Delta College graduates celebrating
Delta College announces 89th annual Commencement
May 14, 2024

STOCKTON - San Joaquin Delta College will celebrate its 89th annual Commencement ceremony this Thursday, May 16, with close to 900 students expected to attend and be celebrated for their hard work and perseverance.

A total of 2,696 Delta College students have applied for graduation in 2023-24, seeking a total of 2,930 degrees and 808 certificates.

“Our graduates have encountered many challenges during their academic journey, but they stayed the course,” said Delta College Superintendent/President Dr. Lisa Aguilera Lawrenson. “They may have been the caregiver for children or family members, or worked several jobs. They may have experienced challenges putting food on the table or finding secure housing. They may have faced health problems.

“Even with these responsibilities and challenges, our graduates pressed on and their achievement shows tremendous resilience, commitment, focus, and courage.”

Thursday’s ceremony begins at 6 p.m. at the Adventist Health Arena. For more details, visit

Read on for the stories of two special speakers who will be featured during this year’s Commencement.

Student Speaker Cheyanne Gaines

Cheyanne Gaines isn’t a mom, exactly, but as the oldest daughter in a family raised mostly by her father, the 22-year-old Delta student has been a motherly figure for years.

Her brothers and sisters celebrate her on Mother’s Day. She attends their school field trips. She keeps up on their homework.

“I want to make sure my younger siblings have the role model that I never had,” she says.2024 Delta College student speaker Cheyanne Gaines

And so, she’s making history not once, but twice. Four years ago, Cheyanne was the first member of her immediate family to graduate from high school. And now, she’ll be the first to graduate from college.

She’s sending a message.

“My brothers and sisters talk about it all the time,” she says. “’I can’t wait to go to college,’ they say.”

Blazing this trail wasn’t easy. But Cheyanne says Delta’s faculty and staff gave her the support she needed and shaped her into the role model she is today. She now plans to transfer to Stanislaus State and pursue a degree in psychology, with her ultimate goal to help members of the Black and African American community who struggle with mental health challenges.

“This is not a small accomplishment,” she says, “but it’s also just the first of many.”

Alumni Speaker Rajan Nathaniel

When he graduated from Stanford University two years ago with a degree in political science, Rajan Nathaniel was invited to speak at his Commencement ceremony – an incredible honor from a prestigious university.

But the address he’ll deliver as Delta College’s 2024 alumni speaker is even more meaningful.

“Being able to speak to community college graduates, at my alma mater, in my hometown… That, to me, is the greatest opportunity of my life thus far,” he said.2024 Delta College alumni speaker Rajan Nathaniel

That’s a strong statement, for an up-and-coming political strategist who at the ripe old age of 24 is chief of staff to a member of the United States Congress. Rajan is the youngest person in America to currently hold that position.

Even while still a student at Stanford, he served as chief of staff and policy advisor to Stockton Mayor Kevin Lincoln. He also served as a senior advisor to former Ukrainian Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk, and has managed political campaigns, served on boards, and worked with an international think tank.

It all started when he was just 3 years old, watching a presidential press conference on television. He then followed in his mother’s and father’s footsteps to Delta College, where he immersed himself in political science and also began to better understand the role that higher education plays in realizing the American dream.

“Delta College students are experiencing life – they’re raising families, they’re immigrants seeking opportunity, they’re trying to not only make ends meet but get ahead,” he said. “I want to try and provide context for what their education means, not only for them personally but for their community, and how we can use our education to create hope and build a better world.”