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Navigating his senior year during a pandemic might not have been ideal, but one thing Kamehameha Schools Maui senior Hezekiah Kapuaala knows for sure is that he wants to continue his journey as a creator of videos at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa this fall.

Ready to share his thoughts on graduating from high school and transitioning into college in the midst of the pandemic, Kapuaala’s interview took a different turn when Hawaii News Now reporter Billy V announced that he was named the winner of the #TakeMeToManoa social media contest hosted by Hawaii News Now. Kamehameha Schools teachers and staff presented the shocked and stunned student and his parents with a giant check for a year of free tuition at UH Mānoa, courtesy of the University of Hawaiʻi Federal Credit Union (UHFCU).

“Oh my gosh! This was unexpected, thank you very much,” said a speechless Kapuaala. “I’m really excited for college because it’s basically my step into the beginning of a new life for me.”

Standing by in the Hawaii News Now studio to virtually congratulate Kapuaala was Ryan Yamaguchi, UH Mānoa interim assistant vice chancellor for enrollment management and director of admissions, and UHFCU Vice President-Member Experience Stacey Robinol.

“We are excited for Hezekiah and honored to be a part of his academic journey. He has incredible talent and will go far! This contest not only allowed us to connect with community partners, but it provided a fun, engaging and thoughtful way to connect with our students, offering an UHM-azing opportunity for a local Rainbow Warrior,” said Yamaguchi. “We couldn’t be more proud and thrilled for Hezekiah and his ʻohana!”

“We are proud to be a part of this wonderful program which brings UH Mānoa and us together to support the University of Hawaiʻi. Fostering the educational goals of students through the tuition contest serves as an important foundation of the community we serve,” explained UHFCU President and CEO Travis Bow. “Hezekiah is a highly talented young man, and we are honored to assist in his pursuit of higher education. The accomplishments and enthusiasm of all of the students who applied for the #TakeMeToManoa social media contest are inspiring and give us reason to feel optimistic about the next generation of local leaders.”

The online contest, which was open to incoming fall 2021 Hawaiʻi freshmen, asked entrants to upload a short video explaining why UH Mānoa is the right college or how a year of free tuition could help them.

Kapuaala’s creative video entry touched upon how winning will help finance his education and prepare him for his future, and how UH Mānoa will enable him to get closer to pursuing and living his passion of being a video creator. He jumped at the chance to enter the contest, seeing it as an opportunity to prove his potential and show UH Mānoa the countless number of hours and hard work he has already put into this craft.

“I feel that this institution against all others will help me on my path to become a great video creator,” said Kapuaala.

Kapuaala intends to pursue a degree in creative media and cannot wait to get to Mānoa.

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