The University of Hawaiʻi Maui College was founded in 1931 as a vocational school and has since grown by leaps and bounds. The college currently offers three different bachelor degrees in applied science, 20 associate degrees in programs like culinary arts, and certificates in subjects like automotive technology and Hawaiian music.

The college prides itself in providing affordable credit and non-credit educational opportunities in high quality programs, that are offered in stimulating learning environments, like the college’s brand new science building.

More than 9,500 students have graduated from Maui College in the last decade, with the number of graduates steadily increasing each year, from 581 in 2003, to more than 1,200 in 2012.

Students earned 569 degrees and certificates in the 2013 spring semester and 287 of them took part in the spring graduation ceremony at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center, including valedictorian Shelly Silva.

“One thing that I have learned is the greatest barrier to success is fear,” said Silva. “And I have overcome too many obstacles in my life to allow fear to hold me back any longer.”

Silva dropped out of high school at the age of 16, had her first child at 18 and struggled with addiction for 13 years. She eventually enrolled at Maui College, and three years later, delivered the valedictorian address. She credited her professors for much of her success.

“They have shared with us their knowledge, their passion, their creative energy, teaching us to always strive for excellence,” said Silva.

Every student has a unique past and each came to Maui College in search of a better future. Faculty and staff say the graduating class of 2013 has also shown a true commitment to serving their communities.

“I think our students understand that, know that, and are articulate and thoughtful about the ways in which they apply their education to all of the kinds of the needs and opportunities that exist within the county of Maui, state of Hawaiʻi, and for that matter, around the world,” said UH Maui Chancellor Clyde Sakamoto.

As with every commencement ceremony, proud friends and family mobbed the graduates when it was over. While taking pictures with her family, Cynthia Taibemal said she was especially pleased her daughters were there to see her graduate.

“I want them to be happy and proud and I want them to know that education is a very important thing,” said Taibemal.

Thanks to the education they received at Maui College, the graduates say they are ready, willing and able.

“Oh I am so happy,” said graduate Lorenzo Valdez. “I can’t wait till work. It all paid off and this is for my mom.”