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Recent graduates of BYU–Hawaii share life experiences and future career endeavors

Hannah Howells at the CrossFit gym in Kahuku with other people working out it the background.

As plans for a formal commencement ceremony on campus for students graduating during the Winter Semester 2020 came to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic, graduates said they are thankful for their time in Laie and look forward to what the future has in store for them.

TESOL International Association student

Abagail Hansen stands in front of a brick wall.

Abagail Hansen, a graduate from Texas who majored in TESOL, expressed gratitude for the opportunity to serve a full-time mission in the Dominican Republic. During her time on the mission she said she taught English with her companions.

“I had companions from different countries of Latin America … Teaching the people, I was able to see how English can help people's living situations, just as far as the jobs they're able to get and the things they can do. They can receive higher wages for English. That's what sparked my desire to be an English language teacher.

“I always learn a lot from [the students] too. They push me to think through things about English, you know, a language that I've grown up learning my whole life.

“I'm able to see their progression … So, I have the chance to be able to see the work that they're doing and how they've taken stuff we've talked about.”

Exercise and sports science students

Hannah Howells stands in a sunflower field.

Hannah Howells, a graduate from Utah who majored in exercise and sports science, received her level one certification in CrossFit last December. She said she can now coach clients and has competed in the fitness sport. Since attending college at BYUH, Howells said she has been involved with the CrossFit gym in Kahuku.

Howells said she loves the community of CrossFit. She described it as a place where she could be competitive and work on self-improvement. For her internship, she decided to coach as a CrossFit trainer.

According to Howells, her family has said her personality is contagious, energetic, thoughtful and loving. Her siblings,Harley and Cole Howells, said she is a great listener, can make anyone laugh, is a peacemaker and is a determined sister.

Tara McBride, adjunct faculty in the Faculty of Sciences and co-owner of the Ko’olau Wellness Center and the CrossFit Ko’olau gym, said, “I first met Hannah when she signed up for my class a couple of years ago. She instantly stood out as a hard-working, caring, and, most noteworthy, a characteristic, courageous woman.”

McBride noted the similarity of Howells’ determination to the type of person Theodore Roosevelt described in one of his most-quoted speeches of his political career, “The Man in the Arena.”

She said, “I believe Hannah is a great example of such a person. [She] has demonstrated … the credibility of a leader and coach of someone who is living in the arena. I am excited to see, as she continues living courageously, the lasting impacts she’ll have on those she comes in contact with.

“It takes courage to move to an island far away from family to go to college. It takes courage to take the hard class. It takes courage to walk into a gym.”

Brandon and Becca Geurta stand in front of a tree.

Graduates Becca and Brandon Geurts from California received their bachelor’s in exercise and sports science. Brandon Geurts’ degree has an emphasize in biomedicine, taking him deeper into the medical field. He said he is interested in working as a physician’s assistant for heart surgeons and has assisted in procedures like open-heart surgery in the past.

Becca Geurts said she wants to pursue her master’s degree in nutrition and work in that field. She said she hopes she can work as a nutritionist for a company and eventually start her own business.

“Healthy living and fitness, to us, means taking care of yourself [and] making sure you are getting adequate sleep, rest, food and exercise.

“I think we have a common misconception that healthy living is being on a strict diet or working out all the time,” said Becca Geurts. “But to me, healthy living is taking care of your mental and physical health.”

Brandon Geurts said, “This plays a part in our lifestyle because we love to be active and go to the beach. We also enjoy cooking. We have learned a lot through the exercise science courses we have taken at BYUH. Becca wants to be a nutritionist, so they have helped her to have an all-encompassing understanding of nutrition.

“I think we both want to have a positive impact in people’s lives. The experience and knowledge that we have obtained at BYUH will help us in our pursuits in our future careers as we help people lead happier and healthier lifestyles.”

Accounting and marketing student

Ron Chand throws his cap in the air in front of the Flag Circle.

Ron Chand, a graduate from Fiji who majored in accounting and marketing, said he fought a personal battle growing up in a small village in Fiji as a Hindu who later converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Chand also said he went from missing out on education at a young age to graduating with a double major in accounting and marketing, and a double minor with a business-related professional certificate. He also has a job at the Polynesian Cultural Center where he helps student employees develop their skills.

Chand said his goals are to help develop small businesses to their full potential. “It's my passion. It’s about my career goal, to be in a position where I can help educate people and break the stereotypes that I grew up with.”

In attempts to chase his dream, Chand expressed how he had to pick up where he left off nine years ago.

“I've been in the Church now for about 10 years, and it took me that long that I didn't give up. I had so many times when I was struggling being a gay Mormon. [It] is a real tough situation. You don't only have to be facing problems as a normal person, [but] as a normal gay person. I guess is a different situation.

“I have an amazing role at PCC right now. I am a student employee development coordinator. And what I do is I help people in a little way here and there to be successful in their careers when they leave PCC and BYU–Hawaii.”

Chand’s coworker, Kalivati Volavola, said, “Ron is our SDS coordinator and has been for almost a year. He is always open to accepting new tasks, responsibilities and challenges while working in an efficient and effective manner with the rest of the team. He is very dedicated and loyal and systematically identifies ways to streamline and simplify tasks and processes.”