Understanding the Struggle with Pacific Islanders & America's Education System

May 14, 2017


I currently work at a university for a program that advocates for Asian and Pacific Islander (PI) Students on campus. I recently attended my first APAHE work conference at the Oakland Marriott Hotel. APAHE is an acronym that stands for "Asians and Pacific American's for Higher Education". 


To be honest, working in Education isn't part of my plan but since I am one of the few Pacific Islanders who obtained a bachelors degree - I would love to use my degree to better my community in any way that I can.


I wanted to share my first ever conference experience with you all because it was such an inspirational event. I have never been in the same venue with a group of Pacific Islanders who are passionate about pursuing higher education. After awhile I felt like I was at a family reunion LOL! 


The APAHE conference allowed me to think critically about our education system and I questioned, why are Pacific Island statistics so low AND why does our youth tend to drop out of community college? The conference shined light on issues that hinder Polynesian youth from achieving their academic goals. I attended workshops that helped me to extend my knowledge on these issues as well as finding solutions that will empower Pacific Island communities. I left APAHE with the heart to serve my community through education.  


Here are some of the struggles that limit Pacific Island students (these topics were discussed in the workshops ) 



-Lack of funding for Pacific Islander programs on campus


-Placing Pacific Islander Students under the Asian umbrella takes away PI identity  


-Families don't know how to navigate the education system so it's common for PI

students to enter the workforce instead of college after graduating high school 



Here are a few solutions that were mentioned :


-Create a partnership with local community colleges and high schools so we can teach PI students the basics on how to transfer and fill out financial aid


-Provide mentorship programs on college campuses that caters to PI students


- Invite PI families to college campuses, this will be an event where PI students will have the opportunity to inform their parents and siblings about their college journey 




Workshops I attended:


Elevating our voice: Empowered Pacific Islanders Building Community  

~Atheneus Ocamp, Ed.D. , Counselor/Program Coordinator, El Camino College 
~Caroline Sina Fifita, BA, Program Assistant , El Camino College

~Faasaveve Filigi, Undergraduate Student, El Camino College

~Amanda Pederson, Undergraduate Student, El Camino College




Pacific Islanders and the College Pipeline: The Pursuit of Higher Education

~Live Maluia, BA, Project Director, Pacific Islander Education and Retention, UCLA

~Karla Thomas, BA, President, Pacific Islands' Student Association, UCLA





Creating Sustainable Bridges of Support for Indigenous and Pacific Islander Transfer Student Success

~ Alfred Herrera, MA, Assistant Vice Provost for Academic Partnerships/ Director of Center for Community College Partnerships, UCLA

~Asena Taione-Filihia, M.Ed., Assistant Director of Asian American Resource Center, Pomona College

~Clementine Bourreaux, MA, Academic Coordinator, UCLA

~Lydia Faitalia, MA, Graduate Student, UCLA 





Rock the Boat! Connecting the Dots Between Cultural Engagement and Activism

~Nancy Martinsen, MA, SSOS Coordinator, California State University East Bay

~Phitsamay Uy, Ed.D. , Assistant Professor, University of Massachusetts Lowell



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