For these three UOG grads, no barrier is insurmountable
Updated: May 25
By Myracle Mugol
Age doesn't matter. The distance can be shortened. The gap can be bridged. For three graduates of the University of Guam, there were no challenges that couldn't be overcome.
Makisimino Veimau, 57, went back to school to earn a degree in civil engineering. Despite limited internet connectivity, Beverly Ilemangilish took an online course. After a six-year hiatus, Christian San Nicolas completed his bachelor's degree.
Veimau, Ilemangilish and San Nicolas were among the 300 UOG graduates who received diplomas on May 22. Each one of them is armed with a unique story for their journey in completing a monumental chapter in their lives.
At the age of 57 with five grown children, grandchildren and a life-long career in construction and the military, Veimau decided to go back to school to earn a degree in civil engineering.
As a veteran and with his background in construction, Veimau was aware of the issues with the Guam infrastructure, specifically the roads.
But his story of getting into the engineering program stemmed from something deeper. “My son was in engineering and changed his degree to something else," Veimau said. "I wanted to find out why. What was challenging him? So I signed up for the classes, but then I never stopped.”
When asked about challenges, Veimau cited his background. He is Tongan and speaks English as a second language. Most of his professors also spoke English as a second language, so there was sometimes a disconnect, he said.
“But math is a universal language, so it was okay. I just had to work harder,” he added.
Another challenge was balancing family schedules and school, but he also explained that this also made it easier for him. He ended up going to college with his two daughters.
"We would arrive in the morning, and we would all leave later in the afternoon or early evening together," he said. "I cannot work without my kids. It was the reason I moved to Guam. I am dysfunctional without my kids!”
It was this same bond that made it easier for him to progress with the program.
So what does he plan to do next?
Veimau wants to get to work to help fix Guam. "As engineers, we can see the problems and the solutions," he said. "So please hire us and keep us here on Guam."
Ilemangilish graduated with a master's in education, specializing in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, and she did this online.
Ilemangilish is Yapese and currently lives in Pohnpei. English is not her primary language, and she explained that this was also the reason she chose her degree.
“I went through many challenges and experiences due to my English language barrier," she said. "I aim to further my education to gain knowledge of the English language and enable me to help young generations.”
As one of the first in her community to go after her degree online, Ilemangilish faced limited internet connectivity.
But when asked what the most challenging factor for her was, she replied: “It was being not only a student but an employee, a mother, a wife and a financial supporter to extended family. It was not easy balancing all my responsibilities with my assignments.”
She added that there were times when she wanted to give up, "because my assignment was almost due, but I was not satisfied with it. I wanted to give up because I was not managing my time well.”
She did not give up and she credited her large support system. “I had the best support from my instructors, family, friends, and, most significantly, the guidance from our heavenly Father.”
Up next, she plans to become an instructor to apply the skills and knowledge gained from the program, pursue a doctorate and to continue to assist her community and the younger generation.
San Nicolas graduated with a bachelor's degree in business administration with a specialty in human resources. “I chose this field because I seek to help small businesses grow and ensure equitable relationships between the employee and employer," he said.
As a first-generation graduate, his college completion is also an achievement for his family. “As the first person to graduate in my family, I hope to start this legacy for my future familia in seeking higher education," San Nicolas said.
The most challenging thing about getting his degree was getting started again after a six-year break.
"[But] I was able to come back stronger than ever," he said. "Shout out to my SBPA SP2022 graduating cohort for always having my back.”
As a student, he was able to recant memorable successes such as winning their Business Capstone Project that produced locally sourced sea salt from Inarajan as “Lina’la’ Creations” with teammates, Aria Palaganas, Camille Meno and Christel Espiritu.
Sharing his plans after graduation, San Nicolas said, “I plan to stick with my current position with the Micronesia Climate Change Alliance, a local non-profit organization dedicated to building community-based solutions for the climate crisis. In the future, I plan to use my skill as a business school graduate to help growing small businesses and climate justice organizations in meeting their strategic goals.”