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5 graduates at the stan sheriff center
Kauaʻi students who participated in UH West Oʻahu’s 2024 Annual Commencement Ceremony on May 4 on the UH Mānoa campus.

The University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu had 29 graduates based on Kauaʻi this academic year—the most in at least five years.

Among those graduates was Athena Manipon-Hamada, 26, of Līhuʻe. Manipon-Hamada, who works as an office assistant for Kauaʻi Community College’s Department of Operations and Maintenance, earned a bachelor of arts in social sciences with a concentration in psychology.

“Through my degree, I have learned to deal with people and understand people better, not just on the analysis level, but on personal levels and cognitive levels,” Manipon-Hamada said. “UH West Oʻahu has also given me all the tools I need in order (to pursue) my next degree, whatever that may be, because they have set me on a path to success.”

Federal grant helps bridge islands

UH West Oʻahu and Kauaʻi CC are part of a grant from the U.S. Department of Education called Kelekaʻa Hoʻo Naʻauao/Education Delivered Through Distance Education. As part of that grant, UH West Oʻahu distance education academic support specialist Anuhea Piliere is based on Kauaʻi to help UH West Oʻahu students in a role that aims to bolster transfer and retention, and offer holistic cultural support.

3 graduates in front of a commencement ceremony
This edited photo features UH West Oʻahu Kauaʻi students who participated in the May 10 graduation ceremony at Kauaʻi Community College.

Piliere said the grant has evolved through COVID-19 times, starting with offering group Zoom sessions and creating cultural videos, to flying students to visit campus for a day and providing graduates with travel cash awards. Seven students received awards to attend the 2024 UH West Oʻahu Annual Commencement on May 4, at the SimpliFi Arena in the Stan Sheriff Center at UH Mānoa.

“Most of all, this opportunity has allowed me to build relationships with Kauaʻi CC’s programs, counselors, staff and students,” she said. “But I think the biggest impact on the (high graduate) numbers is the community knows an actual person is on island who knows their actual needs and can respond quickly.”

Piliere said she is grateful to be part of two amazing communities at both Kauaʻi CC and UH West Oʻahu.

“I am just happy that Kauaʻi residents are taking advantage of the opportunity to earn a higher degree,” Piliere said. “Their higher educational attainment will positively impact our workforce and communities.”

Read more at Ka Puna o Kaloʻi.

—by Zenaida Serrano Arvman

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