On Friday, May 10, more than 500 Vanguard University graduates participated in the commencement ceremonies at Mariner’s Church. Highlights include musical performances by the Vanguard University Jazz Ensemble’s, praise music led by Dr. James L. Melton, director and chair of the Department of Music at Vanguard. Undergraduate student speaker, Lauren Minnick, who received her Bachelor of Arts in Kinesiology, Graduate student speaker, Renée Juenger, who received her Master of Arts in Education, and School for Professional Studies (SPS) student LeRonica Bedford, who graduated with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing, regaled the commencement audiences with meaningful stories about their unique journeys to achieve their educational goals at Vanguard.
IRVINE Michelle McKinley graduated from high school in Bishop in Central California with the hopes of finding a small college that resonated with her Christian faith.
“I heard about Vanguard University through friends, so I decided to check it out,” she said. “I stepped on campus and it was like coming home.”
On Friday, Vanguard University of Southern California, a small Christian college in Costa Mesa, celebrated commencement ceremonies for more than 500 undergraduate and graduate students. The commencement featured gospel songs and prayers on the grounds of Mariners Church in Irvine.
McKinley, 21, managed to finish her studies within three years, with a major in religious studies and a concentration in youth leadership. She plans to become a youth pastor in Orange County, she said.
Many graduates, such as McKinley, said they chose Vanguard for its small, family-like atmosphere. The university has an enrollment of 2,200 and classrooms of usually no more than 17 students.
“It’s a very intimate environment where students really get one- on-one attention,” said Shana Martin, the university’s communications director. “Our students are always going out to lunch and coffee with their professors.”
The original college was founded as a small Pentecostal Bible school in Los Angeles in 1920. The college moved to its current location at 55 Fair Drive in 1950 and later gained university status in 1999.
Martin said the majority of students come from cities throughout California and most live on campus at least during their first year. Average annual tuition runs about $37,200, including room and board.
While Vanguard is a Pentecostal school, Martin said admission is open to students of all Christian denominations.
Undergraduates in their first year are required to sign a statement of faith declaring their beliefs as a Christian.
Some graduates go on to faith-based occupations, but most major in business or psychology and enter more corporate fields, Martin said.
“The idea is to give them that strong base in Christian faith and ethics so they can use that in whatever field they choose,” she said.
In his commencement speech, the Rev. L. John Bueno, a California pastor, spoke of his challenges running a school for impoverished children in El Salvador. Despite his struggles with funding, Bueno said he never gave up. He urged the new graduates to go out and make the world a better place and face challenges head on.
“Bring the hope of Jesus Christ to our world,” he said.
Following the ceremony, graduates symbolically moved their tassels from right to left and cheered.
Graduate Maree Drennan, 24, was recruited from her native Australia to play basketball for Vanguard three years ago. In that time, Drennan said she fell in love with the campus community.
“They really care about you here,” she said. “They invest in you as a person and not just an athlete.”