For Lahaina students at UH-Manoa, home and all that was lost is always front of mind
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - AnaPaula Rodriguez Gomez is a little overwhelmed finding her classes and learning her way around the University of Hawaii Manoa campus.
The 20-year old Lahainaluna High School graduate transferred to the Oahu campus after completing two years of accounting courses at the University of Hawaii, Maui.
On Aug. 8, the day of the Lahaina wildfire, Gomez, her two brothers and their mother fled from their apartment as the flames closed. Their home is gone. So is the family store on Wainee Street.
That’s where their mother sold Mexican food and goods.
Gomez considered taking a break from school in the wake of the disaster, but reconsidered and made the move to Oahu, one week after school started. She didn’t have school supplies or clothes until a friend bought her a bag of items she could wear. “Thankfully, we’re the same size,” she said.
Gomez is one of nearly 90 students from Lahaina who enrolled at UH Manoa this year.
Others, including the student who was to be Gomez’s roomate, chose to sit out the year to help the family cope with the tragedy. Others are doing online classes so they can remain on Maui.
Michael Bruno, UH-Manoa provost, said the school is working with those impacted by the fire.
“I’ve had a number of meetings with faculty and department chairs we’ve asked them to please be patient,” he said.
The university has paused all financial requirements, too.
And Gomez said a GoFundMe is helping the family pay to replenish basic household goods.
“You don’t even need to look at your bill,” said Bruno. “We don’t want them to have any axiety about the financial aspects about what is happening.”
Gomez is grateful for all the support.
Her mother and brother are helping her get settled on Oahu before returning to Maui.
Gomez said she is already homesick and knows it will be a long road ahead for her family as they try to rebuild the store and their lives.
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