By Chris Takahashi | Staff Writer

More than 430 students received associate degrees and certificates of achievement during the 2017 KCC Commencement Ceremony that took place this past Friday, May 12 at the Hawai‘i Convention Center.

In keeping with tradition, the ceremony opened with a Hawaiian ‘Oli entitled “A Chant to Set Sail,” led by Native Hawaiian KCC graduates and current students.

This was followed by musical performances by KCC music students Chisaki Yamahata and Nicola Missing. Yamahata sang “Hawai‘i Pono’i” while Missing sang the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

Interim Chancellor Louise Pagotto captured the excitement of KCC now-graduates in her opening remarks. She applauded the students for their determination and persistence in completing their educational goals.

Citing the challenges that accompany the college experience, from battling for parking spots to late nights spent studying, Pagotto declared, “Graduates, you can finally exhale.”

A few hoots and hollers from students and the audience followed.   

This year’s iteration of the commencement ceremony also featured the introduction of social media hashtags for KCC now-graduates to use for online postings to Instagram and Facebook. The dual hashtags employed were “Kapccgrad and “Kapccgrad2017,” which quickly became popularized by students online to document the ceremony.

The commencement ceremony has been held in the Kamehameha Exhibit Hall the previous three years, according to commencement planning co-chair Merrissa Brechtel. KCC has chosen this location due to the seating capacity and affordability of renting out space at the Hawai‘i Convention Center.

Alfie Gonzales, Board of Student Activites (BOSA) advisor, and Melvin Jadulang, Maida Kamber counselor, were also co-chairs for the commencement planning committee.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, KCC graduates were greeted by friends and family with leis to celebrate.

The alumna speaker for the commencement ceremony was Jennifer Wong-Ala. The former Phi Theta Kappa member and KCC graduate continued her education at UH Mānoa and received her bachelor’s degree in global environmental science this past Saturday.

Wong-Ala expressed deep gratitude for her time at KCC and the support system she found on campus that has encouraged her to continue her education. She will be attending Oregon State University for a master’s program in environmental science this upcoming year.

KCC professors Cheri Souza and Emily Noschese were honored at the commencement ceremony with awards as well. Souza received the Regents’ Medal for Excellence in Teaching while Noschese received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching by a Lecturer.

Though graduates were involved with rehearsal during the afternoon before formal ceremonies began, the event ran according to the printed timeline on the event program.

Brechtel emphasized that the ceremony was organized specifically to make sure that students could “celebrate with their family as soon as possible.”

KCC graduates may now register for the University of Hawai‘i Alumni Association at Recent graduates can take advantage of a discount membership rate 50 percent off the regular rate.