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State Senator Kai Kahele encouraged about 250 Hawaiʻi Community College graduates to chase their dreams at the college’s commencement ceremony on Friday, May 11, at the Edith Kanakaʻole Stadium in Hilo. Kahele, who represents the greater Hilo area, delivered the keynote speech to a capacity crowd that included graduates, friends, family and Hawaiʻi CC faculty and staff.

Left to right, Hawaiʻi CC Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Dorinna Cortez; Hawaiʻi CC Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Joni Onishi; Sen. Kai Kahele; Regent Douglas Shinsato; Hawaiʻi CC Chancellor Rachel Solemsaas

Kahele described his own journey from a kolohe (Hawaiian for mischievous) teenager who did poorly in school to a student at Hawaiʻi CC, then University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo and ultimately UH Mānoa, where he was part of the men’s volleyball team that made it to the national championship.

“If there is one thing I hope you take from my story, it’s that anything is possible,” said Kahele. “You only live once, so dream big dreams, have a powerful vision of what you want to accomplish, set goals to bring it to fruition and then chase it with reckless abandon.”

Kahele also told graduates that the greatest joy that they will ever feel is the joy of helping others succeed.

A total of 675 students graduated from Hawaiʻi CC in spring 2018, an 11 percent increase from spring 2017 and the second highest total ever. The youngest graduate was 17 years old and the oldest was 73.

More about Hawaiʻi CC‘s Early College graduate

Craig Okahara-Olsen earned his associate in arts degree a week before he is set to earn his high school diploma from Waiākea High School. Okahara-Olsen is the first Hawaiʻi Island student to earn his associate degree through Early College classes taken as a high school student.

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