Monday, May 17, 2004

Economics and English graduate Sheldon Salcedo has a mortar board with a message during the University of Hawaii at Manoa's 93rd annual commencement exercises at the Stan Sheriff Center yesterday.

UH grads eager
to take message

Johnette Maielua's eyes welled with tears as she walked into the Stan Sheriff Center yesterday.

Twenty-nine years, a husband, three children and three grandchildren after graduating from Kamehameha Schools, Maielua was dressed in cap and gown to receive her bachelor's degree, in family resources.

"I didn't think this was going to happen," said Maielua, 46, of Hawaii Kai.

Maielua and 1,345 other graduates participated in the spring 2004 undergraduate commencement ceremony yesterday at the University of Hawaii. Seats in the Stan Sheriff Center were nearly filled to capacity with friends, family members and relatives cheering on the graduates.

Maielua said she took some college courses after she graduated from high school in 1975, but stopped after she got married and had three children. She focused on work and family and pushed aside her plans of returning to college.

Maielua eventually continued her studies and obtained an associate of arts degree at Kapiolani Community College and later transferred to UH-Manoa.

She juggled caring for her children and three grandchildren, working part-time at the Parent Community Networking Center at Hahaione Elementary School and studying for her classes.

"My study time was between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.," said Maielua. At times, she would study with her children.

She noted that it was "by the grace of God" and the support she received from her husband, Ben, that made it possible for her to obtain her degree.

Maielua said she plans to pursue a master's degree in educational psychology with an emphasis on Hawaiian families and students.

"I really enjoy working with families," said Maielua.

Her eyes teared as she recalled making "great friendships" during her years at UH.

"To me, it's such a reassurance," she said.

"They call me aunty," she added. "Some of them are my oldest son's classmates. I'm graduating with them. It's so funny."

David Cole, president and chief executive officer of Maui Land and Pineapple Co. and a UH alumnus, used his commencement address to urge graduates to take Hawaii values with them to wherever they head next.

"Go forth into the world with your yearning for learning and your island values. Put your ear to the ground and uncover your truth," said Cole, a recipient of the 1997 Distinguished Alumni Award.

"Select your fellow travelers carefully. And then, for those of you that have chosen a path outside Hawaii, come home to reconnect. Then, together, let us draw lessons from our host culture and set a course to inspire other islanders."

Sheldon Salcedo of Waianae received lei and hugs from friends near the Les Murakami Stadium after he completed his studies in economics and English.

Salcedo said he plans to attend Harvard University in the fall to pursue a master's degree in economics.

"It's a pretty big step from Waianae," said Salcedo, who graduated from Waianae High School.

Though his recent years were spent focused on his studies, Salcedo maintained his sense of humor at the commencement ceremony, reflected in a sign on his cap: "It's about damn time."


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