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Twenty-one Hawaiʻi students make up the inaugural group of Lunalilo Scholars at Kapiʻolani Community College.

A new program at Kapiʻolani Community College is making it possible for students, who had not previously considered higher education a possibility due to financial or other barriers, to pursue a college degree.

The King William Charles Lunalilo Scholars Project, established through the generous support of the Kaneta Foundation, provides a summer bridge program and first-year experience program for students at Kapiʻolani Community College. In its first year, 21 Hawaiʻi students are currently enrolled in the program.

“We hope to change students’ lives through the Lunalilo Scholars Program,” said Kapiʻolani CC Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Mona Lee. “By offering this opportunity to individuals who have high academic potential, but had never enrolled in college because of economic or personal barriers in their lives, the Lunalilo Scholars program will focus on persistence through the first year.”

Kapiʻolani administrators anticipate that the students will maintain their commitment to their academic and personal goals after completing the one-year program and continue on to earn an associate degree or transfer to a baccalaureate campus.

“Because we know that financial issues are a great concern to our students, the college’s financial aid program will supplement what students receive from our donors’ generous gift commitment to reduce the need for them to take out loans or work additional hours at their jobs,” said Lee.

“The King William Charles Lunalilo Scholars Project gives Marian and me the opportunity to combine our support of human services and community development with that of educational support through scholarships,” said Lester Kaneta, co-founder of the Kaneta Foundation. “Most of us have plans to go to college from a very young age. It is ingrained in us through our parents, teachers, friends and relatives. But there are a number of folks who do not receive this kind of support. They are told that they lack the funding, or that they are not smart enough, or that they ‘just don’t have what it takes.’ Through this new program, lives will be changed. We are grateful to be part of this project.”

A 2010 College Board study has shown the benefit of the 13th year of education increases lifetime earnings by as much as 11 percent beyond the level of high school graduates.

Transforming students’ lives

Here are some quotes from a few of the Lunalilo Scholars on what the program has meant to them:

“I am from Oʻahu, Palolo Valley born and raised. I am very family oriented and have a 4 year old son. I attended Kaimuki High School and graduated in 2001. If I had not been selected for this program, I would probably still be working my part-time retail job, which will not let me move closer to a career. I had to overcome working dead-end minimum wage jobs that would not let me climb up the corporate ladder. Also having to be a single parent for some time, I had to learn how to work around my child’s schedule. I am very thankful for this opportunity and so honored to be a part of this scholarship program.”

“I live in Kalihi Valley and work as a transport in Straub Hospital. If I hadn’t received this scholarship, I would still be working as a transport, working construction as my second job, and saving money until I would be able to attend college. Through this program, I am hoping to become a radiologist.”

“I graduated from a school where a lot of people underestimated us. They underestimated me because of where I’m from (Waimanalo) and I feel that I proved a lot of them wrong because I was on the Honor roll from sophomore year until I graduated. During my senior year I worked for the majority of the year and still kept up my grades. This scholarship has been extremely helpful financially and educational wise. It’s helping me to brush up on my math and writing skills. I have also been learning about my Hawaiian culture and it makes me feel proud to attend KCC. I hope to one day become a physician specializing in either geriatrics or oncology and be someone my family and friends can be proud of.”

— Adapted from a UH Foundation news release.

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