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Student smiling in graduation regalia
Gabriel “Gabby” Barrientos Navalta

For Gabriel “Gabby” Barrientos Navalta—a Filipino-American first-generation college student who hails from Laupāhoehoe, a small town on the Hāmākua Coast of Hawaiʻi Island—graduating from the University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu isn’t just about him.

“I’m not only doing it for myself, I’m doing it for those family members who have supported me through everything, for my friends, and of course, Laupāhoehoe, my community. I’m doing it for them,” said the 23-year-old who now resides in Kaimukī.

Navalta will be among the participants and one of two student speakers at UH West Oʻahu’s Spring 2023 Commencement—which will be held Saturday, May 6, 9 a.m. at the Stan Sheriff Center on the UH Mānoa campus.

Related: Anthony Tamayo Miguel: ‘Grit and determination’ part of commencement student speaker’s message, May 2023

Navalta will receive, with distinction, a bachelor of arts in creative media with a concentration in general creative media.

He said he hopes to go back to Laupāhoehoe to help with the next generation in his hometown, whether through doing community work, getting involved with local organizations, or just raising students “up to the next level.”

Currently Navalta is employed at the Academy for Creative Media at UH West Oʻahu as a student assistant, creating content for social media and representing the program at multiple events for high school students interested in college and industry opportunities. Navalta is also a member of the National Society of Leadership & Success, and the Student Media Board at UH West Oʻahu.

UH spring 2023 commencement schedule

Among his most notable achievements in his three years at the university was serving as president of the 10th Senate of the Associated Students of the University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu (ASUHWO) during the 2021–22 school year.

Rouel Velasco, director of Student Life and ASUHWO Senate advisor, recalled how Navalta served during the height of the pandemic and distance learning.

“While things may have been challenging, COVID or remote instruction did not stop him from serving and making a difference,” Velasco said. “All meetings were online and his familiarity with technology allowed him to flourish as a leader.”

Read more about Navalta and his accomplishments at Ka Puna O Kaloʻi.

By Zenaida Serrano Arvman

More on UH West Oʻahu commencement

This semester, more than 300 students are candidates for graduation, and of these students, about 240 will be participating in commencement, which will celebrate applied science, business administration, creative media, cybersecurity, education, humanities, natural science, public administration, and social sciences candidates. UH West Oʻahu graduates from 2020, 2021 and 2022 were also invited to take part in the ceremony, and about 70 have registered to participate.

All guests are welcome to the ceremony on a first-come, first-seated basis, and will be able to greet their graduates following the formal commencement program at the Les Murakami Stadium.

Read more about Anthony Tamayo Miguel, who was also selected to be a spring 2023 commencement student speaker.

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