Tadashi Kamiya (left) and Tomoko Kamiya (right), a pair consisting of mother and son, graduate at the Commencement that took place on May 13. (Photo by Shawna Takaki)

By Shawna Takaki | Staff Writer

Amongst the bustling crowds of graduates last Friday at Kapiʻolani Community College’s Commencement, Tomoko Kamiya and Tadashi Kamiya, a duo of mother and son, stood out.

“It’s a very memorable experience for me to graduate with my son,” said Tomoko as she brandished her graduation cap and gestured to her son.

They both graduated together from Kapi’olani Community College with associate’s degrees in Liberal Arts. They stood in line to get their diplomas together with large smiles.

During their time at KCC, they took many classes together at the same time.

“It’s very helpful to go through college with my mom,” Tadashi said.

Tomoko was a museum tour guide at the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum and Shangri La as a Japanese language tour guide who was laid off at both in March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. At the time, her son had been in the process of entering Kapi’olani Community College. She realized that it would be a great opportunity to get a degree and further her education as she had never attended college before.

While the pandemic was detrimental in many ways for Tomoko, it also urged her into pursuing a further education, which she did with her son right next to her every step of the way.

“If there was no pandemic, I probably would have never become a student,” Tomoko said.

As for how Tadashi had thought of it, initially, he admits he had found attending college with his mother weird. But reflecting on it on graduation day, Tadashi found it an interesting and overall positive effect on his college experience.

The duo both plan on majoring in Creative Media for bachelor’s degrees in the future. Tadashi plans to go to the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, with Tomoko planning to go to University of Hawai’i West Oahu. Tomoko has more of an interest in the visual arts and Tadashi in the art of filmmaking, as he is especially interested in learning the fine details of production, camera work, and lighting.

Tomoko hopes to go back to work in the museum industry, while Tadashi would like to work somewhere in the film industry.