History will be made May 25 when the Merced College Los Banos Campus hosts its first ever graduation on campus.

The ceremony will be held in the campus’s quad beginning at 6 p.m., with Los Banos graduates in gowns marching in procession and then later receiving a certificate of participation in its first graduation. Graduates will also be receiving a pin commemorating the inaugural LBC graduation ceremony.

Also marching in procession will be Merced College President Chris Vitelli, Campus Dean Jessica Moran and Los Banos Campus faculty. Members of the Merced College Board of Trustees will also be present. In the audience will be friends and family of the graduates, by invitation.

On the following day, May 26, a second graduation ceremony will be held in Merced. Graduates coming to the Los Banos ceremony need not travel to Merced to attend.

The ceremony is one of the most significant events in the 51-year history of the Los Banos Campus, in keeping with President Vitelli’s desire, as he put it, for Los Banos students “to feel it’s truly their campus.”

The local graduation will also make it easier for family and friends to attend the ceremony in their hometown, rather than driving 40 miles to come to the Merced ceremony.

Providing a graduation ceremony will also encourage family members of graduates, as well as other community members, to understand that a college education is in reach of everyone interested in pursuing transfer or career tech programs, beginning right in their own hometown.

The graduation is part of the vision of Vitelli, Board Member Joe Gutierrez (who represents the Westside of the district) and other board members to give the Los Banos Campus its own identity.

In addition to its own graduation ceremony the campus will be undergoing an unprecedented expansion in 2023, to include a new child development center, an outdoor fitness lab, an agricultural lab adjacent to a rejuvenated food forest and a student café.

“The college recognizes that one of the greatest potentials for growth in enrollment in the district is in Los Banos,” Vitelli said, “because of the expected growth in population on the Westside of the district. We need to develop our campus now and during the next ten years to accommodate that enrollment growth.”

Among other plans for the near future, Merced College anticipates offering in-person dual enrollment courses at both Los Banos and Pacheco High Schools to complement the current online dual enrollment the college currently offers high school students. Dual enrollment (also known as dual credit) enables students to earn both high school and college credits simultaneously.

The college also plans to offer more courses in career and technical education to complement programs offered in Los Banos high schools, including agriculture, welding, computer technology and cyber security.

The college will also be encouraging Moran and the campus’s faculty and staff to go out into the community more often in 2023 to talk with groups and individuals about the plans for the campus’s growth and development.

“The sky’s the limit for the Los Banos Campus,” said Trustee Joe Gutierrez. “I can see the day when the campus becomes a college of its own within the Merced Community College District. In order to get to that point, we need to continue to expand our events and develop our programs and facilities in Los Banos, as we are doing now.”