Saturday, March 10, 2012

P.I.A. project Board Member Stories: Karin

Aloha 'oukou! My name is Karin Puanani Karpin, and I am the Vice President of the Pacific Islander Access project.  

From a young age, it has been clear to me that there is a powerful link between educational attainment and overall well being.  Even as a young child, I knew that I wanted the freedom and choice that comes with an education.  After graduating from Roosevelt High School in Honolulu, I was lucky enough to be accepted to The George Washington University.  Attending GWU has provided me with many great opportunities to network and develop critical professional skills.  In addition to these opportunities, being in DC has also allowed me to learn more about myself, far from home and beyond my comfort zone.  

GWU is a wonderful school, but it is not cheap.  When my family -- like so many others -- was affected by the recession, I needed to figure out how to stay at GWU.  Though I was fortunate to find support as a Liko A'e Scholar, I was surprised to find that financial aid opportunities for Native Hawaiians were much more limited than I had imagined.

As part of my scholarship, I was required to fulfill community service that bettered the Native Hawaiian community.  I wondered how I was going to do this from the East Coast.  Thanks to Bryce, I met Kawika, who offered me an internship at the P.I.A. project. My main project as an intern was to update a national study regarding Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander access to underrepresented minority scholarships and fellowships.  Kawika had conducted research in the area years ago, and started the P.I.A. project when he looked at a subset of the sample years later and realized that most programs were still excluding Pacific Islanders.  My job was to look at his entire study, and see exactly how things had changed.  

As I spent mornings, days, and nights updating the sample by finding how each academic programs defined "underrepresented minority," the reality began to dawn on me.  Some progress had occurred, but most programs were -- are -- still leaving Pacific Islanders out of their definition of eligible "underrepresented minorities." In calculating the final figures, I saw how Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders are excluded from applying for millions of dollars in financial aid, and many opportunities for other kinds of support.  As a student and young woman who wants to spend her professional life bettering the health of the Native Hawaiian community, I continually study the link between health and educational attainment in my coursework.  Time and time again, data shows that educational attainment is positively associated with quality of life, health, and prosperity.  

Therefore, when Kawika offered me the chance to move from intern to board member, I accepted it in a heartbeat.  The P.I.A. project is an important cause and I want to be a part of our success.  I hope to see us elicit a positive change that will elevate the well being of all Pacific Islanders, including Native Hawaiians.  As an aspiring physician, I will continue to commit myself to this cause, hoping that future generations of Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders will have all the higher education opportunities I have enjoyed -- as well as access to the many underrepresented minority scholarships and fellowships that we're currently excluded from. 

Mahalo Nui Loa for reading this post!

A Me Ke Aloha Pumehana,

Karin Puanani

No comments: