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San Diego State University begins a weekend of graduations

It was black and red robes, mortar boards and smiles everywhere you looked outside Viejas Arena on Friday as San Diego State University kicked off the first of three days of graduation ceremonies. This year 11,500 students will be graduating from the university.

“I’m here with my friends and family, my brothers, my parents and my girlfriend," said graduate Paul Faurot. He started his college career right before COVID-19 hit, and he said it’s been quite the journey.

“In my first year, I kind of had to pack up in the middle of March and then just head home, but thankfully I was able to move back and I think being back on campus, like the transition to having classes back, being in a classroom was kind of monumental," Faurot said.

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New graduates, along with their family and friends, celebrate outside Viejas Arena at San Diego State University on May 12, 2023.
Jacob Aere
/
KPBS
New graduates, along with their family and friends, celebrate outside Viejas Arena at San Diego State University on May 12, 2023.

Faurot got his Bachelor of Science in microbiology. He’s from the Bay Area, but he’s planning on staying in San Diego.

“San Diego’s a great place to be for biotechnology in general," he said.

“I got a Bachelor of Science in psychology and a minor in family development," said Sarai Rosas-Ortiz.

Unlike Faurot, Rosas-Ortiz is a San Diego native, but like Faurot, she’s planning on staying here, and she has some big plans.

“I’m hoping to open a Montessori daycare academy," she said.

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Looking around Viejas, you saw what you’d expect to see; lots of young people.

A new graduate is shown having her picture taken in front of Viejas Arena at San Diego State on May 12, 2023.
Jacob Aere
A new graduate is shown having her picture taken in front of Viejas Arena at San Diego State on May 12, 2023.

But one very unique graduate caught our eye and she had quite a story to tell.

Sixty-eight-year-old Faten Al Mndo is a refugee from Iraq. She's been in the U.S. for 10 years.

Al Mndo told us of her lifelong love of mathematics, and this Summa Cum Laude graduate said she wants to share it.

“I have a plan to make kids like math because I noticed that most of the kids in U.S. do not like math. They think that it is something hard,” Al Mndo said.

Faten Al Mndo is shown receiving her diploma at Viejas Arena on May 12, 2023.
San Diego State University
Faten Al Mndo is shown receiving her diploma at Viejas Arena on May 12, 2023.

Al Mndo has a bit of trouble walking, so at first she was not going to attend the graduation ceremony. But she said when she started watching the livestream, she couldn't stop crying. So, she called her daughter at work and told her to call an Uber. She made it with plenty of time to walk across the stage.

SDSU's slogan is "Transform Your Tomorrow."  Being out here amongst these freshly-minted graduates certainly gives you the sense that those transformations are well underway.

Graduations run through Sunday at the San Diego campus. Then graduates at the Imperial Valley campus will get their diplomas on Tuesday.