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More than 200 prospective students have already applied for a new University of Hawaiʻi Community Colleges scholarship for Hawaiʻi residents whose employment has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Kūlia Scholarship, which was announced on July 22, is designed to help those recently furloughed or unemployed.

“Thank you!!! This news is like a rainbow after a storm,” wrote Luilyn Melendez, after being informed she was a Kūlia recipient. Melendez worked for a national retailer. “This scholarship is the only way I would have been able to attend this semester since I have not been able to work and money is really tight. My heart is filled with so much joy and gratitude. Thank you for giving me HOPE during this time for allowing me to pursue my DREAM!!!”

Luilyn Melendez
Luilyn Melendez

There is still time before the August 10 deadline to apply for a Kūlia Scholarship, which is designed to support individuals who are striving to develop new skills or earn a degree.

Marcus Miguel worked at an in vitro fertilization clinic. He said he applied for the Kūlia Scholarship “to pursue a different career path and get an associates of arts degree with a specialization in pastry arts.”

An associate’s degree from a UH Community College provides opportunities for a wide range of lucrative employment, advancement and increased resiliency. The degree makes an average difference of $360,000 over a lifetime of living and working in Hawaiʻi compared to a high school diploma, according to a 2016 UHERO report.

“I am turning 34 this year and just want to go to school to finally get my life back on track,” said Sundra Williams, who worked for a chiropractor. “Times have been rough and made me realize that I need to make something out of myself so that I am prepared to take charge of my future.”

Applicant Natasha Mangrubang, who had been employed by a hotel on the Big Island, said she sought the scholarship, “to change the trajectory of my career to better provide as a single parent of three children.” Mangrubang is a domestic violence survivor who fought hard to escape her situation and become a better mother to her children. “It is for these reasons why I give 110 percent each day to build a stronger foundation and a better future.”

Miriam Ashley Keo
Miriam Ashley Keo

The UH Community Colleges are awarding 500 scholarships for one free class (up to 3 credits) at any of the seven campuses statewide, including fees and required books (valued up to $500). The UH Community Colleges feature a range of programs and have been ranked as the most affordable community colleges in the nation.

To be eligible for a Kūlia Scholarship, recipients must:

  • Be a Hawaiʻi resident
  • Not have attended UH in the last two years
  • Be furloughed or laid off from their full-time job due to COVID-19 impacts

Priority will be given to those who are pursuing their first degree or industry-recognized credential.

“My motivation to attend college is to explore not only a new career path that will take me away from my current career in the tourism dependent hospitality industry; but to also learn more about my Hawaiian heritage, and how I can help to enrich the lives of all Hawaiians,” said applicant Miriam Ashley Keo, previously employed in the tourism industry on Maui. “Through this COVID-19 pandemic, our eyes have been opened to the seclusion of our islands and lack of resources. However, we have also seen how we can come together to obtain resources and holomua (move forward) together. I hope to use this educational opportunity to learn and grow and contribute to our community.”

—By Kelli Trifonovitch

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