Change is in the air for KCC graduates

PUHI — Change was in the air as Kaua‘i Community College conferred more than 300 degrees Friday during its 47th Annual Commencement exercise at the KCC Performing Arts Center.

“We are the change you want to see in the world,” said Taylor Stanton, who earned an associate’s degree in liberal arts. “None of the experiences I’ve had or the learning would have been possible without KCC and its fine chancellor and staff.”

Francis Takahashi, a teacher with KCC for 27 years, was awarded the Excellence in Teaching Award by University of Hawai‘i regent Michael Dahilig.

The annual award, presented during the commencement, carries a regents’ medal and a $1,000 cash award.

Debbie Ponce, a candidate for a Bachelor of Arts degree in public administration, said she has been accepted to the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa for her master’s degree.

“I lost my job of 18 years with Aloha Airlines,” said Ponce, who acknowledged the efforts of her husband for doing the laundry for more than three years while she attended KCC. “That job was my life. I knew how to do it and do it well, but what was I going to do? I was too old to go to school and too young to retire.”

She took the step to enter KCC, and three years later was among the graduates accepting degrees.

“You may have enough of school, but never stop learning,” she said, offering advice of never giving up, or letting obstacles get in the way of personal goals. “I never thought I could have a master’s degree. But I never tried.”

Mason Chock, president of Kupa‘e, a personal development company, also spoke of change, alluding to the eulogy he delivered for his grandmother’s funeral earlier in the day.

“Sixty-five years ago, my grandmother was a graduate of the very first graduation class at Kapa‘a High School,” Chock said. “There was no KCC, then; not for another 20 years. Her choice was either the cane fields or the pineapple cannery; she chose the latter.”

Chock said there were no streetlights until 1957 in the cane fields of Kekaha, although there was a “big box store,” the old Kress Store in Lihu‘e.

“You represent the new generation of change,” Chock said, alluding to the remarks of gas prices and the environmental concerns of the student speakers as well as noting some of the changes at KCC. “ You are the change that has taken place at KCC. You have inherited the problems and understand the future is about collaboration.”

He encouraged the graduates to practice personal leadership with the goal of not reaching the summit, but being the summit while being aware of the journey.

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

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