SANTA MARIA, Calif. -- Allan Hancock College celebrated its historic 100th graduating class with a pair of drive-up commencement ceremonies on Friday.
"100th anniversary, 100th graduating class and the great part is we have a record number of graduates," said Allan Hancock College President/Superintendent Dr. Kevin Walthers. "More than 550 of them will be walking across this stage today, one at a time to keep it safe, but it's really spectacular for the families."
The school held graduation in a pair of ceremonies. The first one started at 10 a.m., while the second one started at 2 p.m.
According to the college, the Class of 2021 features 1,498 graduates, who earned a total of 2,742 degrees.
"It means a lot to me," said graduate Adrian Gallo.
The Orcutt Academy alum said he's now headed to Cal State Los Angeles to study criminal justice.
"It took me seven years to finish Hancock," said Gallo. "I took a couple years off. I thought other things were more important, but at the end of it, education is key. Education is what everyone needs in life and it's just to get to the next step in life."
During the COVID-19 compliant ceremony, graduates were allowed to leave their vehicle and walk across a stage to receive their diploma from Allan Hancock College President/Superintendent Dr. Kevin Walthers.
"I really think this is really cool and I think they're handling it very well and I think this is the best you could do," said graduate Michaela Rose Bruce. "I love it too because you get to drive through and you get to have your whole family and you can decorate your car, which is really fun, and it's still that graduation feel and we're still crying in the car and getting emotional, but it's just a little faster."
Families had to remain in their vehicles as at all times. After receiving their diplomas, the graduates had the opportunity to take a photo before returning to their cars and leaving the campus.
"My family came in from Texas and my daughter, she's going to be watching, she's nine and I know she's proud to see me graduate, so that's cool," said graduate Jamie Michelle Brewer. "I'm really proud of myself. I know there was a few classes where I said, ooh, is this worth it? But it is. It is so worth it and I'll tell anybody who's struggling in classes the same thing. It's so worth it."
The graduates had to endure not only rigors of junior college, while also juggling the demands of work, family and their personal lives, but also a pandemic the past 14 months, perhaps making today's event a little extra meaningful.
"I'm almost 40 and going back to school and changing my career is a pretty big deal," said Nicholas Shaddox. "I'm the first in my family to ever go to higher education."
The graduation was streamed live online on the college’s YouTube channel. The broadcast also featured speeches by Hancock administrators, faculty and student leaders.
While the drive up graduation was as success and was actually popular with many graduates, Walthers said he's already looking forward to returning commencement back to its traditional format.
"It's going to be so great to have everybody back, the students are going to love being back," said Walthers. "We're looking forward to having them here and kind of doing it the old fashioned way where all the families get to come and hang out and it's a party for all the families together."