By Calindra Revier
This semester marks the beginning of the first certificate program to be offered in Pacific Island Studies, not only at City College but the first in the nation outside the region and states of Hawaii.
Program Coordinator Professor David Ga’oupu Palaita is offering this17-unit program with a choice of an elective.
The program is for all students wishing to study and celebrate the “ocean” culture and participate in something that is first of its kind.
“The key question in our course is the concept of ocean. For islanders the ocean is central. In fact it is the organizing principle of their livelihoods, their lives, their cultures and the community,” Palaita said, reflecting on the ocean inspired curriculum.
During the completion of the program Palaita explains that students will explore other themes such as what happens to culture when it’s transplanted from the Pacific to the U.S. mainland and how things like race and gender affect the Pacific Islander community as well as how islanders are perceived in the media.
Highlights of the program also include being published in an end of semester anthology titled “Mata (to see, vision) Mai (to summon, bring in).”The anthology can also be found published in Hawaiian press.
Although Professor Palaita and many other key faculty members are facilitating the program, he emphasizes that this has ultimately been a student-driven certificate.
The certificate has been advocated by students as far back as the year 2000.
Emani Herman Ilaoa, a student at City College, looks forward to completing the program at the end of the fall semester. He is majoring in Communications and Pacific Island studies.
Ilaoa stresses the importance of having this program happen now.
“Our kids need it. Our kids are different now, they’re challenges are learning to survive amongst a western civilization as well as balance the cultural responsibilities,” he said.
He added that a big struggle is having students aware that the program is offered.
“It is the only program outside of Hawaii that is established on the continent of America. So not only is it a big deal to us, but it is historical on its own,” Ilaoa said.
The importance of community at public events, often teaming up with Poetry for the People throughout the semester including an incorporation of live performances.
Ilaoa explains that all the gatherings are open to the community and they encourage community members to come and see what the Pacific Islanders program have been doing.
Among those students who helped advocate and ultimately create this groundbreaking certificate, four have passed away while attending City College.
Rachel Fisi’iahi and Virginia Mancenido have received their honorary certificate degrees while plans are in the works of the same recognition for Bree Gutu and Samuel Elekiko Afoa.
“This certificate means more than just our accomplishment of getting something like this in our college. This certificate is recognizing those that have also passed away and given so much to our college and to our community,” Palaita said. “As a college, as a department, as a teacher, I am so happy that we have been able to fulfill this for them.”
Congressman Eni Faleomavaega applauded those who worked to have the program enacted at City College.
“I extend my gratitude and best wishes to CCSF faculty, staff, allies and community members on the launching of this pioneering program,” Faleomavaega said. “I have every confidence that the Certificate Program will be met with success and will assist CCSF in increasing success rates among our Pacific Islander students for years to come.”