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The University of Hawaiʻi is striving to help the state’s financially hurting residents in multiple ways by providing higher education opportunities and training to build better lives. The latest opportunity is a second offering of the UH Community College’s Kūlia Scholarship to aid residents currently furloughed or laid off from a Hawaiʻi-based job because of COVID-19 impacts.

A limited number of up to $400 Kūlia scholarships for tuition and fees will be awarded to Hawaiʻi residents whose employment situations have changed due to COVID-19. The scholarship will help them strive to complete a college degree and pursue new directions. Applicants must be admitted and enrolled at a UH Community College for spring 2021, and priority will be given to those who are pursuing their first degree or industry-recognized certificate. More information and the application are available online.

The first round of Kūlia Scholarships, announced in July, garnered 506 applications. The UH Community Colleges awarded 261 scholarships for one free class (up to 3 credits) and related fees at any of the seven UH Community Colleges. The average age of scholarship recipients was 35. More than 18% identified as Native Hawaiian.

Entertainer and Kumu Roblynne Wailana Dasalia-Duarte of Kauaʻi and Cody Matsukawa, a former retail products and operations manager, were two of the initial Kūlia Scholarship recipients.

Roblynn Wailana Dasalia-Duarte

Roblynn Wailana Desalia-Duarte and son Makamae
Roblynn Wailana Desalia-Duarte and son Makamae

Dasalia-Duarte, 47, was working as a server by day and entertaining most nights at places such as the Lava Lava Beach Club and Princeville Shopping Center, while running her dance troupe Tamatea Nui o Kauaʻi, when COVID-19 hit.

“When COVID came, of course like everyone else, we were kind of worried financially because I was the breadwinner,” she said.

Her youngest son told her about the Kūlia Scholarship. They both applied and received that scholarship and another one from Alu Like, which, combined, are covering all educational expenses for both of them.

“I was excited, I was like wow!” Dasalia-Duarte said. “And I was telling my son, ‘You know, we are so fortunate. We’re so blessed.’”

She is aiming for the dean’s list as she works on her Hawaiian studies degree online at Windward Community College and would like to eventually earn a bachelor’s degree and a PhD.

Cody Matsukawa

Cody Matsukawa
Cody Matsukawa

Matsukawa made the choice to go back to school when the Ala Moana Banana Republic store he had worked at for 10 years closed its doors permanently in June.

“I had been thinking about going back to school for a while,” he said. “But the catalyst for going back for me was losing my job.”

He enrolled at Kapiʻolani CC and applied for the Kūlia Scholarship when he saw it online on the collegeʻs website.

“The Kūlia Scholarship is very helpful in taking some of the financial burden off of students,” Matsukawa said. “For me, the importance of having an education, having a degree, being able to differentiate myself from the other candidates that are out there is really important.”

The 35 year old anticipates earning his associate in science degree in accounting in 2022.

Other resources available

While the Kūlia Scholarship for spring 2021 is only available to students who have never attended a UH campus, applicants may be eligible for other aid through programs such as Round two, Stronger you.

It’s important to remember, with a degree in hand, graduates may well be on their way to a higher paying, more rewarding career. Interested UH applicants are encouraged to fill out the FAFSA form, and learn about eligibility for Pell Grants, Stafford Loans and other kinds of financial aid. Qualified UH Community College students are also eligible for “last dollar” Hawaiʻi Promise scholarships.

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