Single mom shares triumph of Pearl Harbor shipyard program's graduates
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser
HONOLULU — Anastasia Kritikos said that in high school she wasn't sure what she wanted to be when she grew up, but she knew she wanted to save lives and make a difference.
"With every day that I'm coming to work, I'm helping to save lives, I'm helping to make a difference — not just for myself and my daughter, not just for the people that I work with, but also for our Navy and for our military."
As of Friday she's now a graduate of the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard apprenticeship program. But the accomplishment didn't come easy.
By the end of her senior year in 1998, she earned a four-year scholarship to a local university to pursue premed studies. In 2001 it all went away.
"Some co-workers and I decided to go out and check out a new place that opened up called Dave & Buster's," Kritikos said. "At the end of the night, deciding I was making the right decision not to ride in a car with anyone who had been drinking, I jumped on the back of a co-worker's motorcycle and got into an accident.
"Just five minutes into the ride, I lost everything that I had worked for — I was a mess, in excruciating pain, but I was told I should be very thankful to still be alive."
Kritikos lost her job, and she had to drop out of school. A couple of years later, she became a single mom and found herself juggling two or three jobs just to make ends meet.
Now, after receiving a minimum of 7,200 hours of combined on-the-job, trade theory and academic training over the past four years, Kritikos, along with 122 other journeyworkers in 20 different trades, graduated from the program with associate's degrees in applied trades and certificates from the Department of Labor.
"I felt like I had so much more to prove as a woman, but there was a lot that I didn't know" when she started the program, Kritikos told fellow classmates during a graduation speech at Bloch Arena on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
"I may have once thought of myself as just a woman, but today I see myself as a part of something much greater than just one man or one woman — I see myself as a part of a shipyard," Kritikos said. "And not just any shipyard, part of the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard."
U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, Gov. Neil Abercrombie, state Rep. Kymberly Pine and Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle attended the event.
Inouye, the keynote speaker at the graduation, expressed pride in the graduates and reminded the audience that the Pacific Rim has become a major focus for the U.S. military.
"While this area has remained relatively calm over the decades, there are areas of concern," he said. "The role of the Pearl Harbor Navy Shipyard (now) becomes more vital and more important in maintaining the security of this nation."
Abercrombie, once a U.S. representative and member of the Armed Services Committee, said he worked with Inouye and U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka to bring the program back in 1999 after it was shut down in 1994 because the Navy needed to downsize, and the high caliber of graduates has kept it going.
"We realized that an apprenticeship program was crucial and fundamental if Pearl Harbor was going to be able to continue as a top-of-the-line shipyard," Abercrombie said after the graduation.
Carlisle said he supports the program because it provides hardworking people with good jobs and helps "keep our fighting ships fit and ready for service."
"It's really a pleasure to see young people like this doing so much for themselves, working so hard and achieving their goal knowing that it's going to affect their family, their community and their country," the mayor said.
Kritikos, who recently realized she is the fouth generation of her family to be a shipyard worker and part of the only generation to be all women, shared a similar sentiment with her classmates.
"Ages ago it seems all I knew for sure was that one day I wanted to help save lives and to make a difference," she said. "And it's taken years, but I finally reached that goal."