By Deanne Kehau Pong
Deanne Kehau Pong is a recipient of the Cornelia F. and Roy Sakamoto Scholarship. This is her thank-you letter to donors.
Cancer stole a piece of my life
From the day I set foot on campus at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa I knew I loved education and the opportunities it would afford me. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education in May 2017, and my dream of becoming a teacher was fulfilled.
After surviving breast cancer in 2013, I realized that it stole a piece of my life I could never get back. Going back to school and attending UH Mānoa was a way for me to take my life back! Financially and emotionally, I did not know if I could manage it. Medical bills eventually robbed me of income I could’ve used toward my education.
In 2015 I was accepted into the College of Education where I had to face the reality that I might not be able to afford the high cost of tuition and books. The thought of pushing my dreams aside again crossed my mind, but inside I always knew I had a greater purpose in life. Still filled with so much more living to do, I took a chance and embarked on a journey that began in August 2015 and ended with my graduation from UH Mānoa College of Education in 2017.
A little nudge toward a missing piece
Fast forward three years and here I am! Little did I know at the time that I would eventually return to the UH Mānoa campus as a graduate student. With a little nudge from an admired professor at the College of Education, I applied to the master’s program in Curriculum Studies and was accepted into the Aloha Kumu program.
As an educator I always knew I’d love teaching and I do, but something was missing.
As a graduate student I have found that missing piece. It is through the introduction to Philosophy for Children, also known as p4c, that I have found a renewed passion for what I do in the classroom. In our cohort we focus on p4c as a way to engage children in critical thinking through collaborative conversations. It is amazing what p4c has done for the children of Hawai‘i and our hope is that more schools will incorporate p4c into their curriculum.
Your gift has been a blessing to me and to my family as it afforded me the opportunity to further my education and embark on this journey in the Aloha Kumu cohort where I have forged relationships with amazing people. I am grateful to have this opportunity to deepen my beliefs and keep me grounded in the reasons I went into teaching.
These past three semesters, I have experienced amazing things. For example, this semester I was enrolled in an Education for Social Justice course, which culminated in my presenting in the 10th International Conference on Education and Social Justice. You’re more than welcome to view the video, “Hawai‘i’s Transition to Online Education: Now and in the Future,” which my colleague and I presented at the conference. I would never have imagined that I would be presenting at a prestigious conference with Dr. Kevin Kumashiro, renowned author and educator in social justice.
These experiences and more are all opportunities I am so thankful for.
My future vision is to create a safe place for my students to share ideas without fear and to dare to dream! If all that I learn today will help at least one child, then it will be worth it. My goal is to continuously evolve and grow as an educator. Like I tell my students, “Try your best,” that’s all that I can ask of them and of myself. To this day I believe this to be true: if I try my best, I will always succeed!
I am forever grateful for your generosity and kindness. One thing I will take away from this moment, is that although 2020 has been a tough year for all of us, it doesn’t have to get us down. In fact, it can be the resilience and perseverance I see in our children where I learn the most valuable lessons. At times I am blown away by what our children have to teach us about life. If we just take a moment to slow down and listen to them, there’s so much that we can learn. I hope to be as resilient as my students and learn to persevere in any situation.
I want to thank the Sakamoto family for your financial support. Your generosity has touched my life in more ways than you could imagine. If it were not for your generosity, I would never have fulfilled my dream of attending graduate school.
Mahalo for all you’ve done for me, and I hope to pay it forward someday to help others in the same way that you have helped me.