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‘Go Forth And Change The World’: Hawai’i Community College Celebrates 81st Commencement

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Hawai‘i Community College celebrated its first in-person commencement ceremony in two years Friday, May 13, and while faculty, administration and speakers reflected on the challenges — and triumphs — throughout the pandemic, their message to graduates was not to look back, but to move forward and leave their mark on the future.

Hawai‘i Community College liberal arts graduate Carty Leviticus gives her address Friday night during commencement in Hilo. (Photos by Thatcher Moats/Courtesy of Hawai‘i Community College)

“Our academic journey has been such a crazy roller-coaster ride,” Carty Leviticus, a liberal arts graduate, said during her address to fellow graduates. “But we all made it here.”

HCC’s 81st commencement featured all the pomp and circumstance expected of a graduation ceremony.

Of the 533 graduates in the class of 2022, 185 participated in the ceremony at Edith Kanaka‘ole Multi-Purpose Stadium in Hilo, accepting their degrees or certificates in front of ‘ohana and friends watching from the stadium’s seats. They sat in chairs on the stadium’s main floor, decked out in the familiar black gowns and caps, several adorned with extra flare such as glittery messages and lights, and other garb signifying any honors they received.

Balloons with words of congratulations bobbed and waved in the gentle breeze blowing through the facility. And there were plenty of lei to go around. HCC staff and faculty watched from the wings along with several dignitaries, including Hawai‘i first lady Dawn Ige.

The ceremony also included music by the Hawai’i County Band, a hula presentation and the bestowing of special awards, including the Excellence in Teaching Award given to HCC geography instructor Drew Kapp and the Alumnus of the Year Award given to Erick Cremer.


There was an undeniable feeling of joy and excitement that permeated the stadium as everyone celebrated the accomplishments of the graduates.

“We worked diligently and stayed up late to meet deadlines. We learned a lot about time management skills, accountability, taking ownership of our work and better understanding ourselves, believing that I can do this and I will succeed,” Leviticus, a mother of two who plans to pursue nursing at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, said during her address.

She said no matter why they decided to attend HCC two and a half years ago, what is important is that they were there — graduating — Friday night. Each had their own, unique experience during their journey to get to commencement, and despite having to face challenges and learn new ways to succeed amid a global pandemic, with the help of faculty, family and others, the class of 2022 has already soared to great heights.

Leviticus looks forward to seeing her fellow graduates leave their mark on the world and achieve new milestones, with their education at HCC as the foundation.

“May we continue to strive towards our excellence while also never forgetting to take care of our friends, family and our community and ourselves,” she said, adding she and her classmates will always remember “we were all launched to soar from Hawai‘i Community College.”


“My heart is full of aloha as I look out upon all of you who are gathered to celebrate this great, momentous occasion,” Keli‘i Akina, president and CEO of the Grassroot Institute of Hawai’i and at-large trustee for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, told graduates and those in attendance during his keynote address.

He said the graduates have have invested the time, the energy and the personal commitment to reach a stepping stone toward fulfilling their dreams.

“It does not matter where you came from, whether near or far. For what matters is that we are now here, together, sharing aloha,” Akina said, using words taught to him by his kumu hula and adding that aloha has served as the bedrock of his life, anchoring him to an unswerving foundation no matter where life’s winds have blown.

During his address, Akina spoke much about aloha and how it’s been interpreted by different cultures and religions. But no matter how people defined it through the centuries, from an ancient Hawaiian chiefess to a Holocaust survivor and even Stevie Wonder, aloha is what made them refuse to become victims to their circumstances.

He told graduates that their lives won’t always be filled with joy and celebration like that on Friday night. They will also encounter challenges, possibly even injustice and even deep loss. But by realizing others do not have the power to take their love, joy and peace, people gain the power to find happiness.

Keli‘i Akina, president and CEO of the Grassroot Institute of Hawai’i and at-large trustee for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, gives his keynote address Friday night during HCC’s 81st commencement.

Akina encouraged the graduates to move beyond their time at HCC and into a period of transformation for themselves and the planet. He said there are countless needs and chances for them to bring about change, including right here on the Big Island, including fighting injustice, environmental and cultural threats, inequity and, “sadly, much more.”

“But all these challenges are opportunities,” Akina said. “They are your calling to go forth and serve.”

He said their ancestors, kupuna, ‘ohana and keiki are looking to the graduates to lead the future, and that’s why they are so important to the world.

Akina used the words of Chinese philosopher Confucius to show how. He said the philosopher wrote that to change the world, one must change their country. To change their country, they must change their city. To change their city, they must change their village. To change their village, they must change their family, and to change their family, they must change themselves.

That’s the key.

“And it all begins with you,” Akina said.

He told graduates to never let their circumstances or other people make them believe they are victims — each one of them is in control of their own happiness and no one can take that away from them. As he ended his address, he encouraged them to spread that message — and aloha.

“Change yourself and change the world,” Akina said. “Go forth and change the world.”

Nathan Christophel
Nathan Christophel is a full-time reporter with Pacific Media Group. He has more than 25 years of experience in journalism as a reporter, copy editor and page designer. He previously worked at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald in Hilo. Nathan can be reached at [email protected]
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