From rehab to Windward grad

WCC commencement speaker Jarnell Haukoloa

WCC commencement speaker Jarnell Haukoloa

Most people fill out their college application in the comfort of their own home, but Jarnell Haukoloa finished hers in a treatment facility.

“I’m one of those who have a buried past,” said Haukoloa, WCC’s 2015 commencement speaker.

Haukoloa had been battling a drug and alcohol addiction for more than 20 years before she went into treatment. Her sobriety has led her to graduating from WCC this spring, but it hasn’t been an easy journey.
She began using crystal meth in high school. However, she said she didn’t realize it would lead to a long addiction.

“With all honesty, being the user, you never really know you’re hooked,” said Haukoloa. “You’re actually the last one who gets the memo. Everyone around you can see it, but the sickness is that strong—the most magnified form of denial.”

She said she knew she hit her lowest point when her boyfriend (now husband) gave her an ultimatum. Haukoloa knew it wasn’t an empty threat this time.

“When he said, ‘Don’t come home anymore, don’t come back,’ that’s the bottom line I needed to want to change,” said Haukoloa.

Her addiction went so far that she was “literally challenged” about choosing her family or drugs.

“I only realized I was hooked when I tried to quit after putting family and friends through so much turmoil,” said Haukoloa.

After checking herself into Hina Mauka (treatment facility), she spent close to five months in the program. There, Haukoloa finished up her WCC application and went to Frosh Camp. That’s where she met Windward counselor and mentor Heipua Kaopua.

It wasn’t easy for Haukoloa at first. She recalled the many obstacles to overcome.

“I’d been out of school for more than 20 years,” said Haukoloa. “There were a lot of things I had to reacclimate myself to.”

She scored at the lowest level on her COMPASS placement exams. However, after her first semester, she tested out of ENG 8 to ENG 100. Now, she has a 3.86 GPA.

“When Jarnell first started, she felt intimidated and lacked confidence in her abilities to succeed in college,” said Roy Inouye, TRiO director. “Little did she know that she held a very big advantage over her classmates as she is a very determined individual who will do what it takes to achieve her goals.”

Haukoloa plans to spend one more semester at WCC so she can also earn additional courses toward a bachelor’s in botany at UH-Mānoa. She will be graduating this semester with an AA and certificates of achievement in agripharmatech and ethnopharmacognosy.

Haukoloa is a proud mother to four children. She said she had always hoped to instill the importance of education and college in her children. Now, she can be an example of how hard work pays off.

“I want my children to know what it means to have a family that’s there for them,” Haukoloa said.

Her advice for people who are in the position she used to be?

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” said Haukoloa. “You can’t do it by yourself. I’ve had to learn to put my ego aside.”

Haukoloa is an example of a successful recovery and has left many positive impressions at Windward.

“When I compare the past and present, it keeps the grass green for me in knowing what I have to look forward to if I go back and that’s death or institutions,” said Haukoloa.

Botany and microbiology professor Dr. Ingelia White said, “She is a motivated learner, attentive, respectful, considerate, funny, helpful and well-liked by her classmates.”

So it comes as no surprise when counselor Heipua Kaopua recommended that Haukoloa audition for commencement speaker.

“Her ʻmagicalʻ outlook on life propels her forward and keeps her focused on achieving her goals,” said Kaopua. “She is an incredible example for all students to emulate, and particularly for Native Hawaiian women.”

Haukoloa was flattered and thankful that she thought of her. It meant a lot because Kaopua has been with her throughout her journey.

“She’s seen my transition from where I came from to where I am today,” she said.

What can you expect at this year’s commencement from her?

“There’s a little bit of me in that speech,” Haukoloa said. “Today I can accept I’m an alcoholic/addict, and I’m not ashamed of it either. This path has led me to the woman I am today.”

The 2014-2015 commencement ceremony will take place on Saturday, May 16 at 1 p.m. at the tent pavilion next to Hale ‘Akoakoa.

There will be a luncheon for graduates at 12:30 p.m. on May 15 in Hale ‘Akoakoa Atrium. Faculty are encouraged to attend. The rehearsal will follow in Hale ‘Akoakoa Rooms 101 to 105 at 2 p.m.

by Elizabeth Voltz, Ka ‘Ohana Co-Editor