By Lexus Yamashiro | Staff Writer

After completing my first year of college at KCC, there are two types of students who I have observed: those who take advantage of as much of the resources and opportunities that KCC has to offer, and those who like to get in and get out of school as soon as possible. Whatever the case, it is clear that choosing to take one of these courses of action will provide a more memorable college life, and it’s up to the student if they want to take advantage of this.

Throughout my four years in high school, hearing the word “college” from anybody would make me shudder in anxiety and stress. I was never prepared for that big change and felt that I would have become one of those students who would attend college for about four years and avoid every possible chance to get involved on campus. Of course, a lot can change throughout the years spent in high school, including the summer that slowly transitions graduated high school students into college life.

During the summer of 2016 just before I began my Fall 2016 semester at KCC, I was offered a scholarship opportunity referred to me by my post-high school counselor. It was the King William Charles Lunalilo Scholarship Program, which financially helps students and provides several opportunities for its scholars to take advantage of to promote campus resources and events. However, there was a catch that scholars who got accepted into the program would be required to attend a two-week summer bridge program that would allow first-year college students to earn three credits for free. Like most students, I hesitated on applying immediately knowing that I would have to give up two weeks of my summer, but knew that making this sacrifice would mean relieving the stress of college tuition and books off of the backs of my parents and myself.

The summer bridge program turned out to be much more than I had imagined, the first week focused solely on a three credit Interdisciplinary Studies course and the second week filled with back-to-back field trips. I look back and can only imagine that my first year of college would have been a struggle if it had not been for this one-of-a-kind experience. Since the summer bridge program came to an end, I looked beyond the financial benefit that the scholarship program provided for me, and instead, embraced the activities that were carried out throughout it along with the guidance and support that I received from my fellow scholars and instructors.

It was from this experience that I was truly beginning to understand the meaning of sacrificing my time for something of more value and importance, and on my very first day of school, I used this assimilation when I was brought to the attention of the student newspaper: the Kapiʻo News. The faculty advisor approached me along with a few of my friends in the cafeteria to inform us that the student newspaper of KCC would be up and running again, pointing out that she was looking to hire a few students for the staff writer positions. Of course, believing that it is almost impossible for any student to make it through college without multiple forms of financial help, I jumped at the opportunity and proceeded to follow through with the application process.

Of course, during this process, many thoughts ran through my mind as they acknowledged that I would have to prioritize my time to meet deadlines while also juggling school assignments, but I knew that passing up this opportunity would mean losing out on a convenient on-campus job and an experience that would benefit me in improving my writing as an aspiring novelist. Fortunately, I applied and went through with the interview without any hesitations and got hired in September 2016. This was a huge accomplishment for me since it was my first job, and I could not have been happier to know that if I had not been in the cafeteria on that one particular day at that specific time, I would not have heard about this opportunity.

As the months slowly unfolded throughout my first year, I was getting accustomed to the work that we would have to produce for the newspaper and was getting exposed to new and unfamiliar programs and resources that KCC has to offer. Writing stories about these programs and such involved one-on-one interviews with faculty members and students involved in them, which opened my eyes to just how beneficial and life-changing these programs can be for students.

My first story that got published based on a campus resource shed light on the study abroad options that The Freeman Foundation Community College Program offers KCC. I interviewed Leila Esteban, who personally went through the program herself and studied in Fukuoka, Japan, for three weeks in July 2016. Esteban could not help but get excited as she reflected on her experience through our interview, and it made me recognize the joy that these studies can bring forth in a person who is passionate in earning a degree.

As time progressed, I was discovering more of what the campus had to offer, such as Ka ʻIkena Lauaʻe, a restaurant in the ʻŌhelo building that acts as a culinary lab for students in the Culinary Arts Program, along with the Kaʻieʻie Program, which helps students attending KCC to have a smooth transition to UH Mānoa. After getting to complete stories that involve campus opportunities and such, many of them have motivated me to at least revisit them or attempt to be a part of, such as choosing to apply for the Kaʻieʻie Program, as well as attending literary readings and segments of the week-long international festivals held on campus.

With the Lunalilo Scholarship Program and Kapiʻo by my sides, it led up to KCC’s 2017 Commencement Ceremony, in which I got to witness more than 430 students walk across the stage and receive their degree or certificate. Talking to a few students beforehand, I got to hear the various stories of what these students have gone through before and during college. They have all touched me significantly, knowing that they had taken advantage of what KCC had to offer for them. This was my first college commencement that I had ever attended, and although I was there for business, I could not help but think to myself as I photographed the graduates that one day I would be walking across that stage.

Ultimately, college shouldn’t only be about getting a degree or certificate and going into the workforce immediately after. College should be viewed as a place where students can build connections with others through the resources and programs that they get involved with on campus, which can highly benefit those who may come from difficult backgrounds and hardships. In the end, I am glad to have listened to the little voice in the back of my mind that said “go for it”, because choosing to ignore doing so would have given me a unmemorable first-year that would have no unique experience.