Stephanie Namahoe Launiu graduated from Leeward Community College and will be entering her senior year at the University of Hawaiʻi West Oʻahu majoring in Hawaiian-Pacific Studies. She plans to attend graduate school to study humanities with a focus on Hawaiʻi. Her remembrance, Her Name was Violet, won a Ka ʻUmeke Kāʻeo Native Hawaiian Writing and Arts Award in Fall 2012.
Born in Hilo when Hawaiʻi was still a territory, Stephanie is delighted to see the resurgence of pride in Hawaiian culture and the revival of ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi.
In August 2012, after 40 years away from the classroom, she enrolled at Leeward to pursue a college degree. “I decided to challenge myself slowly. I didnʻt know what to expect, so I took four online classes at Leeward that first semester. I ended up getting all Aʻs so I just continued on, and now I canʻt believe Iʻm actually at a university. If I can do it, anybody with a little determination can too.”
It was during that first semester back at school that she wrote Her Name was Violet to honor her grandmother.
I wrote the piece in one sitting and cried the whole time I was writing. It was a spiritual experience for me. Grandma was born only two years after annexation at a time when Hawaiians werenʻt free to speak their native language or openly practice their culture. Although she was a native speaker, she didnʻt teach her children to speak Hawaiian. But she was so very Hawaiian to the core. And once I wrote her story, I knew I wanted to major in Hawaiian-Pacific Studies.
Stephanie has maintained a 4.0 GPA and is a Liko Aʻe Scholar. She worked as a writing tutor at Leeward Waiʻanae campus before transferring to UH West Oʻahu. She does freelance writing and volunteers with several nonprofits that help Native Hawaiians. Inspired to write longer pieces after taking a Native American literature class last year, Stephanie is busy researching and writing her first novel. “Ka hoʻomea – imagination – is a great gift,” Stephanie says, “that our ancestors had that allowed them sail on uncharted waters and settle an advanced society in isolation.”
Stephanie and her husband, Noa, live in Waiʻanae and enjoy spending time with their children and grandchildren.
Credit: Photo of Violet Hoe Wong (1919) courtesy of Stephanie Launiu