Adjusting to French 101 online during the University of Hawaiʻi’s historic move to distance learning is just a fraction of the struggle for Pono Wong these days. The UH Mānoa student has dreams of becoming a high school math teacher and looks forward to graduation in 2021. But completing his college education has been hindered by financial setbacks. Wong’s hours as a student tutor at Windward Community College were drastically cut back after COVID-19 precautionary measures were put into place.
“Rent is usually the problem. Our rent is $1,200. Sometimes we can make it to the end of the month. Sometimes we have to ask for help,” he explained.
The UH Mānoa math major supports his parents and siblings in their two-bedroom apartment. He recently became the sole income provider after a life-threatening infection kept Wong’s dad from work the past several months. His tax returns have already been drained to mainly pay for rent.
Wong is still working for Windward CC’s TRiO Student Support Services but tutors strictly online. “I love my job. I love my students. They keep me motivated. They keep me on top of my game. It’s really funny, people say home is an escape. Work is my escape,” he said.
UH students in need of kōkua
Luckily, Wong is one of hundreds of UH students who have received assistance so far from the UH Urgent Student Relief Fund.
As of April 15, a fundraising campaign launched by the UHFoundation in partnership with UH raised $1 million to benefit students facing financial hardships from all 10 UHcampuses.
Wong wants donors to know how much of an impact their contribution has on students.
"A lot of my friends physically cried because they now had enough money to eat. Enough money to go on,"
- Pono Wong