When Pierce College graduates walked onto the stage to accept handshakes and congratulations Thursday night, transfer students were among them for the first time.
Though the students, who opt not to take an associate of arts degree but instead transfer to another college or university to seek a higher degree, make up nearly half of Pierce's population, they had never been invited to the graduation ceremonies.
"We have a high transfer rate here at Pierce. They have accomplished something," said Judith Ponsor, student body adviser at the college. Ponsor explained that to participate in the ceremony, the students had to show acceptance at a four-year school.
"That's certainly an educational milestone for them. It's sort of important that we celebrate with them," Ponsor said. "The person who decides 'I'm going to plug along and try to get in another institution of higher education,' that's marvelous."
About 1,000 students graduated this semester from the two-year college, with about 400 expected to participate in the ceremony.
Ponsor set up about 3,500 seats for the event, because Pierce does not dole out tickets to graduation. "We try to make sure everyone is invited to celebrate in this activity," she said.
Included in the audience? The family and friends of Kissandra Cohen, one of those transfer students. Cohen has been accepted to Cornell, Smith and UC Berkeley--at age 15.