Students share the meaning of their scholarships with donors
Her voice quivering with emotion as she described the meaning of being awarded a scholarship during an annual honorary luncheon for donors, Audrey Pilar ’24 cited her mom and dad for instilling a belief in herself, sharing her parents’ story as a young couple struggling to make ends meet but never giving up and wanting more for her and her brother. Graduating in May with a major in Forensic Sciences, and minors in Chemistry and Data Science, Analytics and Visualization, the Mililani native admitted that, without her Dr. Feung Lee and Mrs. Mew Sin Lee Endowed Scholarship, she probably would have had to work three or more part-time jobs just to pay her tuition.
“When my mom wanted to come to America to have a better life for me and her, she did,” Pilar said. “When my dad was belittled for having a young family, he and my mom hustled, got an education, and successfully raised my brother and me. What I am trying to get across here is that someone gave them a chance in their lives. Someone gave my mom and dad a chance to succeed in life, and they took it. This is what receiving a donor scholarship means to me. Hope and a chance for a better future.”
In the pursuit of higher education, many students face formidable barriers, with financial constraints being among the most prevalent. For many individuals from low- to even middle-income backgrounds, the dream of attending college or university often seems like an unattainable aspiration. However, scholarships serve as beacons of hope, illuminating pathways to academic success and unlocking doors to opportunities that would otherwise remain shut.
“This year, between individual and Foundation scholarships, we supported 332 students with over $2 million, for an average scholarship award of $6,100, which is huge,” said Chaminade President, Lynn Babington, Ph.D. “Today, you’ll hear some of these students’ stories, and you’ll get a sense about their ambitions, their areas of academic interest and what they may have overcome to get here.”
Seated with students, Adrienne Aquino ’26, Katherine Liu ’26, Erica Tiwari ’24 and Alani Meltel ’25, donors David and Christine Arita with daughter Jessica Schlais discussed each one’s goal, inspiring them to continue their education even long after they’ve graduated. The Aritas’ and Schlais’s American Floor and Home Foundation Scholarship is specifically earmarked for majors in the Environmental + Interior Design program.
An aspiring elementary education teacher, Aquino believes that early schooling provides a strong foundation for future learners. “Our graduation rates are getting lower and lower,” said the Kaneohe native. “We need more teachers if we want a better future for our keiki.”
Applauding Aquino for her dedication to becoming an elementary teacher, David Arita dispensed a bit of advice to her: “If you inspire them, they will always remember you,” he told her. “I still remember the teachers who made a major impact in my life, and I will never forget them.”
A sophomore Communication major, Easton DelaCruz ’26 has taken advantage of all the opportunities afforded to him since arriving on campus two years ago. He has been fortunate enough to engage in experiences that have enriched his education and broadened his perspective.
“Your commitment to financial assistance has allowed students like me to engage in transformative experiences, shaping us into well-rounded individuals prepared to contribute to society,” DelaCruz said in his address to donors. “With the wealth of past and current experiences, and the ones to come at Chaminade, I plan to return home and become a public servant to help my home become a better place for my parents’ generation, my generation and generations to come.”
In this landscape of financial uncertainty, scholarships emerge as powerful catalysts for change. These financial awards, often based on academic merit, financial need, or a combination of both, play a pivotal role in dismantling barriers to higher education. By providing financial assistance, scholarships enable deserving students to access resources, facilities and opportunities that would otherwise remain beyond their grasp.
Beyond financial assistance, scholarships also offer myriad opportunities for academic and personal growth. Many scholarship programs provide mentorship, networking opportunities and career development resources, empowering students to thrive both inside and outside the classroom. Furthermore, scholarships may fund internships, study abroad experiences and research projects, allowing students to broaden their horizons and cultivate valuable skills that enhance their employability and competitiveness in the job market.
“We know education transforms lives; our students set out to change the world, and they are making a difference,” said Babington. “Our reach is all over the world. And we are proud of our Chaminade students and alumni.”