With scholarship help, single mom earns college degree to ‘fight for’ Oahu’s homeless

She wanted to get her degree to be a better teacher, but couldn't afford the cost of college.
Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 4:38 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 21, 2023 at 4:52 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In 2016, Abigail Eli and her children moved into a Waianae homeless camp for two months to experience what houseless families face, so she could help them.

The best way, she decided, was to tutor the youth who struggle in school.

In order to do it well, she needed a college degree.

“I was fighting to continue my educational journey because I was in love with these kids,” she said. “I saw that if someone didn’t rise up and fight for them then who would. They would have no chance.”

The single mom and sole provider for her family couldn’t afford college tuition, so she applied for scholarships and HawaiiUSA Federal Credit came through.

“It’s amazing to know that there were companies like HawaiiUSA that believed in people like me, who have supported me,” she said.

HawaiiUSA has awarded more than $800,000 in scholarships since its scholarship program began in 1990. Each year, 20 scholarships are handed out worth $2,000 apiece.

“We give twelve scholarships to graduating high school seniors, and we give another eight scholarships to existing college students. They can be studying undergrad or in a graduate program,” said Katey Mobley, the credit union’s chief growth officer.

HawaiiUSA helped fund Abbi’s entire college education. In December, she earned her four-year degree in secondary education and math from Chaminade University.

“So you’re taking a girl who really struggled with math and then I’m taking calculous and trigonometry, and I have been a 4.0 student all the way through,” she said.

Abbi and her staff at Makaha Community Center now work with hundreds of homeless families. She feels better equipped to tutor the youth she works with who come from homeless situations, transitional shelters, and public housing.

“I would like to be able to help many others to be able to see their potential despite the circumstances that life has them in. They can make it,” she said.

HawaiiUSA awards scholarships based on financial need, academics, and other factors. And you need to be a credit union member to qualify.

“It’s expensive here. We’re just trying to help them in however we can,” Mobley said.

To find out more about HawaiiUSA’s annual program, go to hawaiiusafcu.com and search for scholarship.

That’s what Abbi did, and it paid off. Now she’s going for her master’s degree.

“It’s one of those scholarships I’ve been able to depend on,” she said. “They have no idea how much of an impact they have made in my life and my kids’ lives and the many generations that are going to come after me. It’s huge.”