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Father and son making memories together at UH West Oʻahu


Image courtesy of UHWO Staff

“All in the ‘Ohana” is a new series of stories that celebrates families who share a special connection with the University of Hawai‘i–West O‘ahu as students, graduates, employees, or alumni. The series will run throughout the spring 2023 semester.

Of all the shared experiences Kamehalani Ortiz and his son Blayze have, attending the University of Hawai‘i–West O‘ahu together is definitely a highlight.

“Not a lot of people get to say they got to go to school with their parents,” said Blayze, 19. … “My dad’s the smartest person I know, so once I heard that he liked this school, I knew it was a good choice.”

With encouragement from his dad, Blayze enrolled at UH West O‘ahu in summer 2021 after graduating from Pearl City High School. Meanwhile, Kamehalani enrolled in fall 2021 after receiving an Associate in Applied Science in Fire and Environmental Emergency Response from Honolulu Community College.

“UH West O‘ahu is an amazing school where the faculty truly cares about you — not just about your education, but your well-being as well,” said Kamehalani, 45.

Both men said they were won over by several qualities, including the new campus, cutting edge facilities, and caring and knowledgeable faculty, staff, and students.

“We are both very excited about the opportunity to attend the same college together,” Kamehalani said. “We look forward to the experiences and memories that we will make during our time at UH West O‘ahu.”

Two men smiling and flashing shakas on campus at U H West Oahu.
Kamehalani Ortiz (left) with his son Blayze Ortiz.

Importance of a good education

“I’ve known I wanted to go to college since I was a kid, mostly because of my dad,” Blayze said. “He always pushed the importance of getting a good education and how college would be the minimum requirement for getting a job when I’m older.”

Blayze is majoring in Creative Media with a focus in Video Game Design and Development at UH West O‘ahu, and hopes to graduate in spring 2026.

He had high praise for the university’s “modern campus.”

“Everything is brand new and designed to make any interaction as painless as possible, even the staff feel like they have a better grasp on technology than most school staff you’d find at other colleges,” he said. “Overall it’s just the ideal way to experience college.”

Kamehalani is currently a fire investigator with the Honolulu Fire Department, where he has been serving his community for 21 years. He is majoring in Public Administration with an emphasis on Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management, and plans to graduate in fall 2023.

“My main motivation for going to college was to give back to my community and learn how to better myself as a first responder and leader,” he said. “As firefighters with the Honolulu Fire Department, we pride ourselves on education and learning because that makes us better first responders.”

Kamehalani continued, “By learning new techniques and always trying to improve ourselves, we save more lives and protect more property. I am extremely lucky to have great fire chiefs and captains who support our members in achieving higher education.”

‘It’s our ‘ohana’

Kamehalani is grateful for having this shared UH West O‘ahu experience with Blayze.

“My son and I have gotten closer because he realizes I’m going through the same hardships,” Kamehalani said. “He sees me studying every night and typing until the wee hours of the morning. He sees the hard work and determination it takes to succeed. He sees my grades and the sleepless nights. It’s humbling, and I love talking with my son about school life.”

For this Pearl City family, the UH West O‘ahu connection will likely not end with the dad-son duo.

“I think this experience of me going back to school has inspired my whole family,” Kamehalani said. “My wife Briana is currently a student at Leeward Community College, working hard to get a degree in liberal arts so she can transfer to UH West O‘ahu’s new pre-nursing pathway.”

Also, daughter Kamri Rose, a Pearl City High School junior, hopes to get a Justice Administration degree from UH West O‘ahu.

“UH West O‘ahu, for us, is more than just a school,” Kamehalani said. “It’s our ‘ohana.”

Click here to read more stories from the “All in the ‘Ohana” series.

Image courtesy of Kamehalani Ortiz