The Lunalilo Scholarship Program

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Life-changing Scholarships.


Much more than financial aid, it is a personalized college-based program for students to grasp the power of hope and leverage the tools of education. For many, its the second chance they’ve been hoping for, when the hard-knocks of life have driven them further from their dreams and aspirations.


In the simplest terms, it is a one-year tuition scholarship at Kapi‘olani Community College (KCC) for at-risk students, who also benefit from personalized support, peer mentoring, academic tutoring, and a variety of skill building classes for college, career and personal success. LSP becomes a strong foundational year where students begin to gain confidence, make connections, and a form life plans with a positive pathway.


Statistics show that those without a college degree are three times more likely to live in poverty than college graduates, and eight times more likely to depend on public assistance.  In Hawai‘i, people with bachelor's degrees earn on average $27,000 more per year, than those who only have a high school diploma. The goal for LSP is to help students not only succeed in the first year of college, but gain tools and support for life.


LSP scholars gain tremendous confidence in their first year of college, as they overcome typical obstacles which often cause students to drop out of college. LSP Scholars are recommended to the program because they are at-risk youth and adults who show potential, but might otherwise face homelessness, and a life of hopelessness and despair. The stories of heartbreak and despair are transformed into academic and personal success are what makes this program exciting.


At KCC, they share a friendly learning center where they find friends, study help, counseling services, and the basics--supplies/computer/printer help. With these services, scholars are better equipped to continue with their education independently because they learn to thrive in the collegiate world, take advantage of campus resources, activate student services, and effectively apply financial literacy to help fund their future education.

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LSP was inspired by an Oahu couple who held a deep desire to help those people who were struggling with basic needs and had the potential to achieve a better career through college training. They had generously given hundreds of college scholarships over the years, but now wanted their philanthropy to have a deeper meaning. They wanted the power of education to help the most needy in their community. LSP was soon launched through a public private partnership, modeled after a similar program created at Kauai Community College.


In 2012, Marian and Lester Kaneta of the Kaneta Foundation launched the Lunalilo Scholars Program in partnership with Kapi‘olani Community College and the University of Hawai’i Foundation.


“In all our years of donating to outstanding causes, the Lunalilo Scholars Program is by far the most rewarding program we have ever supported. This unique program and the people involved exceed our expectations. The applicant wait list continues to grow, indicating this program is serving an important community need. To sustain and grow the program so more deserving students can get a good foothold on their careers, we need more like-minded partners who can join us in creating a better Hawai’i through education.”

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The metrics of success have been extremely encouraging! LSP’s first co-hort in the fall of 2012 started with 22 students. Since then, it has graduated four cohorts, doubled in size, and transformed dozens of lives. The LSP program can enroll more than 50 students with a growing waiting list. The goal is to reach all who are on the waiting list, which grows each year as the program becomes more well known. Some students graduate in two years with certificates and jobs in hand. Others pursue four-year colleges and other academic opportunities, as they discover the bigger world of career choices.


In 2015, new donors heard about LSP success through media stories and presentations and LSP benefited from broadening support which has allowed the program to accept more students and expanded resources. In 2016, the LSP’s robust peer-mentoring program earned a major grant from the Clarence T.C. Ching Foundation so LSP mentors could qualify for a second year scholarship while they help the first year students.


View the latest data.

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The Lunalilo Scholars Program is unique to Kapi‘olani Community College but there are other similar community college scholarship programs at Winward, Leeward and Kauai.

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Many students start with little more than a strong desire to work hard and get ahead. Most all are first generation college students, so they lack the college/career mindset in their family. They usually learn about LSP through their high school counselor or a social worker, and can only be accepted with a recommendation. The application process is intentionally simple, so applicants face minimal barriers.


The LSP Scholars ages range from 17 to 53 years old, 70% female, and 60-95% Hawaiian. Some travel by bus from the Waianae coast and Waimanalo, working side jobs to pay the bills while they attend school. Some single moms or dads, near the brink of homelessness or living “pay check-to-paycheck,” stuck in low paying jobs without possibilities of career advancement.


Many struggle to finish high school while working side jobs to support themselves and become independent adult. As they approach 18 years, the students “age out” of the foster care system.


Studies have shown first-time community college students have a lower level of persistence and completion rates, especially those who enter college from underserved and low-income communities. The Lunalilo Project proves these rates can be increased, through a unique blend of social services, peer support and academic reinforcement skills for students who show initiative and promise. Recruitment occurs through partnerships with the community and local high schools with a high incidence of underprivileged, Native Hawaiian,and non-college bound students.


Despite their backgrounds of poverty and hardship, the Lunalilo Scholars Program has had great success in its first three years. In the first two years of the program retention rates out performed those of the general student population with over 90% of the Lunalilo Scholars continuing to take classes in the spring semester of their first year of college. Additionally, 73% of the first cohort of scholars continued on to their second year of college, with 65% of these students remaining in college for year 3. Enrollment in the program has gone from 20 students in the first year to 42 in the third year with more than double the number of applicants.

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Success starts in the mindset of the individual student when they first apply. While LSP is designed for a broad range of applicants, most are at risk youth or adults who exhibit strong personal, academic and career potential. Some are homeless, others are parents struggling in a low wage paying job with little hope of living pay check to pay check. Each applicant must be recommended by a high school counselor, social worker or professional of any kind.


Success in LSP also requires that selected students enter LSP with an open mind, and with enough courage to believe that their life will be transformed, if they put in the required effort. While all applicants have suffered some sort of major life setbacks or series of life struggles, selected scholars must be brave enough to explore their own potential and formulate lifelong goals. This scholarship does not require applicants have a certain GPA in high school. Many of our successful LSP students were good students in their younger years, showing great potential, but later met their biggest challenges in their formative high school years, some falling away from their studies after working long hours to support themselves.


Once admitted to the program, Lunalilo Scholars gain confidence, peer support, and skills. The LSP staff identify the needs of each scholar and provide the necessary academic tools and counseling resources to build a solid foundation for theses Scholar during their first year of college. They begin to see hope, and realize they can take steps to break the poverty cycle, find their purpose, and give back to their peers, and their community.


Upon completion of a Scholar’s first year, academic advising and personal counseling support continues for those students who remain at KCC. They also have an opportunity to become peer mentors to the next co-hort of LSP students, giving back to the program and staying connected to their support system.


Students will be the first to say, that there is a sense of caring and community in their one-year experience. Many will say it is the first scholarship they’ve ever been given, so their self confidence begins to rise as they approach this new journey. It starts with a mandatory summer program where the students and leaders spend time learning about each other, their community and the college experience, where within a short time they develop a sense of “family”. Students begin to realize the resources and opportunities available, including a process in which they develop their own “legacy” as it relates to the community and themselves. They meet the caring faculty and realize that being an Lunalilo Scholar means you are never alone, and there is always a way to overcome daily struggles. This is a major concept to many LSP students, who have had a lifetime of forging ahead with little emotional or financial support.


Lunalilo Scholars Program Director LaVache Scanlan knows how daunting the first year of college can be for students, especially for the at-risk population who are often the first in their families to attempt college.


Academics familiar with the first year struggles of college students appreciate the support the students get, because they come to class better equipped to focus on learning.


The practical matter of helping those in poverty requires LSP scholars to grow and one day take hold of their financial future. So an important aspect of success is that LSP scholars also take a mandatory College Success Course and a Financial Literacy Course. They begin planning their path in college, choosing careers, and gaining essential study skills. they also learn the basics of personal finance, and the vast resources of scholarship funds that can help them pay for the remainder of their college.


The LSP program has become so successful, by every metric, KCC is adopting similar services for other first year college students who struggle making the transition into college life!


Click here to see an online, printable brochure.