Two graduating seniors find purpose, express mahalo to UH West Oʻahu

LeianaMarie Alejado and Anthony Amos

LeianaMarie Alejado and Anthony Amos will receive their college degrees from UH West Oʻahu this semester.

She grew up on the Waiʻanae coast, graduated as valedictorian of a class of 13 from a Hawaiian charter school, and was awarded a full-ride scholarship – which she refers to as her “big break” – to the University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu.

He came from Germany, a self-described “military brat” who embraced the Hawaiian culture and all that UH West Oʻahu has to offer, and now envisions his journey to continue from West Oʻahu to the White House.

LeianaMarie Alejado and Anthony Amos will be among more than 370 students who will receive their college degrees from UH West Oʻahu this spring semester. While Alejado and Amos traveled different paths to graduation, both were similarly led to life-changing self-discovery they say they owe to the university.

“This campus, and Hawaiʻi itself, is filled with a rich culture and many opportunities to push yourself to not just success, but enlightenment,” Amos said. “I discovered who I am and who I want to be during my years here.”

“I believe it is my purpose in life to inspire and educate those around me,” Alejado said. “I would have never come to this conclusion if I went to another institution.”

As graduating seniors, Alejado and Amos share a glimpse into their college experiences – from celebrated accomplishments to lessons learned – along with messages of inspiration to other students.

‘A driven student leader’

Alejado, of Māʻili, will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Humanities with a concentration of Hawaiian Pacific Studies.

“Receiving and maintaining my full-ride scholarship is hands-down my greatest accomplishment as a UH West Oʻahu student,” Alejado said.

As a recipient of the University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu Chancellor Scholarship, Alejado was expected to maintain a 3.5 GPA and each year complete 30 hours of service, such as leading campus tours and participating in outreach events.

“The fact that I was able to not only meet those requirements but go above and beyond is amazing to me,” she said. “Despite the many stresses and challenges I faced, I still managed to keep up with the demands of my scholarship.”

Alejado, a records student assistant at the UH West Oʻahu Enrollment Services Office, has always kept busy with numerous on-campus roles, including mentor in the PUEO Leadership Program, member of NUFP (NASPA Undergraduate Fellowship Program), member of SASSS-I (Student Affair Sustaining Student Success Initiative), and lead facilitator of Kīpuka Affinity Space Workshops at the Nāulu Center.

A group photo of seven people.

LeianaMarie Alejado, standing second from right, at the NASPA Western Regional Conference 2020 in Oregon.

“I am involved in so many different spheres on campus that it can at times become overwhelming, yet I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Alejado said.

Her advice to students: Wherever life takes you, find your community and know that you are not alone.

“Despite having a full-ride scholarship, I still had to work full-time my entire educational career to support myself financially, yet I wouldn’t have been able to handle the stress without my community on campus,” she said.

Alejado, who was accepted into UH Mānoa’s Educational Administration graduate program, said her greatest post-college goal is to dive further into her senior project – her “passion” – which aimed to provide a space for indigenous students on campus to ensure they succeed and complete their educational journeys through the power of intentional community building.

“I want to continue to educate and provide resources for students that allow them to not only succeed, but gain priceless memories like I did,” she said. … “My long term goal and hope is to return back to the University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu and give back all that I have learned to the upcoming undergraduates.”

Rouel Velasco, Director of Student Life at UH West Oʻahu, described Alejado as “a driven student leader” who is passionate about social justice work, specifically focusing on Hawaiian affairs while uplifting others.

“It’s been a real honor to work with Leiana in different leadership capacities,” Velasco said. “She is studious, committed to a vibrant student experience, and exudes so much aloha in all her interactions with peers, staff and faculty.”

‘A serious scholar, brilliant’

Amos, who resides in ʻEwa Beach, will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences, double concentrating in Sociology and Political Science.

“I have been provided with outstanding opportunities here, due to such an amazing faculty and diverse group of students,” Amos said.

Amos has been active on campus, participating in numerous extracurricular activities. He was president of the Leaves of Opportunity volunteer organization, which hosted a plethora of events, including “Coffee with a Cop,” bridging Honolulu Police Department officers directly with students and faculty on campus.

Amos worked as a research assistant with faculty members for a project looking at farm communities, such as Kaʻala and Kahumana farms, conducting field studies and mapping. Their research was published through Kamehameha Schools.

Amos also hosted voter registration events, served as a student liaison for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, played on the intramural flag football team that won the IM LeeSports Flag Football League championship in the fall, and acted as the social sciences senator for the Associated Students of the University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu.

“Don’t be afraid to take those opportunities and try something new,” Amos noted. “It may surprise you.”

Group photo of flag football players, kneeling and standing on a field.

Anthony Amos, kneeling on the far right, played on the team that won the IM LeeSports Flag Football League championship in the fall.

Such opportunities helped Amos discover his purpose and passions in life. After finishing requirements for his degree, he will move to Washington D.C., where he hopes to get an internship at the United States Capitol and become more involved in political processes. (Amos interned at the Hawaiʻi State Capitol throughout his last semester.)

Amos plans to apply for Harvard Law School or Howard University School of Law to become a civil rights and environmental lawyer “to aid the people of Hawaii and the people of the world through a systematic reformation,” Amos said. “Once I have more experience, I will strive to expand upon my political career and, as bold as this is, push to become President one day – or at least change how that process works.”

Dr. Christy Mello, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at UH West Oʻahu, said she is grateful to have had Amos as a student, mentee, and research assistant.

“Anthony has been an absolute delight to work with,” Mello said. “He is a serious scholar, brilliant, a leader, exudes positive energy, and will make a difference in this world with his drive and passion for social justice.”

Only at UH West Oʻahu

Amos said this graduation is a long-awaited dream-come-true after spending many years wondering about his abilities and figuring out what he needs to do to reach his goals.

“West O‘ahu has contributed to my growth, allowing me to surpass my previous self,” Amos said. “By learning more from Hawaiian culture, sociology, and politics, I now feel capable of achieving my goals. … This campus, with its beauty and caring nature, has groomed me to find what life means to me.”

What Amos gained was something that he could find only at UH West Oʻahu, he said.

“Mahalo to all those who contributed to my growth and for everyone’s hard work during such trying times,” Amos said. “You all made Hawaiʻi feel like home and provided me with my understanding of my kuleana.”

Alejado shared the sentiments.

“The amazing faculty and staff showed me my potential and pushed me to become the woman I am today,” Alejado said. “They taught me how to recognize and address the needs within my community. In fact, they taught me the significance of intentional community building because without a community you cannot succeed.”

Alejado noted she owes everything that she is to UH West Oʻahu’s faculty and staff, who not only educated her, but helped raise her.

“Graduating is so important to me because it is as if I am being inducted into a legacy of intelligent, culturally aware, and inspiring people who took me under their wings and showed me the power of being part of a beloved community,” Alejado said.

Images courtesy of Anthony Amos, LeianaMarie Alejado and UHWO Staff