“Everything pointed downhill for me, as my world was full of failure by people who were supposed to raise me,” says Bernadette Pada, a student in Windward Community College’s Paipai o Ko‘olau program. “My childhood was rough, and I was abused by family members, but I was resilient.”
Bernadette first heard about Paipai o Ko‘olau through a counselor at WCC. The program provides academic, personal, and financial support so that first-generation students who were not otherwise headed for college might lead a transformation in their community.
Now in her last semester before transferring to UH Mānoa, she credits the program’s donors for allowing her to continue her education.
“It wouldn’t be possible if not for supporters of this program.”
What obstacles did you have to overcome in achieving academic success?
Being able to afford school, and being a single parent with no support from family. It’s a challenge to find class schedules to fit with my work schedule, and to find someone to watch my two daughters while I’m in class, doing my homework, or taking test.
Was there a moment when you thought you might not make it?
Yes. When going into my second semester back to school, I was working a full time job as a manager and my schedule wasn’t working out. I looked for another job that would be more flexible with my schedule. But yes, that moment came, and I got through it with help from Sarah Akina, the program coordinator.
In what way is college more difficult than you expected, and in what way was it easier than you expected?
It was way more difficult to find a balance between work and homework, as my classes would overlap my work schedule. It was easier than I expected to get help when I needed it. I always had my counselors and peers to help me out.
What I learned through this program is that even if you don’t have family to support you, there are always people in the community who believe in you and want you to succeed, like the people at Paipai o Ko‘olau.
What qualities are most important for a student’s success in Paipai o Ko‘olau?
Drive and integrity! Although it took me a little while to get here, I am still here fighting for a better life for my daughters and me.
What are your hopes for the near future?
There are so many things I have planned for my future, it makes me super excited to continue my education. My number one hope for my future is graduating from UH Mānoa with my bachelor’s degree, and moving on to my master’s. Then if my schedule allows, my PhD in social work.
Everything I went through as a child has influenced my decision to go into social work, because I want to help people who are in need, and to give other children hope that they can succeed in anything they want to.