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Janis Magin   |   Staff Writer
May 7, 2024
  • Dayle and James Yamaguchi Onishi

Growing up as the youngest of five children on a five-acre coffee farm on Hawaiʻi Island, Dayle Yamaguchi Onishi watched her older siblings attend Hawai’i Community College and one sister move to O’ahu to attend Kapi’olani Community College.

Dayle assumed that she would follow in her siblings’ footsteps at a community college, but her high school English teacher urged her to attend a four-year university. She decided to go to the University of Hawai’i at Hilo, then called Hilo College.

“Growing up on a coffee farm in Captain Cook in Kona, higher education at a university was not in my plans, but I decided to take a chance,” she said.  “It was a chance that paid off in so many ways; a bachelor’s degree in sociology, making life-long friends in the dorms and exposure to different cultures and peoples.  I came away with a broader perspective of the world. If I had not gone to Hilo College, my life would be very different today”.

A part-time job at the UH Hilo campus library led her to a career as a library assistant and then as a library technician for more than a dozen years for the Hawaiʻi State Public Library System. She worked on Kauaʻi and Hawaiʻi Island and later at the UH West Hawaiʻi Campus Library.

But her desire to help people led her to various social work/case management positions within the Department of Human Services; mostly on Hawaiʻi Island and later, on Oʻahu. The jobs were varied and clients ranged from keiki to kūpuna. She retired in 2016 with nearly 32 years of government service.

These days she is a PPT (para-professional teacher), assisting teachers at an elementary school near her home in Honolulu.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Dayle found a new connection to UH by taking Zoom classes through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UH Mānoa. “It was a way to stay socially connected to others and I was taking classes that interested me.  The Zoom classes saved me from isolation”. 

Dayle and her husband, James, have another connection to UH; they are both avid UH sports fans.  “My husband is a UH men’s basketball season-ticket holder.  He’s a fanatic; he loves UH sports and I do, too…basketball, volleyball and football.” 

They’re both donors to UH Mānoa Athletics and have now committed to a planned legacy gift in their estate plan.

In summary, Dayle believes that a bachelor’s degree from the University of Hawaiʻi gave her opportunities to learn and grow and ultimately have a career in social services. She highly encourages high school students to achieve their diploma and go on to higher education.

Dayle says, “While going to a university may not be right for everyone, it was for me. I’m not sure where I would be today if I hadn’t gone to UH Hilo.  That experience and degree opened up new worlds for me and I am forever grateful for that.”

If you would like to learn how you can support UH students and programs like this, please contact us at 808-956-8700 or send us a message.