Native Hawaiian students can apply for about $18 million a year in college scholarships. Each year, from November to January, prospective and current students, parents, educators and counselors have an opportunity to meet with representatives of Native Hawaiian scholarship agencies at the ʻAha Financial Aid Workshops organized by the University of Hawaiʻi.

“If people want to go to college, we don’t want finances to be a reason why they don’t,” said Kaahu Alo of the Native Hawaiian Educational Association. “We just want them to come and give it a shot.”

ʻAha attendees can speak one-on-one with Native Hawaiian scholarship representatives.

The ʻAha workshops begin with short presentations by UH and the scholarship agencies about the wide range of financial resources available, eligibility requirements and how to apply.

“That overview from each of the participants, that helped because at least we got like the website and basic information about deadlines and, you know, things that will help the process along,” said parent Michele Sisiam, who attended one of the workshops held at McKinley High School.

After the presentations, the attendees have an opportunity to speak one-on-one with representatives from each of the organizations. The workshops are held across the state and are part of the university’s initiative to bring Native Hawaiian scholarship opportunities to underserved communities.

“In our family, we have a single parent household so there is no way there is going to be college out of my pocket,” said Sisiam. “So whatever we can get—need or merit based—all of this just opens up the options that’s available.”

“I just applied to so many scholarships and even though I get denied, like the ones that actually say yes, they are really important,” said Chaminade University student Kaloke Canadey, who also attended a workshop at McKinley. “If it is meant to be, it will happen but you just got to put yourself out there.”

More than 250 people attended the ʻAha workshop in Waiʻanae on January 14.