Hundreds of Merced College students took the next step in their lives and careers Friday, May 20, crossing the stage in recognition of their academic achievements at a packed graduation ceremony at Stadium ’76.

After two years of pandemic-related modifications — 2020 saw a virtual graduation ceremony, and 2021 featured a series of smaller in-person ceremonies to allow space for appropriate distancing — the Class of 2022 enjoyed a full, traditional graduation ceremony, with about 600 students participating.

“For many of you, tonight represents a better future, a prosperous beginning, a pathway out of poverty, and a stepping stone to your career or next pursuit in higher education,” President Chris Vitelli said in his remarks. “It is my sincere hope that you leave here tonight not only proud of your personal achievements, but also with a sense of pride in your newest alma mater, Merced College.”

This year’s keynote speaker was Stephanie Dietz, a Merced College alumna who now serves as Merced’s city manager. She encouraged graduates to acknowledge their accomplishments, honor their investment in themselves, and enjoying the journey along the way.

“Life will take us down many different paths over the years to come,” Dietz said. “These paths shape your unique identity. Don’t get so caught up in getting to your destination or focusing on the end goal that you forget to embrace the journey.”


About 1,150 students from the Class of 2022 were eligible to participate in this year’s graduation ceremony, and a total of 3,007 degrees and certificates were earned in the 2021-22 academic year. The class includes more than 300 students who graduated with honors, having earned a grade-point average of 3.50 or better with a minimum of 45 units completed. And 50 of those students earned Superintendent’s Honors by maintaining a GPA of 4.0 with at least 36 units completed.

Student speaker Lizbeth Torres graduated with degrees in Psychology and Business Administration. Her daughter, Itzel Arredondo, graduated with honors. Itzel graduated high school in 2020, and opted to begin her higher education at Merced College to save money during the pandemic.

“Throughout our lives, we will all experience good times and tough times,” Torres told her fellow graduates. “Whenever times get tough, remember you are tougher. When you are challenged with something difficult, remember you have already faced some of the most difficult days, and here you stand today.”