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UHMC Molokai Celebrates Commencement

Photo by PF Bentley

For the first time since 2016, the University of Hawaii Maui College, Molokai Education Center celebrated an in-person commencement ceremony. With more than 40 graduates walking, the quadrennial ceremony was one to remember.

Kelly Dudoit, College Coordinator for the Molokai Education Center, explained that a graduation is more than just a celebration of a degree.

“It’s so important,” said Dudoit. “As I’m going through the lists of graduates and thinking about their stories, their backgrounds, their struggles, their triumphs, who they were when they walked in the door…it’s so amazing to witness the transformation that education can have in people’s lives.”

The graduating classes covered the years 2021-24 and included accomplishments ranging from degrees to certificates, associate’s and bachelor’s, and even the first ever doctoral degree presented at the Molokai Education Center. The recipient of this inaugural doctoral degree was Molokai’s Pulama Lima, who received her doctorate in Philosophy in Anthropology.

Student speakers at the graduation ceremony described various, sometimes complicated, paths to securing their higher education degrees.

Photo by PF Bentley

“I’ve been in college for years and I’m finally graduating,” explained speaker Meleana Pa-Kala, who studied to be a kumu. She offered “a huge, huge mahalo” to all those who helped her along the way.

“This accomplishment is as much yours as it is ours, and we are forever grateful for your unwavering presence throughout this journey,” said Lima to the crowd of family, friends and supporters present at the May 10 graduation.

Making these graduates and their stories visible to the community is one of the goals of having a Molokai specific graduation, explained Dudoit. Molokai residents who completed their degrees on any campus of the UH system were invited to participate in the ceremony.

“I think it’s really important for the community to see them, especially for the children to be inspired,” said Dudoit. “It’s not always the people you would expect. Oftentimes, people are surprised who got their degree.”

Usually, Dudoit explained, enrollment in college courses will increase after graduation.

“It’s just a good time to reconnect,” she said. “We are seeing a lot more interest in non-credit programs.”

With trips off island increasingly expensive for Molokai families, the Molokai Education Center’s graduation allowed graduates to celebrate their accomplishment with their families.

More than 50 percent of the graduates are Native Hawaiian. The college is also helping fill a critical need in medical services on Molokai. After this graduation, the number of certified nurse aides nearly doubled since the island’s last commencement, with 23 students earning their certification.

Looking towards next semester, the Molokai Education Center is continuing to offer free, non-credit certificates like GIS, construction, and agriculture as well as accredited courses. One new addition to the curriculum is a practical nursing cohort.

Molokai residents can check out courses offered by the Molokai Education Center at maui.hawaii.edu/Molokai.


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