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Keli Lynch looked for her daughter in a sea of black gowns.
“I always cry,” she said, but today she was hoping to keep dry eyes.
Standing by the flags at Von Kleinsmid Center, she listened as USC President C. L. Max Nikias welcomed the Class of 2020 at the school’s annual convocation.
Lynch’s daughter Danielle Festa was one of nearly 4,000 freshmen and transfer students sitting in front of Doheny Library, about to embark on her journey at USC.
“We are so excited because it’s opening so many new areas for her,” said Lynch, who lives in New Jersey.
This year’s class was the most competitive in the school’s history, with a 16 percent acceptance rate, Nikias said. Roughly 54,000 applicants competed for 2,700 spots in the freshman class.
“So if you feel very special because you are here today, it is because you are,” Nikias said.
Festa, 18, worked hard to transfer from Boston University to USC — getting on the dean’s list and pursuing the transfer unbeknownst to her parents. She’s interested in global health and medical work abroad.
She got in and [the] rest is history.
“She got in and [the] rest is history,” Lynch said. “I tell my husband the house just isn’t the same without her — but she deserves this.”
Convocation and commencement bookend the collegiate experience at USC and much like commencement, the ceremonial kickoff offered many words of wisdom to the newbies.
Edwin Saucedo, student body president and a senior, grew up in South Gate and came to USC as a low-income and first-generation student.
No room for doubt
At first he felt insecure and doubted himself, he said, but then he decided to push through it.
“If there’s one thing I want you to walk away with today, it is: Don’t doubt yourself,” he said. “Don’t get too comfortable. Challenge yourself with new experiences.”
Prior to attending USC, he hadn’t traveled beyond the U.S. or Mexico. The school has helped him see the world, traveling to 12 countries across four continents through opportunities from the university.
He told students to push through the hard times and run at opportunities when they’re presented.
“Over the next four years you will be challenged,” he said. “There will be days where you may think you’re not good enough, smart enough, outgoing enough. Let me be the first to tell you: You are.”