Shae Lefcourt Awarded the Prestigious Aloha Scholarship

Shae Lefcourt on UNC's campus

When Shae Lefcourt came on UNC’s campus from her home on Oahu, Hawai’i, she was completely overwhelmed. Despite the fact that both of her parents had graduated from UNC and had assured Lefcourt that she had made the proper decision, the same concerns that most first-year students experience when they first arrive on campus flooded through her thoughts. She wondered if she’d make friends in this new environment, in classrooms with strangers.

However, as time passes, Lefcourt’s experience at UNC continues to exceed her expectations. She has come to enjoy her education, work, and extracurricular activities.

“Outside of the classroom, I spend a lot of time at the Campus Recreation Center, where I’m either working out or working,” said Lefcourt. “I love spending my time there with amazing people. Whenever I look back to how my life was even as little as a year ago, I’m so glad I found a good group of people to surround myself with and make great memories with.”   

Growing up, Lefcourt aspired to be a nurse. A strong desire to serve others, fostered in part by watching family members pursue careers in health care, fueled Lefcourt’s enthusiasm for the field. Then, while studying, Lefcourt had an incident that changed her perspective on her chosen choice.

“When my great-grandmother was in the hospital, the doctors and nurses worked incredibly hard to keep her going as long as possible. She was able to be stable and communicate with my family members, and even stayed awake until my uncle and I were able to fly in from Colorado and say our goodbyes. I am incredibly grateful for those nurses who allowed me to see her one last time,” said Lefcourt.   

Despite the uncertainty of coming to a new state to study and the emotional toll of losing her great-grandmother, Lefcourt persisted with her studies.

Fortunately, the financial burden that students can feel as a result of having to work to pay for college has been lessened to some extent. Lefcourt had less worries after receiving the Aloha Scholarship.

“Attending school away from home isn’t always cheap, so having the Aloha Scholarship to support my out-of-state education helps not only me, but also my parents and my siblings,” said Lefcourt.   

Lloyd Yonemura, ’72, played a key role in the development of the Aloha Program and Scholarship in the late 1980s. The program provided first-year Hawai’i students with a sense of belonging as they adjusted to campus life at UNC. Yonemura’s tenure on campus was significant. Making lifelong connections, developing coping techniques during tough times, and achieving academic accomplishment he never imagined possible all contributed to his great experience at UNC, then known as Colorado State College.

Hawai’i students and alumni have built a campus community that spans decades. Alumni who return to Hawai’i after graduation have contributed to establish a pipeline of high school students who go on to attend UNC, transforming the university into an educational destination. UNC’s rich history of support for Hawaiian students is thanks in part to alumni who volunteer at college fairs and contribute to the Lei and Lu’au crowdfunding campaigns, as well as the Aloha Scholarship, which combined make students from Hawai’i feel supported in their efforts to achieve.

Yonemura’s tremendously good experience, as well as seeing all of the lives he has affected, motivates him to contribute to the Aloha Scholarship.

“How can anyone describe what it feels like to know that they did something good for someone else, not expecting anything in return? [It] can’t be done,” said Yonemura.   

Yonemura and the Aloha Scholarship have made a significant impact on generations of students. For over 20 years, the Aloha Program has fostered a strong community, and the Aloha Scholarship will continue to assist Hawai’i students, such as Lefcourt, in enrolling at UNC and succeeding throughout their academic careers.

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