ASCC graduating student Wittenberg Mariner (second right) took home an admirable four separate certificates of achievement during the ASCC Graduate Banquet this past Wednesday. Wittenberg is joined in this photo by (l-r) Dean of Student Services Dr. Emilia Le'i, Dean of Academic Affairs Dr. Irene Helsham, and Vice President of Academic & Student Affairs Dr. Kathleen Kolhoff-Bellle. [photo: J. Kneubuhl]

A few days before the official commencement ceremony at the American Samoa Community College (ASCC), the Student Services Division treats the semester’s imminent graduates to a fun evening of celebrating their achievements in making it to the end of their studies towards their degrees and certificates, as well as recognizing exceptional academic performance and student leadership throughout the semester.
The Graduate Banquet this past Wednesday at the Famous Seafood Restaurant in Tafuna carried on this tradition, with all of the graduates reminded that they have much to be proud of and to look forward to, and more than a few of them rewarded with certificates of commendation for going the extra mile in their studies or their roles in leadership.
Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs Dr. Kathleen Kolhoff-Bell started off the event by congratulating the graduates-to-be, and also encouraging them to celebrate joyously but safely over the coming weekend. With ASCC counselor Annie Panama serving as the evening’s MC, the awards portion of the banquet got underway with the Alumni Association Awards, presented by Association President Amio Mavaega-Luvu and Vice President Evile Feleti.
Recognized this semester for exceptional academic achievement were Semurana Faleali’i in Math, Seong Heong Lee in English, Gary Tipa in Samoan Studies and Rocco Tinitali in Science.
Next, with Business instructor Papalauena Taua'i, assisted by counselor Rosie Tago-Lancaster, standing in for Business Department Chairperson Dr. Faofua Faatoafe, recognition for achievements in Business were presented in three phases. First, for “recognition of a valuable contribution and participation in the Business Ambassadors of ASCC (BAOA)” certificates went to Fa’alelega Afoa, Janna Fiso, Saia Levaula, Puna Mase, Eirenei Simanu, Aolele Tufuga and Kristina Vaeao. For “recognition of valuable individual character contribution In BAOA”, Maria Magalasin, Zihao Zeng, Jorge Aiono, and Wittenberg Mariner took the honors.
Ms. Mariner was also the recipient of the final Business award when she was recognized as Outstanding Business Graduate for the semester.
Representing Community & Natural Resources, Pauline McFall presented awards to Germania Gonzales, who has completed an Associate in Science (AS) degree in Family and Consumer Science, and Lemau T. Ale, who has completed her AS in General Agriculture.
Lydian Tinitali of Student Services next called upon Wittenberg Mariner to receive her third recognition of the evening in the form of Peer Tutor of the Semester. Tinitali also expressed Student Services’ gratitude to three other graduating Peer Tutors willing to help others succeed: Saia Levaula, Maria Magalasin and Paul Saulo.
Head advisor Toaiva Fiame-Tago of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society recognized the outstanding service of Marietta Lafaele, Sia Niupulusu, and, called to the stage once again, Wittenberg Mariner. On behalf of the Trades & Technology Division, Evelyn Fruean presented the department’s award for the semester to Herbert Falemalama, who has completed his degree in Architecture & Drafting. Counselor Kayla Sauafea stood in for the Fine Arts Department to present Apotala Faiai with an award for achievement in the study of Music.
The awards portion of the banquet culminated with a presentation by Student Government Association (SGA) officers Theresa Togia (President), Visa Vaiau (Treasurer) and Anna Sewell (Secretary) to honor two distinguished members of the ASCC administration, Dr. Kathleen Kolhoff-Belle and Dr. Irene Helsham, for their years of working cooperatively alongside the SGA. With Dr. Helsham retiring at the end of this semester, she was asked to provide the Special Remarks for the evening, and started by sharing how occasions like the banquet remind her of her own earliest days as a student “Wherever life takes you, don’t forget your humble beginnings, the first step that was ASCC,” she said.
Dean of Student Services Dr. Emilia capped off the evening with her Closing Remarks, which included a quote from Karyn Ravn: “Only as high as I reach can I grow, only as far as I seek can I go, only a deep as I look can I see, only a much as I dream can I be.”


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