Dozens of Pacific Islander students plan to join a virtual commencement ceremony next week honoring graduates from Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia.

Ian Tapu, a law student at the University of Hawaii, said he organized the first-of-its-kind event on May 29 in partnership with nonprofits in Hawaii, California, Washington and Washington D.C. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused schools nationwide to cancel in-person graduation ceremonies.

Tapu noted that graduation rates for students who identify as Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander lag behind their white counterparts.

“Because our islands and our people are all connected, this event is not just limited to Hawaii,” he wrote in an email. “In the week that we have opened our registration, we have 70 students registered ranging from students who started the Pacific Islander Club at the University of Montana to high school students here on island.”

Any Pasifika student in high school, college or graduate school can register to participate by Friday, May 22. The event will take place on Zoom and be live-streamed on Facebook with the hashtag #honorpasifika. It will feature several Pacific Islander leaders and musical artists.

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