Three spring 2013 graduates prove that it really does “take a village” when it comes to success.
Together they are part of the framework for a young and flourishing local organization, the Polynesian Community Center, are graduating together, and all happen to be “aiga” — the Samoan word for “family.”
Miriama Aumavae, Daniel Pulu and Rozanne Misa, armed with their crisp diplomas, all say they are proud Seawolves who have attained success through UAA.
“According to the 2010 U.S. census, it states that college attainment for Pacific Islanders in Alaska is only 6 percent,” Aumavae, a graduate with a bachelor’s of arts in applied sciences and social work, said.
Rather than “blaming the system” and “accepting statistics,” these students have opted to take advantage of the opportunities UAA presents to take the higher road.
“I remember being the only person that looks like me in the classroom. Students would look at me like, ‘He probably doesn’t know the answer. He probably didn’t do his reading,’” Pulu, who just attained a graduate certificate in advanced human service systems, said. Pulu also earned a bachelor’s of arts in sociology.
Pulu said the Human Services Department has been tremendously helpful and that Laura Kelley, department chair and coordinator for the Human Services graduation program, helped smooth any bumps along the road.
“We recognized his intelligence and ability to think outside the box right away,” Kelley said. “Daniel is Samoan and one of the many things he brought was diversity. He has brought in another way of looking at things, which really resonated with his fellow students. We are extremely proud of him.”
Pulu said he plans on returning this fall to UAA to pursue another degree.
Misa, graduate with an associate’s in applied science and human services, is married with five children. She recalled her childhood, when her parents worked endlessly to support their family of 13 children.
“Our parents didn’t have any education. Our mom dropped out in sixth grade and raised a family. So when we moved to the U.S. she realized she cannot play that role, so she had to work really hard to raise all of us in one house,” Misa said.
Misa’s memories are similar to circumstances young Pacific Islander children are going through today in the Anchorage School District. Their parents lack the time to spend with them on schoolwork. According to the ASD’s latest statistics, Pacific Islanders are part of the largest ethnic group in the system, and though there are many stellar students, their overall grade point averages are among the lowest.
“Rozanne was a hard working student. She knows what she wants as she envisions and crafts her future into her own hands and that is a strong quality to have,” Travis Erickson, Human Services practicum instructor, said.
Aumavae has had her hands full as the CEO of the PCC along with various community projects.
Patrick Cunningham, an associate professor for the School of Social work said Aumavae was “fabulous in her practicum at the Anchorage Community Land Trust serving the Mountain View community.”
“Aumavae single handedly conducted a child care feasibility study bringing together residents, service providers, churches and businesses with the goal of providing affordable child care in Mountain View,” Cunningham said. “This has resulted in her successfully identifying two prospective child care providers. To accomplish this in two semesters is awesome!”
As Aumavae reflected upon her accomplishments at UAA and the goals she has in store for the community, she simply stated, “It’s all about the future and our children.”