Newly Minted UHWO Grads Step Into Real World

Sen. Michelle Kidani

UHWO sends new graduates on their way

Congratulations to the 249 new graduates of UH West Oahu who received their degrees and certificates at commencement ceremonies in December! I was so pleased to be the keynote speaker for the graduation at the still-new campus in Kapolei.

It might seem like a cliché, but commencements always are so full of hope for optimistic graduates. Each of them has an individual story to tell about their college education, and the diverse graduating class this semester is no exception.

Here are just a few: * Gino Paulino is a Marine Corps veteran who never thought he could be successful in college. But then he discovered a love for statistics, and he used his skills to work as a student tutor and mentor at the UHWO No’eau Center. * Kehau Hollister-Iwashita found herself without a job when Aloha Airlines shut down suddenly a few years ago. That traumatic experience led to some serious thought about how she could best support her family, and now she has a BA in sociology to help her do that in the years ahead. * And we heard a heart-warming message from student speaker Natalie Eichner, who shared her story about a life-changing dirt bike accident from which she emerged with a broken neck and back but alive. Her life’s goal was to become a motocross professional, but the accident led her to re-focus on higher education and she discovered her love for learning.

Now she has a BA in English to help her pursue new goals.

Natalie pointed out that less than 7 percent of people in the world have had the privilege of earning a college degree.

It was an honor to congratulate the latest grads from UH West Oahu, and to once again visit the new campus that already has become a wonderful source of pride and inspiration for our Central and West Oahu communities.

Upcoming Legislature

You may have seen or heard media reports about legislative briefings on budgets for the various agencies of state government that have been under way at the state Capitol over the last few weeks. News on the economy has been encouraging, and we will begin our work on setting priorities for state programs and construction projects in just a couple of weeks.

Opening day for the session is Wednesday, Jan. 15, and while no formal program has been planned this year, you are welcome to come to the state Capitol that day, or at any time during the session through late April.

Happy New Year!

The new year is upon us, and my wish is that you have much to be thankful for as 2013 ends and much to celebrate as 2014 begins.

I look forward to more opportunities to meet and make new friends and share in those things that make our vibrant neighborhoods the best possible places in which to raise our families and support each other at work or play.

Stop by my office at room 228 on the second floor. If you need to contact me, call 586-7100 or email