By Edna R. Bautista, Ed.D.
Local students of Filipino descent who are majoring in journalism and mass communications (JMC) at an accredited university in Hawaii or on the U.S. mainland are encouraged to apply for a chance to win a $2,500 journalism scholarship from the Hawaii Filipino Chronicle and an opportunity to have articles they have written published in this newspaper.
The scholarship program, now in its third year, was set up via the Filipino Media Foundation in 2019 by the publishers and editors of the Chronicle, Dr. Charlie Y. Sonido and Chona Montesines-Sonido, who believe in “investing in the future of Hawaii’s media by helping college students financially as they will be the ones continuing our work someday.”
Montesines-Sonido specified that she “wants local talent to stay in Hawaii since the community will benefit a lot from them.” She hopes that after JMC students graduate they will contribute their skills to strengthen Hawaii’s media workforce.
“We need future Fil-Am writers and leaders in the fields of journalism and mass communications. We are short of Filipino journalists who will continue our work and serve the Filipinos and our community-at-large in the future,” Sonido said. “We need good journalists who are the ‘eyes and ears of the community’, and the Chronicle believes that we must build a pool of journalists in the future to safeguard our democracy and create a group that reports ‘checks and balances’ actions happening in the government and around us. With good reporting in place by well-trained journalists, we can secure a fair, informative and steady flow of news in our community and around the world. It is important that we support these students who are preparing for their future in the JMC field.”
PRE-PANDEMIC PRIZE WINNER
The Chronicle awarded its first scholarship to Alyssa Acob of Kapolei in November 2019. She was honored at the newspaper’s 25th Anniversary Celebration, Excellence Awards and Gala Dinner at the Ala Moana Hotel Hibiscus Ballroom where more than 400 Filipino VIPs and guests attended the special banquet in support of the new journalism scholarship program.
Just a mere few months later, the coronavirus became a global pandemic, forcing everyone to adjust their way of life. During the spring 2020 semester, when Acob was completing her senior year at Hawaii Pacific University (HPU) as a double major in Integrated Multimedia and Mass Communication, Hawaii shut down and she and other students had to adapt quickly and finish their education online.
“It was a couple weeks after Hawaii Pacific University’s spring break when I found out that because of COVID-19, the university would be shutting down and transitioning to completely online,” Acob stated in a Chronicle interview last year. “When I heard this news, it didn’t seem real at the time. But the more I processed it and talked about it with my classmates, professors and other friends on campus, the reality of what was happening began to sink in. Everything was happening and changing so fast. I was honestly sad, angry, confused and discouraged because I had all these expectations of how I wanted my last semester of college to be, but I couldn’t do anything about it.”
Nevertheless, Acob persevered with her studies during the pandemic and graduated with honors on May 9, 2020. But traditional commencement exercises at HPU were cancelled and replaced with a simple “virtual send-off” celebration instead.
She is now using her JMC skills as the digital media manager for Pearlside Church in Pearl City. Acob said she was fortunate to have found a full-time media job after graduation, stating, “I’m extremely blessed to be given this opportunity, especially in a time like this.”
SECOND SCHOLAR SURVIVOR
The Chronicle awarded its second scholarship to Brenna Flores of Waipahu in October 2020. She, too, had to adjust her schooling in COVID times to survive her senior year as a Communication major at Chaminade University of Honolulu.
“It was quite sad to complete my senior year during a pandemic as social interactions were extremely limited over Zoom and asynchronous classes,” Flores recalled. “With that being said, my teachers never failed to ask us how we were doing, given all that was going on in the world.”
Flores was able to attend a limited-gathering graduation ceremony on May 8, 2021. Chaminade normally holds its commencement at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center. Last year, the May 2020 graduation ceremony was delayed until December and was held virtually. This year, the in-person and live-streamed event was divided into two ceremonies outdoors at the St. Louis School football field to ensure attendees could socially distance. All COVID-19 protocols were strictly followed and, along with their caps and gowns, graduates had to wear face masks.
“It was extremely gratifying to finally be back on campus after a year and a half of online school and not physically attending in-person classes. The whole day was bittersweet as it marked the end of my educational journey and the beginning of my journey of ‘adulthood’ where I would have to find a ‘real-life job’,” Flores said.
The honor graduate continued, “As grateful as I was to even have a physical graduation/commencement, one of the hardest parts was not having my siblings there to share my special moment with me. We were only allowed two guests, and my parents came to support me that day. But having my whole family there would have made the day so much better as my successes are their successes, too.”
Since graduation, Flores has continued to apply for “real-life jobs” where she could apply her degree. She is hopeful that she could share her JMC skills at a public relations job to help benefit the company’s goals and needs.
As someone who survived her final years of university schooling during a pandemic, she also learned to be more confident, determined, resilient and adaptable. Flores expressed her gratitude to the Chronicle for giving her financial aid to finish her educational journey and an opportunity to write for a prestigious, local and ethnic community newspaper. Read Flores’ feature story about various Filipino traditions in this issue in honor of Filipino Values Month in November, pursuant to Presidential Proclamation No. 479 issued on October 7, 1994, in the Philippines to create moral awakening and national consciousness on human values that are uniquely and positively Filipino.
ENROLLMENTS INCREASED; DONATIONS DECREASED
The past decade had shown declining enrollments in U.S. JMC schools. From 2010-2013, there was a 3 percent decrease nationwide in undergraduates majoring in journalism, according to an annual report about JMC education by the University of Georgia. From 2013-2015, a survey conducted by Texas Tech University reported a 16.3 percent drop. However, in 2016, the year Donald Trump was elected president, enrollments began to rise again at some schools. A March 2019 headline from “Insight Into Diversity” online magazine read, “Previously on the Decline, Journalism School Enrollment Benefits from ‘Trump Bump’.”
In the article, journalism educators theorized that the former president’s criticism of journalists and the media with their biased reporting and “fake news” brought on renewed interest in JMC studies. The chaotic socio-cultural and political climate has stirred some students’ passions to pursue careers in the “Fourth Estate” where they can serve as advocates for the public and hold those in power accountable for their actions.
The University of Hawaii-Manoa, home to the state’s only journalism major, also reported a 50 percent increase in enrollment last year (Chaminade and HPU offer journalism courses within its broader communications programs). Facing budget cuts, UH-Manoa had planned to eliminate some degrees like journalism. But in September 2020, an email letter-writing campaign from members of the Society of Professional Journalists Hawaii Chapter, UH-Manoa journalism alumni, media practitioners, students and other supporters saved the journalism program. A month later, university officials announced that they would retain the degree within a revamped School of Communications.
While journalism enrollment at UH-Manoa and other U.S. colleges and universities has increased, donations have decreased to non-profit organizations like the Filipino Media Foundation, which funds the Chronicle’s journalism scholarship program.
Financial support has been negatively impacted by the ongoing pandemic. Firstly, fundraising galas and benefit events had to be cancelled or modified because of social distancing regulations. Secondly, giving has dropped as more people faced job loss and economic uncertainties. Non-profits must rely on the generosity of donors to continue their charitable missions.
28+ YEARS OF COMMUNITY JOURNALISM
Hawaii Filipino Chronicle has been serving the community since 1993. Its journalism scholarship program and non-profit Filipino Media Foundation were special 25th anniversary gifts for future Filipino journalists who will continue its mission.
Established on July 1, 1993, with its first edition published on Oct. 1, the Chronicle has a goal of responding to the growing need to reach out to the Filipino community, to inform and educate and to provide the vehicle with which the community can grow and prosper.
Montesines-Sonido is grateful that the newspaper is still in existence after 28 years. At the scholarship banquet, she stated on the program: “By every measure, the Chronicle should have closed several years ago. As a business model, the print media, especially the ethnic media, has seen its better days. It has been reported that ‘in the last few years 2,000 newspapers have either closed or merged, leaving 1,300 communities without local news coverage’.”
Social media, technological advances in communication, changes in readership and consumer behavior, economics and the pandemic have made it even more challenging for newspapers and print media. If people encourage young adults, especially Filipinos, to become journalists, the industry in Hawaii can endure for many more years.
As the Chronicle begins its 29th year in publication, Montesines-Sonido said, “We give our thanks to God Who continues to bless us in this endeavor, and to our advertisers, readers, family and friends who have continuously supported us on our journey of bringing the news and the truth around us.”
DONATE DOLLARS FOR FILIPINO SCHOLARS
The Chronicle journalism scholarship committee is currently seeking its third winner, but the newspaper hopes for more donations because funds are needed to sustain the scholarship program beyond the 2021-2022 academic year.
Last year, Acob stated that she was grateful as the scholarship helped to lighten her financial hardship, especially when the pandemic hit hard during the last few weeks of her senior semester.
“This scholarship has also encouraged me to keep pursuing media and opened my eyes to see that there are people out there who believe in the goals and dreams of this next generation to be the next-up storytellers who will keep this legacy going,” Acob said. “I’ve been so blessed by the opportunities this scholarship has given me and hope to continue seeing aspiring journalists and media content creators go after their dreams.”
Flores added, “I am so grateful for all the scholarship donors for giving me such an awesome opportunity to be a part of the Chronicle ‘ohana. People should donate to the Chronicle journalism scholarship program because they gave a Filipino woman like myself the chance to share my voice outside of schoolwork. They challenged me to practice writing that got published in print and also gave me a discounted tuition. When people donate to this scholarship, they give young aspiring Filipinos an opportunity to pursue a degree in communication, since there are not a lot of communication majors in Hawaii who are of Filipino descent.”
For a couple of years now, the Chronicle’s scholarship program has been successful in helping to provide financial assistance and hope for local Filipino journalists and mass communications/media practitioners like Acob and Flores. But Montesines-Sonido is appealing for more donations.
“It is important to support our young budding students who will be the future watchdog of our community. They will be your voice and harbinger of news of what’s happening in our community, especially at this time of the year when we are experiencing a pandemic of epic proportions. Without them, our democratic system is at stake, and we are forever left behind with a community that is in dire need of truth, honesty and resiliency,” Montesines-Sonido said. “Donating to the Filipino Media Foundation will ensure that we support our aspiring Filipino students in the media, protect our democracy and strengthen the presence of Filipino-American community in the media”.
Donations are welcome via the Filipino Media Foundation and are 100% tax-deductible. Any amount is appreciated. To donate to the journalism scholarship program, please contact Montesines-Sonido at (808) 678-8930 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deadline is Nov. 30 for 3rd annual Chronicle $2,500 journalism scholarship
Applications are being accepted now until Nov. 30 for the 3rd annual $2,500 journalism scholarship program sponsored by the Hawaii Filipino Chronicle.
- Filipino or part-Filipino
- U.S. citizen
- Hawaii high school graduate
- Full-time college student (at least 12 credits undergraduate/non-graduating senior) enrolled at an accredited four-year public or private college/university in the United States by the 2021 fall semester (preference is given to local students but mainland students intending to return to Hawaii and work in local media after graduation are encouraged to apply)
- Journalism, mass communications or media-related major (declared on transcript)
- 3.0 cumulative GPA (on 4.0 scale)
Please send the following directly to email@example.com by the Nov. 30, 2021, deadline.
- Completed application form (download from the website)
- Copy of recent college transcript (finalists may send official transcripts later for verification)
- Two reference forms (also downloadable from the website)
- Two news or feature writing samples with interviews—one story must focus on a Filipino topic (please no reviews, Q&A style, listicles, first-person accounts, opinion pieces or fiction) [may email attachments or provide weblinks]
- 1,000-word essay (details on the application form)
One winner will be selected by the scholarship committee and notified by December 2021. He/she will be profiled in an article with excerpts of his/her essay published in the Chronicle in early 2022. Part of the scholarship money ($2,000) must be used toward the spring semester. The remaining $500 will be paid to the winner after he/she writes at least one story per season (a total of four articles) to be published throughout 2022, giving him/her more practice to showcase his/her writing skills and get established as a professional journalist.
For more information and details, visit the Chronicle journalism scholarship webpage at https://www.thefilipinochronicle.com/scholarship.