Memorable moments at Leeward
Over 300 students will participate in Leeward Community College’s annual commencement ceremony. It will be a time to reflect upon accomplishments, celebrate achievements and share an important moment with friends, classmates and family. Ka Mana’o profiles four of this year’s graduates, each with their own unique and interesting story. Itʻs hard to typify college students, as you will find out, but each of these graduates truly enjoyed their time at Leeward. Commencement will be held on May 13, starting at 5 p.m. at the Tuthill Courtyard.
Text by Keo Akina and Steven Fox. Photos by Steven Fox and Joel Gaspar.
Bernadette Mack is leaving Leeward Community College as an independent woman.
In the last year, she got married, then saw her husband, Zerek, deploy to Iraq a month later. Being a 21-year-old college student, it was initially hard dealing with his absence while living alone.
“Through this experience, I’ve proven to myself and others it’s very important for a woman to be independent and being able to stand on her own, without him being there all the time,” said Mack, who graduates with an Associate of Arts in Teaching degree this spring. She will attend Chaminade University to major in elementary education.
She said she has a great support system that includes her mom and chats with Zerek, who is in the U.S. Army, on Skype daily. Being at Leeward — she’s a member of the college’s student government — helped her get through a time that seemed hard at first.
“With student government and school, it was a huge help. I dove right into it and that’s what made me so passionate about everything I do.”
Some advice she would like to give to future students is to “enjoy being a student and enjoy your time at Leeward because it goes by very quickly. Get involved with campus organizations. It’s a great way to know people, faculty, staff and the community. It also helps you academically, helps with time management, and it definitely helps you with becoming more responsible.”
Christopher Long grew up in a small town in Illinois called Staunton. After high school he joined the U.S. Army where he became a Cavalry Scout, serving four years of active duty including a 15-month tour in Iraq. It was during this time he met his future wife, Jenna.
He ended his military career in June 2009 and then got married. At this time he decided to go to college. He chose Leeward Community College because of the “location and the flexibility of taking some courses in the evenings, which allowed me to work part-time while going to school.”
“I chose the digital media major in order to learn a broad range of digital skills that would help me be useful in almost any working environment,” said Long, who is graduating with an Associate of Science degree in digital media.
After graduation he will be relocating to the Big Island where he plans to continue his education. Long said his time at Leeward “was very enjoyable. At no time have I regretted my decision of choosing Leeward.”
The advice he would like to give students is “the world around us is constantly changing and it is hard to predict what jobs will be available one or two years into the future. Consider broadening your skill base in order to take advantage of more opportunities.”
The conveniences of Leeward Community College have been a lifesaver for Jeri Hirowatari.
Hirowatari takes her son to the collegeʻs childrenʻs center while she takes classes during the day. She said the Learning Resource Center has helped her understand her coursework. She has found a way to manage five to six classes, working and taking care of her son. She graduates this spring with her Associate of Arts in Teaching degree.
“I had a hard time with some classes, so the tutoring helped me in some classes,” said Hirowatari, who is originally from Kona on the Big Island. “Other struggles that I had was trying to find a preschool to put my son into so the Leeward Childrenʻs Center is a lifesaver in the sense that we can both come to school.”
She chose Leeward because it offered her major and the location was convenient to her home.
“Leeward CC is a very friendly campus,” she said. “It was very easy to come to school. The campus isn’t big so things are easier to get to and professors are more welcoming to help you.”
She said she will miss the people at Leeward. Hirowatari will attend the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and wants to become a teacher, focusing on social studies or Hawaiian studies.
“I don’t want to sound corny but it is seriously the friends, staff, and AAT counselor and teachers that are here,” she said. “I have attended other community colleges and they are not as personable and willing to help as Leeward. Plus, the friends I have made here are amazing.”
When asked what advice she would give to students she replied, “I think make sure that you have a clear goal, make sure that you soak up the education that we are allowed. I think that people on this campus are so nice so use your friends or professors as resources.”
Music brought Brittany Carter to Leeward Community College. It’s now taking her to Oklahoma.
Carter, who graduates this semester, will continue to pursue the field she’s passionate about at Southwestern Oklahoma State University as a music therapy major.
“Music is something I always been passionate about but I always had a drive to help people, too,” said Carter, who just finished her term as student government vice president. “When I found out there was a way to use music to help people, it sucked me right in and excited me a lot.”
She’s been involved in music since elementary school and it developed into a passion, something she said that brought joy and relieved stress. When she was looking at music programs in the state, it was either Leeward or Windward Community College.
“Singing with kanikapila, the Hawaiian ensemble voice class, was probably the most memorable moment,” she said of her favorite Leeward memory. “We all got so close and just so many memories that will probably stick with me forever.”
She’ll bring those memories to Southwestern Oklahoma State, one of the few colleges that offer music therapy. She views living in Oklahoma as a new start.
Her advice to students: “Don’t push yourself too hard but also stay driven. Don’t let stress or anything keep you from pushing forward. Finish things you started.
“It sounds really cliché but honestly believe in yourself, always have faith in yourself. You can finish classes, assignments and ask questions if you need help.”