University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa alumni affected by the pandemic are part of a new campaign launched by the Hawaiʻi Department of Health (DOH). “Let’s Get Back to Real Life” highlights the economic and educational toll that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on Hawaiʻi’s young adults, with the personal stories of Nicole Rombaoa, Leimana Trainor and Jose Ver featured in public service announcements that will run through March 7, 2021.

The campaign was developed to resonate with young people who were forced to sacrifice and miss opportunities due to COVID-19. According to an online survey commissioned by DOH, young adults are more likely to be influenced by the economic impact that the pandemic has had on their lives. In addition, those who view the effects of the pandemic in terms of its financial impact are statistically less likely to be adhering to the guidelines, such as wearing masks and social distancing, and are also less likely to get vaccinated.

“We recognize that the ongoing pandemic has been hard on Hawaiʻi residents, especially the younger generation who feel there is so much ahead of them and want so much out of life. They feel the pandemic is holding them back,” said DOH Director Libby Char. “These new public service announcements were created with them in mind.”

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Ver, 34, of Pearl City, earned his bachelor’s degree in speech from UH Mānoa. He was laid off from his job as a visitor industry performer due to COVID-19. No longer able to keep up with his bills, Ver decided to move back in with his parents. While not the ideal situation, he said, “It’s great to have a support system to lean on during these hard times. I’m one of the lucky ones.”

Ver remains hopeful and has been teaching acting and improv classes when opportunities arise. He is also writing for a web series he and his friends have been working on called Waikiki PD.

Rombaoa, 31, of Mililani, earned a marketing degree from UH Mānoa. A fitness coach and personal trainer, she lost her job at her gym when COVID-19 brought widespread lockdown throughout the state.

“I spent most of my off and professional time at the gym training and had to quickly pivot both my business and personal activities,” said Rombaoa. “I did what I could at home by utilizing my social media platform to help others stay active and positive through the lockdowns.” Rombaoa plans to continue using her platform to positively influence others to find inner strength through fitness.

Trainor, 23, of Waiʻanae, graduated with her degree in travel industry management from UH Mānoa. Just starting her career in the hospitality industry, Trainor was working at two restaurants when COVID-19 shut down both businesses. “It [the shutdown] came right as I was supposed to have my first two weeks of solo relief managing shifts. I never could have imagined that we would be closed for this long,” she said.

Despite the sudden loss of their jobs, feelings of frustration, worry and stress, the UH graduates are grateful that precautions were put in place to keep their loved ones and the community healthy and safe in a time of uncertainty.

“I understand the need for social connection, the feeling of being stir crazy during quarantine, but that is not an excuse to not take proper precautions,” said Ver. “Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep socially distanced. These three things can save lives and they’re so simple to do.””

Rombaoa added, “We’re doing our best to take care of each other so we can get back to the life we want.”

Watch their stories and more. The public service announcements will air through March 7 on broadcast television, cable, radio, digital, social, streaming platforms and in print.

UH Mānoa is committed to Enhancing Student Success, one of four goals identified in its 2015–25 Strategic Plan, updated in December 2020.