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Abbie Kahula Reed and Nyle Jordan Ocariza
Abbie Kahula Reed (left) and Nyle Jordan Ocariza (right)

About 300 students received degrees from the University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu in fall 2022, and about 200 participated in a commencement ceremony on December 9. Chancellor Maenette Benham presided over the ceremony, which included remarks from Regent William Haning III and student speakers Abbie Kahula Reed (creative media) and Nyle Jordan Ocariza (business administration).

‘Hawaiian Homestead gal’

Ask Reed the reason she persisted and excelled throughout her academic journey at the UH West Oʻahu, and she’ll name five reasons—Nevaeh, Shayden, Savannah, Shyne and Tori—her grandchildren, ages 10 to 15.

“My grandkids are my No. 1 ‘why’ I do what I do,” said Reed, 63, who received a bachelor of arts in creative media with a concentration in communications and new media technology.

Check out photos from UH West Oʻahu‘s commencement ceremony

A 1977 Kamehameha Schools graduate, Reed described herself as a “Hawaiian Homestead gal”—born in Papakōlea, raised in Waimānalo, and now a homeowner at Maluʻōhai Homestead in Kapolei.

Prior to becoming a student at UH West Oʻahu, Reed worked for 16 years at HMSA, where she retired in 2017 as a Quest senior processor.

“When my husband unexpectedly passed away in 2016, I looked up for the first time to assess my life,” Reed said. “I realized that I lived life, all my life, with my head down, just focused on working a steady job to pay the bills. But something was missing. The decision to end the 8-to-4 work life and retire early was made in 2017 to fill the missing hole and live my best life, whatever it was.”

In fall 2018, Reed enrolled at UH West Oʻahu, where she decided to major in creative media and honed her skills as a storyteller and content creator. As a student, she thrived with the love and support of her ʻohana—her four children, five grandchildren and five dogs.

Group of people smiling
Abbie Reed (seated) with her children, from left, Kimberly, Kristol, Rain and Pono.

Reed’s daughter, who graduated in spring 2017 with a bachelor of arts in public administration degree from UH West Oʻahu and now works on campus, said she feels blessed and honored to have her as her mom.

“I am extremely proud of her dedication and perseverance to overcome any obstacles that came her way,” said Kimberly Reed, administrative and fiscal specialist for Title III Grants, ʻUpena Moananuiākea and Wailau Ola Pathway. “I’ve seen her go beyond her comfort zone, enduring many sleepless nights, and strive for extra credit to remain on the dean’s list—even if she didn’t need it—which is crazy! Although a bit extreme at times, I admire her for it and know that she would not have it any other way.”

The recipient of various grants and scholarships, Reed thanked all those who helped and supported her throughout college via her Mahalo Testimony, a website that also showcases her creative skills.

Reed plans to pursue a master of arts in English with a concentration in creative writing at UH Mānoa. She plans to continue documenting and sharing her stories on her YouTube channel HappyAbbieDaze and website Two Tutus Talking to make a difference.

She said, “[Graduation] is a personal affirmation that life after retirement can be the beginning of new and wonderful adventures if you can dream it and remember that wherever you go, whatever you do, take God with you.”

Read more about Reed.

Pushing through the pandemic

Nyle Jordan Ocariza
Nyle Jordan Ocariza

Ocariza started attending UH West Oʻahu in the fall of 2018, after graduating from Pearl City High School. He was president of the Accounting Club, and received his bachelor of arts in business administration with concentrations in accounting and finance.

“One of my most notable achievements as a UH West Oʻahu student was getting my first internship at one of the most prestigious firms on Oʻahu, Accuity LLP,” Ocariza said.

Accuity LLP is one of the largest CPA and consulting firms in the state. During his time there, Ocariza assisted in the auditing of major corporations and in the preparation of corporate tax returns.

He reminded his classmates about the power of perseverance.

“We are one of the last classes to see life on campus before the [COVID-19] pandemic, campus life through the pandemic, and now post-pandemic,” Ocariza said. “This pandemic may have brought out the lowest times in our lives, whether it be us struggling with a mental illness, the death of a loved one, or even us getting sick ourselves. This pandemic has brought out the worst of the world, yet we saw growth at UH West Oʻahu by graduating despite all of the overwhelming pressures of life bogging us down.”

In addition to his academic commitments, Ocariza also works as a general ledger accountant, assisting in the accounting operations for the island of Lānaʻi at Pūlama Lānaʻi, a local company that works toward conserving, preserving and sustaining Lānaʻi, in terms of culture and land.

Ocariza said he hopes to leverage his degree to support Pūlama Lānaʻi’s growth. He is grateful for how UH West Oʻahu has prepared him, from the logistical and technical know-how to do his job, to the soft skills, such as how to talk to people.

“Graduating is no easy feat, yet we pushed through all of the fogginess of the world and we can hold our heads up high and say we graduated,” Ocariza said. “We did it.”

Read more about Ocariza.

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