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Multicultural graduation celebrates culture, achievement

Alumni Campus Life Apr 15, 2024
A group picture of people with colorful stoles
More pictures from the Multicultural Graduation here.

KOKOMO, Ind. — Participating in a Multicultural Graduation is about more than celebrating your own accomplishments.

It’s also about inspiring those who come behind you.

Bianca Miranda attended Indiana University Kokomo’s first-ever multicultural graduation Friday holding her daughter, who just turned a year old.

“This is mostly for her,” she said, adding that she’s glad to see more diverse students on campus than there were when she first came to IU Kokomo after four years in the U.S. Air Force.

“I wanted something better for myself,” the Kokomo resident said. “I’m proud to represent who I am. This is something to be proud of. If we show up and show out, it’s all for the next generation.”

Andréa Halpin, dean of students, said she’s participated in multicultural graduations on multiple campuses throughout her graduate and professional career.

“I think it’s a great way to acknowledge the university’s inclusive excellence, and celebrate the significant milestone in our students’ lives,” she said, adding that it’s also a way for the IU Kokomo community to thank students for the positive impact they’ve made on campus.

Each of the 20 students received a stole to wear at Commencement on May 7, to represent their cultural heritage, presented by staff from the Black Student Center, Latinos Unidos: Hispanic Center, and the LGBTQ+ Center.

Black students received a kente stole, a symbol of achievement and overcoming hardship, paying homage to ancestors’ sacrifices, reuniting African Americans with Africa, and asserting hope and confidence in the future. Hispanic/Latino students were honored with the serape stole, a symbol of cultural pride, resilience, and cultural heritage, to celebrate academic achievements. International students received stoles containing their country’s flag and colors, as a reminder of their culture, traditions, and accomplishments. Countries and territories represented included Canada, Germany, Haiti, Italy, Puerto Rico, Romania, and Spain.

Gabby Pearson Mora, MPM ’23, congratulated students on their achievements and encouraged them to remember those who helped them.

“As you begin your professional careers, remember the sacrifices you and your family have made to get you to where you are today,” she said. “Be proud of how far you’ve come, and of the barriers you’ve overcome to get to this day.”

Tina Robinson, welcome center associate, whom Halpin described as “an auntie to many students here,” shared her own story as keynote speaker.

She recalled being one of three children of a widowed mother, who was determined her three children would earn college degrees. All three did, with Robinson first earning a bachelor’s degree from Central State University, an HBCU in Ohio, and then a master’s degree from IU Kokomo. She began her current career after teaching 31 years at Kokomo’s Bon Air Elementary.

She encouraged them to celebrate Commencement, and then be ready for reality to kick in the next day.

“It will be bittersweet,” she said. “Now your journey begins. A new level of adulting beings. Life after college just hits a little different.” She noted that there would be job interviews ahead, and sometimes those would not work out, but it’s OK.

“Don’t think of those as a setback, as it could be a set up for the job that is exactly right for you,” Robinson said. “You have options.”

Andrea Mendez Rodriguez, an international student from Spain, shared an original poem as student speaker.

Kashlin Biffle hopes the ceremony inspires more students from diverse backgrounds to come to IU Kokomo.

“I can say since my freshman year until now, the diversity on this campus has grown,” said. Biffle, from South Bend. “I identify as African American, and I’m female, and I wanted to be sure I represent that when I walk across the stage at Commencement.”

Education is KEY at Indiana University Kokomo.

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