University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu student Tasha Dela Rama wants to be an example for her three children.
Dela Rama, a first-generation college student from Kapolei, wants them to understand the value of relentlessness and perseverance, and the power of change.
“No matter what circumstances we’re in, we can always make a difference in our lives,” Dela Rama said. “You just need a little bit of persistence and hard work — traits I’ve gotten from my parents. My graduation will teach my children that.”
Dela Rama will be among more than 700 spring, summer, and fall 2020 graduates who will be celebrated at UH West Oʻahu’s Virtual Commencement Ceremony, 9 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 12, on westoahu.hawaii.edu/commencement.
The prerecorded virtual ceremony features remarks by Chancellor Maenette K.P. Ah Nee-Benham, University of Hawai‘i System President David Lassner, Faculty Senate Chair Edward Keaunui, ASUHWO President Jenna Marie Marcos, and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Jeffrey Moniz.
“Throughout the last 10 months, we have come to admire your resilience, persistence and courage,” Benham said in a message to graduates. “Although we will not be able to give you a hug, shake your hand, and sing your praises in person, do not lose sight of the fact that you have achieved the goal of attaining a baccalaureate degree.”
347 students will earn bachelor’s degrees in Applied Science, Business Administration, Creative Media, Cybersecurity, Education, Humanities, Natural Science, Public Administration, and Social Sciences this fall.
Graduates will also receive certificates in various programs including Applied Forensic Anthropology, Asian Studies, Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management, Gender Studies, Hawaiian & Indigenous Health & Healing, Health Care Administration, Music, Risk Management and Insurance, Substance Abuse and Addictions Studies, and Sustainability Issues.
ʻA great example’
Dela Rama, 28, will receive a Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences with a Concentration in Psychology.
Her journey toward her degree has been 10½ years in the making and not without its challenges.
“I got sidetracked along the way and disappointed not only myself, but my parents,” Dela Rama recalled.
Dela Rama, who previously attended another university, enrolled in fall 2019 at UH West Oʻahu, where she has excelled and was inducted into the school chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success, the nation’s largest leadership honor society.
Dela Rama juggles school with family and work responsibilities, too. She currently resides in ʻEwa with her toddler, as well as her two step-children, who are living with her and her husband full time.
“As a mother and wife, making sure everyone else’s needs are met before mine makes it difficult to have any free time,” Dela Rama said.
On top of doing her own school work and helping all of her children — ages 10, 8, and 3 — navigate distance learning, she runs a handmade goods business, Modernly Vintage Reserve.
“Keeping up with orders, taking care of my family, and doing homework would amount to long nights and little to no sleep,” Dela Rama said. “But it’s all worth it.”
Katrina Abes and Joseph Mareko are co-instructors of Student Development (SD) 250: Personal Development for Effective Teams, of which Dela Rama is a student.
“Over the course of 15 weeks, we have witnessed Tasha’s growth as a mother, student, entrepreneur, and human being,” Abes and Mareko said in a joint statement via email. “She has overcome the hardest barriers — barriers that she has set on herself — and showcased her fierceness in leadership and relentless goal attainment.”
Abes and Mareko said they have students who are in their first year and noted that Dela Rama, who is in her last year, “has been a great example of what it means to be resilient through the multiple roles she carries and being steadfast amid this pandemic.”
“Where vulnerability is normally seen as a weak trait, Tasha has expressed and modeled how vulnerability is a strength, and she will continue to carry on after she graduates,” said Abes and Mareko, who are also UH West Oʻahu College Success Advisors.
After graduation, Dela Rama said she wants to attend law school and has been applying to different jobs to start saving money for it.
“Since the age of 9, my top goal has been to become an attorney,” she said. “This graduation brings me one step closer to that goal.”
She hopes to apply for UH William S. Richardson School of Law within the next three years.
As Dela Rama looks ahead, she is grateful for how UH West Oʻahu has prepared her for what’s next.
“I have met wonderful professors who truly care about you and people who share the same life experiences,” she said. “I’ve picked up an array of skills and UH West Oʻahu has taught me that failure is not an end-all be-all, but an opportunity to reassess, reanalyze, and recreate yourself to be a better you.”
Dela Rama shares this message to future UH West Oʻahu graduates:
“During this journey — if you’ve just started, are in the deep, or soon to graduate — never forget where you came from,” she said. “Your experiences — good, bad, and ugly — have led you to this present moment. You are worth it.”
Dela Rama asks students to be kind to their future selves and to remember to be the change that they want to see in the world.
“I believe in you, and this campus — our UH West Oʻahu community — cares about you,” Dela Rama said.