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BYU-Hawaii work projects offer solutions to loss of jobs, boredom and skill development

Cathy Ango working in the Sustainability Center garden.

The COVID-19 pandemic left roughly 1,000 BYU–Hawaii students stuck on campus and many without a job, explained David Fonoimoana.

“The university decided to come up with this work projects program to keep [students] busy… [and] to help keep people afloat,” said Fonoimoana, the campus store and auxiliaries manager.

Sisi Kaili, a freshman from Utah studying business management and marketing, said she started doing her work project a few weeks ago and highly recommends it to other students.

“I got introduced to so many different new people. I’ve been able to have certainty that I’ll be able to make money, pay my rent and buy food.

“Before this, I was looking for a job for a very long time, and with everything going on, it was scary because I didn’t know if I could find a job that was available [since] a lot of things were shutting down. It has helped me feel that I am okay, that I’m living out here by myself.”

It has helped me feel that I am okay, that I’m living out here by myself.
Sisi Kaili

Fonoimoana, who oversees the bookstore, travel department and the mail center as part of his job, has led the program. He stated the program is paid for by the university, not the individual departments. It is available for any current full-time students who wish to apply.

The Polynesian Cultural Center continues to offer projects for their student employees, but when those projects end, Fonoimoana explained, many students come to the university looking for more work opportunities.

Cathy Ango, a senior from Papua New Guinea studying business management, said she started at the PCC four years ago when she began school at BYUH. When it shut down due to the virus, Ango explained she had to leave her job as a student lead at food and beverage and contacted Human Resources to find work.

Ango explained she needed a job not only for personal expenses but also for being stuck at home with nothing to do. “I love working, doing physical work and any other jobs. I decided to apply for [BYUH work projects] to at least work, instead of being idle and just staying at home in my room.”  

BYUH students do gardening work at the Sustainability Center farm

Some of the work areas include the grounds, mail center, bookstore, custodial, housing, helping individual professors and relocation. Fonoimoana noted there is no interview process, but he does attempt to assign jobs that best fit the skills listed on a student’s resume.

Kaili explained her job is to create social media posts for the BYUH Bookstore and help out around the store. She added she is working on making posters to help customers navigate through the store.

“I really like going to work because I learn something new or keep developing my skills for any future career choices,” Kaili said.

I really like going to work because I learn something new or keep developing my skills for any future career choices.
Sisi Kaili

Ango explained she began by helping a professor, but, once that project finished, she moved to work with the Sustainability Center. She now helps out at the Give & Take, looking after chickens and gardening.

Cathy Ango working with chickens at the Sustainability Center

She added she is happy and grateful to be working and has enjoyed being able to meet new people and work alongside former classmates.

Ango explained she was very grateful for her leadership experience while working at the PCC, but the work projects allowed her to gain new skills. “Not only me, but also the other students who were working there before me. We’re all learning new things that we can apply back home.”

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