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Congresswoman Maxine Waters

Representing the 43rd District of California

Rep. Waters Delivers Keynote Address at the 2017 Los Angeles Southwest College Commencement

June 8, 2017
Press Release


June 8, 2017

Contact: Twaun Samuel or Rykia Dorsey

Phone: (202) 225-2201


Rep. Waters Delivers Keynote Address at the 2017 Los Angeles Southwest College Commencement

Joins LASC in Celebrating 50 Years of Service in the South Los Angeles Community


LOS ANGELES – Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-43) delivered a keynote address to the 2016 and 2017 graduates of Los Angeles Southwest College (LASC) during the college’s 2017 commencement ceremony on June 6th. 

“I am so honored to join the President, Board of Trustees, LA Southwest College Foundation Board, faculty, staff, and the greater Los Angeles community to celebrate the achievements of the 2016 and 2017 graduating classes,” said Congresswoman Maxine Waters. “LASC is a college where hundreds of students choose to enroll every year in pursuit of an education and the training they need for their careers, and it has an outstanding track-record for preparing working adults, single parents, and other non-traditional students for the workforce; I am proud to represent LASC in the work that I do in the United States Congress.”

The 2017 commencement recognized over 700 graduates from the Summer 2016, Fall 2016, and Spring 2017 classes. Congresswoman Waters highlighted the achievements of four members of the graduating classes during her address:

  • Valedictorian, Soraida Saballos-Rodas, a 25 year old Los Angeles native who maintained a 3.959 grade-point average.
  • Salutatorian, Claudia Perez, a 44 year old resident of Gardena who maintained a 3.955 grade-point average.
  • The youngest candidate for graduation, Kelechi Udeze, a 15 year old Middle College High School student who maintained a 3.870 grade-point average.
  • The oldest candidate for graduation, Frances Harris , a 72 year old candidate for a transfer degree in Psychology who also received a degree in Liberal Arts in fall 2014 from LASC.

“These four graduates are just a few examples of the strength and resilience of LASC students,” said Congresswoman Waters. “I celebrate you today not because of your failures, but because you succeeded in spite of all odds stacked against you. Every time you fell, you got back up -- never forgetting who you were and what you set out to achieve by enrolling in this college.”

In honor of the commencement theme, “50 Years of Breaking Barriers and Building Futures,” Congresswoman Waters paid homage to the legacy of many unsung heroes in LASC’s history, most notably Mrs. Odessa Cox, LASC’s founder. Cox and her advocacy group, the South Central Junior College Committee, began petitioning in 1950 for the Los Angeles Unified School Board (LAUSB) to open a community college in South Los Angeles. Emphasizing their resilience, the Congresswoman stressed the meaning of their decades-long journey and pivotal events, such as the Watts Riots of 1965, which served as catalysts for the LAUSB to take action.

Congresswoman Waters also reflected on the work of LASC administrators and community leaders “who shaped the educational experience that so many receive today.” They included former President Dr. Thomas G. Lakin, former Vice President Dr. Ned Doffoney, and former College Dean Dr. Earnestine Thomas-Robertson; founder and president of LA Southwest College Village People, Dolores Sheen; founding pioneer of LASC and leader of the city’s rebuilding efforts in the aftermath of the Watts Riots, Lillian Mobley; and LA Southwest College Foundation Board Members and local business leaders, Karim Webb and Gene Hale.

Addressing the graduates, Congresswoman Waters urged that “the same fire and unrelenting passion that led so many to fight for your education, is the same dedication and resilience that each of you must leverage to fight your own battles in your lives and careers. My desire is that you too will hold your heads up high, stay focused on the concerns of your community, and continue to make sure you have the knowledge needed to fight to make a difference.”