Twenty-eight-year-old Michelle Kam is a mother of three and the first in her family to go to college. The Kāneʻohe resident is working toward a degree in early childhood education, thanks to various scholarships for Native Hawaiians.

“I have one left in pre-school and it’s very hard to take care of the pre-school bills and go to school,” said Kam. “But with scholarships like these and grants, it makes it possible.”

Ardis Eschenberg, Windward Community College vice chancellor for academic affairs and Windward student Michelle Kam.

Ardis Eschenberg, Windward Community College vice chancellor for academic affairs and Windward student Michelle Kam.

Kam is just one of thousands of students who will reap the benefits of more than $69 million in grants for Native Hawaiian education recently awarded to the University of Hawai’i. The U.S. Department of Education awarded the money to seven UH campuses to support programs serving Native Hawaiians, from pre-school through college and career training.

The seven campuses—UH West Oʻahu, Leeward Community College, Windward Community College, Honolulu Community College, Kapi’olani Community College, Kaua’i Community College and the UH Mānoa Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge—received $60 million in Title III grants for renovation and individual development over the next five years. UH Mānoa programs also received nearly $9 million in Native Hawaiian education program grants over the next three years.

“We are so lucky to be serving our Native Hawaiian student population,” said Ardis Eschenberg, the Windward Community College vice chancellor for academic affairs. “And this money gives us the opportunity as a system to serve them in a better, richer and more substantial way.”

“In 2008 the Board of Regents embraced the University of Hawai’i’s mission to serve as a model indigenous serving university,” said UH President David Lassner. “These grants individually will advance the priorities on each of our campuses. But across the entire university system, they really represent the opportunity to deliver on that mission an advance our service to Native Hawaiian people, culture and knowledge.”

Windward Community College plans to use its nearly $10 million in grant money to renovate an existing facility to create a Hawaiian-language-based childcare facility for infants and toddlers of Windward students. The funds will pay for the renovation and staffing of the childcare center. Kam intends to pay it forward and support Windward’s childcare center once she has earned her degree. “I felt amazed. I needed to help, for mothers of the future who would like to come to school.”

Other UH campuses with previously awarded Title III grants

  • UH Hilo has two active five-year grants totaling $2.38 million
  • Hawaiʻi CC has two active five-year grants totaling $6.9 million
  • UH Maui College has one active five-year development grant of $4 million