Every class that has graduated during Fresno State President Joseph Castro’s four-year tenure has been stronger than the year before, he said Saturday at the university’s 106th commencement.
About 5,700 students became Fresno State alumni after the commencement ceremony at the Save Mart Center, including 1,019 who participated in the commencement ceremony. Castro said he felt like he started out as a freshman four years ago with many of the students who were graduating Saturday.
“Every class that I’ve seen is stronger, more dynamic (and) more experienced,” Castro said. The key has been the focus on “high-impact” practices like study abroad programs and community service, he said.
“I see them getting stronger and stronger. And it’s a reflection on our university that we’re getting stronger each year,” Castro said.
One of those “strong” students is Alexandra Gallo, 24, who double-majored in political science and communications. She was joined by family from Hollister and Los Angeles to celebrate her graduation. She’s the first to go to college from her immediate family and said she plans to pursue a law degree.
Gallo, who earned a dean’s medal from the College of Social Sciences, was also honored with the President’s Medal. She said she was overwhelmed and thankful she could celebrate her graduation with her family, friends and the university administration she has gotten to know over her four years as a student.
I see them getting stronger and stronger. And it’s a reflection on our university that we’re getting stronger each year
Fresno State President Joseph Castro
Gallo served in the student government at Fresno State and said she is proud of her work to establish a position within the student government for a senator of diversity and inclusion. That feat, in her final months as a student, makes her proud.
“Being able to pass it by one vote was a really big accomplishment,” she said.
During her time at Fresno State, Gallo interned in the office of U.S. Rep. Jim Costa. She will do it again in his Washington, D.C., office in the summer. She also plans to travel to China as a Fresno State ambassador in August.
Eventually, Gallo said, she wants to study election law. Her work with the League of Women Voters of Fresno helped her learn about voting rights.
“I want to go elsewhere just to get that experience, since I’ve been (in Fresno) for four years,” Gallo said. But she wants to bring back what she learns outside of Fresno. “I know that no matter what, I’ll find myself back here,” she said.
Castro said about 90 percent of Fresno State graduates stay to work and live in the Valley. He said many students are finding it easy to get jobs, especially in agriculture. Several students honored at the commencement Saturday already had jobs waiting for them, both far and near.
Throughout the ceremony, students were recognized for their high GPAs and their involvement on the campus. But their service is far from over, he told the graduates.
“You have the responsibility to give back to your community,” Castro said. He added that the students have the power to “tap into the knowledge” they have acquired to “strengthen the Central Valley.”
For some graduates, their time at Fresno State is not over. Among those who will continue studying at the university is Daniel Moreno, 22. Moreno graduated with a degree in kinesiology with an emphasis in exercise science. He said it took him five years to graduate college and it was tough being away from his Central Coast hometown of Watsonville.
“It definitely wasn’t an easy road,” Moreno said. “I struggled for a bit academically and it was a big turning point for me.”
Moreno said he will stay in Fresno to complete a teaching credential and eventually teach Physical Education. He added that graduating feels like he “conquered” his challenges and made his family proud. His parents both have college degrees, and he hopes he can inspire his little sister also to go to college.
“I try my best to lead by example,” Moreno said. “It meant a lot to be able to show her what hard work gets you.”