Kapiʻolani Community College celebrated its 2019 graduates at the Hawaiʻi Convention Center on Friday, and Joan Seville had the honor to be picked as the valedictorian speaker. 

Forty other students who graduated with a 4.0 GPA were recognized as valedictorians, but Dantzig was chosen to share her story because of the obstacles she faced.

Originally from the City of Malolos in Bulacan, Philippines, Dantzig graduated from Marcelo H. Del Pilar National High School in 2006. She worked a series of jobs, mostly in customer service, to provide for herself and her family. In 2012, she met her future husband online, Steve Dantzig.

In 2013 Dantzig emigrated to the U.S. and they married in Hawaiʻi. Having almost zero knowledge of the English language, she quickly enrolled in English classes at McKinley Community School for Adults and got her first American job at a Ross.

After a couple of years of going between other customer service jobs, Dantzig realized her passion lay in the hotel industry. In 2015, she enrolled in KCC’s Hospitality and Tourism Department. 

Although it was her stepping stone to her dream goal, Dantzig found it difficult returning to education since nearly a decade had passed since she’d been in a classroom.

“It’s been 10 years, so it was hard,” she said, “and I wasn’t used to the U.S. school [system].”

She still struggled to understand and communicate in English and since it was only her and her husband, she had to lean heavily on him for support, but they made it work.

Now, four years later she has reached her goal. 

“This is very emotional,” Dantzig said, “It’s just me and my husband here. All my family is back in the Philippines. But [hospitality] is my passion and I can’t wait to make it my career.”

Currently, Dantzig is a Guest Service Agent for Aqua Hospitality, where she hopes to continue working. Her husband works and owns Hawai‘i School of Photography which Dantzig also models for.