The drive was so much more than a loop around the lush campus at the foot of the Koʻolau mountains. It marked a momentous milestone in the educational journeys of graduates from Windward Community College, who celebrated the occasion in the age of COVID-19 with a commencement caravan on May 22.

caravan commencement

The graduates first gathered in their respective cars and watched a short video ceremony, drive-in theatre style, with speakers such as Windward CC Chancellor Ardis Eschenberg and student speaker Bernadette Pada, who shared about her long journey, including enduring abuse as a child.

“I’m here as living proof that no matter where you come from, how hard your life may be, you can choose to make the best of it and be the best version of yourself,” said Pada, who is now an undergraduate at UH Mānoa, studying social work.

Eschenberg greeted the graduates in Hawaiian, then thanked their families for the inspiration and support.

“Congratulations to this class of 2020! You have defined resilience, overcome pandemic level challenges, and shifted everything to reach your goal of college graduation!” said Eschenberg. “Our community now needs you to apply your knowledge, your skills, your creativity and aloha to help us through this time. Take your teachings and apply them to increase your knowledge for the benefit of our families and communities. We need you and everything you have learned right now.”

caravan commencement

After the speeches, the graduates started their engines and circled the campus in their cars as Windward CC administrators, legislators and other community leaders waved and cheered along the route. Names were read over a special radio channel that was available to vehicles on campus.

Like all good local celebrations, there was food—take-home refreshments handed to the graduates and guests in their cars. Then they headed out on Keaʻahala Road, on to their bright futures ahead.

—By Kelli Trifonovitch