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UH West Oʻahu pair receives awards for contributions to success of Filipinos in education


UH West Oʻahu student Raymart Billote, left, and faculty specialist Rebecca Carino-Agustin. Image courtesy of UHWO Staff

University of Hawai‘i–West O‘ahu faculty specialist Rebecca Carino-Agustin and student Raymart Billote recently received awards recognizing their significant contributions to the success of Filipinas and Filipinos in education.

Carino-Agustin, College Success Advisor and First-Year Experience Coordinator at UH West Oʻahu, is the recipient of the Dr. Ernest “Niki” Libarios Outstanding Filipina/o Faculty & Staff Award. Billote, who is majoring in Secondary Education with a concentration in Social Studies, is the recipient of the Dr. Julius Bajet Soria Outstanding Filipina/o Student Award.

The special awards are part of the Pamantasan UnConference, an annual UH System-wide event that celebrates and aims to elevate the Filipinx community. This year’s conference was presented by host campus UH West O‘ahu and held on Oct. 21 both online and in person.

Carino-Agustin and Billote were recognized and celebrated at the conference, where they were honored with lei and framed certificates of the awards.

In 2018, the Pamantasan host committee from UH Mānoa established the awards honoring two beloved members of the UH community. The awards recognize the significant contributions to the success of Filipina/os in education through mentoring, leadership, and support.

Dr. Ernest “Niki” Libarios Outstanding Filipina/o Faculty & Staff Award

“When I learned I received the award, I was in shock and awe,” Carino-Agustin said. “I prefer to do work humbly and in the background, so to be nominated, recognized, and honored by my colleagues and peers was overwhelming and amazing.”

The late Dr. Ernest “Niki” Libarios was the Director of the Office of Student Academic Services at the UH Mānoa College of Education.

“A former academic advisor, community college counselor, and elementary school teacher, his research interests centered on Filipino recruitment, persistence, and community college transfer in higher education,” according to the Pamantasan website. “In all of his work, Libarios lived by the motto #BeKindToAStudent. Having been a community college transfer student himself, he believed in paying it forward through kindness and empowerment.”

One nominator commented on how Carino-Agustin’s bright and positive spirit shines through at every campus event and activity where it’s an utmost priority to personally connect with students.

“On behalf of the Education Division, Rebecca plays an essential role in the recruitment and retention of students pursuing a career in teaching because she is the first person that connects with students to share about the Education pathway,” the nominator wrote. “She is the face of our Education program. Her vibrant personality and genuine heart for students matters.”

The nominator noted that this year, despite the decrease in enrollment at UH West O‘ahu, the Education Division was the only division that saw an increase (9%) in enrollment this semester.

“This speaks volumes of the time and effort that Rebecca has placed to connect and encourage students to enroll, register, and pursue a career in teaching,” the nominator wrote.

Carino-Agustin said to be honored as part of Libarios’ legacy reminds her of much of the work that has been done to get her to where she is in higher education as a faculty specialist.

“As a first-generation student, I have used my experiences within college to enact meaningful change in reducing barriers to and within college for the students,” she said. “It also reminds me that there is much more work to do to make higher education more accessible and more responsive to the needs of all students, especially those who have been historically excluded and marginalized.”

Dr. Julius Bajet Soria Outstanding Filipina/o Student Award

“I am incredibly honored and elated to be awarded the Dr. Julius Bajet Soria Outstanding Filipina/o Student Award,” Billote said. “It meant a lot to me as a first-generation Filipino immigrant and the first person in my family to attend college here in Hawai‘i. I have never imagined getting recognized for anything.”

The late Dr. Julius Bajet Soria was an assistant professor at UH Mānoa (Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education) and president of Santanians Association of Hawai‘i.

“A keeper of our language and culture, Julius was committed to promoting an understanding of Filipinos, which he modeled through his words and actions,” according to the Pamantasan website. “He is remembered as a valiant advocate for Ilokano heritage language and a strong voice for education, not just in Hawai‘i, but globally. Julius was a wonderful educator with a kind heart and gentle demeanor, along with intelligence, passion, and care.”

A nominator commented on how Billote has made progressive strides for his community even before joining UH West O‘ahu as he serves as part of the Filipino Curriculum Project.

“Through his effort, he has helped to advocate and lead the effort to integrate Filipino history courses throughout the DOE system,” the nominator wrote. “They have been successful with legislation passed to make that vision a reality.”

“My involvement with the Filipino Curriculum Project not only helps advance Filipino representation in Hawai‘i’s educational system, but has influenced my decision to major in education, hoping to teach others my culture and heritage,” Billote said. “I want to emphasize that the Filipino Curriculum Project is a student-driven measure, so I want to recognize my fellow student collaborators’ hard work over the last couple of months, for we have accomplished so much.”