Communication major Sonya Soltani is 2012 SBCC graduation speaker

Emerson Malone, Staff Writer

This year’s commencement speaker learned to be autonomous at a young age.

A dedicated work ethic was built into Sonya Soltani’s personality during her teenage years. At age 16, she overcame familial turmoil and sexual assault. She began to live independently and worked three jobs simultaneously to pay rent while enrolled in high school.

With her 3.36 GPA, she admits that she is not an honors student.

“I am living proof that you don’t necessarily have to be outstanding or perform acts of supererogation for you to be successful,” she said.

Soltani, 22, works ceaselessly in extracurricular activities and was announced to be this year’s commencement speaker at the graduation ceremony.

“All the things that she has done while here on campus have elevated her above the rest of the candidates,” said Dr. Ben Partee, a dean at City College who was on the selection committee. “This year was absolutely the toughest year because they were all outstanding.”

Joseph White, Elizabeth Stein and Michael Medel were the three City College staff members who nominated Soltani to be a commencement speaker candidate.

“She’s a force of nature,” said philosophy professor White, for whom Soltani tutors. “She has ideas and she seems to always follow through.”

Besides being associate senate vice president of external affairs, giving campus tours and modeling for Brooks Institute, she has fashioned a comprehensive résumé with her participation in functions both in school and throughout the community.

She will be graduating in May with an associate degree in communications and a liberal arts degree in social and behavioral sciences.

Soltani is appealing to UC Berkeley for admission and will find out in June whether the appeal worked. If that doesn’t work, she will attend UCSB as a communications major this fall.

She plans to go to law school and pursue public interest law.

“Maybe I could be a state assemblyperson or a senator or a congresswoman or even president,” she said. “I personally don’t see a reason to stop educating myself … If I put myself in $200,000 worth of debt, so be it.”

Soltani, an Extended Opportunity Programs and Services student, was elected regional senator for region six of Student Senate for California Community Colleges (SSCCC) on April 28.

The SSCCC president awarded her the President’s Exemplary Service Award in the past month.

As Director of Recruitment for “A Year Without War,” an organization aimed at ending war worldwide for the year 2020, she performs community outreach and organizes tabling events on campus.

Soltani’s favorite classes at City College include PHIL 100, “Introduction to Philosophy,” PHIL 101, “Introduction to Ethics,” both with White, and COMM 235, “Argumentation and Debate” with Cameron Sublett.

“Those were the three resonating classes that really helped me unfold and realize my full potential,” she said.

She has volunteered for a wide variety of organizations, including Invisible Children’s Global Night Commute in 2009 and Friends of Woni Kenya International, Inc., for which she helps raise money to supply the tribe with water and wells.

She participates in many cancer organizations because her mother has been diagnosed with both skin and cervical cancer. Soltani volunteers every year for the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation to help children with the disease, and runs in the Relay for Life marathon every year.

“My resume is like three pages long,” she said. “I’m trying to figure out how to get it on one page, but I don’t think that’s possible.”

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published May 9, 2012.