Kukui Tower computer lab class was first step to EAH scholarship winner’s career at IBM

Resident Story EAH Housing Weon Yuan Kukui Towern Honolulu Hawaii
Resident Story EAH Housing Weon Yuan Kukui Towern Honolulu Hawaii
During a college study-abroad semester in Japan Weon hiked to the top of Mt. Fuji where he was photographed at dawn

Poughkeepsie, New York, February 2019 – Weon grew up at Kukui Tower, an EAH Housing community in Honolulu, where he first encountered computers in Kukui’s computer lab. He was instantly captivated. Years later, inspired by a high school English teacher and supported by an EAH Housing scholarship, he completed a computer science degree at Marist College and went on to work at IBM.

“The program at Kukui Tower made me fall in love with computers at an early age,” he says.

Six years ago, Weon, now 24, landed a spot in Marist’s computer science program, 6,000 miles east of Honolulu near an IBM campus in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. An internship at IBM led to a part-time job there, which became a full-time job after he graduated two years ago.

“The scholarship I received from EAH helped a lot, because I was able to pay for tuition, and room and board without having to ask my parents for money,” says Weon, who also received a financial aid package from Marist. While his parents worked hard to pay their bills — his father as a cook in a Chinese restaurant, his mother as a house cleaner and seamstress — there was little left to save for his college expenses.

Weon first began writing software, in Java, as a junior in the McKinley High School robotics club. Watching robots follow instructions he had written awakened his hunger to create more complicated programs. Today, he and his IBM team are developing a graphical interface system for operating mainframe computers.

In his new home, 85 miles north of New York City, Weon has gradually acclimated to the weather extremes, made new friends and shared his Hawaiian food favorites, including spam musubi, a sushi-like dish, and loco moco, a hearty breakfast of rice and a hamburger patty topped with a fried sunnyside-up egg and beef gravy.

Weon’s two older brothers — one a baker, the other a U.S. Army soldier — continue living on Oahu. But Weon chose to go to the mainland, not just for college, but for exposure to a different culture.

“You can go off to a mainland school just to get a different perspective on life,” says Weon. “Hopefully you come back with a brand new view, and the ability to help your home and people live better in the future.”

One day Weon hopes to do just that, bringing his computer science skills back to Hawaiʻi. But the cost of living, particularly of housing, is a concern. He offers praise to EAH Housing for aiding many families, including his, by offering them affordable housing.

“What EAH Housing is doing is a really great cause,” says Weon.