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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, May 15, 2010

Proud UH-Manoa grads celebrate

Advertiser Staff

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Faye-sha Peyer, Jennifer Vergara and Aya Watanuki cheer as the School of Arts and Sciences is called today in the conferring of degrees during the 99th annual commencement exercises at the University of Hawaii - Manoa. An estimated 1,600 students received their diplomas at the undergrad ceremony.

KENT NISHIMURA | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Today's college graduates need imagination and a sense of service to the community as they take that first step from the protected walls of academia to their future.

Those were the words of advice that Maya Soetoro-Ng gave today to the 1,600 undergraduates at the 99th annual University of Hawai'i-Manoa commencement exercises.

Soetoro-Ng, sister of President Barack Obama, said she recognized several former students from her days as a teacher at the University Laboratory School, as she looked out over the sea of eager faces yesterday.

"You can be anything you want to be," Soetoro-Ng said. "My charge and question to you today is hopefully quite clear by now: What are you going to do to shine light on more of the world's shadows? What else are you going to do to improve your community?"

There was hardly a vacant seat this morning at the 10,000-seat Stan Sheriff Center. Well-wishers carried in bags of lei and other graduation mementoes to bestow upon the undergraduates after the ceremony, which included naming each graduate. Later, an estimated 800 students were given their graduate degrees.

Cameras flashed, thumbs flew over keyboards, texting between family and friends and graduates. Some graduates decorated their green caps with letters, others with an image of their career choice a blackboard and apple for teachers, a nurse's white cap for nursing. Dental students wore toothbrushes around their necks.

While the economy continues to sputter along and companies are still loathe to add staff, graduates remained hopeful that they will be able to pursue their version of the American Dream.

"I hope to go the police department," said Devin Yamada, Kane'ohe resident who majored in psychology. "I already applied. I'm stoked, man."

For more on this story, see tomorrow's Honolulu Advertiser.