It's all about students at the Peralta Colleges. Especially in May, when it's graduation time, and students young and old finally -- whew! -- get those diplomas and certificates they have worked so hard for.

There's nothing like the sea of smiling faces (and the waves of joyous tears), as proud family members witness the procession of grads at Berkeley City College, College of Alameda and Laney and Merritt Colleges in Oakland. And the best news is that the commencement ceremonies are open to the public. You're invited to join the graduates as they celebrate their academic achievements.

Berkeley City College, as always, had its graduation at Zellerback Auditorium on the UC Berkeley campus this year on Thursday. BBC's keynote speaker was Dr. Lisa Dyson, CEO of Kiverdi, a Berkeley-based sustainable chemical company that turns waste carbon into high-value products.

College of Alameda will hold its graduation ceremony beginning at 2 p.m. Friday inside the CoA gymnasium. The commencement speaker is none other than Alameda Mayor Marie Gilmore. You won't want to miss the festivities at the campus, which knows a thing or two about how to honor its graduates.

Moving to Oakland, Laney College's commencement will take place at 10 a.m. Saturday, on the Laney football field, home of the top-ranked Eagles. You'll want to stay to hear the graduation speaker, Oakland-born actor Russell Hornsby, who is probably best known for his role on the TV series "Lincoln Heights."

Also in Oakland, Merritt College will hold its graduation ceremony at 4:30 p.m. Friday, on the lawn between the D and G buildings at the beautiful hilltop campus. Take in the view as you listen to graduation Speaker Dr. Robert Harris, a retired vice president of PG&E who graduated from Merritt College in 1963 and went on to receive his law degree from UC's Boalt Hall.

Let those mortarboards fly: Merritt College's Puente and Altazor programs help underrepresented students transfer to four-year schools and then return to the community as mentors. This graduation season, they are sending more than 20 graduates on to universities such as UC Berkeley, San Francisco State, UC Davis, UCLA and many other top schools.

With so many noteworthy students moving on this spring, it's hard to pick out a single student to highlight. But then there's Anand Stephen. When he took a few classes in sociology at Berkeley City College, he probably didn't think he'd quickly develop such a keen interest in sociology. After Stephen took all the sociology classes that BCC had to offer, he applied to graduate school. He just found out that he has received a five-year fellowship to Rutgers University. Stephen will start Rutgers' Ph.D. program in sociology this fall. Now that is a remarkable achievement.

And the winners are: Each spring for the past 15 years, the Peralta Association for African American Affairs has recognized African American students who have demonstrated outstanding academic achievement, leadership skill and a commitment to community service. The eight recipients for 2013, who will each get a $500 scholarship, are: Larry McDaniel, Jr. and Lakara Nolan from Berkeley City College; College of Alameda's Lolo Reagan and Rhonda Richardson; Laney students Nicole Tobor and Cynthia Phillips; and Tracey Lynn Christian and Vincent Garrett from Merritt College. Congratulations to all.

The graduation processions may soon be over, but there's no stopping the interesting courses (check out College of Alameda's "intersession" classes!) and fascinating events at our community colleges. I'll have a full report next month on how we put the word "community" into community college.

Reach Jeffrey Heyman at jheyman@peralta.edu.