By Mathew Ursua
Ka La editor
Jasmine Tavares and her son Jeremiah Tavares make the pilgrimage from their home in Waimanalo to the college’s campus in urban Honolulu every weekday.
It’s a long bus ride.
They’ve been doing it together for three years.
Jasmine Tavares uses a wheelchair. She has arthritis in her back that makes it hard to walk. She said she walks when she can, but can’t make it far. Jeremiah pushes his mother’s wheelchair from the bus stop on King Street where they’re dropped off.
Jeremiah graduated from Honolulu CC last year and is pursuing another degree in computer networking. This year, he’ll watch as his mother gets her own degree.
It was Jeremiah who talked his mother into going to college, more than two decades after she graduated from high school.
He said that his mother would ask him what he learned in his classes day after day. One day he told her to enroll and find out for herself.
“I took a chance,” Jasmine said.
She said that she would attend for one semester and see what happened. Three years later she’s on track to graduate with her first degree.
Jasmine says possibilities are limitless. After graduating with an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts, she plans to pursue another degree in science so she can move closer to becoming a biologist.
She writes and illustrates children’s stories, too.
She said she started telling stories to her son when he was an infant in the 1990s. Soon after, she started putting them on paper and producing artwork.
Jasmine said she’s expanding on one of her stories — making it longer and updating the art. It’s about an alien named Mikey who commandeers his parents’ spaceship, shoots across the universe, and encounters new forms of life on a planet called Earth.
When she wrote it in the 1990s, she saw her story as a means of teaching elementary school students about biology.
“The moral of the story was to be honest,” she said.
Mikey the alien eventually tells his parents about his trek across the universe. He wasn’t supposed to hit the red button to activate the spaceship.
Jeremiah said that he doesn’t remember his mother’s bedtime stories.
“I used to tell him stories to put him to sleep,” Jasmine said, “I think he would get bored and doze off.”
Twenty years later, she sees new themes in her Mikey the alien story.
She said the new moral is to “take a chance.”
“You have to grab opportunity when it presents itself,” she said, “because it doesn’t present itself all the time. When that door opens, and you’re being given an opportunity, grab it.” Jasmine said.
For Jasmine, it’s more about the journey than the destination.
She’s made a lot of friends along the way.
Computer networking major Edward Chang met Jasmine and Jeremiah in 2011. Jasmine said hello and invited him to sit at a table in the science building’s courtyard– the same table where you’ll find them almost every morning.
“He came and sat down,” Jasmine said, “and he’s been doing it for three years now.”
“She says hi to everyone who walks by,” Chang said.
Its offices are located on the ground floor of Building 2, just around the corner from the book store.