The ʻIKE AO PONO program at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Nancy Atmospera-Walch School of Nursing (NAWSON) is committed to increasing the number of Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and Native American nurses working in Hawaiʻi’s health care systems, especially in the communities where they are needed the most.
ʻIKE AO PONO’s vision is to improve health and wellness for the Hawaiʻi community: ʻIke means a shared vision held and nurtured by all; Ao is the everlasting quality of continuation; and Pono is the harmony of wellbeing in life sustained by the integrity of right intentions leading to right actions and right outcomes. The name of the program was given by the founding director, Nālani Minton.
ʻIKE AO PONO accomplishes this by providing support to Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and Native American nursing students, both undergraduate and graduate, through academic tutoring, study group sessions, scholarships, and community service. The program advocates for these students from admission to graduation, and also works with the community and UH partnerships to expand the number of clinical learning sites and job opportunities.
ʻIKE AO PONO (ʻIAP) was founded in 2002 as a program to provide mentorship for Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and Native American nursing students with nurses from these cultures working in hospital settings at Queenʻs Medical Center. The program successfully grew from six students to 66 in two years. Since then ʻIAP has graduated more than 500 nurses, about 25% of the total number of nurses who received undergraduate and graduate degrees at UH Mānoa between 2002 and 2022. This 25% also represents the combined numbers of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in Hawaiʻi’s population, which supports the UH mission of increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion, with an emphasis of representation of Indigenous students, as an accredited Indigenous serving university (WASC).
Higher costs of living make it harder to stay in school
However, over the past few years, the costs of attending nursing school, including both academic and clinical programs, has increased for these students, especially those enrolled in the graduate degree programs. Also, higher costs of living in Hawaiʻi have made it difficult for some to not only succeed in school, but to even continue their education.
Program Director Nālani Minton notes that some ʻIKE AO PONO nursing students may need economic support in many areas of life beyond education, including child care, transportation, food security, computers and printers, internet access, medical costs, rent subsidy, etc. This became very evident during the pandemic and has increased with rapidly rising costs of living in Hawaiʻi. Many are first-generation students who need greater support from ʻIKE AO PONO. These are some of the urgent imperatives creating the need for increased financial support.
Hawaiʻi’s nursing shortage
Hawaiʻi has a severe shortage of nurses statewide, which is why programs like ʻIKE AO PONO are so critical to the health and wellness of every community in the islands.
Your gift to support ʻIKE AO PONO will help Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and Native American nursing students stay in school and thrive so they may become health care professionals and contribute to the care of their communities.
“We're really trying to look at the regenerative and circular economic models that support a sustainable Hawaiʻi,” says Minton. “By supporting ʻIKE AO PONO, you support the community, you support health and health care, which supports your own life and your family’s lives, and you also contribute to higher education and to social justice for Indigenous nurses.”