Pacific Perspective Vol. 5

By Alesi Meyers-Tuimavave

Kiana Lei Vallente (she/her)

Kiana Lei Vallente

Kiana Lei Vallente is a business major here at UH Hilo. Kiana believes that being a student on campus, especially with in-person classes, has been a huge supporter of her success as a student.

“UH Hilo has really encouraged me to stay in class, and continues to inspire me to come and encourages me to actually be present,” Kiana stated, comparing her experiences at Hawaiʻi Community College, Kapiʻolani Community College, and UH Hilo.

“As a parent, my mind is everywhere else all the time; but I have a safe place, this school,” Kiana stated. “Where I can come [and] just be a student for two, three hours a day and just focus on that. I think thatʻs had a lot to do with my success as a student thus far.”

“Probably constantly feeling like I'm not doing enough, in either area,” Kiana stated, describing her struggles with juggling being a mother and a student at the same time. “If heʻs sick, I canʻt come to class. That happens a lot; heʻs three years old. It's so hard to find child care [because] I'm a single mom too, so I think that plays a big role in it.”

Kiana goes on to state, “Just feeling like [Iʻm] constantly failing, but also knowing that Iʻm trying my best. Thatʻs all I can do at the end of the day, is really just try my best. When Iʻm here in school I gotta just keep my focus on school. I gotta dedicate time with my son as well, so I donʻt feel like I'm constantly missing out on his life because of school and work; I work full-time too.”

“But it's a choice, you know?,” Kiana stated. “I want this and I know that this will ultimately make his life better. I know Iʻm making sacrifices now; sometimes I have him watch TV because I need to get my homework done. I feel [bad] about that sometimes; but Iʻm like hey, this is such a small season in life.”

Kiana told Ke Kalahea that she recently enrolled in the Student Support Services Program (SSSP). Kiana mentioned this resource when stating what has been helpful in navigating her academic voyage.

SSSP provides many resources for eligible students. They offer computer usage during office hours, free printing and scanner services, as well as test preparation and resource books for loan. SSSP also provides one-on-one advising and counseling, Financial Aid counseling, tutoring, and more.

“[UH Hilo] started a paddling club again; I'm a paddler, I've been a paddler all my life,” Kiana stated. “Especially with the classes I've been taking, I'm reconnecting with the vaʻa in a different way; not just an athletic way, but more of a spiritual, ancestral way. I think it could be cool for more indigenous and Pacific Islander students to really hone in on the vaʻa; really hone in on where we come from.”

Kiana stated that if UH Hilo had a space, support, and resources for indigenous or women of color parents who are also students, she would feel more community on campus. Kiana also mentioned that it would be nice if the Student Life Center offered child care, which would allow her and other parents to use the resource more often.

“One of my favorite sayings is ʻbeing uncomfortable is the most fertile soil for growth’,” Kiana stated when describing what she wants to share with other UH Hilo students.

“I think as students, as indigenous people, as single parents, as parents in general; a lot of it brings up uncomfortable feelings,” Kiana stated. “Putting us in good, uncomfortable situations… that’s such a beautiful opportunity to grow as individuals and people in general.”

SSSP can be found on the second floor of the Student Services Center, room E-215.

Ritang Mesubed (she/her)

Ritang Mesubed Ritang Mesubed is a Micronesian student attending UH Hilo from the Republic of Palau and the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Ritang has been attending UH Hilo since 2019; she is a senior this semester.

Ritang is majoring in communications, minoring in anthropology, and obtaining a certificate in Pacific Island studies.

“Coming [to UHH] and transitioning to college life was pretty easy,” Ritang said. “I have a lot of friends here, even before I moved. Thereʻs quite a lot of Micronesian students who also go here as well. It's easier for me to open up because I come from such a small place, [but] we get to form our own communities and we have clubs here at UH Hilo; thatʻs one thing I really appreciate.”

“[UHH] is a big school, yes; but the student to teacher ratio is not like those big universities where you sit with 100 other students and only speak to one professor,” Ritang stated. “You know when the professors like ʻwhats your name again? Who are you?,ʻ [UHH] is nothing like that. I like how kind of a small town it is; I get to have that one-on-one relationship with faculty.”

Ritang mentioned how beneficial it is to see international students here on campus. She stated that the diversity of UH Hiloʻs student body and being able to learn from these students has been a highlight of her time on campus.

Ritang has made friends from Barbados, Japan, South Africa, and more.

When asked where she feels at home on campus, Ritang highlighted the Pacific Islander Student Center (PISC). Ritang mentioned that itʻs a safe space for her and other Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI) students and a very useful resource.

“Being an islander, I have to be next to someone that I know,” Ritang stated. “I donʻt know how to explain it, I just have to be near my friends when I'm doing homework, reading, or even just between classes. Thereʻs something about that tie you have with the people you meet here and call your family.”

Whether you just want to hang out, do homework, use computers, print papers, or be in a space that allows you to be comfortable; PISC can provide all that and more.

“Itʻs a personal thing for me, I would say,” Ritang stated. “I met so many islanders - Micronesians, Polynesians, Melanesians, and other international students in that space. I guarantee when I graduate next semester, [PISC] is going to be one of the places I miss most on this campus.”

“Euid el lomengur,” Ritang shares this phrase with other UH Hilo students, a saying from her hometown. She stated that it means to eat seven times a day.