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One of the many graduates joining in Windward Community College’sWindward Community College’s exuberant commencement caravan on May 22, was student speaker Bernadette Pada. An abuse survivor, whose mother went to jail when she was three, Pada shared her difficult and redemptive journey with fellow graduates through an inspirational address on the big screen.

“I’ve endured abuse growing up and it continued into my relationships. My life spiraled downhill, but after I had my children, I knew I wanted to break that cycle of abuse. I had two choices: stay and keep doing the same thing, or do something better with my life,” Pada said.

Bernadette Pada
Bernadette Pada

She chose the latter. At age 26, Pada started at Windward CC as a single mom with two children, doubting herself and her abilities. She found the help she needed with Paipai o Koʻolau, a program that provides scholarships and academic support, and Paipai Director Sarah Akina. The college’s TRiO student support services became a second home. Windward CC also helped her pursue her dream of becoming a social worker.

“It took long nights, dedication and hard work for me to get where I am today,” Pada said. “I took all the negative things that happened in my life—the pain, the hurt, abuse—and turned it into my life’s mission to give back to those who have gone through something similar. I want to go back into my community and work with children and teens that experience abuse and neglect. I want to be that light in someone else’s life, which is why I stand before you as the first of my family to graduate from college.”

Now the proud holder of an associate’s degree in liberal arts, Pada was recently accepted into the bachelor’s of social work program at UH Mānoa for fall 2020 and aspires to earn her master’s and PhD, as well.

She said, “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.”

Bernadette Pada
Bernadette Pada at the commencement caravan.
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