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Jill Biden gives commencement address at Los Angeles community college

First Lady Jill Biden delivered an opening address to three graduating classes from Los Angeles City College Tuesday night, highlighting the stories of community college students who graduated against all odds.

At the ceremony, the first lady, students and administrators discussed what the school’s students were up against, including addiction, homelessness, COVID losses and going to school while pregnant or having young children.

“These stories, your stories of perseverance and resilience are so inspiring,” said the first lady, who still teaches English at Northern Virginia Community College.

She spoke about three graduating students in her keynote address, including a pregnant woman who recently immigrated to the US named Marie, whose water broke during her high school graduation.

‘Now we all know students who would request an exemption from a test for a runny nose. But not Marie,” Biden said. “Because of her contractions – praying that her baby would last a little longer – she completed her test and later gave birth to a healthy boy.”

“That’s how important it was for her to get her degree,” the first lady added.

Biden also spoke of a Marine Corps veteran named Steve, who was not defined by his PTSD, and was in high school — as well as a 46-year-old graphic designer named Ilya who was fired during the pandemic, enrolled in LACC classes. , and is now embarking on a second career as a teacher.

First Lady Jill Biden delivered an opening address to three graduating classes from Los Angeles City College on Tuesday night, highlighting the stories of community college students who graduated against all odds.

First Lady Jill Biden delivered an opening address to three graduating classes from Los Angeles City College on Tuesday night, highlighting the stories of community college students who graduated against all odds.

First Lady Jill Biden (right) and Los Angeles City College President Mary Gallagher (left) wave to graduates at the school's commencement ceremony in Los Angeles

First Lady Jill Biden (right) and Los Angeles City College President Mary Gallagher (left) wave to graduates at the school’s commencement ceremony in Los Angeles

Graduates of Los Angeles City College's 2020, 2021, 2022 classes listen as First Lady Jill Biden delivers an opening address

Graduates of Los Angeles City College’s 2020, 2021, 2022 classes listen as First Lady Jill Biden delivers an opening address

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“These stories, your stories of perseverance and resilience are so inspiring,” said the first lady, who still teaches English at Northern Virginia Community College.

First Lady Jill Biden (second from left) responds as director of the Los Angeles City College foundation Robert Schwartz (right) shows a poster of Biden at Los Angeles City College

First Lady Jill Biden (second from left) responds as director of the Los Angeles City College foundation Robert Schwartz (right) shows a poster of Biden at Los Angeles City College

“She will start a new chapter and bring an old dream to life,” Biden said.

Other student speakers spoke of the challenges they overcame to earn those associate degrees Tuesday night, at a ceremony at the Greek Open Air Theater in Los Angeles, located on a hill below the Griffith Observatory.

“I was a drunk, a high school dropout, with literally zero future plans,” noted Stefanie Stone, the 2022 chair of the Associated Student Government. She said that after leaving a four-year university, she “entered a decade of depression, addiction and self-loathing.”

She told the public that she had been sober for almost three years. She also told her fellow graduates that it’s okay not to figure everything out.

“If someone tells you they’ve got it all, run away — they’re probably a cult leader,” she joked.

Valedictorian Voleak Sip joked about how she and her colleagues had “transferred to Zoom University” during the onset of the COVID pandemic.

“Suddenly, my stress about getting a good grade was compounded by the existential threat of global, societal downfall,” she noted.

But she also spoke seriously about the personal costs it had for her — losing both her mother and her aunt to the disease.

“That semester I happened to have three of the most compassionate professors a student could wish for,” she said.

Sip then goes to UCLA to get a degree in psychology.

LACCD board member Andra Hoffman highlighted some of the issues she faces with students.

“I know many of you don’t have a fixed place to call home and some of you have had to sleep in your cars,” Hoffman said. “I know some of you depend on our food supply and I know many of you have two jobs.”

“I know some of you are raising young children,” she added. And had to fight against unreliable internal service, she noted.

She joked that degrees from LACC are available to the “top 100 percent of students who apply.”

“Our doors are open to anyone who wants to take advantage of our programs,” she said.

Hoffman pointed out that at the ceremony, graduates represented people ages 69 to 16, as well as some who are DACA recipients and previously incarcerated.

First Lady Jill Biden congratulates the 2022, 2021, 2020 graduates of Los Angeles City College at a Tuesday night ceremony at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles

First Lady Jill Biden congratulates the 2022, 2021, 2020 graduates of Los Angeles City College at a Tuesday night ceremony at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles

dr.  Jill Biden (left) hugs Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (right), who had been nominated by her husband as ambassador to India but his nomination was hung in the US Senate

dr. Jill Biden (left) hugs Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (right), who had been nominated by her husband as ambassador to India but his nomination was hung in the US Senate

Graduates of the classes of 2020, 2021 and 2022 celebrated Tuesday evening, eliminating in-person graduations during the pandemic

Graduates of the classes of 2020, 2021 and 2022 celebrated Tuesday evening, eliminating in-person graduations during the pandemic

Graduates of the classes of 2020, 2021 and 2022 were celebrated Tuesday evening, meaning there were no in-person graduation ceremonies during the pandemic.

School administrators marveled that Biden chose the community college in East Hollywood to deliver an opening speech.

“Of all the colleges our first lady could have picked to start, she picked us,” said Mary Gallagher, president of Los Angeles City College.

But as the second lady, she teamed up with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti — who was in attendance Tuesday night — for the Los Angeles pilot program to provide free tuition to those pursuing college degrees.

Garcetti’s nomination for ambassador to India remains stuck in the US Senate.

The first lady will also participate in Summit of the Americas events on this trip — with President Joe Biden flying to Los Angeles on Wednesday for three days of meetings with leaders from the Americas.

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