by Jane Nakamura (Sakamura)
In the summer of 1951, a momentous public announcement marked the beginning of many life changing events for this shy, quiet, timid and naive Lanai High School graduate. I was selected as the very first recipient of the Hawaiian Pineapple Company’s four-year college scholarship. All scholarship candidates were the children of Hapco employees working at the Dole Pineapple Cannery, the Wahiawa pineapple plantation, and the Lanai pineapple plantation. A special scholarship committee screened, interviewed, and finally selected the winner from amongst the many applicants on the basis of scholastic achievement, character and promise, good citizenship, leadership qualities, and financial need.
I never expected to win, but I had been encouraged to apply for the scholarship anyway. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” was what my parents taught me as well as “when opportunity knocks, open the door.” Many years earlier, our family had moved to Lanai from the Big Island, and my father became a carpenter for Dole who helped build many of the Lanai plantation homes. My mother worked as a salesclerk for Yet Lung Store until the store closed. After that, she worked at Richard’s Shopping Center first as a salesclerk and then as their bookkeeper. My parents worked diligently to support our family of eight. Funds were tight, and without the Dole Scholarship, affording college would have been impossible. My heart is filled with gratitude towards the Scholarship Committee, the Dole Company and especially God for the honor that was bestowed upon me.
The Dole Scholarship paid for two years at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, my Junior year at a mainland college of my choice, and my senior year back at the UH Manoa followed by graduation with a degree. They also decided to pay for my 5th year to obtain my professional teaching certificate. In addition, this remarkable, first -of-its-kind scholarship paid for all my travel expenses to and from Bucknell University in Lewisburg, PA. Attending Bucknell University was an unforgettable experience. I was the only girl from Hawaii during a period in history (1953-54) when many of our fellow-Americans thought Hawaii was a foreign land of grass shacks inhabited by native Hawaiians in hula skirts. Hawaii was not yet a State but just a Territory of the United States of America. Many of the people at Bucknell were amazed at my grasp of the English language–Some even thought I had a Bostonian accent.
Mr. Forrest Brown, director of the University YMCA which welcomed Bucknell’s “foreign” students, arranged weekly meetings where I was the guest speaker enlightening the audiences (church groups, business people. various clubs and organizations, etc.) about Hawaii. I answered questions, played the ukulele, danced the hula, and spread aloha. I was an unofficial Hawaiian ambassador. Following my UH counselor’s advice and preceding my transfer to Bucknell, I had enrolled in the Honolulu YWCA’s Beginner Hula Class which taught me “The Hukilau Song” among others which I performed at these meetings. My initial nervousness was gone as I sensed God’s presence. The scripture which sustained me was “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” from Proverbs 3:5-6. I encountered no antagonism, prejudice or racism. The people in the audience were genuinely cordial and interested in Hawaii as evidenced by their questions and comments. While only a few had visited Hawaii, many planned future visits. These weekly speaking engagements gave me self-confidence and courage.
I spent 33 years as a public school teacher. I also worked part-time in Teacher Development for the Central District for a year. After retiring from the Department of Education, I spent a number of years pursuing a part-time career in Financial Services by becoming a licensed financial advisor. Because of the Dole Scholarship, I came out of my timid shell, gained a college education, had a wonderful career teaching a generation of Hawaii’s youth, and inspired all of my four children to attend college.