What did TikTok influencer tell his fellow West Hills Lemoore College graduates?
Leo González – the son of farmworkers who built a TikTok following of 2.8 million through skits built around bicultural, Latino life – made history the old-fashioned way: He became part of the largest graduating class at West Hills College Lemoore.
The 29-year-old addressed the graduating class of almost 800 graduates, mostly thanking the staff and programs of 21-year-old college for providing opportunities to students like him who need some guidance and some prodding.
“This community is so lucky because people in West Hills never stopped showing up for me when I really needed them to,” said González, who earned a degree in social science. “Through community, there is stability and understanding.
González, who now lives and works in Los Ángeles, rattled off the names of professors who helped him even with online courses during the pandemic.
“We hold each other up,” he said. “I’m so proud of all of us for saying ‘yes’ to ourselves. Because now that we’re here, I really think that we can go anywhere.”
González, whose parents attended the ceremony at Golden Eagle Arena, spoke for about five minutes. He recalled stepping onto the West Hills Lemoore campus during his seventh-grade summer.
“I was a camper for the 5c Experience program,” said González. “It’s a summer day camp that gets kids excited and plants a seed of interest for college.”
González was stressed, but an instructor made him “feel so special.”
“It’s a place that taught me how to create and edit videos. We would learn about certain angles, and go out and film the world,” he said. “It was our way of telling our stories.”
González, who had a brief stint as a television journalist, said the college instructors would always say, “You go here, you can go anywhere!”
“At the time, I didn’t know just how badly I needed to be there to hear those people make that kid feel so powerful.”
González – a 2012 graduate of Hanford High – wants to continue taking college courses “just because I’m interested in psychology and sociology so much.”
He took some classes at College of the Sequoias, and later ended up working in Humboldt County running a church youth group.
West Hills College Lemoore President James Preston praised González’s drive.
“He completed his college degree online with us while creating unique POV-style comedy video that have made him a social media star,” said Preston. “We are so proud of the way he represents the 559 (area code) and thrilled to have him join us at our ceremony.”