Tag Archives: graduation

Hawai`i Community College is 70 Years Old!

It’s that time of year when I get to show off my students and colleagues as we gathered for the 2011 graduation. This time Hawai`i Community College celebrated 70 years of existence! It’s impossible to describe everything that went on.

This particular graduation ceremony was for the West Campus of Hawai`i Community College where I teach.

This past Wednesday’s post showed how the kihei was made. Part of the celebration included everyone wearing their personal kihei. The students were presented a kihei as a gift and the faculty was given the honor of tying the kihei on our students.

If I’d taken a video of it all, you would have heard the chanting, the blowing of the (conch shell), or watched the dancing and blessings, or the tossing of hats at the end, or tasted the cake at the reception.

Since I can’t share everything about that experience with you, you can still watch this slide show and imagine yourself in the middle of all the excitement. Most are pictures of everyone making sure the academic hoods and kihei are hanging the right way with lots of moving around. The posed pictures are a few of my students and faculty friends.

Congratulations to all the graduates and those who received special awards. As part of the faculty, I can say I am truly proud of each one!

A hui hou!

Making Kihei

In preparation for our 70th Anniversary as Hawai`i Community College, faculty and staff have been making personal kihei to wear for the celebration. A kihei is a rectangular cloak, traditionally tapa, tied in a knot over one shoulder. You will see them being worn in my next post about the 2011 graduation ceremonies.

One of my great students at the college is Kapuailohia Van Dorpe, who offered to help me create my kihei. Kapua is the daughter of Puanani Van Dorpe, a master kapa cloth maker who is a living treasure of Hawaii. Her beautiful and intricate work is on display at Bishop Museum. Click here to see a painting of Puanani done by Herb Kane. Kapua is in the process of establishing her own clothing creations that will incorporate some of the traditional designs.

Ohe kapala (ohe = bamboo, kapala = printing) uses a carving done on bamboo, rolled with acrylic paint, and placed on the cloth. Here is Kapua’s collection of tools.

On Kapua’s couch were several ohe kapala pillows.

There is quite a process involved in creating the exact design you want for your personal kihei. Beside a wider brown border, I am placing a thin green motif that represents the maile lei.

The finishing touch was printing my own design I made out of clay. It represents two of the many aspects of my own heritage – Native American and Celtic. The right spiral represents migration, life and renewal.

Watch for Sunday’s post! You will see many different designs on other kihei as well as the finished product Kapua and I made.

If you would like to read more about the many artisans, storytellers, dancers, etc. in Hawai`i, check out this book.

Ten pages in this book are devoted to the story and work of Puanani Van Dorpe. You will understand why it was such an honor to be guided by her daughter in making my kihei.

Mahalo nui loa, Kapua!

Why I Love Teaching In A Community College!

Sharing what I’ve learned along the way, knowing that some might never “get it”, but those who do will be ready to take that knowledge to the next level;

Finding new ways to present old material that will make it more relevant to today’s young people;

Watching students struggle to understand a new concept in order for it to mean something in their world;

Catching the shy romantic glances between two people who don’t think anyone saw it;

Seeing the look in a room full of big eyes when they are truly surprised by new information they had no idea existed;

Hearing their excitement when they tell me there is a new baby on the way, but not due until after graduation;

Listening to the dreams of older students who have come back to school after many years of working and/or raising families;

Explaining the difference between high school and college to those who are recent graduates of the local high school;

Recognizing the pride in many of the students because they are the first in their family ever to go beyond high school;

Welcoming the daughters and sons of former students because their mother or father said for them to be sure to sign up for my classes;

Worrying when some of the students don’t pass the class;

Pondering schedules and requirements with those who aren’t sure what they want to be when they “grow up”;

Striving to make each class better than the one before it;

Accepting the challenge of keeping my brain active and alive;

Empathizing with those who have to work more than one job while tending a family while they take classes;

Admiring the young healthy bodies of those who can’t imagine ever getting as old as I am;

Learning new names for each class member and actually knowing how to pronounce them;

Praising those who grow out of their timidity enough to give an oral presentation in class;

Crying on the last day of classes because I will miss the students over the summer holiday;

Celebrating with them when they finally receive their Associates Degree before moving on to the next level of education.

A hui hou!

West Hawaii Graduation


This is the largest graduating class I’ve seen since I started teaching at the West Campus of the Hawai`i Community College. When the economy is down, and people are losing jobs, or wanting to improve their chances of being hired, the return to college is inevitable. All the classes seem to be flooded with new students. What a joy it is to be their instructor!

The lineup above shows all the dignitaries in full regalia, waiting for the graduates to come down the aisle. Here is a behind the scenes look at a few of them getting ready.


Leis are all laid out in preparation. The purple ones on the left were given to each graduate as they walked off the stage in addition to a purple orchid lei. The other leis spread out on the table were given to the school officials and speakers.


I got there early enough to watch the rehearsal.


Everyone was robed at last and ready for the ceremonies to begin. So many of my own students were either graduating or helping out in some way.


For many of these students, they were the first ones in their family to go to college. It was a struggle for them to be there. The gold stoles, cords and tassels signified that these people were honor students.


At last, everyone was lined up and the processional began. The stage group went in first, then the faculty. Since I was part of the faculty group, I was able to get a couple shots of them processing in. It was standing room only, with everyone trying to get the best shots of their family member.


One student in particular had been in quite a few of my classes. She was the student speaker for the event. Here she is in her various roles. First, as she finished rehearsing, then dressed ready to process in, giving the speech, getting her diploma and walking off the stage. Her array of leis was an example of how all the students looked at the end of the evening. Some had on so many leis they couldn’t breathe or see where they were going.


I tried to get all the graduates who had been in my classes, but my battery gave out too quickly. It’s almost as emotional for those of us who teach as for those who graduate.



The graduates of 2010 accepted more leis as they greeted family and friends afterward.

Congratulations to all those who graduated!

Graduation Honors

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One of the highlights of the school year for both students and faculty is graduation. For many of our young people here in Hawai`i, they may be the first person in their family to ever get beyond high school, if that far. It’s a highly emotional time, especially when one of them stands up and tells her or his story of what college has meant to them.

The picture above shows one of the young women who took many classes from me, and actually gave the graduate talk at the ceremony several years ago. Her comment to the audience about how much I had meant to her brought tears to my eyes.

Because we are a University Center, we provide a place for students to get everything from an Associate of Arts degree (through Hawai`i Community College), a Bachelor of Arts degree (through University of Hawai`i West Oahu or University of Hawai`i Hilo), and even a Master of Arts degree. Students may elect to receive a certificate in Human Services, Culinary Arts, Substance Abuse Counseling, or Early Childhood Education. So it’s no wonder our graduation brings “dignitaries” from all the schools.

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So even though we are a small “parking lot” campus at this time, we have a fair number of students passing through our doors (for face to face classes) and computers (for online classes).

Today is the graduation ceremony for 2009. It is with pride that I join other faculty members this afternoon in “walking the line,” as we honor those who are receiving either degrees, or certificates, or both. In true Hawai`ian fashion, everyone gets leis from family and friends, almost up to their eyebrows to the point that they can scarcely breathe or see.

A couple years ago, I received an award for being an outstanding teacher, and I received my own share of sweet-smelling leis, actually more than this picture shows.

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Once, a colleague at the University of Arizona in Tucson said that graduation was like a “death,” because many of the students we’ve been close to for so many years are leaving and we’ll never see them again. He was so right! The nice thing about our graduation here is that most of these are young people who will remain in our community as teachers, counselors, or whatever career they go into.

So now it’s time to put on the “mortar boards” and head out for the 2009 graduation ceremonies.

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Congratulations to all the grads!
Congratulations to all the parents who supported them!
And congratulations to all the faculty who pass the torch of knowledge!

A hui hou!