Students walk off the field after the 2022 Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony for the Dougherty Family College on May 22, 2022, in St. Paul.
Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas

Remarkable and Unstoppable: Dougherty Family College 2022 Commencement

Dougherty Family College (DFC) honored its fourth class of graduates during commencement Sunday, May 22, 2022, at the O’Shaughnessy Stadium on the St. Paul campus of the University of St. Thomas. In her address, Dr. Buffy Smith said, "We should always remember that our graduates are remarkable and unstoppable."

She said, "Our graduates did not let a global pandemic prevent them from achieving their college dreams because they are unstoppable. Our graduates did not allow structural evil forces like racism, sexism, poverty and other inequities and injustices stop them from thriving in college because they are unstoppable.”

Freddy Flores Dominguez. Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas
Freddy Flores Dominguez. Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas

“Yo, como tú,” meaning “Me, as you,” when translated from Spanish to English, are the first words of a poem by the late Salvadoran poet Roque Dalton that commencement speaker Freddy Flores Dominguez '22 AA used to begin his address to his fellow classmates.

Flores Dominguez is one of the 52 graduates, as well as one of 16 scholars who received Continuing Excellence Scholarships to fully fund their tuition to continue toward a four-year degree at St. Thomas.

“Coming to DFC made me realize that I was not alone," he said. “As we got to know each other, I realized we all shared similar experiences with the common goal of achieving this degree. I shared many great moments filled with laughter and joy throughout the program and for that I’m so appreciative.”

In preparation for commencement day, Flores Dominguez said he reflected a lot about what graduating with an associate degree means to him.

“I thought about what a privilege it is to go to school, have my voice heard, and how my life is about to change because of DFC. For me, completing a college degree seemed like an impossible task. Growing up, school made me feel inadequate or out of place because the people that succeeded never looked like me. And so, for many years I believed that I would never reach a day where I’d go to college, let alone earn a degree. But here I am. Still, my story is not singular or unique. DFC created a space where every scholar could reach their fullest potential while uplifting their peers along the way. And so, that’s what brings us to today. Today marks a milestone in our lives, a change of trajectory for our futures, but, most importantly, today and in this moment, we are all achieving something truly revolutionary.”

A student gets a hug from DFC Dean Buffy Smith during the 2022 Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony for the Dougherty Family College on May 22, 2022, in St. Paul.
Dr. Buffy Smith hugs a student during the Dougherty Family College commencement ceremony. Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas
Mark Brown / University of St. Thomas

Earlier in May, DFC faculty and staff honored the fourth class of graduating scholars by holding Grad Fest, a celebration on the Minneapolis campus where students could pick up their caps and gowns while rejoicing in their accomplishments of the past two years with peers, faculty and staff. Dr. Buffy Smith, who was recently promoted to dean after serving as interim dean for the past two years, shared her thoughts with the class.

“I believe in a self-fulfilling prophecy, and I believe if we see our scholars as scholars they will respond accordingly and live up to the name of scholars, which is why we see them as scholars and they act accordingly,” she said.

“To the DFC graduating Class of 2022: I am so very proud of you all,” said Associate Dean Brad Pulles. “I look forward to staying in touch and seeing what great things you all will go on to accomplish. Many heartfelt congratulations.”

Pulles stated earlier, “I am incredibly excited for this group of DFC scholars graduating as part of the Class of 2022. When they were high school seniors getting ready to graduate from high school, it was a very different situation. The pandemic had just begun, and they were forced to miss out on many of the great traditions that typically come with such a milestone. Nevertheless, the DFC graduating Class of 2022 persevered in a way that is remarkably admirable. They pushed through the end of their high school experience, transitioned into college – something that is often difficult enough as it is – while we continued to deal with the pandemic, and they have continued to persist to complete this important goal that they set out to accomplish.”

In recognition of the 52 graduates earning their Associate of Arts degrees, the Newsroom asked DFC students for advice for the up-and-coming freshman and to reflect on their time at DFC. Here’s what they had to say:

“DFC is a great community and support system that has helped me throughout my two years and I am thankful for being an Excellence Scholarship recipient. I am looking forward to attending St. Thomas.” – Kalhywet Sisay ’22 AA

“I am thankful for the close community that DFC has and for making lifelong friendships.” – Priscila Romero Chavez ’22 AA

"I am really looking forward to my time at St. Thomas because most of my family members have never really gotten this opportunity, so I am really excited to take that step forward and be that first-generation college student for my siblings. DFC has really taught me the importance of being a first-generation college students and to pave that way for other members of my family." – Cheyene Bialke '22 AA

“For incoming freshmen, I would say be sure to utilize the resources here. I would highlight the Scholar Resource Center (SRC) and use the tutoring services that they provide because as you progress with those skills from the SRC you will eventually see the benefit in your grades.” – Kal Animut ’22 AA

“Using your mentor as a resource and taking the one-on-one sessions seriously is important because those sessions are meant to guide you through your time at DFC. Those sessions can also help you with other things like accessing professors, processing information and help through your courses, and you can get input to help you through academic or personal life.” – Dikshya Adhikari ’22 AA

“DFC has taught me the true value of community,” said DFC commencement speaker Flores Dominguez, who has earned his associate degree from Dougherty Family College and he will continue this fall at St. Thomas working toward a bachelor’s degree in justice and peace. “I don’t mean it in a superficial sense but through actively cultivating connection, being in touch with each other’s humanity, and through mutual empowerment, DFC created a space where every scholar can reach their fullest potential while uplifting their peers along the way.”

Sheree Curry contributed to this story.