Wai'ale'ale Project Garners First Bachelors Degree Graduate

Kauaʻi Community College
Camilla Matsumoto, (808) 245-8280
Comm Relations & Spec Proj, Chancellor's Office
Posted: Jan 12, 2016

Thomas Iannucci.
Thomas Iannucci.

Kauaʿi Community College's Waiʿaleʿale Project successfully guided its first student to earn a bachelor’s degree. Thomas Iannucci graduated with a bachelor’s of arts in history in May 2015.

Iannucci says he was an underachiever in high school and had no plans to attend college, especially because he was unable to afford it. His school counselor, Joyce Ballesteros, saw his potential and encouraged him to apply to the Waiʿaleʿale Project.

“I failed a few classes in high school, and was a very inconsistent student,” Iannucci shared.  “The Waiʿaleʿale Project was a great source of motivation for me. In college, I consistently made the Dean’s List and finished my last year with a 4.0 grade point average. I’d never dreamt that was possible!”

Established in 2010, the Waiʿaleʿale Project finances non-college-bound students to attend, and successfully complete, their first year of college. Statistics have shown that, in comparison with those who have never been to college, people who have attended one year of college: make 35% more money; are 28% less likely to be unemployed; and live seven years longer. 

“The results of having these individuals attend college will directly impact our economy, community and the overall quality of life for the students and their families,” said Rebecca Yund, Waiʿaleʿale Project Coordinator.

Iannucci credits the Waiʿaleʿale Project for making a huge positive impact on his life. “For one thing, it gave me the opportunity to go to college and get my degree - something I’d never have been able to do on my own,” he said. “I made some family history last month because I am the first person in my family to graduate college with a four-year degree. That was a very special moment for my family and me.”

Iannucci is currently the day manager at his father’s pizzeria, Pietro’s Pizza, in Harbor Mall.  “Being a part of this business venture has been very exciting, and I’ve been able to use many of the skills I learned in college and through the Waiʿale’ale program in my new job,” he stated.

Iannucci is also pursuing his passion for music as a rapper under the name Illtalian. He recently released his first EP on iTunes and is working on his next album. 

This fall, the Waiʿaleʿale Project welcomed its sixth cohort to Kaua'i CC  and has served more than 450 students from ages 18-66.  Many of these students attend college while working and raising families. To date, 100 Waiʿaleʿale Project students have earned 210 certificates and associate degrees. Eight students are currently pursuing their bachelor’s degree. 

“On behalf of all the Waiʿaleʿale Project students, I would like to extend a big mahalo to all of the individuals and organizations who have contributed to the program to make these scholarships available,” said Yund.  “Without the Waiʿaleʿale Project, these students would not have attended college. We hope to be able to provide this opportunity to an increasing number of students in years to come, and we welcome additional donations from anyone who would like to support this worthy program.”

The Waiʿaleʿale Project is currently gearing up to begin recruiting students in for Fall 2016.  For more information about how you can support this program, visit http://www.uhfoundation.org/giving-opportunity/wai-ale-ale-program-makes-amazing-things-happen or call (808) 245-8383.