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The oldest Native Hawaiian-serving program at Honolulu Community College has helped hundreds of students succeed for almost three decades. Established in 1995, Poʻi Nā Nalu’s goal is to prepare Native Hawaiian students for employment in high-skill, high-wage, in-demand careers in the CTE (career and technical education), and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) sectors of the local and global economy by providing vigorous and culturally appropriate opportunities for academic and professional success.

Shadden Ogasawara-Tabelisma

Poʻi Nā Nalu is helping Shadden Ogasawara-Tabelisma pursue his dream of becoming a firefighter. In the November issue of Poʻi Nā Nalu’s newsletter, Ogasawara-Tabelisma explains his emotional, personal reasons for his career choice.

Q: Tell us about yourself.

A: My name is Shadden Ogasawara-Tabelisma. I was born and raised on Oʻahu. My major is FIRE (fire and environmental emergency response) and my career goal is to become a firefighter.

I first wanted to pursue this dream when I was in my sophomore year of high school, when the most traumatic thing that has ever happened in my life happened. I was in class when all of a sudden my grandpa called me. I wasn’t going to answer but something told me I had to. I walked out of class and picked up the phone to something that will never leave my memories. I picked up the phone to my grandpa having a heart attack and a low blood sugar level of less than 40. I was losing my grandpa and there was nothing that I could do other than to listen to him suffer. I hung up the phone and dialed 9-1-1 and sent them to my house.

The firefighters arrived first. They made entry into my house and did their best to stabilize my grandpa until the paramedics arrived. Firefighters are always there when times are bad, and they always run into danger when others run away. As a firefighter, I don’t want to be looked at as a hero. I want to be looked at as someone who really cares for others and as someone who loves doing what they do best. By joining a job that is so mentally and physically challenging, I needed a “why.” That “why” is my grandpa, and I will do whatever I need to do to make him happy.

Q: What are your future plans?

A: My future plans are to apply for HFD, Federal Fire and [state airport firefighter crash and rescue unit]. I also wish to continue with my sports as I continue to represent Hawaiʻi in tennis and pickleball. In ten years, I see myself working for the Honolulu Fire Department.

Q: How has Poʻi Nā Nalu helped you through your academic journey at Honolulu CC?

A: Poʻi Nā Nalu has paid for my certifications and has let me borrow so many resources that helped me succeed in my college career. Over the past two years, I have grown so much as a person and I can’t thank everyone that has supported me enough. I am most thankful for my grandparents and Poʻi Nā Nalu for supporting me throughout my college journey.

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