
As a Corsair, Christmas got involved in many campus communities. She found her voice in the Black Collegians Club, serving as its first Inter-Club Council delegate and getting elected twice as club president. She was also active in STEM/SRI, Phi Theta Kappa and the Games Club. The many threads of her education come together when she explains her mission in life: “I wanted to travel around the world and do pro-bono work in mental health services for low-income areas. I’m hoping to cater to the less fortunate.”
RISING to the Next Level: Jose Rosales
Jose Rosales, who trained as an engineer in his birth country of Mexico, majored in business administration at Santa Monica College. Shortly after starting here, he joined RISING (Re-entering Incarcerated and System Impacted Navigating Greatness), which connects students affected by the justice system to vital resources for success.
He knew it was the right decision as soon as he met RISING counselor Nick Bravo. Together, they crafted an education plan to help fulfill Rosales’s goals. Combined with his academic drive, the plan worked. He earned top grades and has been accepted into Cal State Northridge.
After transferring, Rosales wants to pursue a degree in business administration. Then he plans to go into supply chain management, helping goods get to consumers around the world. Since products need to be transported to consumers around the world, he knows the field offers numerous opportunities, and Southern California is a major hub. Rosales’s future endeavors may even take him back to Mexico, allowing him to leverage his bilingual fluency. “Big Mexican companies do a lot of business with the U.S.,” he notes.
No matter what lies ahead, Rosales feels SMC has thoroughly prepared him — and changed his life. “I’ve faced many obstacles,” he says. But with SMC’s support, he’s no longer letting anything hold him back from the success he deserves. “Every single professor at SMC has been great,” he says. “Coming here has been a really positive experience.”
Super Cool & Unique: Tafari Alan
All her life, Tafari Alan worked hard to perform in a world “that wasn’t built with my super-cool and unique brain in mind.” As a neurodivergent student with undiagnosed Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), she kept running up against rigid systems. After trying three different high schools, she graduated early by passing the California High School Proficiency Exam. She spent the next three years healing in therapy and independently reading feminist theory.
In 2017, Alan decided to give formal education another try. She enrolled at SMC and found faculty mentors like Lisa Collins (geology) and counselors like Tiffany Inabu (Student Life) and Sherri Bradford (Black Collegians)—and she thrived both academically and socially.
“Having ADHD is [only] one facet of who I am. It makes me creative, a quick thinker and a good brainstormer,” says Alan, a gender studies major who will graduate with high honors and five AA degrees, including one in General Science and two in Liberal Arts, Public Policy and Social Justice/Gender Studies.
She found her community at SMC: volunteering with Basic Needs, launching the Women in STEM (WiSTEM) club, and participating in acclaimed photographer Matika Wilbur’s yearlong residency. Tafari became SMC Associated Students’ Director of Student Outreach, then its president. She helped develop the Student Equity Center and serves on the committees for Racial Justice and Pride Centers.
With admissions offers from University of Michigan, UC Berkeley, and UC Santa Barbara, Tafari Alan hasn’t decided where she’ll transfer. Her long-term goal is to become a community college professor and help students, especially minoritized ones, achieve their goals.
Here are a few noteworthy stats from the SMC graduating class of 2023, representing Jasmine Christmas, Jose Rosales, Tafari Alan and their peers:
· 8,557 degrees and certificates will be awarded to 6,162 students; among these 28 students are earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Interaction Design (sixth graduating class)
· 2,595 students (30% of the graduating class) graduate with more than one degree or certificate
· 31.2% of students graduate with honors, 13.5% with high honors, and 3.7% with highest honors.
· The youngest graduate is 15 years old and will graduate with an Associate of Arts in Transfer (History) and a Certificate of Achievement. The oldest graduate is 82 and will earn an Associate of Arts (Liberal Arts: Social and Behavioral Science).
· The graduating class is 60.1% female, 37.9% male, and 2% unreported