In spirit of pu’uhonua, panelists share experiences at HawCC event

Student panelists Gilbert DeSa Jr., Lacy Purdy, Harmony Mariani, and Mary Jane “MJ” Taylor, from left to right, share their amazing stories and entertain questions during a panel discussion at Hawai’i Community College. Lacy Purdy, Harmony Mariani, and MJ Taylor are HawCC graduates.

A Meet & Greet on February 13 was attended by current and returning HawCC students and young adults considering returning to college who were seeking more information.

In partnership and in the spirit of pu`uhonua (place of refuge or a safe place), the office of Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, the Counseling and Career Center, and the Administration of Justice and Substance Abuse Counseling programs collaborated to reach out to HawCC students who are currently or formerly incarcerated and/or in recovery at a Meet & Greet session on February 13, 2013.

In an effort to create a safe network for students during their academic journey, a student panel of four shared their amazing stories while working on their higher education.

Student panelists included:

  • Gilbert DeSa Jr., who is in his second semester at HawCC majoring in Administration of Justice.
  • Lacy Purdy, who earned her master’s degree in Social Work from UH Manoa
    in May 2012.  Purdy is also a Certified Substance Abuse Counselor and she is currently working on her state licensure in Social Work.
  • Harmony Mariani, who is currently majoring in Administration of Justice at UHH and will graduate this May.
  • Mary Jane “MJ” Taylor, who is also in her last semester at UHH majoring in Administration of Justice with a minor in Sociology. She will also be graduating in May.

Lacy Purdy, Harmony Mariani, and MJ Taylor are all graduates of Hawai’i Community College. 

After the student panel entertained a few questions from the approximately 30 attendees, everyone shared a meal of chili and rice, green salad, bread, and cake. Mahalo to our Meet & Greet team of Vice Chancellor Jason Cifra; Assistant Professor Donnalyn Kalei; Counselor Karen Crowell; Counselor Kaleo Quintana; and Education Specialist Donna Madrid for donating menu items. Other faculty that came out to support the event were Sandy Claveria, Human Services coordinator/faculty; Valerie Hafford Interdisciplinary Skills instructor; and Polly Varize, AJ lecturer.

The next session is set for Wednesday, March 13 in the Kaniekeao conference room.  More details will be coming soon. Anyone interested in being part of this pu’uhonua effort or who would like to donate menu items, please contact Donna Madrid at 934-2638 or email her at

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