‘Today, we will become!’

LIHUE — “Today, we will become!” proclaimed Tristol-Victoria Manuel, one of three student speakers at the Kauai Community College 51st annual commencement exercises.

Armed with the theme “education is a powerful weapon,” inspired by Nelson Mandela, Manuel said education is like a Swiss Army knife — folded, it looks plain, but unfolded, it is full of tools.

“I had a nice speech done,” Manuel said. “But in the end, it comes down to ‘Today, we will become! I am Tristol-Victoria Manuel of Waiana‘e. I made it!’”

Manuel was one of approximately 140 students who celebrated the accomplishment of achieving their various degrees and certificates Friday night before a stand of appreciative family, friends and supporters at Vidinha Stadium.

“I had to come,” said Bill Thompson, father of Alexa Thompson, another of the student speakers. “I was scheduled to work, but this is my daughter who will be leaving us to attend the University of Hawaii at Manoa starting this fall.”

Chancellor Helen Cox was joined by David Iha, the Kauai member of the University of Hawaii Board of Regents, in recognizing Ann Kennedy as the recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Award. The honor was accompanied by the Regents’ medal and $1,000 in cash as Accounting degree candidates erupted in cheers.

“They told us we had to come,” said Helen Yamaguchi, Kennedy’s mom. “Ann was going to be recognized for something.”

Jill Kouchi, representing the University of Hawaii West Oahu, said she had the responsibility of getting a photo of five of the 15 graduates from UHWO.

“I worked with her at Kapiolani Community College,” Kouchi said when Chelise Ka‘aihue, a candidate for Bachelor of Science — Nursing, University of Hawaii, was introduced. “My job is to let students know they can get their degrees through distance learning programs here at Kauai Community College.”

Ka‘aihue said the journey to her bachelor’s degree started in 2008.

“Three degrees later, I am here,” she said. “I got my first degree in nursing here at Kauai Community College in 2008. I took time out to work, and in 2010, got my second degree from the Kapiolani Community College. I went to work and learn, and back to the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Time and persistence will get you everywhere, and education is a powerful weapon. The road to learning is not an easy one, but we all have stories of victory.”

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