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Home West O‘ahu Happenings Hirono visits UH West Oʻahu, discusses programs that support students

Hirono visits UH West Oʻahu, discusses programs that support students


U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono visited the University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu on Nov. 9. Image courtesy of the office of U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono

U.S. Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) visited the University of Hawai‘i–West O‘ahu on Nov. 9 to meet with students, faculty, and staff, and learn about programs offered at UH West O‘ahu to support underrepresented students, including Native Hawaiians.

Hirono began her hour-long visit at the Nāulu Center, where UH West O‘ahu students and graduates shared how they benefitted from various federal grant programs such as the U.S. Department of Education’s Early College Program funding through the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) and Title III, including the PIKO and Ho‘opūliko Kumu Hou Educational Pathway projects at UH West O‘ahu.

“I enjoyed the chance to meet with students on the beautiful UH West O‘ahu campus to hear about what they’re learning and how federal grants are helping many of them attend college,” Hirono said in a news release. “Many of these students are the first in their families to attend college, and with support from federal funding, UH West O‘ahu is helping them to expand their horizons and reach their full potential.”

Among the students who met with Hirono at the Nāulu Center was Kyree Follante-Makekau, a freshman majoring in Public Administration with a concentration in Justice Administration. Follante-Makekau, who is Native Hawaiian and Asian, shared with Hirono that such federal programs have helped her explore and expand her educational options.

“These programs really helped me … grow, within a span from a senior (in high school) to freshman year at college,” she said.

The UH West O‘ahu Early College High School Program Consortium works with UH System partners to provide educational opportunities to schools who serve college students who come from largely underrepresented backgrounds in higher education. As an Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian-Serving Institution (ANNHSI), UH West O‘ahu has also received funding from this program in order to expand their capacity to serve these students.

According to the news release, Hirono is a longstanding champion of programs that support underrepresented members of the community, particularly Hawai‘i’s indigenous, Native Hawaiian community.

“She has consistently advocated for programs that increase the number of low-income students prepared to attend college, and has strongly advocated for the Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian-Serving Institution (ANNHSI) program, which provides grants for institutions with large numbers of Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian students,” the release stated.

Earlier this year, Hirono led a letter calling for strong funding for the ANNHSI program and other programs that support Minority-Serving Institutions.

“I will continue working to support Hawai‘i’s colleges and universities, and the students they serve,” Hirono said.

At the Nāulu Center, Hōkū Kwan — a UH West O‘ahu graduate and the current Title III Wailau Ola Pathway Project Director at UH West O‘ahu — thanked Hirono for her continued support.

“We are products of the good work that can be done,” Kwan said. “So mahalo nui for supporting our students, staff, and faculty here at UH West O‘ahu because without your support, we wouldn‘t be able to provide this quality education for our students.”

Following the Nāulu Center, Hirono stopped by the Veterans Center of Excellence, where students shared how the center serves as a space for veteran students to access resources and tools to succeed in college, and to connect with others.

Hirono capped off her campus visit with Dr. William Puette, director of the Center for Labor Education and Research (CLEAR), which is designed to provide labor education, research, and labor-related programs to workers, their organizations, and the general public.