First of many graduations occurs at KCC

PUHI n A blackjack dealer and a Chicagoan who fell in love with Kaua‘i were just two of the 100 graduates who took part in the Kaua‘i Community College’s 41st commencement Friday night.

Lisa McDown, one of two student speakers for the night, was described as a blackjack dealer for 15 years before her son inspired her to return to school when he signed up for the college’s “Running Start” program.

“The first day of school, we all had to describe someone in the class, and her describer said, ‘This is Lisa. She is old,’” McDown said. “But, once you walk through the door, you’re all the same.”

McDown balanced her life with her son, a full-time job, and being a student to reach Friday night’s ceremonies where she said her plans are to continue her education at KCC to eventually earn a bachelor’s degree, and possibly a master’s degree.

Elizabeth Kane, the second student speaker, will continue her education at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa where she eventually wants to become an environmental attorney and return to Kaua‘i to help protect and fight for the environment.

“When I went to my first day of Spanish class, I went into cultural shock,” Kane said. “I was a frob-ie (fresh off the boat).”

“I had to adjust to college life,” Kane said. “But, by being involved in student government and volunteering at the Kilauea Wildlife Refuge, I learned the true meaning of aloha. I am a better person because of the people of Kaua‘i.”

“I was so happy when my nephew told me he was graduating,” Janet Fujimoto of Hanapepe Heights said as she watched the graduates march into the KCC Performing Arts Center.

Fujimoto said her nephew, Jace Corwin Cabacungan, has faced several major issues, and she was afraid he would not get a chance for higher education.

But on Friday night, Cabacungan not only received his degree in automotive mechanics technology, he was one of 20 students who received special awards from a field of 15 donors.

“Everyone is so excited,” Fujimoto said. “My mother is 90 years old, and she wanted to come from the Mainland for this.”

In addition to the success stories, the commencement exercises allow the University of Hawai‘i an opportunity to recognize one of their faculty through the annual UH Regents Excellence in Teaching award.

Albert Spencer, a professor in accounting at KCC, was the recipient for this year, the outstanding educator receiving a medal and a check for $1,000 from David Iha on behalf of the UH Regents.

Ramona Kincaid, the Acting Assistant Dean of Instruction and University Center Director at KCC, presented Deborah Tuzon with a beachelor’s in human sciences, the degree made possible through a collaboration through KCC and the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo.

More of the advanced degrees are becoming part of the KCC commencement exercises.

Dr. Lynn Hodgson, division chair for social sciences at the University of Hawai‘i-West O‘ahu, presented business degrees to Robin Lotu, Sharlene Morimoto, Candace Yim-Tabuchi, Caroline Victorino, Mariana Ferrari-Elzaurdia, Don Yamamotoya, Sandra Diego, Marion Garner-Wagner, and Elizabeth Spencer.

“You can do it without leaving the island you live in,” said Dr. Kani Blackwell, Kaua‘i Teacher Education Coordinator, College of Education, in presenting the education degrees.

“Tonight, we are honoring nine teachers that are ‘home grown.’ They earned their degrees by staying on their own island,” Blackwell said. “Next week, we start a new program with 40 students already signed up. Of this, 15 are from Kaua‘i.”

Samantha Henriques and Heather Ryan were recipients of the Post Baccalaureate Certificate, Secondary Education presented by Blackwell.

Haleakala Anakalea, Yvette DeSilva, Michael Ravich, Tristan Shigematsu, Christopher Skabo, Dena Souza, and Nanea Sproat were awarded Bachelor of Education, Elementary Education degrees by Blackwell.

Community donors who provided excellence awards to 20 graduates include the American Culinary Federation, Kaua‘i Chapter Award, Darryl Chong Award, Dr. Amadeo S. Trimbol Award, Edward T. White Foundation awards, Joseph & Helen Hew Memorial Fund Award, Glenn Ebesu Enterprises Award, Hawai‘i Association of Public Accountants Award, Hawai‘i Flour Mills Award, Jeanette Justice Memorial Award, Josefina A. Cortezan Nursing Award, Kaua‘i Chamber of Commerce Award, Kaua‘i Community Federal Credit Union Award, Kaua‘i Office Equipment Award, Masayo and Yoshio Ishii Award, and the New Car Dealers Association Award.

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) and


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