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Some of the 50 Finest and the Rising Stars honored at the gala

2014 marked the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the University of Hawaiʻi Community Colleges.

What started out as four technical schools in 1964 has grown to seven community colleges—Hawaiʻi, Honolulu, Kapiʻolani, Kauaʻi, Leeward, Maui and Windward. There is at least one campus in each county and community outreach education centers across the state.

“Even on Niʻihau, they have access to Kauaʻi Community College,” said Sharon Narimatsu, a former Leeward Community College provost. “How fabulous is that?”

For decades now, UH community colleges have educated tens of thousands of people in trade programs like culinary and auto mechanics while also offering associate degrees and preparing students for four-year colleges and beyond. Students like Hawaiʻi County Mayor Billy Kenoi, who went to Hawaiʻi Community College.

“My life is what it is because of the community college system,” said Kenoi. “You know, I wasn’t prepared for a university degree when I got out of high school. I had some challenges but the community college was there for me. And without that door being open, I never would have been able to accomplish and achieve my high education dreams.”

Related UH News video: 50 years of accessible,
affordable higher education, March 18, 2014

Since its inception, UH Community Colleges has made higher education available to the masses because it’s affordable and anyone with a high school diploma or GED is accepted. To commemorate the anniversary, the UH Community Colleges held a 50th anniversary celebration and honored the 50 Finest—administrators and faculty—who built the system. The honorees were quick to point out that they represent everyone who contributed.

“It took a whole community of faculty and staff to bring the kind of training and education and commitment to make sure that Hawaiʻi’s next generation got the skills that they needed to succeed,” said 50 Finest honoree Narimatsu.

With an eye to the future, the UH Community Colleges also recognized its rising stars.

Related UH News video: Governor proclaims April 23
as UH Community Colleges Day, April 23, 2014

“There is so much need our students continue to have,” said Rising Star honoree Grace Funai, a Hawaiʻi Community College counselor. “Just thinking about how we can continue to innovate and to lead the state of Hawaiʻi in providing that education to our students.”

One of UH’s goals is to ensure that 55 percent of working adults in Hawaiʻi have a college degree by 2025.

To that end, the University of Hawaiʻi Community Colleges will continue to improve and adapt to meet the workforce demands of the future.

“We think we have done a great job in opening higher education but it’s not over,” said John Morton, the vice president for the UH Community Colleges. “And so, we have much, much more to do for the people of the state of Hawaiʻi and that’s our commitment.”

Performance of “That’s Life” at the 50th anniversary gala celebration

Kristian Lei, Broadway vocalist and Christian music recording artist and Billie Lueder, Honolulu CC executive assistant to the chancellor and marketing director

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