An open letter to my Boy 3, Tom Kalamapono

These young men are Pono'I and Pono B. My son is on the left. He is a freshman at Reed College in Oregon and I just saw a post on Instagram that he is feeling homesick. As a mother of a Native Hawaiian boy, this is alarming to me. The statistics on our Native Hawaiian students who get into universities or community colleges is pretty good. We can get them in. But the percentage of Native Hawaiian students who drop out after their freshman year is atrocious. We have about a 60% drop out rate after their freshman year. So this is just my letter to him.

Dear Pono,

I just got a newsletter in my inbox from Reed and I was drawn to the article written by Mylion Trulove, your Dean of Admission. He is the one that called and invited you and talked us through the process. 

This is what I found out. There were 5,705 applicants (including you) who applied. Maybe for some this was not their first choice, but I know that Reed was your first choice. They accepted 357 of you. I think Milyon personally called all of you. That is an acceptance rate of 31%. 5,300 students got the "sorry" letter.

He gave more statistics. I know you've heard them before about your freshman class. Yes, you are not the 10% who are valedictorians, nor are you the 2% that are salutatorians. You are not even the 32% who are ranked in the top 5% of their class. However, the average SAT scores for your freshman class was 680 math, 710 verbal and 680 writing. That IS you. 

Mylion also talked about how he tried to look for both academic aptitude and diversity, so 34% of you identify yourselves as an ethnic minority. Here is the break down, and this is what I really want you to hear. The ethnic breakdown (not counting the 10% international students) are:
  • Asian-American, 15.7% 
  • Black, 3.2% 
  • Caucasian, 66.3% 
  • Hispanic, 11.2%
  • Native American, 3.2%
  • Pacific Islander 0.3%
Do you know what 0.3% of 357 students is? It is ONE. That's you. You are the only kanaka maoli freshman at Reed College.

That may sound like you are alone, but you would be wrong. You, my one boy carry with you 357 plus, plus kūpuna who travel in front of you to guide your path, to keep you company and to support you. You will never be alone.  All of our mana travels with you. You are stronger than you feel. You are able to walk tall because you are carried by those who love you. I love you son. I am proud of you. I know you can do this. 

In the words of Kamehameha I, "I mua e nā pōki‘i, e inu i ka wai ‘awa‘awa. ‘A ‘ohe hope e ho‘i mai ai." (Forward, brothers. Drink of the bitter water. There is no hope of retreat.) 

Ke aloha nui,


Titah Thoughts said…
Pololei e mama. I can empathize with Ponolani being away from the loving environment at home. Besides all the opportunities available to you at Reed, know that you are made of strong stuff!!

Your aunty Becky was feeling the same way when she was at Chapman University. If eating local food will help you out...bust out the Cup Noodle or better yet, try and find an L and L Drive In in your area. That is one thing that helped Becky out.

Know that your 'ohana is sending much love and hot air to fill your sails into new seas of adventure. Sail forth! Much love...Gma

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