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Daina Landeza-Olivier in cap and gown with her familyWith the help of Hawaiʻi Promise, Daina Landeza-Olivier earned an associate’s degree in Hawaiian studies from Kauaʻi Community College in May. Draped with the Hawaiian studies program’s red kihei (traditional wrap used to mark formal ceremonies) and a Phi Theta Kappa national honor society yellow sash, her commencement walk was also a testament to the scholarship’s uplifting of underrepresented students, such as Native Hawaiians and Filipinos.

When COVID-19 shut down much of Kauaʻi in 2020, Landeza-Olivier lost her two jobs and had trouble making ends meet. The 63-year-old single grandmother and former domestic violence specialist got a needed boost from the Hawaiʻi Promise scholarship, which enabled her to enroll at Kauaʻi CC.

“I was having challenges with how to survive and just working. Initially, I was working so many jobs,” Landez-Olivier recalled. “[The Hawaiʻi Promise scholarship] has helped me with food, school supplies and gas for my car.”

She was one of more than 1,700 University of Hawaiʻi Community College students who received Hawaiʻi Promise scholarships in 2023. Hawaiʻi Promise is only available for UH Community College students who have proven financial need by qualifying for federal financial aid.

“Knowledge is power. I think that’s so important and just trying to encourage other people to learn about our culture,” Landeza-Olivier said.

Learn more about Hawaiʻi Promise

Now working toward a bachelor’s degree in Hawaiian and Indigenous health and healing online through UH West Oʻahu and holding down a part-time job at a Hanalei Taro and Juice Co. lunch wagon, Landeza-Olivier is fervent in supporting efforts to expand the Hawaiʻi Promise scholarship to students at UH Mānoa, UH Hilo and UH West Oʻahu.

Daina Landeza-Olivier

“I’m just very grateful it’s there for those who are part of the community college level and it definitely needs to be there for the UH four-year level of education for students,” Landeza-Olivier said. “It’s so important that all of our students and children and adults get educated at a higher level. It’s just so important for us to be able to survive out here in the state of Hawaiʻi.”

A 2023 annual report on the program to the legislature found Hawaiʻi Promise recipients earn more credits, have higher passing rates (3.0 grade point average or better) and are more likely to stay enrolled (69% vs. 65%) compared to non-Hawaiʻi Promise UH students. About 60% are Native Hawaiians, Filipinos or from other ethnic groups underrepresented in higher education.

—by Kelli Abe Trifonovitch

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