Foothill graduates 657 at 52nd commencement


Messages of seizing the moment, taking risks and giving back to the community filled the speeches of Foothill College's 52nd annual commencement Friday, June 29.

657 graduates were honored that evening, though barely a third of those graduates attended the event.

In a sea of black gowns and red tassels, the individually decorated mortarboards stood out. Some had feathers, glitter and sequins spelling out "Class of 2012!" Others had cat ears, Minnie Mouse ears and stuffed animals sitting atop their heads. One Biological and Health Sciences graduate displayed a stuffed seal attached to his traditional headgear.

Foothill College President Judy Miner announced the achievements of the class of 2012, including 100 percent passing rates in many license and certificate exams. The veterinary technicians of the group were particularly vocal when she announced their perfect score.

"And if the vet tech students could be just a little more enthusiastic," Miner said after thunderous cheers from the veterinary graduates.

The crowd was also enthusiastic when student speaker Joseph Otayde took the podium.

"Today is our day," Otayde said to his fellow graduates.

Otayde graduated with an associate in arts degree in political science and said that he will be continuing his education at University of California Berkeley.

In his speech he expressed his gratitude for the faculty and staff at Foothill and the importance that public education played in not only his life, but in many lives that have faced social and economic adversity.

"Public education gave me the tools for social mobility and success," he said, mentioning the importance of "ladders of mobility" that public institutions such as Foothill offer students of all socio-economic backgrounds. "Faculty and staff did not let these ladders fail and they did not let these ladders break."

Otayde emphasized the importance of giving back to institutions like Foothill now that he and his fellow graduates are "the leaders of the future."

"It is now our turn to step up to the plate," he said.

This same message was echoed by Keynote speaker Ross Mayfield, who attended Foothill in 1988 and graduated from University of California, Los Angeles with a bachelor of arts degree in political science. Since graduating from college, Mayfield went on to become an active Internet entrepreneur, starting several successful business developments such as SlideShare and Socialtext.

"Find ways if you can to give back as much as you can," he told the graduates.

Beyond giving back, Mayfield called for each graduate to be bold and take risks.

"Always take risks, always be thinking about what you could do differently, even if it scares you," he said.

With risk-taking comes failure, Mayfield said, and he urged graduates to embrace it.

"You need to learn to love failure," he said. "Open your eyes a little bit beyond what is put before you."

Faculty speaker Dr. Robert Hartwell, who teaches music at Foothill, inspired laughter as well as applause from the graduates and their supporters.

"For many of you, coming to Foothill College was a leap of faith, and now you are taking that leap again. The college is asking you to take advice from someone in a baby blue outfit," he said, motioning to his traditional robes.

Hartwell earned his bachelor's degree in piano performance from Sonoma State University, his master's degree in music history from San Francisco State University and his doctorate in music education from Columbia University.

And yet, he said he felt as though he has not achieved all that he had wanted in his life.

Hartwell said he did not want to give the same overused reasons for graduates to seize the day, but that the sentiment was still important.

"While you sit here, thinking you have 70 years, the truth is it might be 70 seconds," he said, using the example of meteors hurtling through Earth's orbit.

He stayed with the scientific theme throughout his speech, also explaining to the graduates that they possessed atomic particles from great historical figures such as the Buddha and Beethoven. He also confessed that each graduate held some atoms from past criminals and Dodger fans, to the crowd's laughter.

"Congratulate the person next to you," he told graduates. "And sense those Buddha atoms."

Hartwell ended his speech by thanking the graduates for sharing their new perspectives and original thoughts with the world, saying that those innovations rescue the world from the narrowing of age and the fear of change.

"The fact that we've taught each other is education at its best," Hartwell said, giving all the graduates their last assignment: "Have the best life that you possibly can ... no late work will be accepted."


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 30, 2012 at 10:37 am

The California Community Colleges have traditionally seen something on the order of a 15% transfer rate (which some call "graduation"). Using the enrollment data from this Wiki-page:

Web Link

the number of "graduates" for this class is about 15% (using the full-time student numbers) and about 3% for total enrollment.

The expenditures for Foothill are in the $185M range:

Web Link

Using just the number of students enrolled in the two-year programs to make cost calculations, at first blush, it would appear that the cost of an AA "degree" at Foothills is about $68,000. This number is understated by the costs of capital that is being spent from two bond measures, that have been passed without much discussion by the voters, or much transparency into the financial affairs of Foothills. If these dollars were considered, then an AA "degree" could easily move closer to $80,000.

This is vastly too much money to be spending on getting a handful of young people ready to go to college--particularly when half of these students is likely to not complete a BS/BA degree (based on national graduation statistics).

It is this kind of craziness that is bankrupting California, and America.

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Posted by Dura
a resident of another community
on Jul 1, 2012 at 10:50 am

Im curious why "Joe" keeps putting the word degree in quotes. I have an Associate of Science DEGREE, "Joe".. it is a degree, not a "degree".. Are you an educational snob, "Joe" from "another Palo Alto neighborhood".. ??

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Posted by Amy
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 1, 2012 at 10:59 am

I am Foothill 2012 graduate and want to speak to the comments made above that we are not "real" graduates. A large majority of students within my veterinary technology program are second career students. Roughly 90% of us have a bachelors degree already, with a few people having a Master's degree. I can say without hesitation that the education I earned in the VT program at Foothill was far more rigorous and demanding than that of the one I received earning my BA. The pass rates on national and state boards for allied health program graduates all sit pretty at 100% ( Rad tech, Respiratory, Dental Hygiene, Vet Tech, etc.)

We worked extremely hard. My fiance forgot what I looked like due to my long hours of internship, time spent away from home studying in the lab to solidify concepts before midterms and practicals. The veterinarians I work with are constantly amazed at the high level of education I received, and it makes me a much more valuable member to my team.

I deserved to have my moment. We all did. And when your dog gets sick, I will have the right training to facilitate his healing.

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Posted by Lynette
a resident of another community
on Jul 1, 2012 at 3:47 pm

To Joe,
Like Amy, I am also a Foothill 2012 graduate. Last friday, I very proudly received my Associates of Science degree in Veterinary Technology. The last two years of my life I have sacrificed everything. I gave up spending time with my family and friends to commute from San Rafael to Los Altos 4 days a week, intern at a hospital 20 hours a week, work another job I actually got paid for on the weekends, volunteer at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito once a week, and volunteer at spay and neuter clinics in Milpitas twice a month. On my "free time" I studied, wrote papers, did homework and took care of animals that we have on campus. What makes you think you have the right to post such negative, hopeless comments to the graduates of Foothill? Yes, we GRADUATED, with DEGREES! Why must you devalue our accomplishments? I'm not sure where you get off saying that those who have passed this milestone in their lives won't do anything with their lives after. I already have a Bachelors degree and was halfway through my Masters before I decided to switch careers. Most of my classmates, due to the recession or a change of heart, were in the same boat. And did I mention ALL of them, including myself, got jobs in the field before we even walked across that stage last friday? Every single one of us now work in animal clinics, hospitals and shelters all around the bay area. You should be thankful for Foothill, the Veterinary Technology program, and other allied health program graduates because WE will be the ones nursing you when you're in the hospital, taking care of your pets when they are sick/injured, as well as doing your dental work, radiographs, and the list goes on... We have all worked our asses off to get where we are today. And in the following months my classmates will take the National and State Board Exams to get licensed as RVTs (that's right, it doesn't stop here) and we will pass them with flying colors because Foothill has 100% pass rates. Why don't you find the pass rates from other schools on your Wiki pages and post THAT.

So, Joe, you almost made me upset with your remarks. You -almost- ruined my graduation day. But then I remembered that you and your opinions are pretty insignificant in my life. You know nothing of what it took for me to get through such a grueling, demanding program when the whole time I thought maybe I was too old for this or not cut out to be here. So feel free to take your wiki page references and demeaning quotation marks elsewhere. I proud of my accomplishments, I am proud of my friends and colleagues, and I am extremely proud to be part of the amazing class of 2012!

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Posted by Dru
a resident of another community
on Jul 1, 2012 at 6:09 pm

"It is this kind of craziness that is bankrupting California, and America."

Although our society sees little immediate return on investment for providing education for its population, the resulting benefits to the society as a whole are far greater (and well-documented) than "Joe" would like us all to believe. Amongst many examples I can provide, there is an inverse correlation between a nation's education level and the percentage of its population that is incarcerated.

Meanwhile, the funding that goes towards Foothill College is a small drop of the state's $90 billion dollar budget; a budget that is held hostage year after year by one of the only (or perhaps THE only) state congress requiring a 2/3 majority approval - allowing special interest groups to dig their heels in and get their way. If you want to find waste in our government, one might point to education if they are not enrolled and directly enjoying benefits. Yet meanwhile, countries like Australia (where a free higher education is available) continue to improve their standing internationally while ours falls - again, a direct correlation.

"Joe" sounds like one of those people who doesn't want to pay taxes that benefit anyone but himself, failing to realize that he still has to participate in the society that results from this course of action.

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Posted by William
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 2, 2012 at 10:21 am

Amy and Lynette,
Congratulations, and thank you for all your hard work. I hope you find good jobs soon and I know I will appreciate your efforts when I need to bring an animal to a vet. Please ignore Joe - he's probably just jealous that he didn't do what you did.
(also a Foothill Student)

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Posted by perspective
a resident of another community
on Jul 2, 2012 at 10:57 am

Now if we could only get those organizations, parent groups and administrators who think like "Joe" to see the value of a Foothill education as a ladder to success of many types. We would not need to waste our time explaining to them why A-G as a graduation requirement is nonsense.

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Posted by Education Park
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jul 2, 2012 at 11:34 am

Calm down folks. Joe is offering you a valuable glimpse at a (fortunately) rare breed around here, though prevalent in other areas: the 'America Last' crowd.

They think education is bad for America, especially public education of the lower classes.

Apparently, they feel it wasn't what made America great for the last 50 years.
The America Last' crowd doesn't believe in getting Americans working again, they don't believe in infrastructure or Americans having healthcare. They only believe in selfishly calling for lower taxes on themselves, after this great country provided them an education, careers and they are now on Social Security and Medicare.

They have theirs, the rest of you can go jump.

So thanks, Joey, for the valuable lesson. Valuable to remember that the 'America Last' crowd is always there on the fringe, without solutions, ready to bash America.

Register to vote, peeps. Ruin Joe's day and get out, register, learn, and vote.

Congrats and good luck!

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Posted by Foothill Mom
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 3, 2012 at 1:47 am

There are also those like my son, who didn't actually "graduate" from Foothill, but he did finish his last final on Friday, and is on to UC Santa Cruz in Computer Science. He didn't get an AA or a certificate, so I don't think he counts in "graduation" statistics, but he is nonetheless fulfilling one of the goals of community colleges, which is to prepare students to transfer to four-year colleges or universities to earn degrees there.

He got the benefits of a rigorous Foothill preparation in math and science (UCSC Comp Sci actually recommended it as a place to get a good preparation for transferring), and was able to enjoy classes of 30 or 40 students in his Intro courses, instead of being in lecture halls with hundreds (or thousands) of others. For us, Foothill has proven to be a valuable link in the educational chain. (We have another son still enrolled there.)

My congratulations to all the Foothill graduates — and to the others who, like my son, are moving on to the next stage in their education.

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Posted by perspective
a resident of another community
on Jul 3, 2012 at 1:10 pm

@Foothill Mom, Congratulations on your wisdom!

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Posted by Lynette
a resident of another community
on Jul 3, 2012 at 7:41 pm

Yes, Foothill Mom! Yes!! I completely agree.

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Posted by Katie
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jul 24, 2012 at 10:26 am

I just wanted to say congratulations to all the Foothill graduates. Do not listen to bitter people. I'm currently a Foothill college student just finishing up my GE to go into the Veterinary Technology field. I volunteer 4 days a week at an animal hospital, work, and go to school full time. An AA is definitely a degree and everyone should be proud of themselves to have achieved that so far. It is just the beginning of even greater accomplishments! Foothill is an amazing school and a challenging school. The teachers are extremely helpful and quite a few are Stanford graduates.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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