Elbers Katula, a social work major, shows she gave it the old college try as she graduates from City College. Photo by Chris Stone

Before this day, they were faces on a computer screen. So professors and staff greeting the graduating class of 2021 Friday at San Diego City College were seeing each other in person for the first time.

The community college held a drive-thru graduation for the second year in a row, but the nontraditional approach didn’t damper the excitement or pride.

“We’re excited to receive our students,” said City College President Ricky Shabazz. “It’s going to be a party. They deserve all of the accolades for the accomplishments.”

Before morning festivities started near Park Boulevard and C Street, Shabazz said: “This is an exciting day because many of us haven’t seen each other. Many of our faculty haven’t seen each other. The employees haven’t seen each other. And many of us haven’t seen the student in person.”

Most classes have been online in the San Diego Community College classes since March 2020.

About 350 students registered for the motor commencement in a faculty parking lot, Shabazz said.

An employee in a cart picked up trolley-riding students who didn’t have cars, so they could go past cheering professors and staff.

Some 500-600 students were expected to receive certificates and associate degrees from City College after all scores are tabulated next week.

Asked how he settled on a drive-thru graduation, Shabazz said: “We just think this is the safest way to do it given the circumstances. We’re just making the best of the pandemic.”

For Maysaa Toma, an Arabic language professor at City College and Grossmont College, the event had double meaning.

Toma graduated from college during the pandemic and was unable to celebrate her own graduation. This was her first semester teaching.

“I’m so excited. It’s like it’s my graduation,” she said. “It’s something to motivate students, to make them happy. It’s a great moment for them.”

Her colleague, Yousra Qudeimat, professor of Arabic and sociology, got used to teaching via Zoom, but prefers to teach in person.

“This is a beautiful arrangement,” Qudeimat said. “I know this is not the usual way, but it’s better than nothing.”

But before the event, she also said, “I am so excited. I’m looking forward to seeing my students finish from here and going to the universities. “

“It’s an awesome day,” Qudeimat said. “Go City College!”

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