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Posted: Friday, May 13, 2011 11:15 pm

PUHI — Almost 200 Kaua‘i Community College graduates were congratulated and celebrated by the largest crowd ever to attend a graduation ceremony at KCC Performing Arts Center, Friday.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie, a University of Hawai‘i graduate, presented the keynote address at the KCC 46th Annual Commencement.

“When you get an education, you remember, education is given to you as a free person in a free society so you can be as best as you can be,” Abercrombie said. “The community colleges, of which KCC is a part of, was started so people who have the drive and determination have the opportunity to become the best they can become.”

Abercrombie noted the importance of getting an education, and spoke of his college-educated mother who was fired from her job as a teacher after marrying his dad, who “escaped from high school” during the Great Depression.

Abercrombie noted the diversity of people in Hawai‘i defines us rather than divides us. KCC Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Earl Nishiguchi said that among the graduates was the first student who was deaf as well as one who was assisted to her degree and award because of a sight impediment.

This was also the first time KCC opened the commencement exercises to non-ticket holders, leading people to line from the entrance of KCC Performing Arts Center and snaking backwards into the parking lot.

Overflow people were directed to the Fine Dining facility where television sets broadcast the commencement ceremonies.

Student speaker Yolanda Degracia spoke of returning to school after raising her children.

Ernest Blachowiak, a candidate for the Bachelor’s Degree in Social Sciences - Political Science, spoke of how to fit in when, on the first day of class, students mistake you for the professor.

Steven Taylor was presented the Excellence in Teaching Award by KCC Chancellor Dr. Helen Cox and University of Hawai‘i Regent, Kaua‘i Member Ramon de la Pena.

Taylor received a $1,000 cash award and the Regents’ medal for his achievement.

The 46th Annual Commencement exercises covered students graduating from the Summer 2010, Fall 2010 and Spring 2011 semesters.

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