When Nyle Jordan Ocariza takes to the podium at the University of Hawai‘i–West O‘ahu Fall 2022 Commencement, he hopes to remind his fellow graduating seniors just how far they’ve come over the past few years.
“We are one of the last classes to see life on campus before the pandemic, campus life through the pandemic, and now post-pandemic,” said the Pearl City resident, 21.
He’ll remind them about the power of perseverance.
“This pandemic may have brought out the lowest times in our lives, whether it be us struggling with a mental illness, the death of a loved one, or even us getting sick ourselves,” he said. “This pandemic has brought out the worst of the world, yet we saw growth at UH West O‘ahu by graduating despite all of the overwhelming pressures of life bogging us down.”
Ocariza will be among the participants and one of two chosen student speakers at UH West O‘ahu’s commencement ceremony, which will be held at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 10, on campus. The event is only open to registered, ticketed guests.
This semester, more than 300 students are candidates for graduation, and of these students, about 200 will be participating in commencement, which will celebrate Applied Science, Business Administration, Creative Media, Cybersecurity, Education, Humanities, Natural Science, Public Administration, and Social Sciences candidates.
Commencement committee member Dr. Kamuela Yong echoed Ocariza’s words about the significance of this semester’s seniors, and also praised the ceremony’s student speakers, who were chosen on criteria including academic achievement and a record of meaningful university or community service.
“This graduating class experienced college life before the COVID-19 pandemic turned things upside down,” said Yong, associate professor of Mathematics. “These students persevered through the difficult transition and are now ready to show the world what they can accomplish.”
Yong continued: “The stories of determination and hard work and overcoming obstacles from our two commencement speakers embody what the entire graduating class has experienced. It is only fitting that they represent their class as we come together again and celebrate the graduation of our students at UH West O‘ahu.”
After graduating from Pearl City High School in 2018, Ocariza started attending UH West O‘ahu in the fall of that year.
“One of my most notable achievements as a UH West O‘ahu student was getting my first internship at one of the most prestigious firms on O‘ahu, Accuity LLP,” Ocariza said.
Accuity LLP is one of the largest CPA and consulting firms in the state. During his time there, Ocariza assisted in the auditing of major corporations and in the preparation of corporate tax returns.
Ocariza acknowledges the UH West O‘ahu Accounting Club as well as faculty and staff — including Dr. Katie Landgraf, Dr. Franklin Kudo, and Wendell Lee — for helping to prepare him for that route and for supporting him.
“Nyle presents himself in an organized fashion,” said Landgraf, assistant professor in Accounting. “He is proper when addressing professionals and with lifting up fellow students around him. He sees others’ strengths and strives to strengthen his own abilities in the process.”
Landgraf added that he loves to get involved and be social, which ties into another notable takeaway of Ocariza’s university years.
“My second most noteworthy achievement would be networking with the great people at UH West O‘ahu — whether it be student or staff — I have made lasting connections,” he said.
‘We did it’
In addition to his academic commitments, Ocariza also works as a general ledger accountant, assisting in the accounting operations for the island of Lana‘i at Pūlama Lāna‘i, a local company that started on Lāna‘i and that works toward conserving, preserving, and sustaining Lāna‘i, culturally and land-wise.
“Past graduation, I see myself living a simple life with my — hopefully — wife,” said Ocariza, who hopes to leverage his degree “to my advantage and growing at Pūlama Lāna’i, eventually becoming a director of finance to support the company’s growth.”
Ocariza also sees a post-graduation life filled with opportunities to pursue other personal endeavors.
“With the added freedom, I have the opportunity with my time to become a better person physically, mentally, and spiritually, as well,” he said. “I could learn ASL (American Sign Langauge) as I have always wanted or help out my kūpuna with their yards or grocery shopping.”
Whatever his future aspirations, Ocariza is grateful for how UH West O‘ahu has prepared him — from the logistical and technical know-how to do his job, to “the skills that a regular classroom does not teach, like how to talk to people,” he said. “I believe that is a skill that is so profound and yet people don’t hone that ability.”
College teaches students the importance of emotional intelligence, Ocariza added, noting: “A person needs 90 percent emotional intelligence and 10 percent intelligence to be successful at their job. For example, something as simple as introducing myself and saying, ‘Hi, I’m Nyle!’ This simple phrase has given me the most enduring and amazing friendships, as well as the most prestigious jobs in my life, and it was due to my attending UH West O‘ahu.”
As Saturday’s commencement nears, Ocariza looks forward to the ceremony and to addressing his classmates.
“Graduating is no easy feat, yet we pushed through all of the fogginess of the world and we can hold our heads up high and say we graduated,” Ocariza said. “We did it.”
Click here to read more about Abbie Kahula Reed, who was also selected to be a Fall 2022 Commencement student speaker.