By Rachel Breitweser ’03
When Xuan Nguyen ’19 arrived at Punahou in the sixth grade, she found herself in a place “brimming with opportunity.” She met her dearest friend, learned how to shoot a bow at camp, and was among those selected to deliver their Damon Speech to the entire seventh-grade class. While in the Academy, Nguyen joined the yearbook team, and is now in her third year as Oahuan editor.
Without financial aid, Nguyen acknowledges she would not have had any of these enriching experiences, which she believes have opened up countless opportunities. “Equipped with knowledge and provided with choice, I know I can be something great,” she told a crowd who recently gathered at the President’s home to be recognized for their contributions to student financial aid.
The School’s Changing Lives Challenge has resulted in $16 million in new gifts and pledges to the financial aid endowment. Those gifts have been an integral part of the nearly $50 million raised in support of need-based financial aid through the Ku’u Punahou Campaign.
Over the last four years, the percentage of the student body supported by financial aid has risen from 15 to 20 percent. Some 745 students received a total of $7.6 million in aid during the 2018 – 2019 school year – a $2.2-million increase from what was awarded in 2015.
Donors who attended the event said their gifts stemmed from a desire to make Punahou accessible to those who may not otherwise have the opportunity to be part of the School.
“If you believe in Punahou, you believe in financial aid,” said former teacher Pal Eldredge ’64. “They go hand in hand with each other.”
Fellow donor Mari Shiraishi ’98 also was inspired to extend the Punahou experience to a larger and more diverse population of students. “Punahou encourages you to be who you are and pursue what you want to do,” she said. “I always wanted to be able to give back and give that experience to someone else, too.”
For her part, Nguyen said the gift of a Punahou education has changed her life, filling her with courage, compassion and confidence. Three things determine success – opportunity, industry and luck, she told donors. “Thanks to your generosity, I had opportunity.”