Why parents are joining their kids on the stage at graduation

As Yanelit Madriz Zarate crossed the stage at a University of California, Berkeley, commencement ceremony this month, she reflected on the fits and starts in her educational journey: the mental and physical challenges that forced her to drop out after her first higher education stint in the California State system, the lessons she learned advocating for herself when she resumed at a community college and the empowerment she felt when she transferred to Cal.

The 25-year-old also thought about the role her parents, immigrants from Mexico with just a middle school education, played in helping her get to graduation. So, it felt extra special – and extra fitting – that her parents got to join her on stage.

Crossing the stage with her loved ones, a decades-old tradition embraced in the university’s Chicanx Latinx graduation, was something she looked forward to since she heard about the option years earlier. Madriz Zarate also made the moment her own: As her name was called out, she and her parents danced a zapateado, a traditional Mexican step.

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