By Shawna Takaki | Staff Writer
Alyssa Lai is a 32-year-old who graduated with an associates degree in Hospitality & Tourism from Kapiʻolani Community College last Friday at Commencement.
Lai attended Hawai‘i Pacific University in 2010 then dropped out due to difficulties in balancing work with school. She had been working full time.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Lai decided to return to her education.
“I needed something I was accomplishing for myself,” said Lai. “During COVID, I didn’t have anything, and that kind of scared me.”
She enjoyed her experience at the college, finding that the support of faculty, staff, and classmates helped her to succeed at college while working full time at Hilton Grand Vacations.
“It was a long journey, but … I got back on track,” said Lai.
Lai is of Native Hawaiian, Japanese, Chinese, Portugese, and Korean heritage.
She brought to Commencement a decorated cap highlighting her status as an indigenous woman with a degree, as her heritage was important to her, and she felt pride in being the first graduate of her family.
“Joining KCC, I was able to connect more with my Native Hawaiian culture,” said Lai. “I connected with the Hoʻopika Program just to understand more of my indigenous culture.”