class of twenty twenty four turn their tassels
Story Commencement

The Sky’s the Limit

Arvin Valmores

Meet six inspiring graduates from the CSU’s Class of 2024 who excelled in and beyond the classroom.

class of twenty twenty four turn their tassels

​As the academic year wraps up, the California State University celebrates thousands of graduates who will receive their diploma in spring 2024. For many of these students, graduating is the result of overcoming great challenges and pushing boundaries.

Meet a few inspiring graduates from the CSU's Class of 2024 and learn ho​w the university helped them reach their educational and professional goals.

Haydee Barahona

CSU Bakersfield

Bachelor of Arts in Communications, Journalism Concentration

​​haydee barahona holding up awards

​​​​Haydee Barahona poses for a photo with "The Runner" advisor John Harte after the newspaper received Best of Show awards from​ the Associated Collegiate Press. (Photo courtesy Chris Benham/CSU Bakersfield)

After changing her major several times—from Spanish to philosophy and to art history—CSU Bakersfield student Haydee Barahona found her passion as a communications major when she fell in love with her first journalism class, Issues and Practices in Journalism.

“I've always wanted to do something where I could serve the people in my community, and it wasn't until I took this journalism class that I realized that this could actually help a lot of people," Barahona said. “Being a student [at CSUB] has changed the trajectory of my career plans and how I see my future."

During her academic career, Barahona was a major contributor to CSUB's student newspaper, “The Runner," working her way from social media manager to editor-in-chief. She also helped establish "El Veloz," the Spanish version of “The Runner," to connect the Latinx community with news on the campus. Under Barahona's leadership, the paper received many state and national awards, including first place in the Best Newspaper Inside/Spread Design category at the California College Media Association's 2024 Excellence in Student Media Awards.

Barahona was named an outstanding student for 2024 by CSUB's School of Arts and Humanities and received the university's President's Medal, an honor granted to just one undergraduate and one graduate student each year.

After graduation, she will pursue her master's in journalism at UC Berkeley, and plans to eventually return to Kern County to report on Latinx communities.

Read more about Haydee Barahona in the CSUB newsroom.

Richard German

San Diego ​​State

Bachelor of A​rts Degree in Sustainability

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SDSU lecturer ​Savanna Schuermann and Richard German meet outside Hardy Tower classroom. (Photo courtesy San Diego State)

Determined San Diego​ State graduate Richard German has overcome obstacles to pursue his passion for sustainability and accessibility. German, who was born with cerebral palsy, was inspired to earn a degree in sustainability after encountering widespread litter on his commutes using public transit and having to clean it off his wheelchair.

SDSU sustainability lecturer Savanna Schuermann has played a pivotal role in German's academic journey by helping him manage his coursework and find an internship with San Diego Strike Force, a professional indoor football team.

The internship, which included conducting surveys of the organization as an informant from the disabled community, merged his passions for sustainability, sports and accessibility. As part of the internship, German shared his experiences with accessibility at San Diego sports venues and presented a proposal to the builders of the Oceanside San Diego Sockers stadium recommending features that would make the stadium ADA-compliant.

In addition, the SDSU Office of Educational Opportunity Programs, Outreach and Success honored German with the Outstanding Persistence Award for how he supports fellow students with disabilities on campus.

Post-graduation, German plans to continue advocating for disability rights and creating an inclusive future for students with disabilities.

Read more about Richard German in the SDSU NewsCenter​.

Vedagna Sarabu

Cal State LA

Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice

Vedagna Sarabu standing in front of building

Cal State LA criminal justice graduate Vedagna Sarabu. ​(Photo courtesy Cal State LA)

At 15 years old, Vedagna Sarabu is the youngest graduate from Cal State LA's Class of 2024, earning her bachelor's degree in criminal justice with a minor in law and society. This degree is a steppingstone in her pursuit to become a lawyer and provide legal assistance to her community.

“Growing up, I have observed family and friends who struggled emotionally and financially with legal issues, so my goal is to be trained and equipped to help people navigate through the legal system," she said.

Sarabu enrolled in Cal State LA's Early Entrance Program at 11 years old. For her senior thesis, she compiled and organized a dataset of first-person testimonies of former residents of MacLaren Hall, a Los Angeles group home that was closed in 2003 amid allegations of abuse. Sarabu hopes to make a difference for future youth in similar shelters by determining what could have been improved.

Sarabu has received a full-ride scholarship to pursue a Juris Doctor degree at Chapman University.

Read more about Vedagna Sarabu in the Cal State LA newsroom.

Annabelle Recinos

Cal State Fullerton

Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering

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​​​​Civil engineering graduate​ Annabelle Recinos. (Photo courtesy Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program/Cal State Fullerton)

In rural Bakersfield, rainfall often makes roads impassable, blocking travel to school or work. This dilemma inspired Cal State Fullerton student Annabelle Recinos to follow in her engineer father's footsteps and earn a bachelor's degree in civil engineering. Recino's goal is to become an independent researcher of transportation and improve infrastructure material for roads and bridges.

“I want to reduce the impacts and costs rural residents face when roads become unsafe to drive on from aging or maintenance issues," Recinos said.

With four associate degrees from Bakersfield College, the first-generation student transferred to CSUF in 2021.

Recinos participated in the university's Ronald E. McNair Scholar's Program, through which she investigated the materials used in the transportation industry. She won first place at a Purdue research competition, presented her work at state and national conferences and was awarded a $10,000 fellowship from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration. With her faculty adviser, Pratanu Ghosh, she was published in “Materials Today: Proceedings," an international scientific journal.

With a full-ride scholarship, Recinos will pursue her master's and doctoral degrees in civil engineering at Oregon State in the fall.

Read more about Annabelle Recinos in the CSUF newsroom.

Negin Ghaffari

Cal State San Bernardino

Master of Arts Degree in Psychological Sciences

​​cal state san bernardino student negin ghaffari smiling at camera

​​​​Cal State San Bernardino master's graduate Negin Ghaffari, left​​. (Photo courtesy CSUSB)

Negin Ghaffari is a first-generation student and the 2024 outstanding graduate student from Cal State San Bernardino's College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Having immigrated from Iran at a young age, the psychological sciences master's student became interested in learning about individuals' behaviors and exploring human resilience.

“I am interested to know how mental and physical health is connected to early life stressors and health-related behaviors," Ghaffari said. “In particular, I want to explore resilience factors among individuals who have experienced early life stressors and how that may have impacted their mental and physical health outcomes."

As one of seven recipients of the CSU's Sally Casanova Pre-Doctoral Scholarship, Ghaffari worked with faculty mentor and dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences Christina Hassija on projects related to trauma and resiliency.

Prior to her time at CSUSB, Ghaffari earned her bachelor's degree at CSUN, where she worked as a research assistant implementing interventions for potential problem behaviors, and completed a postbaccalaureate program at UC Irvine, exploring resilience factors associated with childhood experiences.

Over the summer, Ghaffari will work at Yale University's PRIME lab, and in August, she will begin a doctoral program in clinical psychology at the University of Mississippi. Ghaffari plans to become a professor and establish a nonprofit mental health community clinic where she will use her education to benefit the community.

Read more about Negin Ghaffari in the CSUSB newsroom.

Kirsten Welch

Chico State

Bachelor of Science Degree in Engineering

​​Kirsten Welch stands in front of building and smiles

​​​​Chico State engineering graduate Kirsten Welc​h. (Photo courtesy Jason Halley/Chico State)

Kirsten Welch set her sights on becoming an engineer while in high school. As a high school senior, Welch shadowed undergraduates and conducted research with faculty at Chico State's Materials Testing Lab. With dreams of becoming a weapons designer, she enrolled in Chico State's mechanical engineering program.

Welch immediately involved herself in engineering opportunities, including participating in Chico State's SAE Baja team, a collegiate competition in which teams design and construct off-road cars.

After graduation, she will participate in a summer internship, for the third time, at Lawrence Livermore National Lab, though it took her several applications before she was accepted. Finally, she will begin graduate school in the fall at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign to conduct explosives research.

“I've always been driven," she said. “I never wanted to be afraid of rejection because that's part of the process. So, I would just tell students to go for it. The worst thing they can say is no, but the best thing they can say is yes."

Read more about Kirsten Welch in the Chico State newsroom.

Meet more inspiring graduates​ from the CSU's Class of 2024 and see how universities are celebrating them.

​Special thanks to CSU writers and photographers Chris Benham, Jason Halley, Almendra Lawrence,  Joseph Luiz, Debra Cano Ramos and Leslie L.J. Reilly​​.