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MY STORY ~ SHARAYAH

Sharayah Vernaglia knows a thing or two about time management.

To have her Saturdays free with her 5-year-old son, she completes her homework as a full-time student at Leeward Community College at the beginning of the week. She also squeezes in work six days a week – five days in the billing department at Oceanic Time Warner Cable and one day each weekend at Polynesian Adventure Tours, where she has coordinated reservations for tours and activities across the Hawaiian Islands for 4 years.

“My son is a big motivator,” she said. “He pushes me every day, and that is the biggest thing that helped me get where I am today.”

Sharayah, who was born and raised on Maui, attended and graduated from Kahuku High and Intermediate School on Oahu, and now lives with family in Ewa Beach. After she turned 18 years old, she transitioned from foster care into Hale Kipa’s Independent Living Program (ILP), which teaches skills for interdependent living and self-sufficiency to youth.

Participants in ILP are encouraged to develop independent living skills such as time and money management; employment/vocation, education, social and personal skills; household management; health and leisure; legal and consumer skills; and making the most of community resources.

As a full-time student under the program, Sharayah receives a stipend to help with expenses, as well as regular one-on-one support from Hale Kipa Lead Case Manager Kelsey Huynh, who has worked with her for the past 3 years.

“I have witnessed so much resilience and growth in Sharayah,” Huynh said. “Her level of independence, strength and stability have greatly improved in so many areas. She has made the most of available resources and maintained motivation in the face of so many obstacles.”

Sharayah has received multiple scholarships from Leeward Community College and Kamehameha Schools to help pay for college expenses. Hale Kipa has also helped her identify community resources, such as food assistance, financial education, and a savings program through Hawaiian Community Assets that matches or multiplies contributing funds up to a set limit for housing and transportation expenses.

“I have been so impressed with the support that Hale Kipa gives,” Sharayah said. “My case worker, Kelsey, has been a big help in getting me registered for school and applying for scholarships. She helps me set goals, and she helps me accomplish them.”

She plans to receive her Associate’s Degree in management with a certificate in health information technology in spring 2016, which she will use to pursue her dream career in health administration. She would eventually like to work for a major medical provider in Honolulu like The Queen’s Medical Center.

All of that time management is paying off, even allowing Sharayah the occasional few hours of down time.

“When I do have time, I will take my son to the beach,” she said. “I’m an outdoor person, and I can’t stay in the house very much, so we’ll go to the beach, or go out go hiking. I’m definitely not on the couch watching TV.”


 

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