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Graduating Students Share BYU-Hawaii Experiences

With 330 students graduating from over 40 countries, the fall graduating class of 2006 will be BYU-Hawaii's largest. Nepal, Kiribati, Indonesia, Ghana, Finland,Bolivia, Thailand, Liberia, Romania, and Fiji are just a few countries that will be represented among the 77 that make up BYU-Hawaii's student population. With such diversity in a student body of only 2,400, BYU-Hawaii is one of the nations most flavor-rich melting pots. This is just one element of the campus environment that has provided the experiences shared by three members of the graduating class: Salutatorian, Bashan Abeyasekera, Mason Allred, and Daniel Leeworthy.

Bishan Abeyasekera, who will be graduating as the salutatorian in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Sri Lanka, described his experience as a student: "BYU-Hawaii changed my life dramatically. The most important event that happened to me here was that I was introduced to the gospel and was baptized a year after coming to Hawaii. I've learned how important it is to follow the gospel, and then bring that the influence to other people. I hope to do that through my family, my career,and by taking the initiative to build bridges of understanding and peace in whatever community I live in."

Abeyasekera also shared his future plans: "After graduation I will be heading to Utah where I will be getting married in April to the love of my life. As for employment, my desire is to work in the economic development field, where I can work to alleviate poverty among half the world's population who live on less than $2 a day."

"I also hope to go to graduate school, and work towards my doctorate in this field. I hope that this work will lead me to Sri Lanka in the future where I can make a difference in the lives of the people there. I know that this is what will bring me the greatest happiness in my career as I strive to help the impoverished feel God's bounteous love for them."

"I firmly believe in God's mission for those who attend this school,the mission which was uttered by President McKay. I believe that in God's own way, and inhis own time he will use those who have come here to be instruments in his hands to establishing peace around the world," said Abeyasekera.

Mason Allred, graduating in History, from Las Vegas, Nevada, speaks highly of his experience as a student at BYU-Hawaii: "I treasure the diversity and contact with such a variety of students and ideas. I will look back at the way professors took time to encourage, support, and teach me how to really learn and think. I cherish the small intimate atmosphere of BYU-Hawaii. I am so grateful to have really known most of my teachers and classmates. Additionally, I treasure the way family is understood and spoken about in Hawaii and especially at BYU-Hawaii. I was able to start a family here and so my wife, Erika, and two daughters, Miya andEmi, will always have a piece of BYU-Hawaii in them too."

Allred served a full-time mission from 2000–2002 in Frankfurt, Germany for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His love for the people of Germany and their culture seems to have influenced his career path as he plans on going to graduate school in German Studies prior to becoming a professor. "We will probably have a couple more children and hope to simply enjoy life together wherever it takes us," said Allred.

Daniel Leeworthy, graduating in TESOL with a minor in Exercise and Sport Science coaching, from Melbourne, Australia, tells of a few opportunities and privileges that decorated his university experience. "Meeting my wife, Lindsey, being mentored by Coach Ken Wagner, serving as President of Australian club, serving as Elder's Quorum President, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the PolynesianCultural Center, the 50th anniversary of BYU-Hawaii, and last, but not least, meeting President Hinckley and President Monson." Leeworthy served a full-time mission in the Philippines-Tacloban Mission for the Church. He plans to attend graduate school at either West VirginiaUniversity, Ohio University, or Ball State University to earn his Athletic CoachingEducation degree. He also plans on returning to Australia with his wife and family for a time. "We will be going back to Australia to fulfill the mission of the school," said Leeworthy.

As the plaque in front of the flag circle suggests, "Enter to learn, go forth to serve," these graduates will be just three of those "influencing not thousands, not tens of thousands, but millions of people," as President David O. McKay declared. "From this school, I'll tell you, will go men and women whose influence will be felt for good towards the establishment of peace internationally," said President McKay.

In his 2006 university address, President Shumway concurred with President Mckay,saying, "Returnability is among the top four priorities of the university.You and I belong to the greatest cause on this planet. You and I have a stewardship that is recognized by God and angels to bless, strengthen and lift the young people that Heavenly Father has brought to this place."