Amanda Gannon’s elder siblings all took jobs during their summer breaks from high school, working either in Maui’s pineapple fields or the cannery.
“Amanda didn’t want to do that,” says Virginia Gannon, Amanda’s mother. “She went out and found her own job, working at the Fun Factory. She was always a bit like that, determined to follow her own plan.”
Later, she approached life as a single parent with the same focus, returning to work at a car rental company when her son was three months old. “She went back to work while she was still nursing,” Virginia says.
“But she was determined to keep working, always looking for something a little better for her and her son.”
“She was often frustrated, trying to do everything right for her son: to work, to provide and to be a good mom,” says Virginia. Over the years, she worked for a rental agency, a Maui house builder, and other employers before settling as an operations manager for a national financial services firm.
Although providing for her family made it impossible for Amanda to complete her college degree, she earned numerous financial services licenses, allowing her to sell and supervise sales of financial securities. Among her credentials was the Hawai‘i State Insurance License.
Amanda was on a path she set for herself, to make a comfortable living in a field she enjoyed, when she died in a car accident at 38 years old.
Her parents Virginia and Robert (Bunky) and Amanda’s son Andrew, a student at UHMC, established the Amanda Leigh Wailana Gannon Memorial Endowed Scholarship at UH Maui College in her memory, “to make sure she’s always remembered in our heart, but also remembered by others forever,” says Virginia. “She was a single parent; we knew how difficult it had been for her to keep on working, with a child, and to make ends meet. She’d always struggled, so we thought there’s no better way than to create a scholarship for a single parent. To get them on their feet with the education they need.”
“Just keep trying”
The first recipient of Amanda’s scholarship is nursing student Kathryn Moreno.
“I had to quit my full-time job to attend school full time,” says Kathryn, “as the nursing program is very demanding. I’m living off my savings and scholarships.
"Not only will this assistance help me financially, but it allows me more time for my studies and my daughter.”
Kathryn says it’s a challenge to juggle a full-time job with single-parenting, full-time studies and making ends meet. “Thank you so much to the Gannon family,” she says. “This will help me tremendously.”
Virginia hopes Kathryn and future recipients of the scholarship will also receive a message from Amanda’s life. “She just kept on trying,” says Virginia. “You have to. Things get really, really tough, and you can’t just stop. Focus on that, set up a good support system, and do the best you can.”