“O fanau a manu e fafaga i fugala’au, ‘ae ‘o fanau a tagata e fafaga i ‘upu”

"The offspring of birds are fed with flower nectar, but the children of men are nurtured with words."

- Samoan Proverb

Parents and guardians are one of the most important deciding factors for whether a student goes to college or not. In Pacific Islander households, parents are the absolute authority, and children are expected to always respect and obey them.

If parents do not value higher education for their children, then they will not be motivated to support their children to pursue a college degree. When a child lives in a household where their education is not prioritized by the authority figure of mom or dad (or grandma, grandpa, aunty, uncle, etc.), then the child may not prioritize their education either. Therefore, it is up to parents to support and encourage their children to do well in school and pursue a college education (read the other tools to learn more about that!).

What Can You Do?

Here are some best practices that parents/guardians can do to better prepare their child for a college education (and prepare themselves for how to help their child along the way).

  • Improve your technology literacy– this is just a fancy way of saying learn how to use computers and other electronic devices. Most college related processes are done online, whether that’s applying for FAFSA, scholarships, or the admission application. Your child should be able to get that help from their college counselors, but you must also train yourself to be a resource to your child when needed.
  • If you’re not very good with computers, don’t be discouraged! You can sign up for a free computer class at any of the 7 University of Hawaii Community Colleges. Click HERE. You can also ask your family or friends to help you find tutorial videos online which can teach you how to use basic computer programs such as Microsoft Word and navigate internet browsers such as Chrome.
  • (If needed) Improve your English speaking/comprehension skills- If English is your second language, but your child’s first language, then practice speaking it with each other. The best way to learn a language is to practice and speak it as much as you can. You can practice your English which will help you to navigate the college admissions application process with your child later. You should also try to read as much and as often as you can to improve your comprehension. Your child can also practice with you if they speak a second language. This is important because many high schools and even college degrees require a second language to graduate. You can give your child an advantage by helping them maintain their mother tongue. If you have a very hard time understanding English, then don’t be afraid to speak with your child’s school about it. The school is responsible for making sure you can get the translation services you need to be kept informed about your child’s progress in school.

“Jitdam kapeel”

“Seeking knowledge guarantees wisdom”

– Marshallese Proverb

  • Be active in your child’s education- Every day of the school year is a new opportunity to get involved with your child’s education. Talk to them about the classes they are doing well in, and the classes they are struggling with. If they need tutoring, find out how they can get that from school. If you can, join the Parent Teacher Association (PTA). Participate in college information sessions that the schools host. Encourage your child to join an extra-curricular activity such as a sport or drama club. Attend parent teacher conferences. Meet your child’s teachers and guidance counselors and make sure that your child is taking all the classes they need to graduate on time. Show your child that you value their education, by being part of it. If you have a very busy schedule, or work for long hours, then try to start with small things. For example, stay up with your child when they are studying for a test to keep them company or pack them a lunch on the morning of an important presentation, so they get the nutrition they need to do well. It can be hard to do this, but don’t give up! Your small steps will eventually grow and have a large impact.


  • Research colleges and payment options– your child should also be researching colleges and how to pay for them with their college counselor, but you can help by keeping yourself informed. For example, you can research colleges that you think might be a good fit for your child and talk with them about it. You can also learn about what the FAFSA is and what your child needs to apply for it.


  • Sign your kids up for free college opportunities program or encourage them to apply themselves– there are many programs, such as summer programs, where K-12 students can apply and be exposed to college readiness activities (check out the College Opportunities Tool!). Ask your child’s counselor about free programs as well.


Even though your child is physically going to school by themselves, they are not alone in their educational journey. You and your family, as well as the teacher, counselors, and school must all work together to navigate your child through elementary school, to middle school, to high school, and then to college and beyond. Your love and support are the final tools they need to succeed.

“Angan Chok Aramas”

only through people that the work can be done.

– Chuukese Proverb