On November 30, 2016 Honolulu Community College celebrated its 2016 – 2017 scholarship recipients.  That evening first semester Diesel student Jameson ‘Kimo’ Park shared his personal journey that brought him to Honolulu CC.  His story  is unique yet a familiar one with many Honolulu students.  Thank you for sharing Kimo!  We wish you continued success on your path to a degree in Diesel Technology.

I graduated from ‘Iolani High School in 1992. Unlike most of my classmates though, I had no clue of what I wanted to pursue as a career. I wasn’t really interested in an office type of job and I basically had no idea as far as what type of work was available to me. I went to school at Kapi’olani Community College, but for the most part I was just going through the motions and just getting by in school. Eventually I was able to transfer to UH Manoa, but since I wasn’t at all interested in academics or any of the fields of study offered there, I barely attended class and found myself expelled not much longer after that.

As the years passed, I found myself working a variety of limited opportunity types of jobs. I worked as a waiter, I worked in a grocery store, I was a fish cutter and briefly a bartender. None of these jobs offered me much of a future, but they paid enough to allow me to keep goofing around and continue not doing anything to make a decent future for myself. As I entered my thirties, I hit a pretty rough patch in my life and experienced more than a few major disappointments. I learned a lot of hard lessons that forced me to grow up and wise up. I quickly realized that I needed a better life plan and finding a career was an important part of that plan.

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Jameson ‘Kimo’ Park

In the back of my mind, I knew that the best path to a good career was school, but nothing had changed for me as far as my attitude towards a university education. I had tried a couple of times to “go back to school” and had failed miserably for the most part. Then, one night while I was on social media (Instagram), an old neighborhood friend of mine that now lives on Molokai posted a picture with the caption that he was back in school, trying to get his Associates Degree. This guy was the same age as me, had a family, had a job, lived on Moloka’i, and he was doing his thing and going to school to get a degree. He literally inspired me to get my butt in gear and make a better life for me and my family.

From my previous experience with college, I knew that finding a trade was probably a better option than trying to earn a four-year degree. I knew Honolulu CC offered many vocational programs and I decided to look online at what they offered. A story that had stuck in my mind throughout the years was about a schoolmate of mine who had been hired by the Stevedores as a diesel mechanic. My father is a general contractor, but I had no interest in carpentry. I wasn’t interested in automotive and didn’t see a future with gasoline engines. Seeing all of the construction going on in Hawai’i and having a few friends in the construction industry, I realized that most of the heavy equipment was powered by diesel engines. It seemed like a field I would be interested in and something about Diesel just stuck in my mind.

Around September of last year, I called Shannon Miho, one of the counselors at Honolulu CC who advises for the Diesel program. She was very helpful and highly recommended the Diesel program, saying that it had just recently been revived and was offered only once every two years. I would be able to enroll for the Spring 2016 semester to take care of some prerequisites, and the Diesel classes would begin in Fall 2016. With the unwavering approval and total support from my wife, I enrolled at Honolulu CC and am currently in the first semester of the Diesel program.

One of the sacrifices I needed to make in order to attend Honolulu CC was that I needed to adjust my work schedule to accommodate my school schedule. I am currently employed by Costco Wholesale and they were gracious enough to work around my classes. Unfortunately, that meant cutting my hours to about half of what I used to work. As a result, my current income is roughly half of what I used to earn. This is one of the reasons why the scholarship money from Hawthorne Cat is so important to me. In addition to the cost of tuition and my decreased income, tools and equipment are an essential expense for the Diesel Program. To give some idea as to the cost of these tools, just for the first year of Diesel, my tools and equipment have cost over $5,000. By the second year of the program, all of the Diesel students will need at least another few thousand dollars worth of air ratchets and tools.

Donations and scholarships such as the one provided by Hawthorne CAT are both greatly needed and truly appreciated. As we all know, the cost of living in Honolulu, Hawai’i is one of the highest in the nation, and every little bit of financial aid helps. Also, as the Diesel Program continues to grow, scholarships and donations of modern engines and equipment will allow the graduates of Honolulu Community College to be some of the best trained and well prepared diesel mechanics statewide and maybe even nationwide. Every contribution and scholarship made available to the students of Honolulu CC is sincerely appreciated with the promise of producing valuable members of the workforce of the future.

Coming back to school over twenty years removed from my high school graduation has not been the easiest thing to do. However, I am very excited to be on the path to a new and lucrative career. The classes so far have been challenging, but having a more hands on type of education is much more interesting for me than lectures and traditional classrooms. I don’t believe that a four-year college is the answer for everybody, and so far the path of vocational trade schooling is a much more natural fit for me. I look forward to the next two years and learning as much as I can from Mr. Salvatierra about being a diesel mechanic. After graduation, I hope to get a job either in the construction industry or with the shipyards. For maybe the first time in my life, I have the opportunity to have a career rather than a just a job, and I can’t wait to see where this journey takes me. Thank you.

Photos by Nick Smith