Current and former scholars of the King William Charles Lunalilo Scholarship program were recognized by KCC faculty, staff, and donors on Thursday night in Ka ʻIkena Lauaʻe. Hosted by Lester and Marian Kaneta, the Kaneta Foundation that helps to fund the scholarship program along with the UH Foundation, 46 graduated Lunalilo Scholars since the 2012-13 class until now were recognized and celebrated for their accomplishments and successes during the first-ever celebratory dinner.

“It’s a celebration of the graduates of the Lunalilo Program,” Kaneta said. “We’ve never had a celebration, and this is the first time that we’ve decided let’s have a celebration for as many of the scholars as we could for over five years.”

Kaneta also read an excerpt of a Kapiʻo News article about the Lunalilo Scholars Program, sharing insight from Chanel Alarca, a second-year Lunalilo Scholar of the 2016-17 class. Kaneta highlighted how the words of other scholars touched Alarca’s heart after hearing the life experiences of her peers, finding each story to be inspirational and influential for her to have the motivation to attend college.

Interim Chancellor Louise Pagotto opened the evening by recognizing the Kaneta Foundation for its generous donations over the past five years in helping students to transition into their first year of college. Pagotto congratulated and recognized former and current Lunalilo Scholars for all of their hard work and motivation to attend college. She reflected on a time when she got the opportunity to see scholars during one summer bridge create artworks of their life experiences and share it amongst their peers. Pagotto said she was amazed at the relationships that were built from that activity, as she watched students grow closer and shed tears together when difficult times were shared.

LaVaché Scanlan, the Lunalilo Scholars program director, said that overseeing the program means she cares for her own two children plus 200 more. Over the course of five years since becoming the director in 2012 when the program first started, Scanlan has built many relationships with the many Lunalilo Scholars, stating that she enjoys “bragging” about them to others.

Malia Infiel, a scholar from the 2013-2014 class, personally thanked the faculty, staff and donors for their support and guidance for her first year of college. Infiel entered the program at the age of 38, already married with two children. Although she was hesitant on returning to school, an emotional Infiel shared that she was grateful to have been a part of the Lunalilo Scholars, helping her to receive her bachelor’s degree in Social Work, and is now working toward her master’s degree.

Video was shown of former Lunalilo Scholar and KCC alumna Jennifer Wong-Ala’s speech for the graduating class at the KCC Commencement on Friday, May 12, at the Hawaiʻi Convention Center.

Linh Hoang Poe, the KCC senior director of development, closed the night by thanking the Kaneta’s for hosting the celebration and for everyone who attended. Poe shared through tears that she has gotten to know many of the scholars and was happy to see how far along the former scholars have come, and what current scholars will be working toward.

Kaneta said this celebration for Lunalilo Scholars may become an annual event.