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Selina Lutao graduated from high school in 2011.

Kamuela Chandler is 38 years old.

Lisa Rapozo worked for the state for 13 years.

They all have one thing in common. They would not be attending Kauaʻi Community College if it weren’t for the Waiʻaleʻale Project.

“I didn’t have money,” said Lutao. “I never really think about financial aid. If it wasn’t for that scholarship, I wouldn’t have think about coming to school anyway.”

“That’s pretty much the main hurdle that you have wanting to come to school,” said Chandler. “Who’s going to pay the bill and how are you going to get what you need for school and Waiʻaleʻale took care of that.”

“I’m still not done,” said Rapozo. “I still have way, way more to go but I am glad for the opportunity. The foundation that’s set for me, I know I can do this.”

The program works with social service agencies and high school counselors to find prospective candidates, people who were not considering college. The Waiʻaleʻale Project pays 100 percent of their tuition and books. Project Coordinator Kimo Perry says the program’s academic support is as important as the financial assistance.

“It is the mentoring, it’s tutoring, it’s the summer activities before they come in for the first semester,” said Perry.

Or it’s whatever is needed. For instance, Lutao had a baby during midterms of her first semester.

“Kimo helped me talk to my teachers and stuff and helped me get through,” said Lutao. “I ended up finishing with a 4.0 (grade point average) that semester and it’s pretty good.”

Research by the donor who initiated and is helping to fund the Waiʻaleʻale Project found that a person who completes just one year of college makes 30 percent more income over their lifetime compared to someone who never went to college.

“But what else he found out was a student who completes that first year, just one year, whether or not they attain a degree, lives seven years longer,” said Perry.

The programs gives participants a college experience which opens up a world of possibilities

“I’m a writer and I am thinking about getting into research,” said Chandler.

“I hope to have my own counseling, family therapy,” said Rapozo.

“I really want to open up my own restaurant,” said Lutao.

All three of those dreams would have never existed if it weren’t for the Waiʻaleʻale Project.

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