Highlights from Celebration Weekend
“It’s Like We Never Really Left”
When Zach Ralston ’20, walked across the stage on Saturday to shake hands with President Chodosh during the 2020-21 Commencement ceremony, Silvia LeBlanc ’19 was there to cheer him on.
To take part in the joyous weekend, Ralston and LeBlanc traveled together from Houston, where they both attend medical school.
As they took a break from a rousing game of cornhole on the North Mall lawn, the couple shared how they met at CMC in 2017. Ralston—a molecular biology major—and LeBlanc—who majored in biochemistry—worked together as lab partners for their chemistry and biology courses, and eventually romance blossomed.
For LeBlanc, the decision to attend Celebration Weekend was a no-brainer. “I’m so proud of him!” she said, while Ralston chimed in: “She’s an honorary member of the Class of 2020!”
“We are so happy be here,” Ralston continued. “It’s surreal—like we never really left.”
A Familiar Space and Smell
When Sam Lee ’20 and Tara Renduchintala ’20 returned to their former residence halls during Celebration Weekend, they both agreed that the familiar smells summoned tremendous feelings of nostalgia.
“It still smells the same!” said Renduchintala. “And when I saw the furniture on my old freshman floor, that really brought me back!”
Renduchintala, who was a 3+2 major at CMC and is now pursuing her PhD in computer engineering at USC, recalled that she and her roommate were perfectly paired, despite not having much in common. “We stayed together after freshman year and throughout our time at CMC,” she said.
Lee earned a degree in Economics-Accounting, and works in commercial banking for Wells Fargo. She shared that when she told her family that she requested a roommate during Celebration Weekend, they wondered why she wouldn’t want to stay in a single room instead.
“I’m not going to come all the way back to CMC and live by myself! I want to relive my college experience!” Lee said with a laugh.
Aside from reuniting with former dorm mates, Lee, who was also an RA, said she looked forward to “reuniting with everyone at the same time! Who knows when I’ll see them again next?”
“Enjoy Every Second!”
Alan Hernandez ’20 and Justin Estrada ’20 agreed that it was challenging to find the best words to describe how they felt about being back on campus for Celebration Weekend.
“It’s something close to nostalgia,” Hernandez said.
“It’s nice to have a proper goodbye,” said Estrada.
“And see friends who we got separated from,” Hernandez added.
Before their families arrived for the joint Commencement ceremony, they shared some advice to incoming CMC students.
“Enjoy every second!” advised Hernandez, whose major was biology.
“Enjoy every dinner, every study session,” added Estrada, who majored in international relations and computer science. “There are so many unique opportunities here.”
From Sixth Street to the Big Tent
Due to the pandemic, last year’s on-campus Commencement ceremony was limited to the graduates only.
As no families or friends could congregate on Parents Field to celebrate, a few gathered off-campus, tail-gate style on Sixth Street, including the family of Brielle Huddy ’21, who traveled from New Jersey.
What a difference a year makes.
“It’s amazing to be here with my family and boyfriend!” said Brielle, as she savored the moment in front of the Hub, and later under the big tent on Parents Field.
For Brielle, reuniting with her CMS lacrosse teammates was one of the highlights of Celebration Weekend. A neuroscience major at CMC, she’s now attending medical school at Temple University. “Being surrounded by such brilliant minds at CMC enhanced my mindset,” she said. “I’m not fazed by the high expectations of medical school.”
For Brielle’s mother, Michelle, celebrating on campus with her daughter and family provided some closure. “It’s wonderful to be able to finish out CMC in such a joyous atmosphere,” she said. “CMC does it right.”
“I love this place”
“I feel better than good,” Kiubon Kokko’21 said as he took a pause during Celebration Weekend on the North Mall in the shade provided by an oak tree. “I feel amazing! I love this place!” he added with enthusiasm.
Kokko had just attended his first in-person Athenaeum experience, which featured Prof. Hilary Appel discussing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “Because my time on campus was short, I never got to go to the Ath,” Kokko explained, “so it was so cool to be back and at my first real Ath talk! I loved it!”
Kokko shared that as a first-generation college student, he was especially excited that his mother would be joining the audience at Saturday’s Commencement ceremony.
At CMC, Kokko majored in media studies and won the IES 2020 Study Abroad Film Festival prize for his short film about his personal experience overseas. Now an independent filmmaker, Kokko is headed to Amman, Jordan to shoot a documentary.
As an alumnus of CMC, he said, “I hope to be able to support CMC the way alumni have supported me.”
For Sahib Bhasin ’21, enduring the long journey from London to Claremont did not diminish the joyful anticipation of Celebration Weekend.
Returning to campus after in-person activities were interrupted by the pandemic, Bhasin said, “I was so eager for this. It all feels so special because there was so much that we missed.” Bhasin, who served as president of CMC MUN, noted that he was especially happy to reunite with his friends from both the classes of 2020 and 2021.
Family members also journeyed from across the globe to join the in-person, on-campus Commencement ceremony. As she donned Bhasin’s mortar board hat, his mother Sheena, who flew from Hungary to take part, said she was “thankful to CMC for making this all happen!”
“One of Us Will be the Leader”
After the joint Commencement ceremony, Judah Bates’ 20 described feeling “awesome, excited, and relieved to see my friends,” as her mother Linnea P’20 beamed with pride.
Bates played CMS women’s basketball, majored in biochemistry, and is now pursuing a PhD in bioengineering from Caltech. She describes Maya Love ’20, who was elected to be a Commencement speaker, as her best friend.
When asked to reflect on her CMC experience, Bates replied, “One thing I love about CMC people is that whatever space we walk into, we’re the leader. That’s just who we are. It doesn’t matter how many people are in the room, one of us will be the leader.”