"We see real diversity," said Nick Sahakyan, an Armenian language and literature professor. "We are creating common ground for everyone so they can contribute to the community, all of them."
That was reflected in the ceremony, too, with a English and Armenian song to open commencement, and almost 50 flags from Japan to Iran and Sweden to Argentina flanking the stage.
Even after South Korean native Hee-Jung Jun finished her studies in the U.S., she said she wanted to stick around for another degree. That associate's in science degree with an emphasis on fitness and health would become her passion, she said.
"Some people go to school just for the degree, but not many people find what they like," she said. "I was really lucky to learn this subject."
Having been home schooled, it was Drew Di Lisio's and his family's first commencement. But he said he got more out of it than just a degree.
"It was tough at first, especially at a community college where people are there to do what they need to do [to transfer]," he said. "I got to know people in classes. I was able to grow my knowledge, but also as a person as well."
Some students wore green ribbons that signified a social and environmental awareness commitment, a first of its kind at Glendale Community College, but that is part of a 20-year movement of more than 120 colleges and universities around the globe.
"When they go out into jobs and the workforce, they'll think about social and environment impacts of what they do," said Hoover Zariani, director of the college's service learning center. "If they can do something, like start a recycling program, hopefully they'll do it."
The past, not the future, was on Brian McCurdy's mind. After three years at Glendale Community College, McCurdy emerged with college and career goals — things he overlooked after he graduated high school in 2005.
"Coming back here, it's a great way to get your life back on track," he said. "Socially, I blossomed into someone I never thought I would. Educationally, I may not have been able to hold an intelligent conversation.
"And I'm absolutely grateful for what Glendale Community College provided me with."