ILOCOS NORTE—All the way from Waipahu in Hawaii, 21-year-old Reschi Karla Ramo takes a vacation in Barangay Calioet, Libong, Bacarra yearly, where she was born and grew up until her family migrated to the United States in 2011.
Her homecoming this year is filled with more excitement after she brought home a very special "pasalubong" that can’t be compared with anything that came with the balikbayan box.
This is her achievement as she finished college as a summa cum laude at the University of Hawaii-Manoa.
Karla took up Bachelor of Science in Public Health minor in Ilocano Studies and garnered a grade point average of 3.98, which qualified her to become a summa cum laude.
After her graduation last May 13, she immediately flew back home to celebrate her success with her relatives and friends here.
She feels fortunate to be one of the few Filipinos who able to finish a bachelor’s degree in Hawaii, given that Filipinos comprise 25.1% of the population and are the second largest ethnic group in Hawaii.
“I feel really really proud of myself. This makes all the hardwork, sacrifices and sleepless nights for the past 4 years, worth it. I am happy because I am one of the Filipinos who finished a bachelor’s degree," Karla said.
In her younger years, Karla had already proven herself in school, given that she was a consistent 1st honor student since Grade 1 to 3rd year high school which was the last level she finished before leaving for Hawaii.
She admitted that studying abroad wasn’t easy. She experienced accent discrimination but over the time, she learned to handle it and made it as a motivation instead.
“I experienced discrimination especially when I was just new in Hawaii. Even if I know the right answer during recitations, I choose not to raise my hand because I fear that my classmates would make fun of me," Karla said.
"However, I was able to overcome my fear and learned not to mind what other people would think and say about me. Instead, I focused my energy on my studies. I always remind myself of my family - of what they taught me, which is to study hard and just focus on my studies. Education is deeply rooted in my mind and the importance of it is inculcated in my well-being."
Karla is fully decided to enter medical school to fulfill her dream to become a pediatrician and naturopathic doctor at the same time.
While studying, she will continue to work as an Assistant Director to the Early College Program in Waipahu High School in Hawaii to help fellow Filipinos in their education.
“I work as Assistant Director to the Early College Program because I am really passionate about education. And I want my fellow Filipinos because majority of the population in Waipahu high school is Filipinos. And they are underrepresented in higher education. So I want them to have the opportunity to experience college and our goal is to have them graduate with their college diplomas and high school diploma at the same time with no cost at all," Karla said.
She plans to work in the country in the future because she believes it’s important to stay connected with her roots where she started her dreams.