HFC’s $2,500 Journalism Scholarship Is An Investment In The Future Of Hawaii’s Media

by Edna R. Bautista, Ed.D., Journalism Scholarship Chair

For the fourth year in a row, notwithstanding the financial impact of a global pandemic, the Hawaii Filipino Chronicle (HFC) continues to offer a $2,500 scholarship to Hawaii’s future journalists.

The publishers, editors and staff of the newspaper, now in its 29th year, believe that the journalism scholarship program is an investment in its future and in the field of journalism and mass communications (JMC), especially in the 50th state.

Filipino and Filipino-Americans represent the fastest growing ethnic group in Hawaii and make up 23% of the state’s population. They comprise the largest Pacific Islander cultural community in America yet are sorely underrepresented in JMC and the media.

“This is why it is important for the Chronicle to continue to offer a scholarship program for Fil-Ams so that we have people who share our interests and needs and advocate for the Filipino community,” said Chona Montesines-Sonido, publisher and managing editor of the Chronicle.

“Without a voice and our voice being silenced due to underrepresentation in the media, we are at the mercy of other people. To be empowered, Filipinos must have a strong representation in the media to control their destiny and future in the scheme of things in our community.”The journalism scholarship program was established in 2019 as a culmination of the Chronicle’s year-long celebration of its silver jubilee. The newspaper was able to survive and flourish while numerous other print publications have ceased due to a drastic shift to digital communication consumerism.

Grateful for its longevity, but also realizing the decline of enrollment of JMC majors in higher education, especially Filipinos, the Chronicle wanted to give back more to the community.

Declining enrollments in JMC schools adversely affect the number of qualified graduates entering the workforce. The Chronicle hopes that this journalism scholarship program is a good motivator for local Filipino students to study and work in Hawaii’s media and reverse the situation.

Journalism, mass communications and media-related majors of Fil-Am heritage are strongly encouraged to apply for the scholarship for a chance to win financial assistance for tuition and the opportunity to write for the Chronicle, which showcases their writing skills and gets them established as professionals with byline credits. They can also tell stories from their perspectives and experiences of being young Fil-Ams in Hawaii.

“We need future Fil-Am writers and leaders in the fields of journalism and mass communications.  We are short of Filipino journalists who will continue our work and serve the Filipinos and our community-at-large in the future,” Sonido said.

Help fund The Filipino Media Foundation
The journalism scholarship is funded through the Filipino Media Foundation, a nonprofit organization that administers the annual program.

The Chronicle was able to raise funds for the scholarship and award its first winner, Alyssa Acob, at its 25th Anniversary Celebration, Excellence Awards and Gala Dinner in November 2019. A mere few months later, COVID-19 hit the world, affecting people physically, socially, mentally and economically.

Since then, “due to the pandemic, we have not done any fundraising activities and it is very timely to do one this year and continue on next year. We need to continually replenish and sustain the foundation so we can continue offering the scholarship program,” Montesines-Sonido said.

There were enough funds to award scholarships to two more winners, Brenna Flores in 2020 and Jasmine Sadang in 2021. But more money is needed to help future Fil-Am JMC scholars in Hawaii.

During the early times of the pandemic, when in-person classes moved online, students were able to get a few financial breaks as some universities and colleges froze tuition rates or offered refunds and discounts. Forbes has reported that “for both students and colleges, the coronavirus crisis has created a massive disruption in the financial ‘norm’ of higher education.”

Now, as the nation adapts to living with ongoing COVID cases as well as faces inflation, most financial breaks are over. College tuition and fees have long been a concern for students and their families and the outlook for the affordability of higher education is unfavorable. It is expected to get even more expensive.

Declining enrollments, shortages of staff that put pressure to increase wages and benefits and the overall higher costs of food (meal plans), housing and technology are some of the factors that necessitate a tuition hike for schools to stay in business, according to The Hechinger Report, a national nonprofit news organization that focuses on inequality and innovation in education.

In efforts to address the skyrocketing costs of higher education in America, the Biden-Harris Administration recently decided on a controversial loan forgiveness plan. The three-part Student Debt Relief Plan aims to help working and middle-class federal student loan borrowers transition back to regular payment as pandemic-related support expires, according to the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) Federal Student Aid Office. The Chronicle’s Sept. 17 edition covered this plan more in depth.

Part 1 of the plan is to extend the student loan repayment pause (originally the end of August but extended one last time through Dec. 31, 2022).

Part 2 of the plan is to provide targeted debt relief to low- and middle-income families; DOE will provide loan forgiveness of up to $20,000 to eligible borrowers. Part 3 of the plan is to make the student loan system more manageable for current and future borrowers; as of press-time, the Biden-Harris Administration is currently working on proposing rules to create a new income-driven repayment plan. For up-to-date information and additional details about eligibility relief, go to https://studentaid.gov/debt-relief-announcement/.

Meanwhile, because not everyone may be eligible for student loan forgiveness, the Chronicle’s journalism scholarship can be considered as an excellent source of financial aid in these challenging and uncertain economic times, and Montesines-Sonido is making an appeal to the public on behalf of the Filipino Media Foundation to help Hawaii’s Fil-Am JMC students financially and make an investment in them.

She said, “We ask our previous supporters and past donors to please contribute again to support our youth who will be the future gatekeepers and leaders of our community. They will be our ‘eyes’ and ‘ears’ looking after the welfare and benefit of our community.”

Follow up on Fil-Am scholars
Since 2019, three young Filipinas have been awarded the Chronicle journalism scholarship.

Acob, who graduated with a double major in Integrated Multimedia and Mass Communication from Hawaii Pacific University (HPU) in 2020, worked as the digital media manager at Pearlside Church in Pearl City before becoming a full-time campus missionary for Every Nation Ministries.

For Flores, who graduated with a Communication-Marketing degree from Chaminade University of Honolulu in 2021, now works as a project coordinator for TransPerfect, the world’s largest provider of language and technology solutions for global business.

Sadang is the first scholar who won as a junior in 2021. She is majoring in Communication Studies and Practices at HPU and is set to graduate a semester early at the end of this year. Since winning the scholarship, she was able to apply what she learned in school and has written some articles which were published in the Chronicle, giving her byline credits for her portfolio. One of the articles she wrote is a follow-up story about her fellow scholars in this edition.

She also learned more about the journalism process outside of school by writing for an actual community newspaper. She said, “Developing stories isn’t something you can do overnight. I’ve had to gather interviewees and sources, establish an interview method, and develop a writing schedule. This all takes time, so you have to make sure you manage your time wisely. I’ve also learned that it’s good to have a fresh pair of eyes looking at your work because they give so many fresh ideas and helpful feedback to elevate your work.”

Moreover, Sadang not only learned about the JMC field but about being a Filipino-American as well.

“Being exposed to different cultures that weren’t mine kind of strayed me away from my Filipino culture and heritage,” she admitted.

“So when I won the scholarship and got the chance to write stories for the Filipino Chronicle, I was able to find ways to connect and become closer with who I am and have always been. The topics I’ve written about are things that I rarely share with others… I never thought that they would be able to relate because they were either not Filipino or on the same boat as me. The Chronicle has in a way given me the platform to share topics that are near and dear to me and has made me more vocal about the things I am passionate about.”

During the summer, Sadang secured an internship at Six Pillars Marketing. She said, “My responsibilities as an intern included performing audits, giving suggestions for their clients’ Instagram pages, updating websites, creating reposted content on social media and assisting with various campaigns. I had to put my journalistic/writing skills to use when I was creating captions and writing content for social media posts. These caption projects required me to use the art of storytelling to find ways to promote their clients and their tenants.”

As graduation in December nears, Sadang has been very grateful for the Chronicle scholarship experiences and opportunities, reflecting that it provided her with useful skills and motivation to continue her work and education in this field.

“I’m excited to continue the work I’ve been doing this past year and to look for opportunities with other organizations and companies where I can apply my skills,” she said.

“After graduating from HPU this year, I plan to dip my talents and skills more in the journalism/mass comm/media fields by taking internships and looking for job opportunities while also working on my social media presence to show that I am able to create content and engage users.”

Support the scholars
The scholarship recipients expressed their deepest appreciation for the opportunities they received from the program and encourage continued support and donations.“From the beginning, thank you so much, HFC, for giving me this opportunity. It’s been a blessing from the moment I received word of winning the scholarship to now being able to see others impacted by this program. Thank you!” Acob said.

“I hope more people can donate to our scholarship program because I shared how the scholarship has helped me. It’s beyond just the financial aspect of it. With this scholarship, you get to be a part of investing in the future of upcoming writers, journalists, media managers, news anchors, radio hosts, etc. By donating, you also get to be a part of encouraging and uplifting students who may not feel like they deserve it, but they get to know there are people who do believe in them and want to set them up for success.”

Flores also appealed to others to “please donate to the HFC scholarship program because your donation gives Filipinos like me, Alyssa, Jasmine and all those scholarship recipients who come after us the opportunity to immerse in our Filipino culture while also exploring our passion for writing and connecting with a mass audience through the gift of storytelling. Your donation gives us that chance.”

“As a scholarship recipient, I could not be any more grateful for your gift and for giving me a voice through my writing, which I have done for the Hawaii Filipino Chronicle. Please donate what you can to ensure young Filipino writers in Hawaii can follow their passion,” Flores added.

“The support for the scholarship program is a support to our Filipino youth and the community,” Montesines-Sonido said. “We are in dire need of Filipino journalists. We hope you will be able to contribute and donate to the scholarship program for our future journalists who will be our voice and advocate for us in the community in the years to come.”

Donations in any amount are welcomed, appreciated and 100% tax-deductible. Please contact the Chronicle office to get more information about the Filipino Media Foundation or to donate by calling (808) 284-4185 or sending an email to filipinochronicle@gmail.com.

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