236 Students Graduate From University Of Guam

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Uni President encourages graduates to ‘find a purpose’ in life

By Dance Aoki

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Dec. 23, 2013) – Hundreds of family members filled the wooden bleachers of the University of Guam field house in Mangilao yesterday to celebrate graduating Tritons of the fall 2013 class.

Of the 236 graduates, 169 students received undergraduate degrees and 67 received graduate degrees during yesterday’s ceremony.

Sunflowers and anthuriums decorated the stage and floor of the field house as the hundreds of students dressed in black robes filed in to the sound of cheering family and friends.

Many of the graduates decorated the tops of their caps with messages and designs.

"For Skyler," one bejeweled cap read.

"Keep calm, I’m a future sociologist," said another cap.

Life experience

The speakers during yesterday’s ceremony shared their own life experiences with the fresh-faced graduates, and delivered advice based on their experiences.

Keynote speaker Esther Puakela Kia’aina, first deputy director of the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, told the graduates that "an island is only as small as you believe it to be."

"I have never felt that my dreams were constrained by Guam being a small island," she said. "Once you begin your professional life, you will realize how small the world is; just like an island."

University of Guam President Robert Underwood told the graduating students during his opening address to find a purpose for their life in his address, instead of working towards the trappings of a wealthier lifestyle.

"A Gucci purse isn’t a purpose," Underwood said. "Ensuring a healthier society is a purpose; creating a beautiful work of art is a purpose."

One student's purpose

Valedictorian Rachel Duenas, 37, received her degree in elementary education yesterday, perhaps a few years later than she expected.

"After high school, I had all the intentions of going to college, but life happens and you go down a different road," Duenas said.

She addressed the rest of the graduates yesterday and shared her personal experience starting school at UOG surrounded by younger faces and almost feeling like she didn’t belong.

She told her fellow graduates, many of them close friends, that she created a bond with them based on "commitment and a sense of purpose."

The future teacher and mother of four was inspired to go back to school by her daughter, who started her freshman year at the University of Portland this fall.

When Duenas was in high school, she wanted to be a lawyer, she said. After raising three children, Duenas changed her mind.

"When you have kids ... you realize how much you can give," she said.

Duenas is looking forward to working for the Guam Department of Education, and getting started in the classroom as soon as possible.

"I’m gonna miss going to college and learning," Duenas said. "It’s gonna continue on, especially because when you’re teaching, you’re learning from your students."

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