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Muʻo Aʻe: A Pillar Of Support For Native Hawaiian Students

Muʻo Aʻe: A Pillar Of Support For Native Hawaiian Students
November 21, 2020 Britney Bautista
Photograph Provided By Britney Bautista, Mu’O A’e

The University of Hawaii Maui College has a variety of staff and faculty available to help and guide young men and women to success. Yet, students only get a chance to meet a handful of these wonderful individuals each semester. For this reason, this article which highlights Muʻo Aʻe kicks off a series that explores various student support services in hopes of helping the students build a better pilina, or connection.

Muʻo Aʻe offers native Hawaiian haumāna (students) unique educational opportunities that perpetuate cultural knowledge and traditions. They provide a sense of place that nurtures and enhances self-identity and helps students to make connections to achieve excellence.  Muʻo Aʻe was instrumental in me meeting two friends and creating a great new friendship.  I was able to pay for college and I learned to understand Hawaiian practices and traditions. 

The Muʻo Aʻe program is funded by the Department of Education and is located by the Harbor Lights complex near the Veteran’s Resource center. Their building is called Kaiao Lab. Some services include First Year Experience activities, Mandatory Muʻo Aʻe orientation Academic Advising/Academic Progress Monitoring & Intervention, Peer Mentoring/Peer Tutoring, Priority Registration, Cultural Activities and Workshops, Specifically Designed Courses, Mōhala Alakaʻi: Emerging Leaders Program and Summer Bridge Program (FREE Tuition and Books). The Kaiao Lab is open for everyone on campus but non-Muʻo Aʻe students are only offered free printing up to 20 pages. The requirements to be part of the Mu’o A’e program are that a student must be Native Hawaiian, Accepted to UH Maui College, First-time attending college, Part-time student (minimum of 6 credits) OR Full-time student (12+ credits), and Committed to participate in our program services.

Photograph Provided By Britney Bautista

My Experience with Moʻu Aʻe

I was part of the last cohort and there were 4 cohorts before me. It was my senior year of high school that I went to the library to register for classes and learn about the different services for incoming freshmans. There I met Kristi Ishikawa who is the Title III Counselor Coordinator who guided me through the application process. A few weeks before my first semester of college, I attended an orientation that lasted a few days long. We learned about different services, thought about our “Hua” or the reason we are attending college, we shared three things from our culture, visited paeloko where we helped in the taro field, and experienced a traditional ceremony at the end of our three day conference. During the conference, I found two new friends which made it easier to transition from highschool to college. Oddly enough, we were in the English 100 course which is specifically for Muʻo Aʻe students and we sat in the same row which was amazing. I had people to talk to and hangout with during free time too. My peer mentors were Ihilani Marchello and Amele Joaquin. Other staff I met are Lexi Figueroa, Class Tutor/Peer Mentor, Shannon Iʻi Peer mentor, Mariah “Keaka” Aumua Student Support Services Specialist, Benjamin Guerrero Director Administrative Assistant, Treyanna-Lee Freitas Educational Support Assistant, and Aaron Viencent Peer Mentor. These peer mentors are students as well and this is a paying job. When I would bring home lunch, I would always eat it in the Kaiao Lab because that was the only place on campus where I could relax and be away from the noise and other people to relax and destress from classes. I was able to use their bathrooms and microwave as well!

The most influential person I met was Krisit Ischikawa.  At our orientation we visited Paeloko which is in Waihee/Waiehu and participated in a difficult activity.  I was overwhelmed and Kristi pulled me aside to have a one on one pep-talk!  This helped a lot, she told me that not everything you do will be completed the first time, it takes time and not to worry about anyone else.  I felt my disability wasn’t a barrier and she empowered me to feel capable.  Each time I struggled, she’d remind me to stay motivated and keep moving forward.  

Photograph Provided By Britney Bautista

The cultural event I enjoyed the most was when we had a party and watched ‘’Kuleana”. This movie is about the real Hawaii with a message of caring for the land and being responsible. Snacks were provided and most of the students in my cohort were there for fun and fellowship. I was recommended for the Mohala Alakai Emerging Leaders Program and I couldn’t have been more excited to give back to Mu’o A’e to help benefit student academic journeys to success.

Overall, Mu’o A’e has made a lasting impact on my life and in having the opportunity to attend college and receive my associate degree in early childhood education.  Sadly, Mu’o A’e’s five year grant ended this Fall 2020 semester but their building is still on campus and in the process of renewing their grant and re-designating the program. Some of the staff will still be here and some have already left the campus to pursue other ventures and move on from the UHMC campus.  I am definitely proud to say that I was a Mu’o A’e graduate who received tremendous support and guidance from their hard working staff.  Thank you Mu’o A’e.

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