It is estimated that there are only 2,000 full Hawaiians in the world today, and Nicole “Pono” Correa is proud to be a part of that small group from the islands.
Correa, a sophomore animal science major and aspiring vet, is of Hawaiian, Portuguese, Spanish, Irish and Chinese decent. She left her family in Waialua, Oahu and came to CSU two years ago to get into vet school.
“Going from being on an island to being on the mainland is a big transition,” Correa said. “You feel like you don’t know where you are and you lose your direction.”
Hui’ O Hawaii, a Hawaiian student club, organized a Lu’au in the Main Ballroom of the Lory Student Center on Sunday evening as a way to celebrate and share the Hawaiian culture with students, faculty, and community members.
The 200 attendees enjoyed traditional Hawaiian food as well as entertainment from members of the club, some of whom danced, sang, and recited a Hawaiian prayer in the native language.
Taylor “Kawika” Ronne, a senior environmental engineering major, attended the Lu’au to celebrate his Hawaiian roots.
“I grew up in Colorado Springs,” he said. “But my family is from Hawaii and I grew up with a lot of Hawaiian values and learning about the culture.”
“Giving and sharing are big parts of the culture,” he added. “Along with family. ”
As vice president of Hui’ O Hawaii, Correa said that she has found her place at CSU. She said the club is set up to give students from Hawaii a smooth transition by holding potlucks, attending events together and having “fun getting involved.”
Correa’s family still lives in Oahu, which she said has been the greatest difficulty in transitioning because family is everything for a lot of people on the islands.
The goal of the club is to provide the family support system that students miss when they move to the mainland, she said.
She said that in things in the continental U.S. are faster paced and people are more independent — they don’t rely as much on their family.
“I keep busy so that I don’t miss my family too much,” Correa said. “Eventually I want to go back home, but I want to see the world before I go back.”
Jennie Zhou, the treasurer of the club, has been at CSU for two years studying biology and said that the move from her home in Honolulu to Fort Collins was a culture shock at first.
Zhou said she has a traditional Chinese family and that it’s hard to be away from them, and she too stressed that in Hawaii people tend to emphasize family.
She said felt welcomed when she came to Fort Collins, but misunderstood because people get stuck on stereotypes.
“Being a minority is hard here,” she said, adding that her high school in Honolulu was 99 percent Asian or Polynesian. “But that’s what the club is for.”
Amanda Chang, co-food chair of the club, agreed with Zhou that there is a lack of diversity in Colorado as compared to Hawaii.
“The hardest part is being so far away from what you consider home,” said Chang, who was born and raised in Oahu until she came to CSU two years ago to get into vet school.
“But as much as I love Hawaii, I wanted to get away for a little while,” she said.
Staff writer Chloe Wittry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org