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Commencement ceremonies happening in Hilo and Kona

Hawai‘i Community College will celebrate the hard work and success of hundreds of graduates during the commencement ceremonies that will take place in Hilo on Friday, May 13 and in Kona on Saturday, May 14.

The East Hawai‘i commencement ceremonies will be held at the Edith Kanaka’ole Multi-Purpose Stadium in Hilo from 7-9 p.m. Doors open to the public at 6 p.m.

The West Hawai‘i commencement ceremonies will be held at the Hawai‘i CC – Pālamanui campus in North Kona at 4 p.m. with the seating of guests starting at 3 p.m. There will be a reception with cake and punch to follow.

Entrance to both ceremonies will be open to all and will not require tickets.

During the 2015-2016 academic year Hawai‘i CC has been celebrating its 75th anniversary. The college was founded in 1941 as the Hawai‘i Vocational School with five programs and 183 students. The college has grown steadily and now offers degrees and certificates in 26 different programs and has an enrollment of approximately 3,000 students.

Graduation in Hilo will feature the presentation of a special kāhili, or feather standard, constructed by Hawai‘i CC faculty, staff and students in honor of the 75th anniversary.

Commencement this year also marks the conclusion of the first year of classes at the new branch campus in Kona, Hawai‘i Community College – Pālamanui, which opened its doors in August 2015. 

Between the two campuses, Hawai‘i CC will award 995 degrees and certificates for Summer 2015, Fall 2015, and Spring 2016.

Student Speaker in Hilo

The student speaker at the Hilo commencement will be Denae Aulelei Hulali Pai, who will be receiving her Hawaiʻi Life Styles Hula and Hawaiian Studies degrees. She was born into a fishing family and raised in Honokōhauʻiki, Hawaiʻi. She attended Kula Kaiapuni ʻo Kona from first grade and then graduated from the Hawaiian Immersion school Ke Kula 'o Ehunuikaimalino in 2009. 

Forever a learner, and a beloved daughter and granddaughter, she is humbled and thankful for her family who celebrates her academic achievements with her and who raised her into the person she is today. Hulali is a member of Hawaiʻi Community College's hula hālau Unukupukupu and has been recognized on the Dean's List. She plans to transfer to the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo to pursue a major in Geography and a minor in Hawaiian Studies.

Keynote Speaker in Hilo

The keynote speaker in East Hawai‘i is Dr. Lehua Mark Veincent, known affectionately by many as “Kumu Lehua.” Dr. Veincent is on the vanguard of Hawaiian language and cultural education. The Hawai‘i Island native, with genealogical ties to Kaʻū, Puna, Keaukaha and Panaʻewa, earned dual degrees at UH Hilo – a BA in Hawaiian studies and a BBA in business in 1988, plus teacher certification in 1990. He has also earned two master’s degrees from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, in curriculum and instruction in 1999, and in educational administration in 2002. He recently earned his Ph.D. in Education from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. His doctoral work focused on cultural knowledge and education within a given community in strengthening one’s identity and mauli, uniqueness.

For nearly 30 years, Kumu Lehua has served as a teacher on Hawai‘i and Maui Islands. He has taught kindergarten through 12th grades, and he has also served as a lecturer and supervisor in the teacher education program at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo.

In 2001, Dr. Veincent co-founded the Ke Ana La‘ahana Public Charter School in Keaukaha. He has served as a state resource teacher in Hawaiian studies and language, vice principal at Hilo Intermediate and Hilo High Schools, principal of Ke Ana La‘ahana, and principal of Keaukaha School. He currently serves as Kamehameha Schools Hawai‘i high school principal.

Student Speaker at Pālamanui

The student speaker at Hawai‘i CC – Pālamanui will be Ian Shortridge, a Hawaiian Studies major who is also a member of the Hawai‘i CC’s Alpha Psi Epsilon Chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society. He earned his Liberal Arts associate degree in Spring 2015, and this spring he will complete his Hawaiian Studies associate degree.

Shortridge was raised on Hawai‘i Island and graduated from Konawaena High School. He is a licensed minister, and his career goal is to become a history teacher at the middle or high school level. Shortridge has been accepted at UH Mānoa where he plans to major in secondary education.

Keynote Speaker at Pālamanui

The keynote speaker at Pālamanui will be Matthew Lynch, the first Coordinator of the Sustainability Program for the 10-campus University of Hawai‘i system.

Lynch brings years of experience and advocacy to the UH system's efforts to develop a coordinated approach to integrating sustainability into teaching, research, campus life, operations, and the engagement with the community throughout the UH system.

After an early and successful career in banking and finance, he discovered his true passion: fostering healthy communities through sustainable and regenerative business, economic, and agricultural practices. Lynch worked on a broad range of projects from Mongolia to Australia and throughout the Pacific before settling in Hawai‘i.

Lynch is also a founder of the Honolulu-based nonprofit Asia-Pacific Center for Regenerative Design, and he currently serves on the Board of Directors for Kahumana Organic Farm and Slow Food Oahu. He is also the Sustainability Measures Project Co-Chair for the Hawaii Green Growth Aloha+ Sustainability Dashboard.