May 14, 2015

Supporting Pacific Islander Students Outside of the Classroom

Photo: Kanani Porotesano (on the right in green) with students from the PSU's Pacific Islander Club and the Pacific Islander Student Alliance. Also in the photo, Matthew Sagayaga, PIC Co-Adviser, kneeling on the left. Students featured are: Darren Acoba-Ramson, Pres., Jessel Galiza, VP, Ira Lapitan, Secretary, Ka'ila See, treasurer, Jared Cudimat, Cultural Co-Chair, Kellen hashimoto, Cultural Co-Chair, Camille kauahi-ganahl, Social Chair, Elise Johnson, Historian, Pili Sueoka, Lu'au Chair, Matthew Sagayaga, PIC Co-Adviser.

by Kanani Porotesano
Coordinator for Campus Visits at Portland State University

PISA stands for the Pacific Islander Student Alliance and was formed in 2007 by Makerusa Porotesano during his time as a student at Portland State. The vision of PISA was to improve relationships and community among other Pacific Islander student leaders in higher education around Oregon. The first gatherings were informal and included students from Portland State, Oregon State and University of Portland. It did not take long for word to spread about PISA and soon we had students involved from five different institutions. PISA has hosted two very successful conferences and most recently, in January 2015, a day long forum. The goal for PISA remains the same, to create community for Pacific Islander students in higher education across the state of Oregon. We hope to serve as another resource for students to find likeminded, driven PI’s pursing higher education and help provide support to Polynesian clubs at different campuses.

I have been involved with PISA since 2008 and when Makerusa left to pursue his education in Hawai’i, myself and a few other students have continued PISA’s mission. Our goal is to continue connecting students and community to one another, through institutions of higher education. We are stronger together when we continue building our network here in Oregon. You can learn more about any upcoming news or events on our website:

In addition to the involvement I've had with PISA, I've also been involved in the Samoan Pacific Development Corporation, the current co-adviser of Portland State's Pacific Islander Club and I sit on the Pacific Islander workgroup at PSU. All of these organizations continue to bring our communities together and also promote education. With PISA and all of these organizations, I am involved because I know that many of my Pacific Islander people do not pursue higher education or start but never finish their degree. I believe our youth need to see more of our people attain higher education, through sports or any other avenue because they deserve to be doctors, lawyer, educators, artists, or whatever it is they want to be! I believe a higher education can set us on a path to be more prominent in our communities and make our voices heard. I also want to make sure that when these students pursue higher education, they also have the support available if they need it. That is why I think all of the organizations are so important to our community.

Read more stories from AAPI Heritage Month here.