By Lexus Yamashiro | Staff Writer

The King William Charles Lunalilo Scholarship Program is a program funded by the Kaneta Foundation and has been a scholarship opportunity offered through KCC since 2012. Now open for applicants until Friday, June 2, to apply for the 2017-2018 school year, former KCC student and Lunalilo Scholar Ashley Maria reflected back to when she was accepted into the program and how it helped her with her journey through college.

From Honolulu, Maria entered KCC during the Spring 2013 semester at the age of 27 as a single parent. However, in February 2013, she was medically disenrolled from school after getting into a motorcycle accident, which caused several broken bones and injury to her brain. She was admitted to the hospital and learned that she had retrograde amnesia from her brain injury. Having to struggle with short-term memory since the accident, Maria felt a detachment from society, finding it challenging to remember certain events and memories in her life.

While in the process of recovering, Maria returned to KCC in May 2013 determined to earn her degree, seeking guidance through admissions and campus programs such as TRIO and the Single Parents and Displaced Homemakers (SPDH) Program. It was through admissions that someone referred her to the Lunalilo Scholars Program, which is when she first got in contact with LaVaché Scanlan, the program’s director.

“The Lunalilo Scholars Program is helpful to students in the transition to college,” Scanlan said. “Of course, there is the monetary benefit … but the most valuable part of it is the relationships that you build with other students and faculty and staff at KCC.”

Ashley Maria was able to successfully earn her bachelor’s degree from UH Mānoa with the help of the Lunalilo Scholars Program. (Photo by Lexus Yamashiro)

After meeting with Scanlan, Maria was ready to apply for the program. She was able to meet all of the eligibility requirements and recalled the process of applying to be easy, giving students the choice of applying online or by sending the application forms through mail. Maria admitted that she was a bit worried that she would not get accepted, seeing this as her only chance to return back to school.

After being put on a waitlist and finding out that a spot eventually opened, Maria was accepted into the Lunalilo Scholars Program. She attended the mandatory two-week summer bridge program in August 2013 in which scholars spent time studying an Interdisciplinary Studies (IS) course for one week and went on field trips for the second week. Presently, Maria sees how well the summer bridge was planned out, but at the time, she found it difficult to adjust into a social situation, especially since it had been her first real interaction with others since her accident.

“It was a really hard adjustment … but I think definitely that being my first experience with real life interaction with people, it helped my transition,” Maria said. “I think that that aided in a big part of my rehabilitation process.”

Attending the summer bridge program helped Maria to build friendships with other scholars, and even made her realize the importance of graduating. She recalled how it guided her back into the educational world, making her see the significance in making academical achievements. Maria said that being a part of the Lunalilo Scholars program gave her hope and reassurance to move forward. She recalled that while she was in the hospital, she was obsessed with trying to find ways to improve her memory and to get it back. Eventually, it came to a point where she said she accepted who she has become, helping to her to focus and continue her education.

Upon completing one year at KCC and transferring to UH Mānoa to finish two more years of school, Maria graduated in May 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in Communication. Now at the age of 30, she works at UH Mānoa as a marketing and sales coordinator in the Student Media department. From being a single parent at the age of 18 to attending KCC at the age of 27 and graduating from college within three years, Maria is grateful to have been a part of the Lunalilo Scholars Program, which helped her to see a value in her education.

“It definitely gave me hope that you can get an education … there’s no excuse not to, you can find a way to do it,” Maria said. “It made me realize there are ways to overcome barriers. I feel that [the Lunalilo Scholars Program] is something that you should do if you are absolutely passionate about getting a degree and about becoming better.”

Second-year student Chanel Alarca is a 2016-2017 Lunalilo Scholar majoring in Liberal Arts, hoping to get accepted into the Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) program at KCC. From Kalihi, the 19-year-old first heard about the Lunalilo Scholars Program after becoming a Hoʻokele Peer Mentor. She was encouraged by a few peer mentors to join the program, which she took into consideration.

Alarca was able to get a referral for the Lunalilo Scholars Program from her middle school science teacher. She recalled that it took her some time to complete the application since it required having to share personal information and barriers she was facing. Having to answer these questions allowed her to be open up about her obstacles; since high school, she said she did not care about her education and was going through tough times since her mother passed away, and because her older sister attempted to commit suicide. Her older sister had attended college for some time but dropped out, which created the mentality for Alarca that if her sister did not attend college then she would not have to either.

Chanel Alarca was able to find her drive and motivation to attend school and is thankful for the Lunalilo Scholars Program for its educational influence. (Photo by Lexus Yamashiro)

Alarca struggled with trying to find the motivation and drive to go to school. However, this was resolved after getting accepted into the Lunalilo Scholars Program despite having submitted her application late. Like Maria, Alarca attended a mandatory two-week summer bridge program in August 2016. She described it with one word: “wow.” Alarca shared that through the summer bridge program she got to learn tips for college and her learning style. She got the opportunity to share her life story to her class involving her family and high school career, which she felt was the first time that she got to openly talk about it with others.

“Everyone has their own story, and you don’t know why certain people act the way they are, and it’s really good not to judge people in the get-go,” Alarca said. “Doing that part of the summer bridge — telling the life story — really opened my eyes how there’s people there who may go through the same experience as you.”

Alarca said that beyond the family bonding that she was able to gain through the summer bridge program, it was the stories of others that she took to heart that helped her to know that there are others who may have gone through the same life experience. She found her fellow scholars to be inspirational, knowing that they had a choice to make their lives better and took that opportunity through the Lunalilo Scholars Program. Seeing that many Lunalilo Scholars had the drive to go to college, it helped her to build that drive for herself, helping her to see the importance in education.

Since becoming a Lunalilo Scholar during the Fall 2016 semester, Alarca said it influenced her to see a therapist. She was given the opportunity to see a therapist while in high school, but declined because of a stigma which she said everyone believed that if a person were to see a therapist, he/she would be considered crazy. However, she now realizes and learned that it’s normal for people to see a therapist and that it’s okay to seek professional help.

Now finishing up her second year, Alarca looked back and was amazed at the diverse individuals she met through the program. She shared that the age range for all of the scholars varied significantly, portraying to her the different walks of life that each scholar was in. Alarca appreciated being exposed to different cultures and generations, and found everyone to be inspirational in their own unique way.

“It feels nice to be a part of this Lunalilo Scholar family … and just being a part of this program, this scholarship, is really a great choice for me to do,” Alarca said. “I’m just so thankful to do the scholarship, to be a part of this, and [to] just tell people about this.”

For more information about the King William Charles Lunalilo Scholarship Program, click here.
Contact LaVaché Scanlan at or (808) 734-9371 or visit ʻIliahi 231 (above the Kamōkila floor).