Going to college as a first generation college-goer can feel like an uphill climb. Pile on coronavirus pandemic challenges like heightened anxiety, distance learning and sheltering in place, and that hill can feel like a mountain.
But for Daniela, Andy, Victoria and Antonio — four such students who are also EAH Housing scholarship winners — resilience, grit and affordable housing helped make those challenges feel a little more like bumps in the road.
Daniela has been living for the past nine years with her parents and three brothers at Stonebridge, an EAH Housing community in St. Helena, Calif. Though she’s not yet chosen a major at nearby Napa Valley College, Daniela says she’s attracted to work helping others and is considering pursuing teaching, school counseling or social work.
When she was younger, inspired by help she received from Revalee, a former EAH Housing resource coordinator and homework helper, Daniela in turn began helping Stonebridge kids with their homework. She enjoyed it so much she imagined becoming a teacher — of Spanish or Math.
“I would really like to pursue a career that focuses on making a positive change in the world,” she says. “Ever since I was a child, I have always wanted to do something greater than myself.”
Andy, a sophomore studying animation and digital arts at the University of Southern California, has been back living with his parents at Kukui Tower, the EAH Housing community where he grew up in Honolulu. But he considers himself lucky; he got to spend most of his first year on campus before the coronavirus forced him to return to Hawaiʻi.
Andy’s been drawing since he was 2 when he was fascinated by dinosaurs and trucks. Sparked by exposure at age 8 to the film “Avatar,” by middle school he was passionate about computer-generated animation. He hopes to become an animator himself, for video games and movies.
Andy is grateful for his EAH Housing scholarship. “I think it’s a great thing to offer scholarships to low-income students like me,” he says. “It gives us more opportunity to advance: socially, financially, and careerwise.”
Victoria, a student at California Lutheran University in Southern California, has been living with her parents at Kukui Tower, where she grew up in Honolulu. She’s a freshman music production major who played viola in high school and now studies guitar and piano.
At 10, Victoria was a One Direction fan and remembers pretending with a friend to sing and dance in music videos. Later, in high school, she was inspired by singer/songwriters like Lorde and Taylor Swift, as well as songwriter/producer Jack Antonoff. Victoria’s dream is to become a songwriter and music producer.
Victoria is grateful for her childhood in the nurturing Kukui Tower community. “Growing up here was very welcoming,” she says. “I feel very lucky to not just have had a roof over my head, but for the other opportunities, like the EAH scholarship, the computer lab, the park and swimming pool downstairs, and to have friends living only a minute away — all in a safe environment.”
Antonio grew up at Parkview Family Apartments, an EAH Housing community in San Jose, Calif. and is now in Honolulu studying music education at the University of Hawai’i, Manoa. He’s one of the few college students who has actually been living at his out-of-town campus during the coronavirus pandemic.
He’s always loved music. Joining a jazz choir in 7th grade sealed the deal. Antonio now hopes to become a music educator, first at the high school level and later at a college. “Music was the place for me to go when things got hard in school,” he says. “And I want to give that safe place to students every single day that I’m teaching.”
Taking after his hardworking parents, who already work serving others, Antonio works 20 hours a week at a local McDonald’s restaurant. His mother assists people at a job training center and his father helps students across the San Jose Unified School District improve their classwork and raise their grades.
But their low incomes made finding affordable housing a struggle. “My parents always said it was such a blessing to find this home at the Parkview Apartments,” says Antonio. “Not being the wealthiest of families, they definitely felt great relief when they were accepted into this place. My dad was so excited when we moved in; he was proud he had gotten us to a place where we would be OK.”
Andy, Daniela, Antonio and Victoria may have different backgrounds, challenges and goals. But what they have in common — a strong work ethic, family support and stable homes in EAH Housing communities — makes them unstoppable.
EAH Housing is proud to help and honor them, and along with their parents and extended families, we applaud their successes.