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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, May 26, 2005

Graduation presents its own special challenges

By Zenaida Serrano
Advertiser Staff Writer

When Jayne Tabata's oldest daughter graduated from Punahou School years ago, Tabata had the darndest time trying to find her after the ceremony, amid nearly 500 other capped and gowned teens.

Attending a graduation ceremony? Give some advance thought to the logistics that are involved.

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In the middle of the madness, Tabata noticed how some families made large, decorative signs to find their children. She thought that was a brilliant idea.

But when her next daughter graduated from Maryknoll, the Tabatas didn't make any signs. Again, Jayne Tabata had a little trouble finding her baby.

"I thought, 'When are you going to learn?!,'" Tabata, 50, said, laughing.

Tabata, now a seasoned graduation parent, feels well prepared for her son's graduation June 3 from Maryknoll.

"I had my youngest make him a sign," Tabata said proudly.

Going to a graduation ceremony isn't as easy as showing up with a lei and camera. There are things to consider: What should you bring with you? Where will you meet your graduate? How do you dress?

Experienced graduation-goers offer these ceremony survival tips:

• Before graduation day, be sure to designate a specific meeting area for after the ceremony, Tabata suggests. Should the family split up and get lost during the commotion, meet in this area.

• Often, schools set up designated meeting areas alphabetically, but these areas can get quite chaotic.

"One of the things that people do at our graduations is they make a big sign attached to a pole, so that way people you can find you," said Iolani senior Lara Malins, 18.

• "Wear comfortable clothes and shoes," said Zhoydell Magaoay, senior class adviser at Farrington High School. Commencement exercises can last a couple hours, so comfort is key.

• Don't forget to bring: admission tickets (if applicable), camera, lei and other gifts for your child, bottled water, umbrella and tissues.

Also bring large, empty shopping bags, said Tabata, a nurse from Kailua. Your children may end up with lei up to their eyeballs and gifts galore — bouquets, stuffed animals and other trinkets. If they want to remove their garlands or unload their presents, you can place all the items in the shopping bag.

• If you want to give your graduate balloons, keep in mind some schools don't allow them in certain seating areas, or indoors, because they may be an obstruction, Magaoay said. In such cases, have a family member or friend who won't be in these prohibited areas to hang onto the balloons, or consider buying the balloons after the ceremony.

• "Be on time," said Magaoay, who's been attending commencement exercises at Farrington for more than a decade. Going early means getting good parking and seating.

• Don't forget why you're there. "It should be (a parent's) proudest moment, seeing their child graduate," Magaoay said. "That's what it's all about."

Reach Zenaida Serrano at zserrano@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-8174.