AARP scholarships help 2 women get college education later in life
Nov 19, 2012 (The Honolulu Star-Advertiser - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Two Hawaii women are recipients of AARP Foundation scholarships that will help them achieve their education goals and improve their financial security.
Rose Kopp, 65, of Manoa and Valerie Kekahuna, a single parent in her late 50s, are two of only 46 people nationwide to receive the $1,500 awards from the Women's Scholarship Program, intended to benefit low-income women over the age of 50.
Kekahuna is a first-year student in the Hawaiian studies program at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and is pursuing a career in counseling.
Kopp, who retired from nursing because of a physical disability, is working toward a bachelor's degree in psychology at UH-West Oahu. She hopes to earn a master's degree as well.
Although she has been relying on her Social Security checks, Kopp said she has been fortunate to remain a college student through loans, financial aid and the generosity of family and friends.
As a domestic violence survivor, "I didn't even know I was intelligent," she said.
Kopp mustered the courage to leave her abusive spouse in 1996 after 24 years of marriage. "I gave up all my material things and needed to build myself up. I felt like a phoenix rising from the ashes," she said.
Through her education and experiences, she wants to help woman learn to "not give up on themselves," she said. "So many women are suffering at the hands of abusers. I feel like I can help."
Kopp attended her first college class in 2007 at Leeward Community College and later was inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa honor society for students enrolled in two-year colleges. She also was named valedictorian of her graduating class.
"I had no idea who I was and didn't even know what I liked. I was so excited to learn a little bit of everything," she said.
Kopp also started taking drum, piano and sculpting lessons. "I wasn't good at everything, but found out what I liked," she added.
"I had always dreamed of attending college. School has given me direction and a purpose. I want to be able to give back to the community."
Kekahuna declined to be interviewed.
On the Net --For information on AARP scholarships, visit www.aarp.org/womensscholarship. The application process is open each spring.
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