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Graduate holding her cap with the words "today is the day" with a picture of a flying pig
Camille McComas

(Editor’s note: Honolulu Community College alumna Camille McComas shared these remarks with the University of Hawaiʻi Board of Regents on May 18, 2023.)

Aloha nui kākou! I am Camille Kanani McComas and I am honored to share my journey with all of you.

“I understood myself only after I destroyed myself, and only in the process of fixing myself did I know who I really was.”

This quote by Sade Andria Zabala is one that I closely relate to. You see, five years ago if someone were to tell me that I would be standing in front of you all, I would have laughed at the idea. At the time, college was one of the furthest things from my mind. To make a long story short, five years ago, I was lost in a vicious cycle of addiction, toxic relationships and dreadful decision-making. I was unrecognizable to my family and I was not the girl my mother raised me to be. I couldn’t understand it at the time, but the universe had a plan for me.

It was July 4, 2019 and I found out I was six weeks pregnant. Lost and afraid, I knew that things needed to change and on that day, I found my reason. Life was giving me a second chance and I made a conscious decision to face my demons. Soon after giving birth, I enrolled into college knowing that a college degree would ensure that my new child and I would have a shot at life.

Two people standing in front of a screen with the words "Mahalo Phi Theta Kappa honor society"
Honolulu CC Chancellor Karen Lee with Camille McComas

TODAY, I am a product of grace…I have 1,414 days clean. I count my days to remind myself that it took one day to get to two…two to get to three…and so on. God willing, this coming 4th of July, I will make four years.

TODAY, I am a mother to a beautiful three-year-old named Brooklyn, who attends pre-school here at the Honolulu CC Keiki Hauʻoli Children’s Center. My mama calls her my North Star because she brought me home. She is my reason!

TODAY, I am present for my family and through my actions they have come to see that I will no longer be absent. They no longer cry tears of sadness, but now cheer so loud for all of my accomplishments. They are my reason!

TODAY, I am truly fortunate to be embraced by so many beautiful souls who have cheered me on and never stopped believing in me. They are my reason!

TODAY, I am the president of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, a student advocate for the Collegiate Recovery Leadership Academy, a 2022 Soroptimist International “Live Your Dream Award” recipient, a 2023 American Association of University Women scholarship recipient, a student assistant in the counseling office where I work with amazing academic advisors, an intern at the John A Burns School of Medicine where I conduct cardiovascular research, a Ola Niuhelewai (student support program) Mauli Ola (well-being) student leader, an entrepreneur, and an active participant of TRIO-[Student Support Services] and, of course, Poʻi Nā Nalu (Honolulu CC’s Native Hawaiian career and technical education program). Through Poʻi Nā Nalu, I’ve found my forever home here. They are my reason!

I repeated the word “TODAY” to convey the significance of what I am given. What I have is a daily reprieve and it is only just for today!

Group of students in front of a Honolulu Community College sign

As of last week, I am now a graduate of Honolulu Community College. I will be transferring to UH Mānoa this fall to enter into public health in epidemiology and Indigenous health. I couldn’t have done it without the amazing people and programs at Honolulu CC. They accepted and guided me, these people have embraced me, flaws and all for which I am forever grateful!

In closing, I leave you with this. A few weeks ago, I was able to represent our school and chapter at the Phi Theta Kappa Catalyst Conference in Columbus, Ohio where Honolulu CC’s chapter Alpha Kappa Iota won the Hallmark Award for Distinguished College Project. I sat through many workshops and sessions and I got to listen to many keynote speakers including Hawaiʻi’s own Manti Teʻo. During his speech he said two things that resonated with me. The first is, “When your WHY is strong the HOW is easy.” The second is something that I now get to say about myself, “I trust my next chapter because I know who the author is.” I am Camille Kanani McComas and this is just my beginning!

Mahalo Honolulu Community College for being a BIG part of my story and I hope to make all of you proud!

Camille McComas in her commencement regalia

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