Seniors show off decorated graduation caps

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Courtesy Jordyn LaRue

Celes Mora displays her cap that’s a statement to her commitment to getting a college education by the rose garden on the east side of the Forbes Building on April 16. Mora is the first to be a college graduate, and hopes she won’t be the last, in her family.

Decorating a graduation cap is a tradition and can be a clever way to stand out from the crowd. Many students feel that it’s a rite of passage and can be a great way for loved ones to find them in a sea of graduates who are moving into the real world.

For those who are graduating, decorating their graduation caps may not be as simple as taking a trip to Michaels craft store.

Jessica Vital, a graduating senior majoring in psychology, decorated her cap with delicately placed jewels that form Minnie Mouse in the center of the cap.

“I’ve always had a special place in my heart for Minnie Mouse and anything Minnie I always just loved growing up as a kid and it was just the perfect design for my cap,” Vital said.

The cap itself was a labor of love to put together, from the shape of Minnie Mouse’s head to how the bow made of stones laid on the cap.

“It was a headache placing every single one of those stones,” Vital said. “I first traced her head and then the bow and I hand glued all of the stones. Then between gluing and letting it dry, it took me two whole days, but it was worth it.”

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Vital said her Minnie Mouse cap is a symbol of happiness. She said Disneyland makes you feel so excited and you feel like a little kid; there are no worries when you go to Disneyland. She said it kind of meant the same thing to her because to see Minnie Mouse on her cap means there are no worries.

Among the students graduating this semester is Celes Mora, who is majoring in public health and plans to go to graduate school for nursing in the future. 

Mora has a cap that is very special to her and her personal and family experience. Her cap is covered in gems and reads “first in the family tree to earn a college degree.”

When she attended a friend’s graduation last year and she saw all their caps decorated, Mora said she knew she had to decorate her own cap when the time came.

When it came down to picking a specific design, she was stumped. So, she went to Michaels and got some crafty items, and the design ended up just coming to life. Within an hour, she was done.

Graduating seniors Celes Mora and Nia Smalley cheer as they think about their graduation in front of Old Main on April 16. Smalley and Mora have been roommates for three years and took their graduation pictures together.

“As far as the saying, I wanted to say something that was special and important to me and I wanted something specific to my experience here at the UA,” she said. “I thought that being the first in my family to graduate from a university was a really special thing and no one else in my family can say that again.”

Mora said being able to display her cap on graduation night means the world to her. 

She said her mother raised her and her brother as a single mom and it wasn’t always easy. Mora said her mother struggled a lot to even get her to this point and she gives her tremendous thanks for doing so.

“I wanted to make a difference in my family start a new trend with going to college and my mom is very excited and I basically have my entire family coming out for my graduation because it’s a big deal,” Mora said. “No one has ever done it before, so it’s super important.”

Mora said it kind of bothers her when people don’t decorate their graduation caps because the decorations are special.

“You get to make it yours and since everyone wears the same gown, with your cap, you get to make it more personal,” Mora said.

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All this work is not done without some help and some photographic evidence. Photographer Jordyn LaRue takes senior portraits for students. She can be booked for photo shoots through her Instagram.

Graduating senior Jessica Vital shows off a Disney-themed graduation cap at Old Main on April 19. Vital has a goal after graduation to travel to all the Disney parks in the world.

LaRue, who will attend Arizona State University next semester to study journalism and mass communications, began her work taking senior portraits in high school and continues to do so because of her belief in the power of a photo and the importance of capturing a memory.

“I think it’s super important and they’re just like super special moments,” LaRue said. “Every family deserves to have their son or daughter’s graduation photos.”

Vital said the thought of her parents just being able to spot her because of her graduation cap makes her proud.

“I’m looking forward to working in my field with my degree and it’s something that I’ve worked hard for and I’ve dreamt of coming to the UA since I was in seventh grade,” Vital said. “Even graduating was something I was looking forward to and now, I’m just looking forward to all the possibilities there is.”


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